Exposed (WR/TE matchups): Playoffs Week 1

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 Davante Adams, GB (vs NYG)
The Giants have a secondary that should match up well with the Packers WRs. They ranked among the best in the league against the pass, and shut down Aaron Rodgers in a previous matchup. The Packers come into this game hot though, and Adams should have the best matchup of their strong WR group. He plays primarily on the left side, which should place him opposite rookie corner Eli Apple. Although Apple was a first round pick who has played well this year, his lack of experience will likely make him a target for Rodgers this week.

WR DeAndre Hopkins, HOU (vs OAK)
Hopkins has seen an uptick in his production over the past few weeks, even with Brock Osweiler back under center in week 17. That game came against the horrible Titans secondary, so things should be a bit tougher here but the Raiders corners are known for their inconsistency. They are capable but inconsistent and have a tendency to give up big plays. With the Raiders forced to start a rookie QB, this game could get ugly with not many points scored on either side but Hopkins should be best play among the WRs.

WR Kenny Stills, MIA (@ PIT)
The Steelers have shown dramatic improvement at corner this year, and part of that is the play of rookie Artie Burns. While he has shown flashes, he’s still a rookie and likely the weakest of the top 3 Steelers corners so look for Miami to test him. He figures to be lined up across from Kenny Stills most of the time, who has flown way under the radar but comes into this game with a 4-game touchdown streak.

WR Odell Beckham, NYG (@ GB)
WR Sterling Shepard, NYG (@ GB)
The Packers have been ravaged by injuries at the cornerback position this year, but are expected to get Damarious Randall back. Either way, Beckham should have winnable matchups against any of the Packers CBs he goes up against in single coverage. If the Giants decide to double him though, that should create more opportunities for Shepard, who will be working out of the slot against converted safety Micah Hyde most of the time.

WR Michael Crabtree, OAK (@ HOU)
It’s probably tough to get excited about Crabtree here given the fact they will be starting a rookie QB, but Crabtree has been their most consistently productive WR all year. He should also get an easier matchup against Jonathan Joseph while Amari Cooper will have to deal with A.J. Bouye. Looking back at recent weeks, the Texans have allowed quite a few big games to opposing WRs and Crabtree seems like the best option to take advantage.

WR Antonio Brown, PIT (vs MIA)
Brown may wind up being one of the most owned players this weekend given the matchup. Consider that Julian Edelman (8/151/1) and Sammy Watkins (7/154/1) and even Robby Anderson (4/80/1) have put up against this defense the past 3 weeks. The Steelers move Brown all over the formation to make it tougher for defenses to key on him, but there isn’t really a Dolphins corner that can handle him one on one.

WR Doug Baldwin, SEA (vs DET)
The Lions secondary typically allows Darius Slay to shadow the opposing team’s #1 WR, unless that WR lines up in the slot. That is where Baldwin does most of his damage, so he figures to be matched up against the weak spot of the Lions secondary. Quandre Diggs was their nickel corner most of the year but he has been placed on I.R. along with his replacement Asa Jackson. That could mean Adairus Barnes could go from the practice squad directly into a key matchup against Baldwin. I think Baldwin is probably the strongest play of the weekend at WR.

TE Ladarius Green, PIT (vs MIA)
Green was cleared from the league’s concussion protocol and practiced in full this week. He was really starting to emerge as a focal point of the offense before his injury, and this certainly looks like a matchup that he can take advantage of. The Dolphins were victimized for 2 TDs by Charles Clay in week 16, and also gave up 2 more to Dennis Pitta back in week 13. Playing without safety Reshad Jones since late October, they just don’t have many great options to match up with a player that has the size/speed combination of Green.

TE C.J. Fiedorowicz, HOU (vs OAK)
Fiedorowicz has been a favorite target of Brock Osweiler this year, and he gets to face a Raiders defense that gave up the 5th most yards to opposing TEs this year. They are expected to get rookie Karl Joseph back at safety this week from a toe injury, but he’s not expected to be at 100% and his replacement Nate Allen is currently recovering from a concussion.


UNFAVORABLE MATCHUPS:

WR Golden Tate, DET (@ SEA)
Tate has been the favorite target of Matthew Stafford with 6 or more catches in 5 straight games, but he figures to get a tough matchup with Richard Sherman this week. Seattle hasn’t had much success when asking Sherman to shadow opposing team’s #1 WRs, but he has been effective when allowed to stay on the left side. That is typically where Tate spends most of his time as well, so that could be enough to help keep his upside capped here.

WR Jordy Nelson, GB (vs NYG)
Nelson has come up huge during the Packers winning streak, but you have to acknowledge the matchup here looks pretty tough for him. He’ll most likely be matched up against Janoris Jenkins, who has played shutdown defense for the Giants all year long and proved to be a great free agent signing. These two teams met back in week 5 and Nelson was held to 4 catches and 38 yards, although he did find the end zone.

WR Jarvis Landry, MIA (@ PIT)
Landry bounced back from a mid-season lull, but was only seeing 6 or fewer targets before bringing in 9 of 12 last week in a blowout loss to the Patriots. Working out of the slot, he will be taking on veteran William Gay this week who has given up very little production all year long. Looking through previous games, it’s hard to find an opposing slot WR who got the best of him so it wouldn’t be a surprise if Landry was held in check here.

WR Amari Cooper, OAK (@ HOU)
Cooper has been a disappointment this year as he was expected to join the ranks of the elite but has only topped 60 yards in 1 of his last 8 games. Now he gets to face a very difficult corner in A.J. Bouye with a rookie QB making his first start in a playoff road game.

WR Paul Richardson Jr, SEA (vs DET)
Richardson has been solid the past two weeks since filling in for the injured Tyler Lockett. This week, however, he figures to be matched up against Darius Slay much of the time. While Slay isn’t a typical shutdown corner, he’s a cut above anyone else the Lions have and should be able to control Richardson and encourage Russell Wilson to use his other weapons.

TE Clive Walford, OAK (@ HOU)
Walford never really lived up to expectations this year and has only gone over 2 receptions once in his last 8 games. He will now face a Texans defense that has allowed just 3 TDs and the 3rd fewest yardage total to the TE position all year. While the rookie QB may be more likely to look his way, this just looks like a clear matchup to avoid this week.

TE Eric Ebron, DET (@ SEA)
Ebron has put together some solid efforts the past couple weeks (14 catches on 18 targets), but Seattle poses a pretty tough matchup. They have also given up just 3 TDs to the TE position all year, and tend to crowd the middle of the field with their linebackers and safety Kam Chancellor. In fact, the only team whose tight ends had success against them was the Patriots in week 10.  


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