Exposed (WR/TE matchups): Week 16

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 Larry Fitzgerald, ARI (vs SEA)
The Seahawks boast a strong defense that hasn’t always played up to expectations this year. They have gotten strong play from Richard Sherman, but he rarely plays in the slot so it’s likely that Fitzgerald will spend most of the game against slot corner Jeremy Lane. With Earl Thomas no longer around to stabilize things in the secondary, this should be a good matchup for Fitzgerald.

WR Cameron Meredith, CHI (vs WAS)
Meredith has seen a resurgence with Matt Barkley under center and is coming off two very productive games. This week, he’ll likely spend much of his time matched up against Bashaud Breeland, who has struggled for much of the year whether playing inside or outside. If Josh Norman shadows Alshon Jeffery as expected, Meredith should see a lot of targets again.

WR T.Y. Hilton, IND (vs OAK)
Hilton had a quiet game last week in a surprising blowout win over the Vikings, but he should have little trouble bouncing back here. The Raiders are a strong team fighting for home field advantage in the playoffs, but the Colts are still hoping for a playoff spot. In a game with shootout potential, Hilton makes a strong play against the Raiders who have improved at slot corner with T.J. Carrie taking over for D.J. Hayden, but are still vulnerable to big plays.

WR Allen Robinson, JAX (vs TEN)
Robinson has been a bust for over a month now, but if there was ever a game for him to bounce back it’s this one. The Titans were already one of the weakest teams against opposing WRs, and now they will also be without their best corner in Jason McCourty. Between Robinson and Marqise Lee, they should have little trouble against Antwon Blake and LeShaun Sims.

WR Stefon Diggs, MIN (vs GB)
The Packers looked like they had sorted out their pass defense until last week when the Bears shredded them in the freezing cold with 3 different WRs all putting up big games. This week, Diggs should be able to take advantage even though he hasn’t shown much of late.

WR Julian Edelman, NE (vs NYJ)
The Jets pass defense has been a weak spot all year long, and they have been particularly vulnerable to slot WRs. Edelman hit them for 8/83/0 back in week 12, and then T.Y. Hilton and Jarvis Landry also posted big games since then. He figures to be matched up against rookie Juston Burris, who has flashed some potential but is a work in progress.

WR Michael Thomas, NO (vs TB)
Thomas figures to match up with fellow rookie Vernon Hargreaves this week. The two didn’t get to face each other last time these teams met as Thomas was inactive, but he is the Saints leading receiver and figures to provide a boost to Drew Brees who struggled when they played in Tampa.

WR Tyrell Williams, SD (vs CLE)
Anybody against the Browns is generally going to have a favorable matchup, but this game could wind up being closer than many others have been. If that happens, San Diego won’t be able to take their foot off the gas and run out the clock in the second half like many opponents have done. Even if he gets shadowed by Joe Haden, that’s not a matchup to shy away from.

WR Doug Baldwin, SEA (vs ARI)
The Cardinals use Patrick Peterson to shut down the opposing team’s #1 WR, but he rarely goes into the slot so that should leave Baldwin matched up with Tyrann Mathieu. It hasn’t been a very good year for Mathieu or the Cardinals overall. Last week, they had no answers for the Saints even though the game was played in Arizona. Baldwin has cooled off lately, but found the end zone last week and is a good bet to repeat here.

TE Hunter Henry, SD (vs CLE)
The Browns have given up 12 TDs to opposing TEs this year and 3 in the past 2 weeks alone. Charles Clay had been a non-factor all year for the Bills and exploded for 7/72/1 against them in week 15. Henry doesn’t typically see more than 30 snaps each week, but he’s been very effective in the red zone and has 4 TDs in his last 5 games.

TE Martellus Bennett, NE (vs NYJ)
The Jets gave up 2 touchdowns to Dion Sims in week 15, and 3 to Dwayne Allen in week 13. Not surprising the 49ers couldn’t take advantage in week 14, but this looks like a defense that is really struggling against opposing tight ends. That should point to a big game from Bennett, who has been quite of late but clearly has 2 TD upside.


UNFAVORABLE MATCHUPS:

WR Alshon Jeffery, CHI (vs WAS)
Jeffery posted solid numbers last week in his return to action, but he figures to be shadowed by shutdown corner Josh Norman this week. That should be enough for Matt Barkley to get his other targets more involved and limit Jeffery’s upside.

WR A.J. Green, CIN (vs HOU)
Green is expected to return from his injury this week, but the Bengals have nothing to play for. When you add in an expected matchup with stud corner A.J. Bouye, it seems like an easy decision to fade him here.

WR Terrelle Pryor, CLE (vs SD)
Pryor is playing through an injury and hasn’t looked like himself of late. Now he gets a match up against Casey Hayward, who is playing as well as any corner in the league. The Browns are running out of chances to avoid a winless season, but it doesn’t look like Pryor will be able to help them much.

WR Jordy Nelson, GB (vs MIN)
Nelson has been on fire of late, and the Vikings defense haven’t played up to their normal level either. They seem to play their best against the Packers though, and Nelson will be matched up primarily with their best corner in Xavier Rhodes. He’s certainly good enough to produce regardless of the matchup, but this looks like a week where he may not provide much value.

WR DeAndre Hopkins, HOU (vs CIN)
Hopkins showed signs of life when the Texans made a QB change last week, but he still managed just 8 catches on a ridiculous 17 targets. He’ll go against Adam Jones this week, who helped hold Antonio Brown to one of his worst outings of the year last week and figures to keep Hopkins in check.

WR Jeremy Maclin, KC (vs DEN)
WR Tyreek Hill, KC (vs DEN)
It’s rarely a good idea to start a WR going up against the Broncos, and that’s unlikely to change this week. Matched up against Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr, Maclin and Hill both look like clear players to avoid as the Chiefs will most likely rely heavily on the run game this week.

TE Jimmy Graham, SEA (vs ARI)
The Cardinals have defended tight ends better than any team in the league with just 24 yards allowed per game to the position. Only one tight end found the end zone against them all year, and Graham comes into the game on a cold streak with just 2 catches total in his last 2 games.

TE Travis Kelce, KC (vs DEN)
Kelce has been heating up of late, but the Broncos defense have a knack for killing off that type of momentum. Their corners are a strength, but they also defend tight ends very well typically with only 2 TDs allowed to the position all year long. They did give up 8/101/0 to Kelce back in week 12, but that game looks like a clear outlier and I’d assume they will focus heavily on limiting his chances here.

 

FAVORABLE MATCHUPS:

 

WR Larry Fitzgerald, ARI (vs SEA)

The Seahawks boast a strong defense that hasn’t always played up to expectations this year. They have gotten strong play from Richard Sherman, but he rarely plays in the slot so it’s likely that Fitzgerald will spend most of the game against slot corner Jeremy Lane. With Earl Thomas no longer around to stabilize things in the secondary, this should be a good matchup for Fitzgerald.

 

WR Cameron Meredith, CHI (vs WAS)

Meredith has seen a resurgence with Matt Barkley under center and is coming off two very productive games. This week, he’ll likely spend much of his time matched up against Bashaud Breeland, who has struggled for much of the year whether playing inside or outside. If Josh Norman shadows Alshon Jeffery as expected, Meredith should see a lot of targets again.

 

WR T.Y. Hilton, IND (vs OAK)

Hilton had a quiet game last week in a surprising blowout win over the Vikings, but he should have little trouble bouncing back here. The Raiders are a strong team fighting for home field advantage in the playoffs, but the Colts are still hoping for a playoff spot. In a game with shootout potential, Hilton makes a strong play against the Raiders who have improved at slot corner with T.J. Carrie taking over for D.J. Hayden, but are still vulnerable to big plays.

 

WR Allen Robinson, JAX (vs TEN)

Robinson has been a bust for over a month now, but if there was ever a game for him to bounce back it’s this one. The Titans were already one of the weakest teams against opposing WRs, and now they will also be without their best corner in Jason McCourty. Between Robinson and Marqise Lee, they should have little trouble against Antwon Blake and LeShaun Sims.

 

WR Stefon Diggs, MIN (vs GB)

The Packers looked like they had sorted out their pass defense until last week when the Bears shredded them in the freezing cold with 3 different WRs all putting up big games. This week, Diggs should be able to take advantage even though he hasn’t shown much of late.

 

WR Julian Edelman, NE (vs NYJ)

The Jets pass defense has been a weak spot all year long, and they have been particularly vulnerable to slot WRs. Edelman hit them for 8/83/0 back in week 12, and then T.Y. Hilton and Jarvis Landry also posted big games since then. He figures to be matched up against rookie Juston Burris, who has flashed some potential but is a work in progress.

 

WR Michael Thomas, NO (vs TB)

Thomas figures to match up with fellow rookie Vernon Hargreaves this week. The two didn’t get to face each other last time these teams met as Thomas was inactive, but he is the Saints leading receiver and figures to provide a boost to Drew Brees who struggled when they played in Tampa.

 

WR Tyrell Williams, SD (vs CLE)

Anybody against the Browns is generally going to have a favorable matchup, but this game could wind up being closer than many others have been. If that happens, San Diego won’t be able to take their foot off the gas and run out the clock in the second half like many opponents have done. Even if he gets shadowed by Joe Haden, that’s not a matchup to shy away from.

 

WR Doug Baldwin, SEA (vs ARI)

The Cardinals use Patrick Peterson to shut down the opposing team’s #1 WR, but he rarely goes into the slot so that should leave Baldwin matched up with Tyrann Mathieu. It hasn’t been a very good year for Mathieu or the Cardinals overall. Last week, they had no answers for the Saints even though the game was played in Arizona. Baldwin has cooled off lately, but found the end zone last week and is a good bet to repeat here.

 

TE Hunter Henry, SD (vs CLE)

The Browns have given up 12 TDs to opposing TEs this year and 3 in the past 2 weeks alone. Charles Clay had been a non-factor all year for the Bills and exploded for 7/72/1 against them in week 15. Henry doesn’t typically see more than 30 snaps each week, but he’s been very effective in the red zone and has 4 TDs in his last 5 games.

 

TE Martellus Bennett, NE (vs NYJ)

The Jets gave up 2 touchdowns to Dion Sims in week 15, and 3 to Dwayne Allen in week 13. Not surprising the 49ers couldn’t take advantage in week 14, but this looks like a defense that is really struggling against opposing tight ends. That should point to a big game from Bennett, who has been quite of late but clearly has 2 TD upside.

 

 

UNFAVORABLE MATCHUPS:

 

WR Alshon Jeffery, CHI (vs WAS)

Jeffery posted solid numbers last week in his return to action, but he figures to be shadowed by shutdown corner Josh Norman this week. That should be enough for Matt Barkley to get his other targets more involved and limit Jeffery’s upside.

 

WR A.J. Green, CIN (vs HOU)

Green is expected to return from his injury this week, but the Bengals have nothing to play for. When you add in an expected matchup with stud corner A.J. Bouye, it seems like an easy decision to fade him here.

 

WR Terrelle Pryor, CLE (vs SD)

Pryor is playing through an injury and hasn’t looked like himself of late. Now he gets a match up against Casey Hayward, who is playing as well as any corner in the league. The Browns are running out of chances to avoid a winless season, but it doesn’t look like Pryor will be able to help them much.

 

WR Jordy Nelson, GB (vs MIN)

Nelson has been on fire of late, and the Vikings defense haven’t played up to their normal level either. They seem to play their best against the Packers though, and Nelson will be matched up primarily with their best corner in Xavier Rhodes. He’s certainly good enough to produce regardless of the matchup, but this looks like a week where he may not provide much value.

 

WR DeAndre Hopkins, HOU (vs CIN)

Hopkins showed signs of life when the Texans made a QB change last week, but he still managed just 8 catches on a ridiculous 17 targets. He’ll go against Adam Jones this week, who helped hold Antonio Brown to one of his worst outings of the year last week and figures to keep Hopkins in check.

 

WR Jeremy Maclin, KC (vs DEN)

WR Tyreek Hill, KC (vs DEN)

It’s rarely a good idea to start a WR going up against the Broncos, and that’s unlikely to change this week. Matched up against Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr, Maclin and Hill both look like clear players to avoid as the Chiefs will most likely rely heavily on the run game this week.

 

TE Jimmy Graham, SEA (vs ARI)

The Cardinals have defended tight ends better than any team in the league with just 24 yards allowed per game to the position. Only one tight end found the end zone against them all year, and Graham comes into the game on a cold streak with just 2 catches total in his last 2 games.

 

TE Travis Kelce, KC (vs DEN)

Kelce has been heating up of late, but the Broncos defense have a knack for killing off that type of momentum. Their corners are a strength, but they also defend tight ends very well typically with only 2 TDs allowed to the position all year long. They did give up 8/101/0 to Kelce back in week 12, but that game looks like a clear outlier and I’d assume they will focus heavily on limiting his chances here.


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