Exposed (WR/TE matchups): Week 14

Breaks down some of the best and worst WR/TE matchups this week from a defensive perspective.

The goal of this article is 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 defensive units as a whole to hopefully assist you in building your weekly DFS lineups by targeting some matchups to avoid or exploit. Best of luck and feel free to reach out with any questions via email (rudnicki@footballguys.com) or twitter (@a_rudnicki). 

Favorable Matchups

WR Taylor Gabriel, ATL (vs LA)
Gabriel has emerged as the clear #2 target in the prolific Falcons downfield passing attack, and he could see a boost in targets with Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu both hobbled with injuries. Meanwhile, Gabriel also figures to run most of his routes against one of the worst corners in the league in E.J. Gaines.

WR Ted Ginn Jr, CAR (vs SD)
Despite the struggles Carolina is dealing with of late, Ginn has been heating up and looking just like he did a year ago when they made a run to the Super Bowl. He has touchdowns in 3 straight games, and has hauled in 5 receptions in 5 of his last 7 games. Casey Hayward typically matches up against the opposing team’s #1 WR, which should result in a matchup with Kelvin Benjamin here. If so, that would leave Ginn facing off against Craig Mager, who is probably not good enough to be a starting NFL cornerback.

WR T.Y. Hilton, IND (vs HOU)
Hilton lit up the Jets on Monday night with 9 catches on 10 targets for 146 yards. He now has what looks like a tough matchup with the Texans pass defense, but they have been vulnerable of late. Corner A.J. Bouye is the main player to avoid, but he rarely works out of the slot where Hilton should have some opportunities to get deep on Charles James.

WR Jarvis Landry, MIA (vs ARI)
Landry had seemingly fallen out of favor prior to last week when he posted 11 catches in a blowout loss to the Ravens. This week, it’s expected that Patrick Peterson will take out DeVante Parker on the outside, which should leave Landry as the primary option while working out of the slot. The Cardinals have been susceptible to slot WRs all year, regardless of who has been covering them but that job should fall to safety Tyvon Branch this week who was just activated off I.R. recently.

WR Tyrell Williams, SD (vs CAR)
Williams was not fully healthy last week, but still managed to find the end zone on just 4 targets. As the primary WR weapon for Philip Rivers, he should be in line for another strong game here with a good chance to keep his 4-game TD streak alive. The Panthers secondary has not given up many TDs to opposing WRs in recent weeks, but they don’t have any players that pose particular matchup concerns.

WR Doug Baldwin, SEA (vs GB)
WR Tyler Lockett, SEA (vs GB)
Baldwin has been having another strong season, but Lockett finally showed some signs of life last week against Carolina. Both players have plus matchups again this week as they face a Packers defense that has been ravaged by injuries. Micah Hyde is a safety playing nickel corner, which should provide a big edge to Baldwin working out of the slot. Additionally, Lockett has a chance to make some big plays outside against Damarious Randall, the slumping 2nd year pro who appears to be playing through an injury.

WR Mike Evans, TB (vs NO)
Evans was slowed by Casey Hayward and the Chargers last week, but is a great bounceback candidate this week. He figures to match up primarily with Delvin Breaux, who hasn’t played up to his reputation this year. The Saints and Buccaneers appear to be two teams headed in opposite directions, and Evans has a great chance at another 6/100/1 type of game.

WR Jamison Crowder, WAS (vs PHI)
Crowder has been a favorite target for Kirk Cousins this year, and has really emerged as a go-to weapon in this offense. He faces an Eagles team this week who haven’t really been able to slow down anybody of late. Expected to match up with safety Michael Jenkins inside, Crowder should have little trouble getting open and doing damage over the middle of the field.

TE Tyler Eifert, CIN (vs CLE)
Even when Eifert has a tough matchup, he is still a threat to score. This week, he faces a Browns team that has allowed the 2nd most fantasy points to the TE position all year. Without A.J. Green or Giovani Bernard in the lineup, there should be plenty of targets available and he’s a good bet to find the end zone at least once as he has 16 TDs in his last 19 regular season games.

TE C.J. Fiedorowicz, HOU (vs IND)
With 4 or more catches in 8 of his last 9 games, Fiedorowicz has clearly emerged as the #1 TE in Houston this year and a reliable weapon for Brock Osweiler. While it’s true this is one of the weakest passing attacks in the league, they have a great matchup this week against the Colts. In addition to losing their top inside linebacker D’Qwell Jackson to suspension, they have one of the weakest pass rushes in the league so that should offer plenty of opportunities for the TE to get downfield as a pass catcher.

Unfavorable Matchups

WR Mike Wallace, BAL (vs NE)
Joe Flacco had his best game all year last week, but Wallace only managed 6/59/0. He’s failed to find the end zone for 4 straight weeks and now gets an expected match up against the underrated Malcolm Butler.

WR Kelvin Benjamin, CAR (vs SD)
Casey Hayward has been a surprising find as a shutdown corner for the Chargers, but he has played exceptionally well just about every week. Last week, he helped hold Mike Evans to just 3/38/0, and he figures to be a very tough matchup for Benjamin this week.

WR Jordy Nelson, GB (vs SEA)
Richard Sherman has not played well when asked to shadow the opposing team’s #1 WR, but he has played well when allowed to stay in his familiar LCB role. Given that Nelson spends most of his time lined up on the right side of the formation, that suggests he could have his hands full this week while Aaron Rodgers may find more success targeting Davante Adams and Randall Cobb.

WR Donte Moncrief, IND (vs HOU)
The one player to avoid in Houston is cornerback A.J. Bouye, and he figures to be locked up with Moncreif for most of the game this week. Andrew Luck doesn’t need to force the ball into this matchup, so look for him to make use of his other weapons this week like T.Y. Hilton and Dwayne Allen.

WR Allen Robinson, JAX (vs MIN)
Robinson’s fantasy value has plummeted as he has accounted for just 8 catches and 73 yards over the past 3 games combined. He was held to just 3 catches on 10 targets by the Broncos last week and now gets a very tough matchup against Xavier Rhodes and the Vikings. Probably best to steer clear of this matchup entirely.

WR DeVante Parker, MIA (vs ARI)
Parker has emerged as a focal point of the Dolphins passing game over the past month, but he is dealing with a back injury and now gets a very tough matchup with Patrick Peterson. Much better WRs than him have failed to do much against this matchup.

WR Rishard Matthews, TEN (vs DEN)
Everybody knows to avoid matchups with the Broncos defense, and particularly their great corners. Aqib Talib is having an exceptional season and figures to make things tough for Matthews this week.

TE Jordan Reed, WAS (vs PHI)
The Eagles have given up a couple of TDs to opposing TEs in recent weeks, but they still held elite TEs like Jimmy Graham and Tyler Eifert to some pretty poor numbers overall. This unit has been very tough against tight ends all year long due to their athletic linebackers and safeties that excel in coverage. Reed sat out last week with a shoulder injury, but is expected to play this week. However, the tough matchup and chance of aggravating the injury suggests you should look elsewhere.

TE Martellus Bennett, NE (vs BAL)
Bennett is another example of a player who is playing injured and facing a tough matchup. The Ravens allowed Tyler Eifert to post a strong game (5/68/1) against them in week 12, but only let one other TE go over 50 yards against them all year (Jordan Reed back in week 5). If Bennett was healthy, you’d have to give him a shot here but he’s posted 6 catches for 40 yards combined over the last 3 games so don’t get sucked in.


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