Trying to figure out which players will boom or bust? Figuring out matchups is key. Let's take a look at some of the best and worst matchups for receivers and tight ends this week.
Pierre Garcon, WR, WAS vs. NO ($6,400)
Miglio: The Saints are playing well offensively, but they have given up a ton of fantasy points on the other side of the ball. This could be a shootout, which would be great for the likes of Pierre Garcon.
Rudnicki: Garcon is most likely to match up against Brandon Browner this week who has been a terrible fit in the Saints defense this year. In addition to giving up big plays to most of the players he has been covering, he’s also been flagged more than any other corner in the league. DeSean Jackson is more likely to get safety help over the top, which should make Garcon a much more inviting target as Washington tries to keep pace with Drew Brees.
Demaryius Thomas, WR, DEN vs. KC ($7,900)
Miglio: Down on Demaryius Thomas? Now might be the time to invest in Denver’s No. 1 receiver.
The big wideout has just one touchdown this season, a function of a slower offense spearheaded by declining Peyton Manning. But Thomas is still averaging 11.6 targets per game, and he is getting ready to pop. The Chiefs secondary has improved a bit as the year has gone on thanks to Sean Smith’s re-integration into the lineup, but it is still giving up the most PPG to receivers on the year despite falling to the middle of the pack over the past several weeks.
Rudnicki: The Chiefs got off to a terrible start this year so they have always ranked among the most generous in terms of points awarded to receivers. The level of play has improved in the past few weeks, but Sean Smith is still not playing up to the high level he did a year ago. The Chiefs are a very tough matchup for tight ends, and a banged up Emmanuel Sanders may not be as effective on the other side, so Thomas should be able to bounce back from the quiet game he had against the Colts last week.
Randall Cobb, WR, GB @ DET ($7,700)
After seemingly spending half the season in the “bad matchups” section, Randall Cobb gets an endorsement here. The Packers wideout bucked last week’s declaration with a fluky 53-yard touchdown reception, but he was largely quiet otherwise. This week, Cobb gets to face a Detroit secondary that is considerably softer than that of the Panthers, Broncos and Rams he has faced in three of his past four games.
Rudnicki: Cobb finally showed up last week as the Packers tried to complete a fourth-quarter comeback against the Panthers. Operating out of the slot, he was able to avoid Josh Norman last week and that should help him again here as well. The Lions best corner figures to match up with James Jones or Davante Adams on the outside and that will most likely leave a nickel corner like Quandre Diggs to try and stick with Cobb. The Packers are angry after a couple tough losses and will probably look to take it out on a horrible Lions team this week.
Stefon Diggs, WR, MIN @ OAK ($6,600)
Kyle Rudolph, TE, MIN @ OAK ($4,700)
Miglio: Fading Stefon Diggs last week proved a wise choice as he posted just three receptions for 42 yards against a good Rams defense. His tepid output could put some potential fantasy owners off this week, which would make capitalizing on his excellent matchup all the more sweet.
Kyle Rudolph, meanwhile, remains a high-risk option given how little he is utilized in the offense, but the Raiders defense is an inviting one.
Rudnicki: Antonio Brown just showed the upside that comes with facing the Raiders secondary. While the front seven is showing signs of improvement, the play of cornerbacks David Amerson and D.J. Hayden has mostly been a disaster. Stefon Diggs figures to remain a focal point of the passing game and is probably close to a must-start this week. If you want to take a chance on some lesser owned players getting in on the action as well, Rudolph or Mike Wallace could also be worth a look. The main concern with both players is that they just haven’t been a big part of the offense lately so it’s tougher to count on them.
Rob Gronkowski, TE, NE @ NYG ($8,000)
Miglio: Normally there would be no occasion to discuss Rob Gronkowski here -- he is just about matchup proof. Sometimes the game script gets the better of the best, though, and Gronk’s tepid output let a lot of fantasy owners down last week. The fear of a repeat at that price might drive his ownership percentage down, but he is going up against a rather generous Giants defense.
Rudnicki: This is nearly a perfect scenario for Gronkowski. He gets to face one of the worst teams in the league at defending the TE position, and the Patriots will also be without Dion Lewis for a change so Tom Brady will be without one of his top targets in the short to intermediate passing game. It’s rarely a bad idea to pay up for Gronk, but he should have a very high floor this week and a huge ceiling.
Kamar Aiken, WR, BAL vs. JAX ($5,400)
Miglio: Who is going to catch the ball for the Ravens? Someone has to, after all.
Well, that is assuming the passing offense gets going at all. Against Jacksonville, it’s a good bet Baltimore will do just that. The Jaguars are giving up the fifth-most PPG to receivers over the past three weeks and the 12th-most over the past five.
Rudnicki: The injury to Steve Smith opens up a huge hole in the Ravens passing attack, but Aiken filled in for him just fine earlier this year. The Jaguars corners are still a work in progress and have given up 2 TDs to opposing WRs for 3 straight games. Tough to find a #1 WR at this price point, and it’s even more enticing when the matchup looks this favorable.
Brandin Cooks, WR, NO @ WAS ($7,200)
Willie Snead, WR, NO @ WAS ($6,500)
Miglio: The Saints have gotten their mojo back on offense thanks largely to a resurgent Drew Brees. Brandin Cooks has been a particular beneficiary of the offensive fireworks in recent weeks, and Willie Snead had a big game himself a couple of weeks back. Both have a great matchup against Washington this weekend.
Rudnicki: Washington’s secondary is banged up and their corners are coming in and out of the lineup. Both Cooks and Snead should be able to take advantage of the Bashaud Breeland and Chris Culliver this week. Cooks is starting to heat up with 3 TDs in the past two games, but Snead has been the more consistent player.
Gary Barnidge, TE, CLE @ PIT ($6,100)
Miglio: The fall from a high precipice can be a mighty one. That is what happened to Gary Barnidge, who had just earned the trust of fantasy owners everywhere before Johnny Manziel stuck him with two catches for 35 yards last week. Prior to that Barnidge had been all but matchup proof, but Cincinnati proved too formidable a foe. Pittsburgh is far more forgiving on defense, though, and Barnidge should hopefully have Josh McCown back for this week’s NFC North tilt.
Rudnicki: The Steelers figure to take a step back on offense now that Ben Roethlisberger is out of the lineup, and that could give the Browns a few more possessions. Meanwhile, Barnidge figures to bounce back from a quiet week thanks to the expected return of Josh McCown at QB. The two have been a great combination all year, and they shouldn’t find too much resistance from a Steelers defense that has shown improvement but is still vulnerable in coverage.
Tavon Austin, WR, STL vs. CHI ($6,000)
Miglio: Tavon Austin continues his quest for permanent fantasy football relevancy this week against a Chicago defense that has had trouble with wideouts who possess similar skill sets and roles.
Rudnicki: With Stedman Bailey suspended and Wes Welker not likely up to speed after just signing a few days ago, Austin should be a focal point of the pedestrian Rams passing attack against a suspect Bears secondary. Working out of the slot should match him up with nickel corner Sherrick McManis quite often this week, who has limited experience and has been a weak spot all year. Austin has scored 7 touchdowns in 8 games this year, while the Rams defense has only allowed 10.
Martellus Bennett, TE, CHI @ STL ($5,400)
Alshon Jeffery, WR, CHI @ STL ($7,600)
Miglio: The St. Louis Rams have become a rather stingy bunch on defense this season, having allowed just 28.7 standard PPG to receivers -- fourth-fewest in the league -- and 11.2 PPG to tight ends on the year. They have allowed just three touchdowns to wideouts and one 100-yard receiver, Antonio Brown. The Rams have been consistent, to boot -- those numbers hold pretty steady even just looking at more recent week. This is not an ideal matchup for the Bears offense, particularly for Alshon Jeffery. Martellus Bennett might benefit from the vise grip that secondary puts on Jeffery, but the big tight end could wind up with rather pedestrian numbers, too.
Rudnicki: The Rams defense has only allowed 10 touchdowns all year and there are very few players who have come through with big games against them. Jeffery is playing like one of the truly elite weapons in the league right now, but he also suffered a groin injury and missed practice time this week so he may not even be at full strength. Martellus Bennett is one of the best tight ends in the game as well, but in an expected low scoring game it’s likely that he’ll spend more time blocking this week than usual.
Larry Fitzgerald, WR, ARI @ SEA ($7,400)
Miglio: This is entirely dependent on where the Cardinals decide to line Larry Fitzgerald up on the field. Richard Sherman isn’t likely to shadow Arizona’s No. 1 wideout, but Fitzgerald could still have Sherman glued to him for half the night if he lines up on the right side. The Seahawks are at home to boot -- the entire Arizona offense should be downgraded from a fantasy perspective.
Rudnicki: Matchups in Seattle are something we’ve generally wanted to avoid in the recent past, but the Seahawks aren’t playing up to their normal level. I think it’s possible Fitzgerald will find a favorable matchup here working mostly out of the slot against nickel corner Deshawn Shead. However, it’s also possible that Seattle will strongly consider having Richard Sherman shadow him at times, which could make things a lot more difficult.
DeSean Jackson, WR, WAS vs. NO ($6,000)
Miglio: Whereas Pierre Garcon has a nice matchup this week, his teammate may not be so lucky.
Rudnicki: Jackson is the receiver that opponents are most afraid of hurting them due to his deep speed, so he figures to see Jairus Byrd slide over to his side of the field more often this week. He should also have the tougher matchup with rookie CB Delvin Breaux, who has played very well despite the struggles of Brandon Browner on the other side.
Travis Kelce, TE, KC @ DEN ($5,800)
Jeremy Maclin, WR, KC @ DEN ($6,500)
Miglio: Aqib Talib may be suspended, but that doesn’t make this a good matchup for Jeremy Maclin. It’s likely the Broncos will stick Chris Harris on Maclin, and the Chiefs passing offense isn’t exactly lighting the NFL on fire.
Rudnicki: The Broncos are probably going to be without Aqib Talib if he serves his one game suspension, but the Chiefs are pretty much a 1 WR team anyway. Chris Harris should be able to lock up Maclin here and limit him from doing any major damage. Travis Kelce hasn’t quite had the breakout year many expected from him, but it’s mainly due to a lack of touchdowns. Those don’t figure to be plentiful against a Broncos defense this week, and their pass rush should make things very difficult for Alex Smith behind a leaky offensive line.
Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, TEN vs. CAR ($5,200)
Miglio: Admittedly, Dorial Green-Beckham wasn’t going to be a highly owned player this weekend to begin with. But just in case you were thinking about throwing him into a GPP lineup or two, beware of the monster in Lake Norman.
Rudnicki: Yeah, Josh Norman is one of a small number of corners that you want to avoid whenever possible. Randall Cobb worked out of the slot to avoid him last weekend, but that probably won’t happen much with Green-Beckham here. He’s a good young player, but not one you want to be counting on this week..
Doug Baldwin, WR, SEA vs. ARI ($5,400)
Jimmy Graham, TE, SEA vs. ARI ($6,000)
Miglio: Seattle’s offense isn’t exactly lighting up the league, and a matchup against the Arizona defense isn’t going to help matters.
Rudnicki: Neither player has been as much of a factor in the Seattle passing game as expected so far, but this looks like a particularly tough matchup for both. Baldwin works mainly out of the slot, which suggests he’ll see plenty of Tyrann Mathieu. That could free up Patrick Peterson to line up opposite Jimmy Graham. Russell Wilson may still be able to hit them on some broken plays when he leaves the pocket, but Arizona’s defense should match up very well with both.