NFL Week 4 WR/CB Matchups: Janoris Jenkins Can’t Guard Michael Thomas, More Shadow Dates
USA Today Sports. Pictured: Michael Thomas, Janoris Jenkins
- Ian Hartitz breaks down all the Week 4 WR/CB matchups -- shadow, non-shadow, plus and minus -- to know when setting your fantasy football lineups.
- Michael Thomas has a shadow date with Janoris Jenkins when the Giants host the Saints on Sunday, but he's not the only top wide receiver with one.
I’ll be breaking down the top wide receiver/cornerback matchups every week throughout the 2018 NFL season.
Here’s a data-driven analysis of Week 4’s best passing-game matchup, three potential shadow matchups and five potential non-shadow matchups. Then we’ll round it out with a quick look at plus and minus matchups.
Matchup of the Week
Chargers Offense vs. 49ers Defense
This is the second consecutive week I’ve picked the 49ers as the top defense to target. The team has since suffered a few key injuries in the secondary:
- CB Richard Sherman (calf) doubtful
- FS Adrian Colbert (hip) questionable
- SS Jaquiski Tartt (shoulder) questionable
The Chargers are expected to hold a talent advantage in the passing game, even if the majority of the 49ers’ banged-up secondary winds up suiting up on Sunday. Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and Tyrell Williams will be firmly in play even if Travis Benjamin (foot) is ultimately able to suit up.
Allen is one of six receivers with at least 185 targets since Week 1 of the 2017 season. The league’s premier slot receiver is set up well against a defense that hasn’t exactly slowed down primary-inside receivers through three games:
- Chris Conley in Week 3 vs. 49ers: 2 receptions, 13 yards, 1 touchdown
- Golden Tate in Week 2: 7-109-0
- Adam Thielen in Week 1: 6-102-0
Tyrell and Mike Williams have worked alongside Allen in three-wide receiver sets during Benjamin’s absence. Mike Williams was out-snapped by Benjamin 47-to-44 in Week 1, but has since emerged as the Chargers’ most dangerous weapon in the red zone.
Overall, Mike Williams has caught 6-of-9 targets for 108 yards and three touchdowns in Benjamin’s two-game absence, and has the highest-projected ceiling in our Pro Models among all wide receivers priced below $6,000 on DraftKings.
Luckily for everyone involved, the Chargers are presently implied to score a slate-high 28.75 points at home in a cozy matchup against a 49ers defense that ranks among the league’s bottom-10 units in points allowed per game, Football Outsiders’ pass DVOA and DraftKings points allowed per game to wide receivers.
The absence of Jimmy Garoppolo (torn ACL) is also a huge loss for the defense. The 49ers have allowed an average of 25.8 points per game in 11 games without Jimmy GQ under center compared to 23.5 in eight games with their franchise quarterback since the beginning of last season.
The Chargers’ early season success through the air and cozy matchup haven’t been lost on the public, as Philip Rivers and Allen boast sky-high projected ownership rates at their positions on DraftKings and FanDuel in our Pro Models. Be sure to check out our Ownership Dashboard shortly after lock to see how chalky they are in Week 4.
The Week 4 Shadow Club
Not many cornerbacks are consistently asked to travel with the opposition’s No. 1 wide receiver, but we can expect at least three cornerbacks to regularly line up across from their opponent’s top receiver in Week 4.
Packers WR Davante Adams vs. Bills CB Tre’Davious White
Life as Aaron Rodgers’ No. 1 receiver has been fruitful for Adams over the past two-plus seasons, as no other player in football has caught more touchdown passes (25) since 2016. Overall, the two have connected for at least one touchdown in 12 of their last 16 games together (including playoffs).
Adams has managed to thrive despite the full attention of the opposition’s best cornerback, in large part because of his red-zone chemistry with Rodgers. Adams joins former teammate Jordy Nelson, Michael Thomas and Jarvis Landry as the only wide receivers with double-digit touchdowns inside the 10-yard line since 2016, and Adams is the only receiver to do so on fewer than 20 targets.
There probably isn’t a cornerback in the league capable of consistently keeping Adams out of the end zone for 60 straight minutes, but White is certainly capable of making the Packers earn it.
No. 1 WRs have been able to mostly escape White’s shadow by moving into the slot, but they’ve largely struggled to get much going against the Bills in Buffalo’s past 10 games (including playoffs):
- Stefon Diggs in Week 3, 2018: 4 receptions, 17 yards, 0 TDs (10 targets)
- Keenan Allen in Week 2, 2018: 6-67-0 (8)
- Michael Crabtree in Week 1, 2018: 3-38-1 (6)
- Marqise Lee in AFC Wild Card, 2017: 0-0-0 (1)
- DeVante Parker in Weeks 15 and 17, 2017: 6-89-0 (12), 6-64-0 (7)
- Brandin Cooks in Week 13 and 16, 2017: 2-17-0 (3), 2-19-0 (5)
- T.Y. Hilton in Week 14, 2017: 2-20-0 (4)
- Tyreek Hill in Week 12, 2017: 7-41-0 (11)
Overall, the Bills have allowed only four wideouts to surpass 100 receiving yards since the beginning of the 2017 season, and it took each player double-digit targets to do so.
I’d bet against White shutting Adams completely down. But I also wouldn’t be surprised if Adams’ current 12-game streak without 100 receiving yards reaches lucky number 13.
Saints WR Michael Thomas vs. Giants CB Janoris Jenkins
There’s a growing argument that Thomas is blossoming into the league’s premier wide receiver. Drew Brees’ best receiver ever has converted 129 receptions into 1,538 yards and eight touchdowns in his last 16 games (including playoffs).
Thomas has been especially cruel to opposing cornerbacks through three games this season (minimum 10 targets):
- DraftKings points per game: 33.3 (1st)
- Plus/Minus (per our NFL Trends tool): +13.9 (1st)
- Receptions: 38 (1st)
- Receiving yards: 398 (1st)
- Catch rate: 95% (1st)
- Touchdowns: 3 (T3rd)
- Yards per route run (per Pro Football Focus): 3.06 (7th)
Thomas has more touchdowns (3) than incomplete passes (2) on 40 targets this season.
A mere mortal is hardly capable of slowing down Thomas at this point, let alone the artist formerly known as Janoris Jenkins.
Every WR Jenkins has shadowed since 2017:
- DeAndre Hopkins: 6 receptions, 86 yards, 0 TD (10 targets)
- Demaryius Thomas: 10-133-0 (14)
- Mike Evans: 5-67-1 (11)
- Dez Bryant: 2-43-0 (9)
The Giants have asked Jenkins to line up in the slot on only 5.5% of his snaps this season, so Thomas (25.5% slot rate) could also see plenty of undrafted 2017 free agent Donte Deayon. The other option is journeyman B.W. Webb, who is presently PFF’s 97th-highest graded cornerback out of 107 qualified players.
Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr. vs. Saints CB Marshon Lattimore
OBJ has gained 100-plus yards in two of three games this season, but has also failed to find the end zone and is presently averaging a career-low 11.3 yards per reception. The former doesn’t seem likely to be relevant for much longer considering this is just the fourth time in Beckham’s career that he’s failed to score a touchdown in three consecutive games.
The good news for Eli Manning and the Giants is that OBJ has resembled the same dominant force we saw over the past few seasons, although he’s yet to replicate his rookie-year magic:
- 2018: 2.22 yards per route run (T20th among 82 WRs with 10+ targets)
- 2017: 2.08 (13/158)
- 2016: 2.27 (10/157)
- 2015: 2.42 (9/163)
- 2014: 2.75 (5/158)
Beckham is one of the league’s few wide receivers with 200-plus yard performances in his weekly range of outcomes, so it would be wise to not sweat his recent “cold” streak in a home matchup against the Saints’ league-worst defense in almost every conceivable total or pass defense metric.
It wasn’t long ago (about three weeks) that Lattimore was considered one of the best cornerbacks in the league regardless of age, but he’s allowed a 10-175-1 line on 12 targets into his coverage this season. He’s struggled to limit Mike Evans (7-147-1) and Julio Jones (5-96-0) this season.
Overall, Lattimore has allowed the fourth-highest QB rating on passes into his coverage among 78 full-time cornerbacks, while teammate Ken Crawley has allowed the highest rating in the league.
Potential Non-Shadow Matchups
- Jaguars CB Jalen Ramsey: The Jaguars somewhat surprisingly asked fellow elite cornerback A.J. Bouye to travel with Titans’ No. 1 receiver Corey Davis in Week 3. Perhaps it was because Ramsey was a late addition to the injury report with an ankle injury. Either way, Jets No. 1 receiver Quincy Enunwa has spent 64.8% of his snaps in the slot this season, where neither Ramsey (9%) nor Bouye (3%) have ventured for long stretches. Enunwa is one of only six receivers with a target share above 30% and one of only four with a red-zone target share of 50% or higher.
- Dolphins CB Xavien Howard: The Dolphins’ No. 1 cornerback has made a name for himself in his brief shadow appearances: Brandin Cooks (1-38-0), Julio Jones (6-72-0) and Amari Cooper (2-17-0) have failed to get anything going with Howard at their hip since the beginning of the 2017 season. Howard has spent only 3.7% of his snaps in the slot this season, so he’ll likely see more of Josh Gordon (hamstring) and Phillip Dorsett than Chris Hogan (53% slot rate) against the Patriots. Ultimately, Howard is only one player, and Tom Brady is still good enough to score points against the Dolphins.
- Lions CB Darius Slay: Head coach Matt Patricia has already utilized Slay in the slot on more snaps this season (22) than Slay played in all of 2017 (21). Still, it’s unlikely Slay will bother chasing the Cowboys’ “No. 1” receiver into the slot in non-crucial moments. Dak Prescott has surpassed 185 passing yards just twice in his past 11 starts, obviously lowering the ceiling for every pass-catcher involved in the Dallas offense. The Cowboys-Lions matchup combines a lack of big-play upside with slow pace on both sides of the ball, so consider bypassing fantasy implications for a bet on the 44 (and dropping) under.
- Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson: Peterson rarely traveled inside to shadow Doug Baldwin (knee, questionable) in past matchups, and the defense’s new-look scheme hasn’t asked PP to lock up the opposition’s No. 1 receiver on an every-down basis. Tyler Lockett will be in play if Baldwin is ultimately unable to suit up, as he’s posted 3-59-1, 5-60-1 and 4-77-1 lines in three games as the Seahawks’ undisputed lead receiver this season. Peterson figures to see plenty of Brandon Marshall, who has averaged a league-low 1.3 yards per separation at the point of catch or incompletion this season (per Next-Gen Stats).
- Broncos CB Chris Harris Jr.: The Broncos have struggled to replace Aqib Talib on the outside as Adam Jones (No. 85) and Bradley Roby (No. 98) rank among PFF’s bottom 25 cornerbacks this season. Harris has continued to line up in the slot on a majority (61%) of his snaps, so we can expect Tyreek Hill to have more than a few chances against the latter corners, who have combined to allow a 20-228-1 line on 24 targets into their coverage this season. Hill has scored 17 touchdowns in 17 career road games, including three total scores in his only career appearance at Mile High Stadium.
Potential Plus Matchups
Falcons WRs Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley vs. Bengals
Matt Ryan has accounted for nine total touchdowns while leading the Falcons to 68 points over the past two weeks. Surprisingly, this has been more fruitful for first-round pick Calvin Ridley (11-210-4) than it has for Jones (10-160-0), who has now failed to find the end zone in a career-long eight consecutive regular-season games.
Still, Jones typically lined up as the left receiver, so he’ll likely see the most of No. 1 CB William Jackson, who has spent 87% of his snaps as Cincinnati’s right corner. Mohamed Sanu hasn’t gained more than 90 receiving yards since joining the Falcons, although he does have a #RevengeGame.
Bengals WRs A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd vs. Falcons
Green suffered a groin injury in Week 3, but he practiced in full on Thursday and is expected to suit up Sunday.
He’s historically balled out away from Paul Brown Stadium:
- Green at home (52 games): 15.2 PPR per game, 4.8 rec, 70.2 yards, 0.5 TDs
- On the road (53 games): 18.9 PPR per game, 6.1 rec, 90.3 yards, 0.6 TDs
Meanwhile, Boyd has clearly worked ahead of speedster John Ross, as they’ve earned respective air-yard target shares of 30% and 18%. Falcons cornerbacks Robert Alford and Desmond Trufant deserve credit for their physicality and ability to limit big plays over the years, but it’s fair to question the talent level of a unit missing its starting middle linebacker and safeties.
Bears WRs Allen Robinson vs. Buccaneers
A-Rob has dominated the Bears’ air-yards market share (43%) and worked as Mitchell Trubisky’s undisputed No. 1 receiver through three weeks, but Robinson is presently one of only six receivers averaging fewer than two yards of separation per target according to Next-Gen Stats.
The good news is this week’s matchup comes against the Buccaneers’ sad excuse for a secondary, which has allowed anybody and everybody to ball out through three weeks:
- Mike Thomas in Week 1: 16 receptions-180 yards-1 TD (17 targets)
- Ted Ginn Jr. in Week 1: 5-68-1 (6)
- Nelson Agholor in Week 2: 8-88-1 (12)
- Kamar Aiken in Week 2: 5-39-0 (6)
- Antonio Brown in Week 3: 6-50-1 (9)
- JuJu Smith-Schuster in Week 3: 9-116-0 (11)
Texans WRs DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller vs. Colts
The Texans pass offense continues to produce with Deshaun Watson and his top-two receivers healthy. Overall, Watson has thrown for at least 225 yards and multiple touchdowns in each of his six starts with Hopkins and Fuller:
Deshaun Watson passing yards + pass TDs in 6 games with Hopkins/Fuller:
385 + 2
310 + 2
402 + 4
225 + 3
261 + 5
283 + 4 pic.twitter.com/8wLtkqvEF5
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) September 27, 2018
The only problem is that Watson has been pressured on 45% of his dropbacks this season — the second-highest mark in the league. The good news is the Texans Week 4 matchup is against an injury-riddled Colts defense that could potentially be without free safety Malik Hooker (hip/groin), strong safety Clayton Geathers (knee) and cornerback Quincy Wilson (concussion).
Steelers WRs Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster vs. Ravens
Smith-Schuster’s (abdomen) status will need to be monitored leading up to kickoff on Sunday night after he missed practice on Wednesday. He’s received only four fewer targets than AB this season and emerged as an every-week WR1.
Still, Brown remains the Steelers’ clear leader in air yards (437 vs. 187) and seems poised for an explosion against a Ravens pass defense that he’s historically smoked without Jimmy Smith since 2011:
- AB vs. Ravens with Smith (9 games): 9.7 targets, 5.3 rec, 60.4 yards, 0.1 TDs
- Without Smith (5 games): 13.8 targets, 9.2 rec, 125.6 yards, 0.4 TDs
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Potential Minus Matchups
Colts WR T.Y. Hilton vs. Texans
Whether it’s Andrew Luck’s lack of arm strength following his return from shoulder surgery, or a conscious decision from new head coach Frank Reich: Luck hasn’t pushed the ball downfield nearly as often as we’re used to seeing.
And the Colts are like, "nothing to see here." pic.twitter.com/vSzk2Ur9E6
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) September 25, 2018
Hilton will carry a decent floor as the Colts’ No. 1 receiver as long as he continues to average double-digit targets per game, but there’s real concern regarding his ceiling moving forward:
- Hilton’s yards per reception from 2012-16: 15.8 (16th among 195 WRs with 100+ targets)
- Yards per target from 2012-16: 9.0 (12th)
- Hilton yards per reception in 2018: 10.5 (57th among 84 WRs with 10+ targets)
- Yards per target in 2018: 5.6 (69th)
Buccaneers WRs Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson and Chris Godwin vs. Bears
The Buccaneers’ high-scoring offense is reportedly expected to start Ryan Fitzpatrick despite the return of Jameis Winston from suspension.
Evans is averaging 10 targets per game and remains capable of defeating any defender in one-on-one situations, but the Bears defense still seems poised to sink the Buccaneers. Overall, the Bears boast the league’s best defense in pressure rate per dropback and have two of PFF’s top-five cornerbacks in Bryce Callahan (No. 2) and Prince Amukamara (No. 4).
Only AB and Austin Hooper (lol) have cleared 100 receiving yards in Chicago since 2017.
Dolphins WRs vs. Patriots
This is not a critique of the Dolphins’ talent at receiver, nor an endorsement of the Patriots secondary. This is instead an observation of how unpredictable the Dolphins’ passing game could be moving forward.
It’s productive to make defenses have to account for multiple receivers on any given play, and the Dolphins kept all five of their options involved during DeVante Parker’s first game of the season in the league’s most pass-adverse offense last week:
- Kenny Stills: 91% snaps and 5 targets
- Parker: 75% snaps and 3 targets
- Danny Amendola: 70% snaps and 3 targets
- Albert Wilson: 23% snaps and 2 targets
- Jakeem Grant: 20% snaps and 3 targets
Eagles WRs Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor vs. Titans
Jeffery (shoulder) practiced in full Tuesday and has finally been cleared for contact. He’ll provide a much-needed boost on the outside, where the Eagles have already lost Mack Hollins (hernia, IR) and Mike Wallace (ankle) for the foreseeable future.
The Eagles seem poised to feature plenty of two-tight end sets after Zach Ertz and second-round pick Dallas Goedert played 99% and 67% of the offense’s snaps, respectively, during Carson Wentz’s return in Week 3.
It would behoove the Eagles to pick on former Super Bowl hero Malcom Butler, who is one of just six cornerbacks to allow three touchdowns already this season.
Be sure to check out FantasyLabs’ industry-leading NFL News and Models, along with the Multi-Lineup Builder, Stack Builder, ownership projections and more. Other tools for the 2018 season are also available, including the Matchups page, DFS Contests Dashboard, NFL Ownership page and NFL Correlations page.