Matchups to Attack
Tyreek Hill vs Philadelphia Eagles
There were a lot of question marks surrounding Hill this offseason. Some questioned his workload, while others questioned whether or not Alex Smith would be able to get him the ball in space. Those questions were answered when Hill dominated the Patriots in their Thursday night matchup. Hill led the team in targets, receptions, and receiving yards. He also averaged nearly 20 yards per reception. It’s clear that the Kansas City offense will feature Hill as their top receiver this season.
Hill is face off against the Eagles cornerbacks, but there is not a single corner that will exclusively cover him. Ronald Darby was injured last week, which leaves Jalen Mills, Patrick Robinson, and a combination of others to guard Hill. Hill is a player that lines up all over the formation, as he ran 31% of his routes of out the left receiver spot, 39% out of the slot, and 30% from the right. Mills and Robinson have graded out as two of the bottom 10 cornerbacks in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus. Furthermore, the Eagles backup cornerbacks that will be replacing Darby also will not be able to keep up with Hill.
Julio Jones vs Damarious Randall/Davon House
Jones was in a prime matchup against the Chicago Bears last week, but somewhat struggled, as he only posted a 4/66/0 line. He was only targeted five times, though. Falcons head coach, Dan Quinn, recently stated that Atlanta needs to get Jones the ball more this week. The Falcons get a matchup against Green Bay in what should be one of the highest scoring games on the slate. The Falcons have a projected team total of 28 points, which is the fourth highest of the week. The biggest takeaway from the Falcons first game is that Jones is fully healthy, which always makes him a dangerous player against any defense.
Jones is a wide receiver that spends the majority of his snaps on the outside, as only 27% of his snaps came in the slot last season. While he does play some receiver on the right side, 44% of his routes last season were from the left receiver position. He will spend the majority of the game across from Damarious Randall, who graded out as the third worst cornerback in the NFL last season, per Pro Football Focus. When he slides across the formation, Jones will face off against Davon House, who graded out as the sixth worst corner in the NFL last season. Regardless of where Jones lines up, he will get an elite matchup in a potential shootout.
Mike Evans vs Marcus Cooper
Evans, and the Bucs, were on bye last season after Hurricane Irma tore through Florida. Evans was the clear focal point of the Bucs offense last season, as he saw 30.3% of the team’s total targets. He also had 27% of the team’s receptions, 31.7% of the team’s receiving yards, and 41.4% of the team’s receiving touchdowns. He is likely to see the same target share this season, but could face less double teams with DeSean Jackson now on the team. The Bucs have a projected total of 25 points, which is respectable for this slate.
It is tough to know who is going to cover Evans, but Cooper is the best bet. He is the top cornerback for the Bears, who could be looking to shadow Evans in this game. He ranked as the seventh worst cornerback in the NFL last season, though. If Cooper does not shadow Evans, he could see time against an injured Prince Amukamara or Bryce Callahan, who also graded out as a below average cornerback last season, according to Pro Football Focus. Evans will be a target hog once again this season, and he gets to start out against once of the worst cornerback groups in the NFL.
Matchups to Avoid
Corey Davis/Rishard Matthews vs A.J. Bouye/Jalen Ramsey
Davis and Matthews looked the part for the Titans last week, as they combined for 11 receptions and 140 yards on 19 targets. They outshined Eric Decker, who was the big name free agent signee for Tennessee. Decker caught 37.5% of his targets for only 10 yards. It is not surprising that Matthews showed more rapport with Marcus Mariota than Decker, but Davis was a bit of a shock after he was set to play limited snaps. Matthews and Davis will likely see similar roles this week, but they will not see similar production.
Per Pro Football Focus, Davis played 75% of his snaps as an outside receiver, while Matthews played 73% of his snaps on the outside. That means they will matchup with Ramsey and Bouye, who played only 15% and 9% of their snaps in the slot, respectively. Bouye and Ramsey both graded out as top-20 cornerbacks last season, and they are both young players that are continuing to progress. The Jags held the Texans wide receivers to only seven receptions, 55 yards, and one touchdown last week. Davis and Matthews come with tremendous upside for the season, but this is a week to avoid the duo.
Dez Bryant vs Aqib Talib/Chris Harris
Bryant has one of the worst schedules in the NFL this season, and it started last week. He was held to two receptions for 43 yards on nine targets against Janoris Jenkins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. He’ll continue to be a huge part of the Cowboys offense, but his matchups will continue to feature some of the best cornerbacks in the NFL.
This week, Bryant will face off against Talib, who graded out as the third best corner in the NFL last season, according to Pro Football Focus. Bryant has moved all over the field for the Cowboys, which makes him an interesting option this week. In theory, Bryant could be guarded by Bradley Roby, who generally covers left outside receivers. With that being said, Chris Harris is no stranger to playing outside, as 35% of his snaps last season were against left outside receivers. Bryant will also be greeted by Talib when he moves to the other side of the field. Regardless of where Bryant lines up on the field, the Broncos will have an elite cornerback to slow him down. He’s still priced as a top-10 wide receiver, but it is difficult to pay that for him in this matchup.
Amari Cooper vs Morris Claiborne
Cooper has been talked up the entire offseason. The Raiders also showed full faith in Cooper with a team-high 13 targets against the Titans. He only recorded a 5/62/1 line with those targets, though. He also dropped an easy touchdown on a slant in the red zone. It was a less than stellar debut for a player that is oozing with early season hype. He will continue to be a focal point of the Oakland offense, but it is fair to wonder is the Raiders will start throwing to Michael Crabtree in the red zone more because of his previous success and Cooper’s week one struggles.
Cooper lined up as the left outside receiver 59% of the time last season, which led the NFL. That means he will be matched up against Claiborne the majority of this game. Claiborne graded out as Pro Football Focus’ ninth best cornerback in the NFL last season. He was able to hold Zay Jones to only one catch for 21 yards on four targets last week. Cooper will see plenty of volume this week, but he’s priced as an elite wide receiver, but he has not proven to be one, especially in a tough matchup against a dominant corner.
By: Justin Bales (Twitter)