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Week 9 WR/CB Matchups: D.K. Metcalf vs. Tre’Davious White, Shadow Grades & More

Credit:

Michael Reaves/Getty Images. Pictured: D.K. Metcalf.

Wide receiver-cornerback showdowns might be the most important individual matchups in football.

In this piece, I leverage snap data from Pro Football Focus to project NFL Week 9 WR/CB matchups, especially shadow situations.

For more, see the FantasyLabs Matchups page, where we provide basic and advanced data — including fantasy and red-zone performance — for each offensive skill-position player based on his matchup.

As we get more clarity during the week on the injury status of receivers and corners, I will update my WR/CB projections.

Let’s start with this week’s featured matchup and then run through all the potential shadow matchups, the most notable upgrades and downgrades and the injury situations to monitor.

WR/CB Injury Updates

UPDATE (Sun. 11/8): I have made updates based on injury reports for the week. Here are some changes and key situations to note.

Wide Receivers: OUT

  • Falcons WR Calvin Ridley (foot) is projected OUT.
  • Lions WR Kenny Golladay (hip) is OUT.
  • Giants WR Golden Tate (discipline) is OUT.
  • Colts WRs T.Y. Hilton (groin) & Ashton Dulin are respectively projected OUT & OUT.
  • Patriots WRs Julian Edelman (knee, IR), N’Keal Harry (concussion) & Isaiah Ford (COVID-19 trade protocols) are projected OUT.
  • Chiefs WR Sammy Watkins (hamstring) is OUT.
  • Titans WR Adam Humphries (concussion) is OUT.
  • Football Team WRs Dontrelle Inman (hamstring) & Antonio Gandy-Golden (hamstring, IR) are projected OUT.
  • Packers WR Allen Lazard (core) is OUT.
  • 49ers WRs Deebo Samuel (hamstring/COVID-19), Brandon Aiyuk (COVID-19) & Kendrick Bourne (COVID-19) are OUT.

Wide Receivers: IN

  • Saints WRs Michael Thomas (ankle/hamstring) is projected IN.
  • Buccaneers WRs Chris Godwin (finger) is projected IN.
  • Jets WRs Jamison Crowder (groin) & Breshad Perriman (concussion) are projected IN.
  • Broncos WR Tim Patrick (hamstring) is projected IN.
  • Football Team WR Steven Sims (toe) is projected IN.
  • Raiders WR Bryan Edwards (foot/ankle) is IN.
  • Texans WR Randall Cobb (illness) is projected IN.
  • Colts WR Marcus Johnson (knee) is projected IN.

Cornerbacks: OUT

  • Patriots CB Stephon Gilmore (knee) is projected OUT.
  • Ravens CB Marlon Humphrey (COVID-19) is OUT.
  • Texans CB Bradley Roby Jr. (undisclosed) is OUT.
  • Broncos CBs A.J. Bouye (concussion) & Bryce Callahan (ankle) are OUT.
  • Steelers CB Mike Hilton (shoulder) is projected OUT.
  • Cardinals CBs Byron Murphy (COVID-19) & Dre Kirkpatrick (thigh) are OUT.
  • Vikings CBs Mike Hughes (neck, IR), Holton Hill (foot), Cameron Dantzler (concussion) & Mark Fields II (chest) are OUT.
  • Giants CB Ryan Lewis (hamstring) is OUT.
  • Seahawks CBs Shaquill Griffin (concussion/hamstring) & Ugo Amadi (hamstring) are OUT.
  • Bills CB Josh Norman (hamstring) is OUT.
  • Titans CBs Adoree’ Jackson (knee, IR), Kristian Fulton (knee, IR) & Tye Smith (shoulder) are projected OUT.
  • Jaguars CB D.J. Hayden (hamstring, IR) is OUT.
  • Chargers CB Chris Harris (foot, IR) is OUT.
  • Cowboys CB Chidobe Awuzie (hamstring, IR) is OUT.
  • Packers CB Kevin King (quadricep) is OUT.
  • Lions CB Darryl Roberts (hip/groin, IR) is OUT.

Cornerbacks: IN

  • Chargers CBs Casey Hayward (“fluid situation”) & Brandon Facyson (illness) are tentatively projected IN.
  • Vikings CB Harrison Hand (hamstring) is projected IN.
  • Ravens CB Jimmy Smith (back) is projected IN.
  • Trayvon Mullen (hamstring) is projected IN.
  • Titans CB Desmond King II (trade) is tentatively projected IN.
  • Titans CB Tye Smith (shoulder) is projected IN.

Jump To: WR/CB Matchup Matrix

WR/CB Matchup of the Week

Seahawks WR D.K. Metcalf vs. Bills CB Tre’Davious White

Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET on Sunday | TV: FOX

This might be the best WR/CB matchup we see all year.

In his second season, Metcalf has metamorphosed into a Megatron-like superstar. In all but one of his first seven games this season, he has either 100 yards or a touchdown.

He’s a robust 36-680-7 receiving on 59 targets and No. 1 in the league with 154.1 air yards plus yards after the catch (AirYAC) per game.


AirYAC is a leading indicator of fantasy output. You can find it in the RotoViz NFL Player Statistical Summary Tool.


Metcalf probably isn’t the best receiver in the league, but there are few who have played better than him through the first half of the season.

But starting this week, he has a cornerback gauntlet ahead of him.

Ever since his incredibly under-appreciated 2017 rookie campaign when he had a 90.1 Pro Football Focus coverage grade, White has been one of my favorite corners in the league. Last year, he finally got the credit he deserves with All-Pro recognition.

For his career, White has allowed just 7.3 yards per target on a 55.2% catch rate, and he has faced only 2.9 targets per game this year.

For the most part, 2020 quarterbacks are opting not to test White.

But I don’t expect Russell Wilson to ignore Metcalf, who has six-plus targets in every game but one — and that means we could see both Metcalf and White tested to the extreme.

Given that Metcalf’s median performance this year is 95 yards and a touchdown, I absolutely must hit him with the “large downgrade” because we should expect some regression anyway. Also, White almost never gives up that kind of production.

But I don’t feel good about it, and I still view Metcalf as someone to start in season-long leagues and daily fantasy tournaments.

Action: Large downgrade for Metcalf

Potential Week 8 Shadow Matchups

Here are the shadow matchups I’m projecting.

WR CB
Brandon Aiyuk, 49ers Jaire Alexander, Packers
Allen Robinson, Bears Malcolm Butler, Titans
Terry McLaurin, Washington James Bradberry, Giants
Emmanuel Sanders, Saints Carlton Davis, Buccaneers
Denzel Mims, Jets J.C. Jackson, Patriots

49ers WR Brandon Aiyuk vs. Packers CB Jaire Alexander

Kickoff: 8:20 p.m. ET on Thursday | TV: FOX/NFL

Aiyuk seems likely to be without No. 1 wide receiver Deebo Samuel (hamstring) and tight end George Kittle (ankle) could miss the rest of the regular season, so he could be in line for some extra targets on Thursday Night Football.

If we discount Aiyuk’s Week 2 NFL debut (a run-focused 31-13 win over the Jets) and look at his four other games without a fully active Samuel, Aiyuk is 21-294-1 receiving on 31 targets and 4-69-2 rushing.

The 2020 first-rounder has flashed real playmaking ability

But his matchup is tough.

Alexander has always been a good corner. He entered the NFL as a first-round pick with 4.38-second 40-yard speed, and he had PFF coverage grades 73.0 and 75.8 in his first two seasons.

As a third-year veteran, Alexander has catapulted himself into the top tier of cornerbacks in 2020, ranking No. 1 at the position with a 90.1 PFF coverage grade.

This year, Alexander has allowed just 5.2 yards per target on 3.7 targets per game.

In the past, though, he has struggled with inconsistency in shadow coverage.

His first shadow assignment ever was in Week 12 of 2018 against Adam Thielen, who went off for 8-125-1 on nine targets. In Week 1 of this season, Alexander once again shadowed Thielen, who was 6-110-2 on eight targets.

But things have started to change for Alexander. In Weeks 4-8 (with a Week 5 bye), he shadowed Calvin Ridley, Mike Evans, Will Fuller and Justin Jefferson, all of whom underwhelmed (production vs. Alexander directly in parentheses).

  • Calvin Ridley (Week 4): 0-0-0, five targets (0-0-0, two targets)
  • Mike Evans (Week 6): 1-10-0, two targets (0-0-0, one target)
  • Will Fuller (Week 7): 3-35-1, six targets (0-0-0, one target)
  • Justin Jefferson (Week 8): 3-26-0, four targets (1-12-0, two targets)

Alexander is playing like one of the league’s best corners right now.

Action: Large downgrade for Aiyuk

Bears WR Allen Robinson vs. Titans CB Malcolm Butler

Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET on Sunday | TV: FOX

The Titans are dealing with major injury issues in the secondary. No. 1 corner Adoree’ Jackson (knee, IR), slot cornerback Kristian Fulton (knee, IR) and backup corner Tye Smith (shoulder) all missed Week 8 and could miss Week 9.

As a result, 36-year-old Johnathan Joseph and seventh-round rookie Chris Jackson have been forced into the starting lineup. To minimize their potential impact on the defense, the Titans have used Butler in shadow coverage against Chase Claypool and A.J. Green over the past two weeks.

Given that Claypool and Green combined for just 3-17-0 receiving on six targets, I’d say that Butler has done well.

But his recent two-game performance does not erase the fact that Butler was a mediocre cover man for the Titans in 2018-19 and that he allowed 8.1 yards per target on an outlandish 8.4 targets per game in Weeks 1-6 before moving to shadow coverage.

In his six games with quarterback Nick Foles, Robinson is 42-524-3 receiving on 59 targets.

He should be fine against Butler.

I mean, he has survived much worse.

God bless the child.

One thing to note: I’m assuming that 2018 All-Pro slot defender Desmond King II (recently acquired from the Chargers via trade) will be able to advance through COVID-19 quarantine protocols in time to suit up for this game.

But given that he plays almost exclusively in the slot and will have little chance to acclimate himself to the defense before the game, King will likely have little impact on how the Titans choose to defend Robinson.

Action: No change for Robinson

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Football Team WR Terry McLaurin vs. Giants CB James Bradberry

Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET on Sunday | TV: FOX

Note: I wrote this before the Giants-Buccaneers game on Monday Night Football.

Not even a month ago, we saw McLaurin and Bradberry go at each other in Week 6, and to be honest, the matchup was something of a letdown.

Bradberry was on him for many of his routes, but it wasn’t a true shadow situation. McLaurin was 7-74-0 receiving on 12 targets, but against Bradberry in particular he was just 2-12-0 on two.

It’s uncertain what we’ll see in Week 9, but at a minimum I expect the “light shadow” treatment of Week 6 with the possibility for a full follow-all-over-the-field matchup.

To open the year, McLaurin faced an all-time brutal schedule of opposing No. 1 cornerbacks.

  • Week 1: Darius Slay
  • Week 2: Patrick Peterson
  • Week 3: Denzel Ward
  • Week 4: Marcus Peters
  • Week 5: Jalen Ramsey
  • Week 6: James Bradberry

It’s not as if McLaurin ran all of his routes against these defenders, but the point stands that he had it worse than any other wide receiver to start the season.

And even with his tough schedule, McLaurin emerges from the Week 8 bye ranked No. 1 in the NFL with a 0.77 WOPR.


WOPR (Weighted Opportunity Rating) is a stat created by Josh Hermsmeyer. It combines market shares of targets and air yards.


As for Bradberry, he has been the lone bright spot on the Giants’ defense in his first year with the team, putting up an 80.3 PFF coverage grade. No other key contributor in the secondary has a mark of even 60.

A physical, press-man defender, Bradberry played left corner in Week 1, but he has been used mostly in shadow coverage in every game since then. Over that time, Bradberry has allowed just 5.5 yards per target.

As well as McLaurin has played, this matchup will be a challenge.

Action: Large downgrade for McLaurin

Saints WR Emmanuel Sanders vs. Buccaneers CB Carlton Davis

Kickoff: 8:20 p.m. ET on Sunday | TV: NBC

There’s a lot that’s unknown with Week 9’s Sunday Night Football matchup.

First, we don’t know for sure that Sanders (COVID-19) will be active. He’s expected to play, but that doesn’t mean he actually will.

Second, we don’t know if No. 1 wide receiver Michael Thomas (ankle/hamstring) or even backup wide receiver Marquez Callaway (ankle) will be active for the Saints. If either plays, I imagine he will draw Davis.

Third, we don’t know how much Sanders will play on the outside. He has been out since Week 6 but in Weeks 4-5, the Saints used him more on the inside than they had previously (45 snaps in the slot vs. 51 on the perimeter). It’s possible that Tre’Quan Smith, not Sanders, could be the team’s top outside receiver in Week 9.

In projecting Davis on Sanders, we need to make a number of assumptions.

Here’s one assumption we don’t need to make: Davis is good.

Dating back to last season, Davis has allowed just 6.0 yards per target and become a true shutdown defender.

Sanders was 18-215-0 receiving on 23 targets in Weeks 4-5, but Davis is playing at an elite level.

Action: Large downgrade for Sanders

Jets WR Denzel Mims vs. Patriots CB J.C. Jackson

Kickoff: 7:15 p.m. ET on Monday | TV: ESPN

UPDATE (Sat. 11/7): I now have Jackson projected to shadow Breshad Perriman (concussion).

As is the case with SNF, Monday Night Football requires us to make some assumptions.

Right now, I have Jets wide receivers Jamison Crowder (groin) and Breshad Perriman (concussion) and Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore (knee) all projected as out.

Although backup slot receiver Braxton Berrios and backup perimeter receiver Jeff Smith led the Jets last week with 11 and eight targets, respectively, the second-round rookie Mims (6-84-0 receiving on 10 targets in two games) is still the No. 1 receiver in the absence of Crowder and Perriman.

And last week with Gilmore sidelined, Jackson functioned as the No. 1 corner for the Pats, shadowing Stefon Diggs on most of his routes.

Although Diggs had his typical good game — 6-92-0 on nine targets, 5-84-0 on seven targets specifically against Jackson — the third-year veteran did snag an interception, and he has allowed just 6.5 yards per target with a 51.9% catch rate for his career.

With 12 interceptions to just three touchdowns forfeited, Jackson is a true ballhawk.

In Week 9, Mims will be rather mugh. Yes, that’s a combination of “meh” and “ugh.”

Action: Large downgrade for Mims

Week 9 Shadow Borderline

There are two cornerbacks with matchups on the shadow borderline. Although these cornerbacks shadow periodically, I cannot say with confidence that they will follow opposing No. 1 receivers across the formation this week.

Packers WR Davante Adams vs. 49ers CB Emmanuel Moseley

Kickoff: 8:20 p.m. ET on Thursday | TV: FOX/NFL

For much of the season, the 49ers have moved their injury-necessitated rotation of cornerbacks all across the formation in a manner that has felt rather random.

But over the past few weeks they seem to have settled on Moseley as a guy they want to match up against bigger-bodied perimeter receivers.

For instance, last week he tailed Metcalf across the formation — and just look at how well that went …

In case you missed it, Metcalf was 12-161-2 receiving on 15 targets and 7-120-2 on 10 targets specifically against Moseley.

Who knows if the 49ers will use shadow coverage in Week 9, but if they do, Moseley will probably be the guy on Adams, who is 43-502-7 receiving on 58 targets in five games this season.

Adams is the NFL’s best wide receiver.

Action: No change for Adams

Buccaneers WR Mike Evans vs. Saints CB Marshon Lattimore

Kickoff: 8:20 p.m. ET on Sunday | TV: NBC

Lattimore hasn’t shadowed since Week 1, so I doubt he will tail Evans. But I still expect them naturally to line up on the same side of the field often.

More than anything, this note is a reminder that Lattimore is not the player he once was. The 2017 Defensive Rookie of the Year has allowed 10.3 yards per target and a 72.2% catch rate on six targets per game this year.

Last week, Lattimore allowed 8-96-1 receiving on 13 targets overall, including 5-80-1 on six targets to Allen Robinson.

This might not be the classic Evans-Lattimore matchup of seasons past.

Action: No change for Evans

Notable Wide Receiver Upgrades

Here are a couple advantageous matchups that should not be ignored.

Falcons WR Russell Gage vs. Broncos CB Essang Bassey

Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET on Sunday | TV: CBS

Gage could see more targets in Week 9 with teammate Calvin Ridley (foot) expected to be out.

Bassey is an undrafted rookie who has allowed an 87.5% catch rate and will play only because of an injury to No. 1 cornerback A.J. Bouye (concussion).

Action: Large upgrade for Gage

Chargers WR Keenan Allen vs. Raiders CB Lamarcus Joyner

Kickoff: 4:05 p.m. ET on Sunday | TV: FOX

Allen has target totals of 10, 19, 11, 13 and 11 in his five full games with quarterback Justin Herbert. Last year, he was 13-139-0 receiving on 21 targets in two games against the Raiders.

Joyner is a safety-turned-slot corner with a 72.6% catch rate allowed since joining the Raiders last year.

Action: Large upgrade for Allen

Notable Wide Receiver Downgrades

Here are a couple disadvantageous matchups to keep in mind.

Colts WR Michael Pittman vs. Ravens CB Jimmy Smith

Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET on Sunday | TV: CBS

Pittman ran 20 routes but was just 1-6-0 receiving on one target in his return from injury last week.

Smith is a should-be All-Pro corner who has allowed just 4.7 yards per target with a 50% catch rate since last year.

Action: Large downgrade for Pittman

Raiders WR Henry Ruggs III vs. Chargers CB Casey Hayward Jr.

Kickoff: 4:05 p.m. ET on Sunday | TV: FOX

Ruggs is a threat to turn any target into a long score, but he has an average of only two receptions and 25.5 yards receiving on 3.75 targets in his four games without a touchdown.

Hayward entered the season as PFF’s No. 3 cornerback and since joining the Chargers in 2016, he has allowed a catch rate of just 52.6%.

Action: Large downgrade for Ruggs

WR/CB Injuries to Monitor

I take a cautious approach to players I think are likely to be questionable at best. If by the weekend they look probable to play, I will include them.

Here are the injury situations I’m monitoring and projecting early in the week.

Wide Receivers: OUT

  • Browns WR Odell Beckham Jr. (knee, IR) is OUT (BYE).
  • Eagles WRs Alshon Jeffery (calf) & DeSean Jackson (ankle, IR) are OUT (BYE).

Cornerbacks: OUT

  • Bengals CB Darius Phillips (knee) is projected OUT (BYE).
  • Browns CB Greedy Williams (shoulder, IR) is OUT (BYE).
  • Eagles CBs Darius Slay (ankle) & Cre’Von LeBlanc (quadricep) are projected OUT (BYE).

Cornerbacks: IN

  • Rams CB Jalen Ramsey (illness) is projected IN (BYE).

NFL Week 9 WR/CB Matrix

Pos = left, right or slot WR or CB
Projected shadow matchups are CAPITALIZED

WR Exp = Wide Receiver Expectation: I rank from 3 to -3 how much I think we should adjust expectations for wide receivers based on matchups. 3: Large upgrade. 2: Medium upgrade. 1: Small upgrade. 0: No change. -1: Small downgrade. -2: Medium downgrade. -3: Large downgrade.

Thanks to Scott Barrett for providing me with some of PFF’s historical data.


Matthew Freedman is 726-571-28 (56.0%) overall betting on the NFL. You can follow him in our free app.

The Editor-in-Chief of FantasyLabs, Freedman is commonly called the Oracle & the Labyrinthian.

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