Matchups to Attack
Odell Beckham Jr. vs Ryan Smith
Beckham has only been healthy for one game this season, recording nine receptions for 79 yards and two touchdowns on 13 targets. He is the clear focal point of the Giants offense, ranking second in red zone targets, even though he has only played in two games. Beckham is also only four targets away from leading the team while playing limited snaps. He is a difference-maker on the field, and he is Eli Manning’s top option. He will continue to be peppered with targets throughout the season.
Beckham is essentially a matchup proof wide receiver, but this is a situation to monitor throughout the week. Bucs’ starter, Brent Grimes, missed last week because of an injury and he is currently questionable to play this week. If he is out, Ryan Smith will draw another start. Smith played 91% of his snaps at left cornerback last season, meaning he will guard Beckham for the majority of the game. Smith graded out as Pro Football Focus’ worst cornerback, allowing a ridiculous 73% catch rate. Stefon Diggs spent most of his snaps across from Smith last week, posting an 8/173/2 line. Beckham is one of the best wide receivers in the NFL, and he will have no problems taking advantage of this matchup.
Larry Fitzgerald vs K’Waun Williams
Fitzgerald is coming off a breakout performance on Monday Night Football, recording 13 receptions for 149 yards and one touchdown on 15 targets against a weak Cowboys defense. Fitzgerald has been the focal point of the Cardinals offense thus far, seeing twice as many targets as any other player on the Arizona roster. Fitzgerald is also leading the team in red zone targets, receptions, yards, and touchdowns. Teams will continue to try to eliminate Fitzgerald from the game, but it is nearly impossible to double cover a slot receiver the same way as an outside receiver.
Fitzgerald has played 69% of his snaps from the slot this season. He will be guarded by San Francisco’s nickel corner, K’Waun Williams, who has played 99% of his snaps in the slot. Williams has allowed a 65% catch rate this season, grading out as a bottom-15 cornerback in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus. The 49ers are allowing over 25 points per game this season, and it is not inconceivable that Fitzgerald posts another game with double digit receptions and a touchdown for the second consecutive week.
Kenny Britt vs Adam Jones
Britt has been dreadful early this season, recording only a 33.3% catch rate through three games. He saw only five targets in his first two starts before recording 10 targets last week. He has taken over as the top receiver in Cleveland after Corey Coleman was injured. While Britt has been struggling early this season, he now has more reason to play as the focal point of the offense. He also has a career catch rate of 54.1%, which is significantly higher than his catch rate this season. Ultimately, it is only a matter of time before his averages even out, which will results in a seemingly ultra-efficient game.
This game could come this week, as Britt gets a great matchup against Adam Jones. Britt spends the majority of his snaps as the outside left wide receiver, where Jones has played 99% of his snaps on the defensive side. Overall, Britt plays 91% of his snaps as the outside receiver, meaning he could also see time against Dre Kirkpatrick. Both cornerbacks have allowed a 57% catch rate and they both have ranked in the bottom-20 cornerbacks in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. Regardless of where Britt is on the field, he will get an elite matchup and he will continue to develop a repertoire with DeShone Kizer as the play more snaps together.
Matchups to Avoid
Robby Anderson vs Jalen Ramsey
Anderson is an enticing play this week because of his low salary and high upside. Last week, he posted a 3/95/1 line, but that was enhanced by a 69-yard touchdown. Outside of this touchdown, Anderson has only eight receptions for 76 yards this touchdown. He is leading the Jets in targets, but he has rarely been able to capitalize on them. It is not out of the question that Jermaine Kearse could quickly take over the top receiving role ahead of Anderson.
Anderson will be playing the majority of his snaps at the right outside receiver position, which means he will see the majority of his snaps against Jalen Ramsey. Ramsey has graded out as the best cornerback in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus this season. He’s allowing only a 48% catch rate, which is one of the best in the NFL. Anderson does move around the lineup quite often, though. He could also see time against A.J. Bouye, who has also graded out as an elite cornerback. He could also spend a few snaps against Aaron Colvin, who is also an above average cornerback. While Anderson’s price tag is enticing for tournaments, his matchup is more than enough to keep him out of lineups.
Michael Crabtree vs Aqib Talib
As I mentioned last week, Crabtree will be in for regression, as his averages this season were significantly better than his career averages. He struggled in a tough matchup against Josh Norman, as he caught only one of three targets for seven yards. The Raiders are an offense that has plenty of options, and they simply do not need to attack bad matchups. That was their game plan last week, as they rarely attacked Norman, and it would not be shocking if they utilize that same strategy against an elite passing defense this week, as well.
Crabtree is a player that has performed well when given a good matchup, but has struggled in tough matchups. This week, he will face off against Aqib Talib, who has played 93% of his snaps against right outside receivers. Crabtree is a player that spends the majority of his snaps, 39%, as the right outside receiver. He also spends 32% of his snaps in the slot, which could result in time against Chris Harris Jr., who has also been an outstanding cornerback throughout his career. Overall, Aqib Talib ranks as the second best cornerback in the Pro Football Focus rankings, and Crabtree will likely struggle to produce in limited opportunities this week.
Antonio Brown vs Jimmy Smith
Brown has been enjoying another elite season, as he has posted a 26/354/1 line on 36 targets this season. He has already recorded two games with double digit receptions and more than 100 yards. He has twice as many targets as anyone on the Sttelers offense, but he is not leading the Steelers in red zone targets. This is a bit surprising, but somewhat takes away from the upside of Brown, especially as a high priced receiver.
Brown has seen his upside come from efficient games. In his two games with double digit receptions, he posted an 84% catch rate. He has been slowed down this season, though, as he struggled against the Minnesota Vikings, recording only a 45.5% catch rate in that game. This weekend, Brown gets a matchup against Jimmy Smith, who currently ranks just outside of Pro Football Focus’ top-10 cornerbacks this season. Smith is allowing a low 51% catch rate, which is one of the lowest in the NFL. Brown is a volume receiver, who could struggle with efficiency this weekend. Keep in mind, it is highly unlikely that he is completely shut down, but he will have a difficult time hitting value for his price tag.
By: Justin Bales (Twitter)