Matchups to Attack
T.Y. Hilton vs Johnathan Joseph
T.Y. Hilton’s value has certainly dipped with the injury to Andrew Luck, but he is still averaging a 3.6/63.5/0.3 line on 6.9 targets per game. His receptions total is far from impressive, but he only needs 48 yards to reach 1,000 receiving yards on the season. He was peppered with 12 targets last week, and he will likely see plenty of opportunities as the Colts try to close his season out on a high note.
Hilton gets a tough matchup on paper, as he has spent 43% of his snaps as the Colts right outside receiver. That means he will matchup against Johnathan Joseph, who has been the best cornerback in Houston this season. With that being said, Joseph is still allowing a 60% catch rate, while being targeted on 16% of his routes covered. Furthermore, Hilton will run roughly 57% of his routes against Kareem Jackson or Kevin Johnson, who have both struggled this season. Houston has given up big games to speed receivers this season, which can be seen by the 5/175/2 line Hilton posted against the Texans earlier this season.
Michael Thomas vs Ryan Smith
Michael Thomas has quietly been enjoying an elite season. Through 15 games, he has recorded 98 receptions for 1,151 yards and five touchdowns on 141 targets. He is the leader of the Saints passing attack, needing only two receptions to reach 100 this season. He was a major part of the gameplan in New Orleans’ first matchup with Tampa Bay, as he saw 11 targets in that game. The Saints are playing for playoffs seeding this week, suggesting Thomas will be a big part of the gameplan once again.
Thomas has spent the majority of his snaps (48%) as the Saints left outside receiver. He will matchup against Ryan Smith, who has played 88% of his snaps as the Bucs right outside corner. Smith has struggled the majority of this season, grading out as the eighth worst cornerback in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus. He is allowing a 66% catch rate, while being targeted on 19% of his routes covered. Smith also ranks in the bottom-10 of the NFL in fantasy points per route and yards per route covered this season.
Brandin Cooks vs Morris Claiborne
Brandin Cooks has not been featured the way many were expecting in the Patriots offense, as he only has 103 targets through 15 games. He has looked outstanding, though, turning those targets into 60 receptions, 1,003, and six touchdowns. Cooks’ price tag across the industry has recently dropped, though, as he has scored less than five PPR FPs in three of his last four games. He needed only nine targets to record a 6/93/0 line against the Jets earlier this season, though.
Cooks has played the majority of his snaps (55%) as the Patriots left outside receiver this season, but that will not matter this week. Morris Claiborne is expected to shadow Cooks, and Claiborne has shown a bit of versatility this season, playing all over the Jets formation. He has struggled quite a bit, though, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ sixth worst cornerback. He has only been targeted on 15% of his routes covered, but he is allowing a 64% catch rate. The Patriots are the type of offense that will attack the opposing teams best cornerback if he is struggling, which could be the case this week.
Matchups to Avoid
Amari Cooper vs Casey Hayward
Amari Cooper has been one of the biggest disappointments this season, struggling with drops and injuries. Through 13 games, he is averaging only a 3.5/43.5/0.5 on 6.9 targets per game. Cooper was a limited participant in practice this week, but he is expected to play. There have been reports that Cooper could see limited snaps this week, as well, as the Raiders do not want him to reinjure his ankle.
Cooper’s lingering injury is a major concern this week, but when he is on the field, his job will become even more difficult. He is expected to be shadowed by Casey Hayward, who has graded out as Pro Football Focus’ best cornerback this season. He has shut down some of the best receivers in the NFL this season, including Cooper in their first matchup. He has only been targeted on 14% of his routes covered, allowing a 44% catch rate. Teams have simply learned not to thrown towards Hayward, and when they do, receivers struggle with efficiency.
Rishard Matthews vs Jalen Ramsey
Many people were expected Corey Davis and Eric Decker to take in Tennessee, but Rishard Matthews was able to keep his starting job. On the season, he is leading the Titans receivers in targets, receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns, while missing two games. Overall, he is averaging a 4.0/60.6/0.3 line on 6.5 targets per game. He has cooled off a bit recently, though, recording three or less receptions in two of his last three games.
Matthews has played the majority of his snaps (45%) as Tennessee’s right outside receiver. He will spend the majority of his time across from Jalen Ramsey, who has played 74% of his snaps as Jacksonville’s left cornerback. Ramsey has graded out as the second best cornerback in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus, through 15 games. He has allowed a 49% catch rate, while being targeted on 18% of his routes covered. Matthews has also spent 23% of his snaps as the Titans left outside receiver, meaning he will also matchup a bit against A.J. Bouye, who has been the sixth best cornerback in the NFL this season. During his time in the slot, Matthews will face off against Aaron Colvin, who has been an average cornerback this season. Regardless of where he lines up, Matthews will be put in a tough position this week.
Mike Evans vs Marshon Lattimore
Mike Evans has not been enjoying the breakout season many were expecting, but he has performed fairly well in 14 games. In those games, he is averaging a 4.7/67.6/0.4 line on 8.8 targets per game. He struggled against the Saints in their first matchup, resulting in a cheap shot against Marshon Lattimore that could have potentially come out of frustration. It was an inexcusable hit that adds another layer to their matchup this weekend.
Evans has moved around the Bucs formation this season, but Lattimore will shadow him across the field this week. These are two of the best young players in the NFL, who have some bad blood boiling between them. Lattimore got the better of Evans in their first matchup, allowing only one catch for 13 yards on six targets. On the season, Lattimore is only allowing a 51% catch rate, while being targeted on 16% of his routes covered. He has been an elite cornerback, and he is playing for playoff positioning this week, while Evans is simply playing to slow down the Saints momentum heading into the postseason.