Matchups to Attack
Keenan Allen vs Eric Rowe
Keenan Allen has been enjoying a solid season, but he has struggled with efficiency. Through seven starts, he’s averaging a 5.1/69.8/0.1 line on 9.7 targets per game. His yards per reception are a bit higher than his career average, but his catch rate and touchdown rate this season are significantly below his career averages. Through his first four seasons, he has a catch rate of 68.6% and a touchdown rate of 7.2%, but those numbers have plummeted to 52.9% and 2.8% this season. Ultimately, Allen will become more efficient as the season progresses, offering more upside than he has already displayed thus far.
Allen moves all over the Chargers formation, but he has played 52% of his snaps in the slot this season. He will matchup against Eric Rowe for the majority of this game, as Row has played 79% of his snaps in the slot for New England. Rowe has also graded out as Pro Football Focus’ second worst cornerback in the NFL this season. Rowe is allowing a 69% catch rate, while being targeted on 22% of his routes covered this season. He also ranks in the bottom-5 of cornerbacks in fantasy points allowed per route covered and yards per route covered. He is essentially a bottom-5 cornerback in all aspects of the game. Allen has a clear advantage over Rowe this week, and that needs to be exploited.
Paul Richardson vs Kevin Johnson
Paul Richardson is in an interesting situation. He has seen his role grow this season, but he still is not a major factor in the offense. This season, he’s averaging a 2.7/44.8/0.5 line on 4.8 targets per game. He has at least two receptions in every game this season, including three touchdowns over his last five games. With that being said, he has at least five targets in four of six games this season. While these numbers are not overly impressive, he comes with a cheap price tag and gets an elite matchup.
Richardson has played 55% of his snaps as the left outside wide receiver this season. He will face off against Kevin Johnson, who has played 76% of limited snaps as the right outside cornerback, for the majority of this game. Johnson has struggled quite a bit this season, allowing an 80% catch rate. He has graded out as the third worst cornerback in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. He has also been targeted on 25% of the routes he covers, which is important for a player that generally is not overly targeted. Between teams targeting Johnson and his high catch rate, Richardson could see a few extra opportunities for receptions this week.
Kelvin Benjamin vs Robert McClain
It is difficult to fully trust Kelvin Benjamin with Devin Funchess seemingly taking over as the top receiver on the team. Benjamin is seeing 6.3 targets per game this season, turning those into a 4.1/62.3/0.1 line through seven games. Carolina is not afraid to attack matchups, though, as Benjamin recently saw 13 targets against a weak Philadelphia secondary. That could be the case once again, as Benjamin will get the best matchup on the field for the Carolina offense.
Benjamin is the left outside receiver for the Panthers, playing 54% of his snaps at that position. He’s expected to face off against Robert McClain, who is currently dealing with an injury. McClain has played the majority of his snaps in the slot this season, but Tampa Bay has recently opted to move Vernon Hargreaves into the slot. McClain is also dealing with a concussion, meaning he will not practice this week if he is able to suit up for the game. He has graded out as a bottom-10 cornerback, per Pro Football Focus, allowing a 78% catch rate this season. McClain’s health is something to keep an eye on, but his backup will also create an elite matchup for Benjamin this weekend.
Matchups to Avoid
Michael Crabtree vs Tre’Davious White
Michael Crabtree has enjoyed an elite near half of the season, but it is time for regression. His catch rate has been declining since the first couple of weeks, but it would not be surprising to see it continue to drop as the season progresses. His yards per reception have also dropped, now nearing his career average. His touchdown rate is the next to come. This season, Crabtree has a ridiculous 21.4% touchdown rate, which is significantly higher than his 8.3% career average. He has been able to salvage average weeks with touchdowns this season, but that will not always be the case.
Crabtree moves all over the formation for Oakland, but he will spend the majority of his day across from Tre’Davious White, who has spent 92% of his snaps as the left outside cornerback. He is a rookie, but has graded out as Pro Football Focus’ third best cornerback in the NFL. He’s allowing a lowly 47% catch rate this season. He has also been targeted on only 15% of his routes covered this season. The Bills also play great team defense, allowing 0.83 passing touchdowns per game this season. Crabtree is a player that is dependent on touchdowns, but he will struggle to find the end zone this week.
Brandin Cooks vs Casey Hayward
Cooks is a bit of a confusing player. He has found quite a bit of success this season, but he has also struggled at times. Overall, he’s averaging a 4.0/76.7/0.4 line on 6.6 targets per game. He is only fourth on the Patriots in targets, recording one less target than James White, Chris Hogan, and Rob Gronkowski. Most surprisingly, Cooks only has one red zone target this season, accounting for only 2.6% of the team’s red zone targets. He is a player that relies heavily on deep catches because he is not a huge part of the Patriots offense on a consistent basis.
Cooks has run 55% of his routes as the left outside receiver this season, but that will not matter this week. He is expected to be shadowed by Casey Hayward, who has been following elite receivers around the formation all season. The only advantage Cooks might possess is that Hayward does not often play in the slot. With that being said, Hayward is allowing only a 52% catch rate this season. He has also been targeted on only 14% of his routes covered. Even though Hayward has played against elite competition this season, he has graded out as Pro Football Focus’ seventh overall cornerback. He has shut down plenty of players throughout his career, and the Patriots are the type of team that will simply game plan away from Cooks this season.
Adam Thielen vs Briean Boddy-Calhoun
Thielen has been one of the most consistent players in the NFL this season. He has recorded at least five receptions in every game this season, but he has only recorded more than five receptions twice. He’s a huge part of the offense, averaging 9.3 targets per game this season. He has turned those into a 6.1/75.7 weekly line. He has yet to find the end zone, which is a bit of a concern, as well. Furthermore, Thielen has struggled even more away from home this season.
Thielen has moved to the slot this season, running 58% of his routes from the slot receiver. He’ll be covered by Briean Boddy-Calhoun this season with Boddy-Calhoun playing 85% of his snaps in the slot. He is not a big name, but Boddy-Calhoun has looked outstanding this season. He is allowing only a 44% catch rate, which is elite for a slot cornerback. He has also only been targeted on 7% of his routes covered. He has also graded out as the sixth best cornerback in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. Thielen could see a lower target share with Stefon Diggs returns this week, and Thielen makes a risky option in this matchup.