Grading Week 8 NFL WR/CB Matchups: Michael Thomas vs. Patrick Peterson, More
USA Today Sports. Pictured: Michael Thomas, Patrick Peterson
- Could Patrick Peterson slow down Michael Thomas' red-hot season?
- Matthew Freedman grades Week 8 WR/CB matchups for fantasy football.
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 8 WR/CB matchups.
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.
Also consult our Week 8 injury report or status updates on receivers and corners. I will update this piece for Sunday morning based on the week’s practice reports.
Let’s start with this week’s featured matchup then run through all the potential shadow matchups and sort through my matrix featuring every matchup.
WR/CB Matchup of the Week
Michael Thomas vs. Patrick Peterson
UPDATE (Oct. 26): QB Drew Brees (thumb) will start.
Thomas entered the year with an all-time NFL-high 321 receptions through his first three seasons, and even without Drew Brees (thumb) for most of the past six weeks, Thomas leads the league with 62 receptions and 763 yards receiving.
His 83.1% catch rate since last year’s 2018 All-Pro campaign is the stuff of legends.
In NFL history, Thomas is just one of six players to open his career with three straight 1,000-yard receiving seasons, and he’s well on his way to his fourth such feat. I don’t want to overstate, but he’s on a Hall-of-Fame trajectory.
In Week 7, without running back Alvin Kamara, tight end Jared Cook and wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith, the nearly peerless-Thomas pulled backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and the Saints to a 36-25 road victory over the Bears with 9-131-0 receiving on 11 targets.
No receiver in the league is playing better than he is right now.
As for Peterson, he has long been one of the league’s most feared cornerbacks. A three-time All-Pro selection, Peterson has made the Pro Bowl each year of his career. Now in his ninth season, he’s allowed a catch rate of just 54.9% since he entered the league. For much of the past half decade at least, he’s been a shutdown shadow corner.
Peterson was suspended for the first six weeks of the season, so entering Week 7 there was uncertainty about how the new Cardinals coaching staff would use him. Would defensive coordinator Vance Joseph simply stick Peterson at left corner? Or would he let Peterson roam around the field?
Although Peterson didn’t shadow per se, defending different Giants receivers at various times, he played 32 snaps out wide on the left and 29 on the right with three in the slot.
Given that the Cardinals moved him across the formation in Week 7 and had rookie cornerback Byron Murphy shadow Julio Jones in Week 6, it’s probable that they won’t hesitate to match Peterson up with Thomas as often as possible whenever he’s lined up on the outside.
Last week, on 49 coverage snaps and four targets, Peterson held Giants receivers to a scoreless 39 yards. Thomas is great, but in his shadow matchups last season — especially against big-bodied receivers — Peterson proved himself to be every bit as good as his reputation.
- Davante Adams (Week 13): 63.8% of routes, 1-8-0 receiving on four targets
- Kenny Golladay (Week 14): 60.0% of routes, 0-0-0 receiving on zero targets
- Julio Jones (Week 15): 65.4% of routes, 3-45-1 receiving on four targets
Thomas has had eight-plus receptions every week this year but one — but against Peterson, he might have a rare struggle-filled game.
NFL Week 8 WR/CB Matchups
Redskins at Vikings: Thursday Night Football
- Redskins WRs: Terry McLaurin will match up with right cornerback Xavier Rhodes as a matter of happenstance, as Rhodes hasn’t shadowed since Week 2.
- Vikings WRs: Adam Thielen (hamstring) and cornerback Josh Norman (thigh) both seem unlikely to play. I expect the Vikings to use two-tight end sets as their base package.
Seahawks at Falcons: 1 p.m. ET on Sunday
- Seahawks WRs: Left cornerback Desmond Trufant (toe) could miss his third straight game, making this matchup all the juicier for Tyler Lockett and Co. UPDATE (Oct. 26): Trufant is out.
- Falcons WRs: Give Julio Jones a medium upgrade for his matchup with right corner Tre Flowers, who has a 49.7 PFF coverage grade. UPDATE (Oct. 26): QB Matt Ryan (ankle) is out. WR Mohamed Sanu has been traded to the Patriots. I expect WR Calvin Ridley will play more in the slot.
Eagles at Bills: 1 p.m. ET on Sunday
- Eagles WRs: DeSean Jackson (abdomen) hasn’t played or practiced since Week 2 and seems unlikely to play.
- Bills WRs: Cornerback Ronald Darby (hamstring) was activated last week, but Rasul Douglas bizarrely played ahead of Darby. Give John Brown a large upgrade against Douglas. The Eagles have allowed a league-high 48.0 DraftKings and 38.4 FanDuel points per game to opposing wide receiver units.
Chargers at Bears: 1 p.m. ET on Sunday
- Chargers WRs: Keenan Allen gets a medium upgrade against slot corner Buster Skrine, a longtime liability for every secondary in which he’s played. UPDATE (Oct. 26): Allen (hamstring) is a game-time decision. With his injury, he now has only a “slight upgrade” grade against Skrine.
- Bears WRs: Allen Robinson is making the best of his Bortles-inspired situation with quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, but Robinson gets a medium downgrade with matchups outside and in the slot. Shadow matchup: Allen Robinson II vs. Casey Hayward Jr. (outside) & Desmond King II (slot)
Giants at Lions: 1 p.m. ET on Sunday
- Giants WRs: Sterling Shepard (concussion) has missed two consecutive games. His status for Week 8 is uncertain. Shadow corner Darius Slay (hamstring) is unlikely to play after he aggravated a preexisting injury last week and had to leave the game. Give Golden Tate a large upgrade against backup cornerback Mike Ford. UPDATE (Oct. 26): Shepard and Slay are out.
- Lions WRs: Cornerback Janoris Jenkins hasn’t shadowed since Week 3. Kenny Golladay gets a large upgrade against rookie cornerback DeAndre Baker, who has a putrid 37.0 PFF coverage grade.
Buccaneers at Titans: 1 p.m. ET on Sunday
- Buccaneers WRs: Breshad Perriman (hamstring) has missed the past two games and is uncertain for Week 8. Bobo Wilson (fumbles) was released during the Week 7 bye. UPDATE (Oct. 26): Perriman is in. Titans CB Adoree’ Jackson is out.
- Titans WRs: Rookie cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting has apparently jumped M.J. Stewart on the depth chart and taken the slot job. Not that it matters. The Bucs have allowed the second-most DraftKings and FanDuel points to opposing wide receivers with 46.4 and 36.6 per game.
Broncos at Colts: 1 p.m. ET on Sunday
- Broncos WRs: Slot cornerback Kenny Moore II (knee) missed last week and is uncertain for this week. Rookie backup corner Shakial Taylor gives a medium upgrade to DaeSean Hamilton. UPDATE (Oct. 26): WR Emmanuel Sanders has been traded to the 49ers.
- Colts WRs: T.Y. Hilton continues to see targets and crush as a home favorite, but he might have his toughest matchup of the season this week. Shadow matchup: T.Y. Hilton vs. Chris Harris Jr.
Cardinals at Saints: 1 p.m. ET on Sunday
- Cardinals WRs: Christian Kirk (ankle) has missed the past three weeks but is seemingly nearing his return. Slot cornerback P.J. Williams (suspension) is out, and backup Patrick Robinson (hamstring) is questionable after leaving Week 7 with an injury. Larry Fitzgerald gets a large upgrade against third-string slot fill-ins Chauncey Gardner-Johnson and Ken Crawley. UPDATE (Oct. 26): Kirk is a game-time decision. Robinson is out.
- Saints WRs: Tre’Quan Smith (ankle) is dealing with a lingering injury and seems unlikely to play. Shadow matchup: Michael Thomas vs. Patrick Peterson. UPDATE (Oct. 26): QB Drew Brees (thumb) will start. Smith is out.
Jets at Jaguars: 1 p.m. ET on Sunday
- Jets WRs: Without Jalen Ramsey (traded), the Jaguars have shown a willingness to use cornerback A.J. Bouye in shadow coverage, and he should provide a significant challenge to the Jets. Shadow matchup: Robby Anderson vs. A.J. Bouye
- Jaguars WRs: D.J. Chark Jr. and Chris Conley both have advantageous matchups on the outside against cornerbacks Trumaine Johnson and Darryl Roberts, who respectively have 46.9 and 50.4 PFF coverage grades. UPDATE (Oct. 26): WR Dede Westbrook (neck, shoulder) is questionable.
Bengals vs. Rams (in London): 1 p.m. ET on Sunday
- Bengals WRs: Wide receivers A.J. Green (ankle) is yet to practice. John Ross (clavicle) is out. Cornerback Jalen Ramsey has given the Rams secondary new life.
- Rams WRs: Outside cornerbacks Dre Kirkpatrick (knee) and William Jackson III (shoulder) both missed last week and are likely out. All the Rams wide receivers get large upgrades against a backup-laden unit. UPDATE (Oct. 26): Kirkpatrick and CB Darqueze Dennard (hamstring) are out. Jackson is in as RCB. B.W. Webb moves to LCB, and Tony McRae moves to SCB.
Panthers at 49ers: 4:05 p.m. ET on Sunday
- Panthers WRs: Right cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon (foot) has missed the past month and is yet to practice. Backup Emmanuel Moseley has played admirably in his stead. The 49ers are No. 1 in the league in pass defense (per Football Outsiders’ DVOA).
- 49ers WRs: Deebo Samuel (groin) missed last week and is uncertain to play. Right corner Donte Jackson (groin) has missed the past month but seems to be nearing his return as the Panthers come off the bye. Dante Pettis gets a medium upgrade against backup slot corner Javien Elliott if Jackson is out. UPDATE (Oct. 26): WR Emmanuel Sanders is now on 49ers. Samuel is in. Jackson is in as RCB. Ross Cockrell moves to SCB.
Browns at Patriots: 4:25 p.m. on Sunday
- Browns WRs: Rashard Higgins (knee) hasn’t played since Week 1 and is uncertain for Week 8. The Browns are coming off the bye, and the Pats are on short rest thanks to their Week 7 Monday Night Football appearance, but the Pats still have the edge. They are the league’s most shadow-heavy team and rank No. 1 with a 93.5 PFF coverage grade. Shadow matchups: Odell Beckham Jr. vs. Stephon Gilmore, Jarvis Landry vs. Jonathan Jones, Antonio Callaway vs. Jason McCourty. UPDATE (Oct. 26): Higgins is no longer on injury report.
- Patriots WRs: Josh Gordon (knee) missed Week 7 and is uncertain for this week. I’m tentatively projecting outside cornerbacks Denzel Ward (hamstring) and Greedy Williams (hamstring) to play, but I doubt they will be at 100% ability. With Gordon out, Jakobi Meyers will play primarily in the slot and Edelman will slide outside. Shadow matchup: Julian Edelman vs. Denzel Ward. UPDATE (Oct. 26): WR Mohamed Sanu is now on Patriots. Gordon is on injured reserve. Ward and Williams are in.
Raiders at Texans: 4:25 p.m. ET on Sunday
- Raiders WRs: Tyrell Williams (foot) has missed the past two games and is yet to practice. Slot corner Bradley Roby (hamstring) is out, and left corner Johnathan Joseph (wrist, shoulder) is uncertain after missing Week 6 and leaving Week 7 early. This is a great matchup for the Raiders, but they might be incapable of exploiting it. UPDATE (Oct. 26): Williams is expected to play. LCB Gareon Conley is now on Texans. Phillip Gaines moves to SCB.
- Texans WRs: Will Fuller (hamstring) seems unlikely to play after leaving Week 7 early. Kenny Stills will play outside while Keke Coutee mans the slot. The Raiders have allowed the fourth-most DraftKings and FanDuel points to wide receivers with 43.0 and 35.4 per game. UPDATE (Oct. 26): Fuller is out. CB Gareon Conley has been traded to Texans. Trayvon Mullen in as LCB.
Packers at Chiefs: Sunday Night Football
- Packers WRs: Davante Adams (toe) hasn’t played or practiced in three weeks and seems unlikely to play. Slot corner Kendall Fuller (hand) missed Week 7 and is uncertain for this week. Give a large upgrade to Geronimo Allison against rookie sixth-round backup slot corner Rashad Fenton. UPDATE (Oct. 26): Adams is officially doubtful and is projected out. Fuller is out.
- Chiefs WRs: Sammy Watkins (hamstring) has missed most of the past three weeks and is questionable for Week 8. In his absence, Tyreek Hill will play primarily in the slot, where he will avoid the potential shadow coverage of cornerback Jaire Alexander. UPDATE (Oct. 26): Watkins is in.
Dolphins at Steelers: Monday Night Football
- Dolphins WRs: Right corner Steven Nelson (groin) missed Week 6 but might return following the Steelers’ Week 7 bye. In limited action, backup Cameron Sutton has played well in Nelson’s place. UPDATE (Oct. 26): Nelson is in.
- Steelers WRs: James Washington (shoulder) is out. Shadow cornerback Xavien Howard (knee) has missed the past two games and is questionable for Week 8. Not one regularly playing cornerback was a Week 1 starter for the Dolphins, who are dead last with a 36.4 PFF coverage grade. Give JuJu Smith-Schuster a large upgrade against slot corner Jomal Wiltz. UPDATE (Oct. 26): Washington is in. Howard and CB Chris Lammons are questionable.
NFL Week 8 WR/CB Matrix
I’m taking a cautious approach to injured players I expect to be questionable (or out), such as wide receiver Sammy Watkins.
If by the weekend it seems likely that they will play, I will include them in my updates.
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.