Matchups to Attack
Golden Tate vs Kenny Vaccaro
Tate has not enjoyed the season many people were expecting, but he has displayed good upside when given the opportunities. He’s the top receiving option on the Lions, as he has accounted for 23.4% of the team’s targets this season. He is also tied with Eric Ebron for the most red zone targets, although the team has spread out their targets in the red zone this season. This game should be fast paced and featuring plenty of scoring, as the total is set at 49.5 points, which is the highest of the week. Tate is averaging an 8.5/82.5/0 line in games that he has seen 10+ targets this season, and the pace of this game should allow the Lions to feature him that type of role.
Tate has played 81% of his snaps in the slot this season, meaning he will be guarded by Kenny Vaccaro, who has played 93% of his snaps in the slot. Vaccaro has been a bottom five player in terms of yards per route covered and fantasy points per route. He is also allowing a 71% catch rate, resulting in him grading out as Pro Football Focus’ worst defensive back in the NFL. He was recently benched by New Orleans, which comes as a bit of a concern, but he is expected to play full snaps in this game, and Tate is a player that will be able to take advantage of this matchup.
Larry Fitzgerald vs Robert McClain
Fitzgerald continues to make a consistent fantasy option that also comes with tremendous upside. He is a volume heavy wide receiver that is averaging 10.2 targets per game this season. He is also leading the NFL in red zone targets, although his touchdown rate does not stack up with some of the other top options in the NFL. In a limited sample size, he has looked elite at home, averaging an 8.5/90.5/1 line in two home games this season. Fitzgerald has seen at least 10 targets in three of his five games this season, and this game is the type of shootout that Fitzgerald will be heavily targeted in again.
Fitzgerald plays multiple positions for the Cardinals because he is their top receiver, but he has played 68% of his snaps in the slot. Robert McClain is the Bucs slot corner, and he has struggled quite a bit through four games this season. Through those games, he has graded out as Pro Football Focus’ sixth worst cornerback in the NFL. Most importantly, he is allowing a ridiculous 87% catch rate, which ranks last in the NFL. Fitzgerald is a target hog for Arizona, and he could see 10+ catches this week against a cornerback that has struggled to stop receivers from connecting with their quarterbacks.
Jamison Crowder vs K’Waun Williams
Crowder has been one of the biggest disappointments in the NFL this season after receiving a boatload of hype throughout the offseason. He is averaging a paltry 3.5/26.5/0 line through four games. He does have a 73.7% catch rate, though, and it has simply been a case that Crowder has not seen enough targets. Overall, he has only seen 15.7% of the Redskins targets this season. With that being said, he does lead the team in red zone targets, although he has yet to find the end zone. The Redskins have the highest implied team total on the slate at 28.8 points, and this could be the week Crowder finally has his breakout game.
Crowder has played 81% of his snaps in the slot this season. He’ll face off against K’Wuan Williams, who is the 49ers nickel corner, playing 99% of his snaps against slot receivers. Williams has struggled all season, grading out as a bottom-10 cornerback, per Pro Football Focus. He has allowed a 76% completion percentage this season. He has also been a below average cornerback in terms of fantasy points per route and yards per route covered. Crowder is a receiver that comes with plenty of risk, but if he is going to break out, this is the matchup that he will be able to capitalize on.
Matchups to Avoid
Los Angeles Rams vs Jacksonville Jaguars
The Rams offense has looked great this season, but they have relied heavily on their running backs and tight ends instead of their wide receivers. Robert Woods and Sammy Watkins are the two outside receivers, and while they have flashed tremendous upside this season, they have also been extremely inconsistent. Wood and Watkins have combined for 30.4% of the team’s receptions, 33.1% of the team’s receiving yards, and 28.6% of the team’s receiving touchdowns. They are a pair of boom or bust receivers that come with more risk than reward this week.
Woods and Watkins are two receivers that play basically 75% of their snaps as outside receivers. They will be guarded by Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye, who both have played over 90% of their snaps on the outside, as well. Ramsey has graded out as the second best cornerback in the NFL this season, according to Pro Football Focus, while Bouye has graded out as the eighth best cornerback. Neither player has allowed a catch rate over 50%, and they have been able to shut down some of the best wide receivers in the NFL this season. Watkins and Woods are not receivers that have demanded targets this season, and the Rams have no reason to pepper them with targets this week. All Rams receivers can be avoided on this slate.
Michael Crabtree vs Casey Hayward
Crabtree has been an ultra-efficient wide receiver this season. He currently has an elite 79.2% catch rate, 13.3 yards per reception, 16.7% touchdown rate. These are significantly higher than his career averages of 61.0% catch rate, 12.0 yards per reception, and 5.3% touchdown rate. In those words, regression will be a major factor in Crabtree’s production for the remainder of the season, specifically when he is put in tough matchups, such as this week.
Crabtree has moved around the Raiders offense this season, playing between 27% of 41% of his snaps at each of the three receiver positions. That will not matter this week, though, as he is expected to be shadowed by Casey Hayward, who has moved around the defense this season, but has not played much in the slot. Still, Hayward has plenty of slot experience from his days in Green Bay. He has graded out as the seventh best cornerback in the NFL this season, according to Pro Football Focus. This grade is one of the most impressive in the NFL because Hayward shadows opponents top receivers on a weekly basis. He is allowing only a 54% catch rate this season, and Crabtree will struggle to produce without efficiency on his side this week.
Martavis Bryant vs Marcus Peters
Bryant has struggled with efficiency this season. He has posted the lowest numbers of his career in catch rate, yards per reception, and touchdown rate. He had a 10% touchdown rate in his first two seasons, but it has dropped to a 3.2% touchdown rate this season. He has not been a volume wide receiver throughout his career, which makes his touchdown rate much more important. He does still come with upside, though, as he posted a 3/91/1 line against the Vikings in the second week. With that being said, He has yet to see more than eight targets in a game, and he has seen less than eight targets in three of his five games this season.
Bryant has played 53% of his snaps at the right outside receiver position this season, while Marcus Peters has played 90% of his snaps at the left cornerback position. Peters has played well this season, grading out as a top-15 cornerback in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus. He is allowing only a 57% catch rate in over 200 routes this season. The Steelers are coming off a tough game against the Jaguars, and Bryant is not a player to target on their team, especially with Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster getting significantly better matchups this week.
By: Justin Bales (Twitter)