The goal of this article will be to break down some of the WR and TE matchups from a defensive perspective to help identify some of the most favorable or unfavorable matchups this week. I will try to project WR vs CB matchups, and also look at defesive units as a whole to hopefully assist you in setting your weekly DFS lineups. Best of luck and feel free to reach out with any questions via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or twitter (@a_rudnicki).
WR Steve Smith, BAL (vs OAK)
The Titans weren’t able to take advantage of a porous Raiders secondary last week as much as expected, but it’s also likely the Raiders are starting to play better. David Amerson and Sean Smith are both very capable CBs on the outside, but the weakness remains on the inside with nickel CB D.J. Hayden. Smith posted 8 catches on 11 targets last week and he’s been spending a lot of time working out of the slot so he should have another busy day here.
WR A.J. Green, CIN (vs MIA)
The Dolphins might have the worst collection of cornerbacks in the league. They were embarrassed by Cody Kessler and Terrelle Pryor last week, so it’s hard to see them slowing down Andy Dalton and A.J. Green here. One concern is the game could get out of hand if the Dolphins can't keep pace, which may limit his chances in the second half.
WR Marvin Jones Jr, DET (@ CHI)
The Bears have gotten better than expected play from their two starting corners this year, but they have been boosted by some weak matchups. For example, they faced an injured Dez Bryant in week 3 and an Eagles team whose best WR works out of the slot in week 2. Few WRs are as hot right now as Marvin Jones Jr, and he should have little difficulty with this matchup.
WR DeAndre Hopkins, HOU (vs TEN)
Hopkins has had a bit of a quiet start to the year due to some tough matchups the past two weeks, but he should get back on track this week. Statistically, the Titans have not given up much through the air but they have allowed at least one WR to go over 100 yards in every game (Crabtree, M.Jones, and Diggs). Hopkins moves around enough that it will be tough for the Titans to key on him, but he will have a particularly favorable matchup with Perrish Cox much of the time.
WR Allen Robinson, JAX (vs IND)
Amazingly, the Colts have not allowed a TD to an opposing WR all year. This game will be played in London, and Robinson should be heating up following his 2 touchdown outing last week against the Ravens. Vontae Davis is still rusty after missing the first two weeks of the season and likely won’t be as difficult a matchup as he normally can be.
WR Jarvis Landry, MIA (@ CIN)
Landry has remained a focal point of the Dolphins offense with 10 or more targets in all 3 games. He works primarily out of the slot, which should help him avoid facing off against Adam Jones outside. The Bengals are expected to be without Dre Kirkpatrick this week, and their normal nickel CB Josh Shaw also left last week’s game early with an injury. Landry should post another strong game against a banged up secondary.
WR Michael Crabtree, OAK (@BAL)
The Ravens gave up 2 TDs to Corey Coleman in week 2, and then followed that up by allowing 2 TDs to Allen Robinson in week 3. Crabtree is coming off a 100-yard game vs the Titans a week ago and should have the easier matchup against Shareece Wright this week so look for Derek Carr to lean heavily on him again.
Travis Benjamin, SD (vs NO)
The Saints cornerbacks are a disaster, but somehow it didn’t matter on Monday night as the Falcons were able to destroy them with their running game. The Chargers running game is inconsistent at best and Antonio Gates is injured, so look for Benjamin to post a strong game as the team’s #1 WR.
WR Jamison Crowder, WAS (vs CLE)
The Browns secondary has been very generous to opposing WRs this year, and slot WRs have fared particularly well. Tramon Williams is not as comfortable playing inside, which has helped players like Jordan Matthews (week 1) and Jarvis Landry (week 3) both go over 100 yards with a TD in a similar matchup. Crowder has quickly become a favorite target for Kirk Cousins.
TE Zach Miller, CHI (vs DET)
The Lions have given up 5 TDs to opposing TEs this year. While the Packers tight ends didn’t do much last week, that was mostly due to the game turning into a blowout very early. Meanwhile, Miller is coming off a game where he emerged as perhaps the favorite target for Brian Hoyer with 8 catches for 78 yards with a pair of touchdowns.
TE Coby Fleener, NO (@ SD)
We saw Fleener finally get on track against the Falcons last week and now he faces a Chargers defense that has allowed 23 receptions to opposing TEs in 3 games. If Jason Verrett can help limit the opportunities for Brandin Cooks as expected, Fleener should once again be a key part of the Saints passing attack against a defense that can’t defend the position well at all.
TE Jason Witten, DAL (@ SF)
Witten had a quiet game last week as the Cowboys ran all over the Bears. The absence of Dez Bryant should create an opening for Witten to emerge as the focal point once again. He’ll also get to face a 49ers defense that has given up 100 yards and a TD to an opposing TE for the past 2 weeks.
WR Kelvin Benjamin, CAR (@ ATL)
Benjamin was held without a catch on just 1 target last week as the Panthers offensive line had trouble slowing down the Vikings pass rush. The Falcons defense won’t have nearly as much success up front, but Benjamin should still have his hands full with Desmond Trufant for much of the game. Trufant may not be a true shutdown corner, but he’s certainly capable of taking a WR out of the game for long stretches.
WR Alshon Jeffery, CHI (vs DET)
Jeffery has been posting solid numbers despite playing through injuries, but he should have his hands full with Darius Slay this week. Jordy Nelson had a similar matchup last week and blew up for 2 TDs, but Brian Hoyer isn’t exactly Aaron Rodgers so I’d recommend setting low expectations here.
WR Terrelle Pryor, CLE (vs WAS)
Pryor can get a boost with his usage at QB for the depleted Browns, but his upside at WR this week figures to be limited by a matchup with Josh Norman. #1 WRs facing Washington have actually done really well in all 3 games this year, but much of their success came against Bashaud Breeland. He’s dealing with a high ankle sprain, so chances are Norman will get to shadow Pryor.
WR Tavon Austin, LA (@ ARI)
The Cardinals defense haven’t been nearly as tough as they were expected to be this year, but they have only allowed 2 TDs to opposing WRs or TEs and no player has gone over 70 yards receiving. Austin is the default #1 WR for the Rams but should have a tough matchup with Patrick Peterson outside or Tyrann Mathieu inside.
WR Brandin Cooks, NO (@ SD)
Last week, T.Y. Hilton managed to embarrass Jason Verrett late in the 4th quarter but that came out of the slot. Cooks figures to line up outside more often with the return of Willie Snead, and that could have a drastic impact on his production. The Saints are starting to get contributions from Michael Thomas and Coby Fleener as well so Cooks figures to see a reduction in his targets as well.
WR Brandon Marshall, NYJ (vs SEA)
Marshall was a game-time decision last week and wound up with just 3 catches on 10 targets in a disaster of a game. He now gets an expected matchup with Richard Sherman and a Seahawks secondary that has allowed 0 TDs to opposing WRs all year.
WR Tajae Sharpe, TEN (@ HOU)
The Texans defense took a hit this week with the move to place J.J. Watt on IR. They still have enough talent up front to make Marcus Mariota uncomfortable though, and their secondary has played remarkably well all year. Through 3 games, the only TD they have given up to an opposing WR came to Eddie Royal in week 1. Sharpe has posted disappointing numbers in back to back games and is likely too inconsistent to be relied upon here.
WR Mike Wallace, BAL (vs OAK)
Sean Smith was a big free agent pickup for the Raiders this offseason, and he had a rough start to the season just as he did a year ago with the Chiefs. He began playing up to expectations about a month into the season and it seems like we may be seeing a similar pattern again. Most teams will want to attack the Raiders over the middle, but Smith and Amerson should be able to provide capable coverage outside and limit the damage that Wallace and Brashad Perriman can do.
TE Delanie Walker, TEN (@ HOU)
Walker sat out last week with a hamstring injury and it remains unclear if he’ll be able to play this week as he was a limited practice participant on Thursday. Even if he’s able to go, he faces a defense that has allowed almost no production to the position despite facing Zach Miller, Travis Kelce, and the Patriots combo of Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett.
TE Hunter Henry, SD (vs NO)
The Saints defensive struggles are well known, but they are most vulnerable on the edges to opposing WRs. Perhaps it’s because the WRs wind up getting all the action, but opposing TEs have had remarkably limited success so far. In 3 games, no TE has gone over 28 yards against them and they are only giving up an average of 4 catches for 29 yards with 0 TDs to the position.
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