NFL Conference Championship WR/CB Matchups: Does Bill Belichick Have an Answer for Tyreek Hill?

Jan 20, 2019 6:57 AM EST
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USA Today Sports. Pictured: Bill Belichick and Tyreek Hill

  • We have two riveting matchups on the NFL's Championship Sunday: Rams-Saints and Patriots-Chiefs.
  • Below is a game-by-game breakdown of the top WR/CB matchups. Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill and Saints WR Michael Thomas could both have huge games on Championship Sunday.

Welcome to Championship Sunday! Only four teams remain, so we’ll be able to focus on each team’s respective wide receiver and cornerback groups more than usual.

Visit the FantasyLabs NFL page for more on this week’s slate. You can also view all of the week’s WR/CB matchups using our Matchups tool and check out matchup-specific stats for every NFC and AFC Championship matchup in the Matchup Manifesto.

Championship Sunday Matchup Matrix

The fine folks at Football Outsiders offer their DVOA metric specific to against the run, pass and certain positions. The ranks for all four defenses are below, with red meant to indicate the best and green the worst.

  • The Chiefs have struggled mightily at slowing down both tight ends and complementary receivers this season. Still, the potential return of all-world safety Eric Berry (calf) would be a major boost. Be sure to monitor our Conference Championship Injury Report for Berry’s daily practice participation along with his estimated and official game statuses.
  • Also helping matters for the Chiefs is their home-field advantage at Arrowhead, where they’ve consistently thrived in recent history.

  • The Chiefs boast a top-10 defense in DVOA against No. 1 receivers, although they join the Rams, Saints and Eagles as the league’s only defenses that have allowed at least 80 receiving yards per game to their opponent’s top receiver.
  • The Patriots’ lone kryptonite has been against receiving running backs. Kareem Hunt caught 10-of-11 targets for 203 yards and three touchdowns in two games against the Patriots, and Damien Williams has caught 23-of-24 targets for 160 yards and a pair of touchdowns during his time with the Chiefs.
  • The Chiefs haven’t been all that great against receiving running backs, either, as they allowed the third-most receiving yards per game to opposing backfields this season.
  • The Patriots have surprisingly been better at shutting down complementary receivers as opposed to their opponent’s No. 1 receiver. This has held true in past matchups against Tyreek Hill, who has caught 14-of-20 targets for 275 yards and four (!!!) receiving touchdowns in two career games vs. the Patriots.

  • The Saints have largely operated as a pass funnel defense this season, ranking third in DVOA against the run compared to just 22nd against the pass. They rank among the league’s bottom-two defenses in yards per game allowed to both No. 1 and No. 2 receivers.
  • Todd Gurley is also set up well as a receiver, although he converted his six receptions against the Saints back in Week 9 into just 11 scoreless yards.
  • The Rams haven’t exactly turned things around against No. 1 receivers since Aqib Talib has returned. The likes of Amari Cooper (6-65-1), Alshon Jeffery (8-160-0) and Kendrick Bourne (5-59-1) have all produced at or above expectation in recent matchups against L.A.
  • The Rams were mostly able to limit receiving backs this season, although Alvin Kamara converted four receptions into 34 yards and a touchdown against them back in Week 9.

Divisional Round WR/CB Matchups

We can determine where each receiver will line up, as well as which cornerback each receiver will see the most of with help from the snap counts provided by PFF.

We’ll also use PFF to compare each receiver’s and defender’s respective yards per route run and yards allowed per cover snap, along with their height, weight and 40-yard dash time. (Non-listed 40-times courtesy of DraftScout.com.)

  • Snap Percentage: Each receiver’s respective percentage of snaps spent as the offense’s left, slot or right wide receiver along with each cornerback’s respective percentage of snaps spent covering an offense’s left, slot or right wide receiver.
  • Physical: Each player’s respective height (inches), weight (pounds) and 40-yard dash time (seconds). The players with the biggest advantages are identified in green while those that are undersized or slow are in red.
  • Production: Each wide receiver’s respective targets per game and yards per route run along with each cornerback’s respective targets allowed per game and yards allowed per cover snap.
  • Targets per game: A different filter was used to determine each team’s target distribution. The Patriots’ targets per game are their last three games without Josh Gordon, the Chiefs’ are their 10 full games with Sammy Watkins, the Saints are their 16 games with Drew Brees, and the Rams are their nine games without Cooper Kupp (knee, IR).

New England Patriots at Kansas City Chiefs

Patriots WRs vs. Chiefs CBs

The Patriots are entering Game 4 of life without Flash Gordon. Space RB James White (26 targets) has worked far ahead of the likes of Hogan (16), Dorsett (10) and Rob Gronkowski (6) during this stretch, but Edelman (29) remains Tom Brady’s most-trusted target.

This has been the case for the better part of the past half decade, as Edelman has racked up double-digit targets in 10 consecutive playoff games.

Edelman should spend most of his time across from Fuller, who ranks outside of the league’s top-30 full-time slot corners in passer rating and yards allowed per cover snap.

Dorsett boasts the largest speed advantage (+0.16 seconds) of any wide receiver-cornerback matchup this week. Still, Hogan is cheaper on DraftKings and boasts a superior median and ceiling projection in our Pro Models.


Chiefs WRs vs. Patriots CBs