Matchups to Attack
Kelvin Benjamin vs Marshon Lattimore
Benjamin struggled the first week, catching only one of five targets for 25 yards. He looked significantly better last week, recording six receptions for 77 yards on eight targets. The Panthers will be without Greg Olsen for the time being, as he was recently placed on the Injured Reserve. That could result in more targets for Benjamin, specifically in the red zone, where his size will come into play. He’ll also be playing in a game that features a projected total of 47 points, which is one of the highest on the slate.
Benjamin will be shadowed this week by Lattimore, who is currently in the concussion protocol. If he is out, the Saints will likely use a committee of cornerbacks to slow Benjamin down. While Lattimore is expected to shadow Benjamin this week, both players will be playing their natural positions. Benjamin spends 57% of his snaps in the left outside receiver position, while Lattimore has spent 79% of his snaps in the right cornerback position. Lattimore has also graded out as a well below average cornerback early in his career, which isn’t a surprise for a rookie consistently guarding top receivers. Still, Benjamin is no easy task, and he is a player that to take advantage of this week.
Keenan Allen vs Phillip Gaines
Allen is a DFS favorite, as his ridiculous injury history does not concern most in the same way it does in season long leagues. Through two games, he has turned a team-high 20 targets into 14 receptions, 135 yards, and one touchdown. He’ll continue to be the focal point of the Chargers offense, as he has seen 27.8% of the team’s targets through the first two weeks. He’ll also be playing in a game with a projected total of 47.5 points, suggesting there will be plenty of scoring by both teams this week.
Allen is a receiver that is willing to move all of the formation, but he does the majority of his damage in the slot. So far this season, 63% of his routes have been run out of the slot. That means he will see the majority of his work against Phillip Gaines, who has graded out as Pro Football Focus’ worst cornerback in the NFL through two games. Gaines is also a corner that plays nearly exclusively in the slot, as 99% of his snaps have been in the slot this season. Allen should continue to see plenty of targets against Gaines, and he’s an elite option on this slate.
A.J. Green vs Damarious Randall/Davon House
Green has had a quiet start to the season, as he has only seen 18 targets through two games. He has turned those targets into 10 receptions for 141 yards, but he has failed to find the end zone yet. It is a bit shocking that Green has not been featured more in a stalling offense, but that will likely change this week. Green made it a point to state that under no circumstances should be not be receiving targets after only being targeted once in the second half of last week’s game. It would be surprising if the Bengals do not completely game plan their offense around Green this week. Cincinnati is a sizable underdog against Green Bay, but that means they will likely be throwing from the start to the finish of the game. The projected total is also set at 44.5 points, and both teams could do quite a bit of scoring this weekend.
Green has been used almost exclusively as an outside receiver, as 93% of his routes have been from the left or right outside receiver position. That means he will spend the majority of his snaps against either Damarious Randall or Davon House, who both graded out as bottom-10 cornerbacks in the NFL so far this season, per Pro Football Focus. He could also face off against Kevin King, who looked good in extended snaps against the Falcons last week. With that being said, Green should have no problems against a rookie cornerback, who has only played a few snaps this season. Randall and House have both struggled this season, as they are allowing 62% and 65% catch rates, respectively. Between Green being vocal with the media about wanting the ball and getting an elite matchup this week, he should have no problems getting his season back on track against Green Bay.
Matchups to Avoid
DeAndre Hopkins vs Malcolm Butler
Hopkins has been able to post solid numbers this season, but strictly due to volume rather than efficiency. He has posted a 14/128/1 line on 29 targets through two games. In his defense, he has dealt with Tom Savage and an inexperienced Deshaun Watson at quarterback this season. He gets a good matchup on paper against the New England Patriots, who currently rank 27th in the NFL against wide receivers. The Texans have an implied team total of only 15.3 points, which is the lowest on the slate, though. This is a much worse matchup for Hopkins than many may think.
Through two games, Hopkins has run 64% of his routes from the left outside receiver position. He will be guarded primarily by Malcolm Butler, who has played 90% of his snaps at the right cornerback position. Butler has graded out as the fourth best cornerback in the NFL through two games, according to Pro Football Focus. He has posted above average numbers in fantasy points per route covered, catch percentage, and yards per route covered. Hopkins will continue to see plenty of volume, but he will struggle with efficiency once again.
Michael Crabtree vs Josh Norman
Crabtree has been a man among boys this season, as he has recorded 12 receptions for 163 yards and three touchdowns on only 13 targets. He simply cannot keep up this rate, though, as his catch rate, yards per reception, and touchdown rate are all well above his career averages of 61.0%, 12.0 yards, and 8.6%. In other words, regression will begin shortly. The most telling statistic about Crabtree is that he has been targeted five less times than Amari Cooper, two more times than Jared Cook, and only one more time than the Oakland running backs. Some may see the team total of 28.5 points and believe Crabtree is in another good spot for touchdowns this week.
Crabtree’s streak of easy matchups will end this week after primarily being covered by Adoree’ Jackson and Juston Burris in the first two weeks of the season. Crabtree, who plays 41% of his snaps as the right outside wide receiver, will be guarded by Norman, who has played 91% of his snaps as the left cornerback in Washington this season. Norman has graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 11th best cornerback. He has allowed only a 52% catch rate to go along with only 1.07 yards per route covered. Norman has also only be targeted on 15 of his routes this season, and the Raiders will likely be using their other weapons this week. Crabtree is currently priced as the 7th most expensive wide receiver on DraftKings and the 6th most expensive receiver on FanDuel. Without seeing volume, he will need to continue to post elite efficiency, which will be nearly impossible in a matchup against one of the NFL’s premier cornerbacks.
Doug Baldwin vs Logan Ryan
The entire Seahawks offense has struggled through two games, and Baldwin has been a victim of that. In those games, he has recorded only 10 receptions for 107 yards on 13 targets. This has a lot to do with the play of Russell Wilson, who has notoriously struggled in September throughout his career. The offensive line issues are not helping Seattle’s case, either. Regardless, this game will be playing on the road in September, where Wilson is at his worst. Furthermore, Baldwin was expected to be the focal point of the offense this season, but three other players have also seen double-digit targets. The Seahawks have an implied team total of only 19.8 points, and it will be difficult for their offense to get going once again this week.
Baldwin has been unable to capitalize on elite matchups this season. This is the first week he will be tested against an above average cornerback. Ryan has played 87% of his snaps this season in the slot, which is where Baldwin has run 65% of his routes. Ryan has also graded out as top-15 corner, per Pro Football Focus, which is significantly higher than Quinten Rollins or K’Wuan Williams, who Baldwin played weeks one and two. Baldwin should not only be avoided because of the matchup, but also because of the current play of his quarterback and offensive line. He could get his season turned around at some point, but this will not be that week.
By: Justin Bales (Twitter)