Exposed (WR/TE matchups): Week 17

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 J.J. Nelson, ARI (vs LA)
Following the release of Michael Floyd, Nelson has emerged late in the season as one of the Cardinals go-to WRs. He’s found the end zone for four straight games, and now gets a Rams team that has a lot of trouble covering WRs. Trumaine Johnson is their only capable corner that is healthy, and he figures to be matched up with John Brown most of the time. That should create plenty of opportunities for Nelson and Larry Fitzgerald to take advantage of E.J. Gaines and Blake Countess.

WR Brandon LaFell, CIN (vs BAL)
LaFell has helped pick up the slack after A.J. Green went down with an injury. He’s provided excellent value in 3 of his last 4 games, including a 6/103/1 line against a tough Texans defense last week. Now he gets a Ravens defense that defends the run well, but has struggled against the pass and will be without their top corner Jimmy Smith.

WR Golden Tate, DET (vs GB)
Tate has been the most reliable Lions receiver, and the Packers pass defense remains a sore spot. They had no answers for Adam Thielen last week (12/202/2), and that should bode well for Tate here. He figures to be matched up primarily with Damarious Randall, who has graded out as one of the worst corners in the league this year.

WR Jordy Nelson, GB (vs DET)
The Lions have given up 5 TDs to opposing WRs over the past 2 weeks, and 3 of them came last week when they looked lost without Darius Slay. He missed last week’s game with a hamstring injury, and it’s likely he’ll be at less than 100% if he’s able to play at all. Meanwhile, Nelson has been on fire with 5 TDs in his last 4 games despite some tough matchups. There probably aren’t any safer options if you want to pay up at WR this week.

WR DeAndre Hopkins, HOU (vs TEN)
Hopkins was shut down by Adam Jones last week as expected, but he is clearly the top target for Tom Savage. This week, he gets a much easier matchup against the Titans, who will likely be without top corner Jason McCourty again this week. That leaves them one of the weakest groups of corners in the league, and should provide Hopkins with great matchups wherever he lines up.

WR Sterling Shepard, NYG (vs WAS)
Washington has really struggled against opposing slot WRs of late, with Cameron Meredith (9/135/1) the latest to take advantage in week 15. With Odell Beckham likely to be matched up against Josh Norman all game, looks for Shepard to see plenty of targets and build on his 2-game touchdown streak.

WR Eli Rogers, PIT (vs CLE)
The Steelers don’t have much to play for this week as they are locked into the #3 seed in the AFC, but they should still have an edge against one of the worst defenses in the league. Rogers has been heating up the past two weeks with 9/159/1 in that span. He’s expected to match up with Jamar Taylor, who has been inconsistent for most of the year and missed practice this week with a groin injury.

WR Doug Baldwin, SEA (vs SF)
The 49ers secondary didn’t give up much of anything to the Rams last week, but they figure to have their hands full with Russell Wilson and company here. The Seahawks are playing for a bye, and Baldwin is coming off a monster performance (13/171/1) against the Cardinals. He should have little difficulty dealing with 49ers slot corner Keith Reaser, who has been victimized for big plays repeatedly this year.

TE Charles Clay, BUF (vs NYJ)
It took him awhile to get going, but Clay has come through with strong games in each of the past 3 weeks. In that time, he has 18/209/4 so he’s easily one of the hottest tight ends in the league right now. Meanwhile, the Jets have allowed 2 or more TDs to opposing tight ends in 3 of their last 4 games. Even with E.J. Manuel at QB this week, Clay should be a strong bet to find the end zone again.

TE Brandon Myers, TB (vs CAR)
Tampa placed Cameron Brate on injured reserve this week, which should create a big opportunity for Myers. The Panthers have been one of the worst pass defenses in the league all year, and have struggled consistently against tight ends with 12 TDs allowed to the position. Myers is an experienced veteran with a top-10 season on his resume, so he should be able to exploit this matchup and allow you to spend up at other positions.


UNFAVORABLE MATCHUPS:

WR Mike Wallace, BAL (vs CIN)
Wallace has been a nice pickup for the Ravens this year, but he has gone cold of late. Now he gets a likely matchup with shutdown corner Adam Jones, who has done a great job against DeAndre Hopkins, Antonio Brown, and Terrelle Pryor the past few weeks.

WR Alshon Jeffery, CHI (vs MIN)
There were reports that the Vikings didn’t go along with the game plan last week, and that helped Jordy Nelson light them up. While they are limping towards the end of the season, they still have a capable shutdown corner in Xavier Rhodes and a potent pass rush. That should be enough to limit the chances for Jeffery this week.

WR Kenny Britt, LA (vs ARI)
Britt suffered a shoulder injury in week 16, so it’s unclear if he’ll even be able to play this week. If he does though, we can likely expect a disappointing performance as he would have to go against Patrick Peterson.

WR Jarvis Landry, MIA (vs NE)
Landry was heating up until last week’s high scoring overtime matchup with the Bills when he was held to just 3/29/0. Now he gets a matchup with the Patriots, who haven’t allowed a TD to an opposing WR since week 13. Malcolm Butler has done a great job shadowing the opposing team’s best WR, and he’s one of the few who is comfortable working outside or in the slot.

WR Michael Crabtree, OAK (vs DEN)
Crabtree has outproduced Amari Cooper all season, but he has a brutal matchup this week against the Broncos secondary. Without Derek Carr under center, it’s hard to see a scenario where Crabtree will do much against Aqib Talib and company.

TE Jason Witten, DAL (vs PHI)
Witten’s production has remained pretty consistent over the past 3 years, and he continues to provide a reliable checkdown target for Dak Prescott. The Eagles pose a tough matchup, however, as they have allowed fewer catches and yards to opposing tight ends than any team in the league. Wouldn’t be a surprise if the Cowboys wanted to get Witten some rest and make sure he’s at his best for the postseason either.

TE Delanie Walker, TEN (vs HOU)
Walker has put together another strong season, but the Titans will be without their young star QB this week. Matt Cassel has had some success in the past, but we can probably expect a more conservative game plan with him under center this week. Meanwhile, the Texans have allowed the 3rd fewest fantasy points to the tight end position all year, so you probably want to look elsewhere this week.


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