Exploiting key matchups is one of the best ways to give your fantasy team an edge over your opponent. Poor cornerback play should be exploited whenever possible, as even subpar receivers can produce in positive situations, while elite receivers can hand in career games.
These mismatches can be found in every game on every team if you dig deep enough. Here’s a look at the wide receivers with the best and worst matchups in Week 11.
Matchups to Target
Curtis Samuel & D.J. Moore (CAR) vs. Isaiah Oliver & Blidi Wreh-Wilson (ATL)
The Atlanta Falcons had their best game of the season in Week 10, shutting down an electric New Orleans Saints offence and not allowing a touchdown. Still, Drew Brees completed over 71 per cent of his passes, and Michael Thomas racked up 13 receptions for 152 yards on the 30th-ranked defence in terms of Adjusted Defensive Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per play. The Falcons are still unlikely to have their ace cornerback, Desmond Trufant, back from his toe injury, so the Carolina Panthers receivers will be licking their chops for this matchup.
D.J. Moore has emerged as a consistent stud over the last two weeks. He rolled up over 100 receiving yards on double-digit targets in back-to-back weeks against the Tennessee Titans and Green Bay Packers, both of whom rank in the top half of pass defences. In a game with shootout potential, his high target totals and production should continue.
Curtis Samuel hasn’t been as fortunate. His total target distance of 1040 yards is the fifth-most among receivers, but his 371 completed air yards ranks 30th. The issue is that Kyle Allen is just missing him, as Samuel’s catchable target rate of 60.3 per cent ranks 96th among receivers. Allen and Samuel should have an easier time connecting against this weak defence, meaning a massive game could be in the making.
John Brown (BUF) vs. Ryan Lewis (MIA)
John Brown continues to be solid yet unspectacular. He’s on pace for over 1,200 receiving yards and has at least 50 in every game thus far, but hasn’t topped 83 yards since Week 1.
John Brown is gonna "high floor" his way to a 1,000-yard SZN.
That's quite an accomplishment for a receiver that volatile.
— Matthew Freedman (@MattFtheOracle) November 3, 2019
Look for that to change this week, as he’s up against a Miami Dolphins that ranks dead last in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play. Brown totalled 83 yards and a touchdown in Week 7 against Miami, so he should be able to repeat that success this week. For some reason, the Dolphins have been trying to win recently, as they now have two victories in a row. If Ryan Fitzpatrick comes out firing again, Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills could be forced to throw more. Playing from behind against this terrible defence would be the ideal game flow for Brown.
Michael Thomas (NOS) vs. Jamel Dean (TBB)
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers finally gave up on their former first-round cornerback, Vernon Hargreaves III. That’s unfortunate for Michael Thomas, who bullied Hargreaves in Week 5 for 182 yards and 2 scores as the former Buc tried to shadow him.
That leaves Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting as their starting perimeter corners. According to PlayerProfiler, Dean was responsible for D.K. Metcalf’s breakout game in Week 9, while Murphy-Bunting gave up 100 yards and a score in his coverage to Christian Kirk last week. Thomas, who has already surpassed 1,000 receiving yards on the season and is threatening to break the NFL record for receptions, should be fine.
The Bucs also rank first against the run and 23rd against the pass in terms of Adjusted Defensive NEP per play, so expect a pass-happy game plan from Sean Payton.
Mike Evans & Chris Godwin (TBB) vs. Eli Apple, P.J. Williams, & Chauncey Gardner-Johnson (NOS)
The Saints might be in trouble without Marshon Lattimore, who exited Week 10 early with a hamstring injury. Lattimore has given Mike Evans fits over the last few years and even “goose-egged” him in Week 5. Without Lattimore, the Saints will likely put P.J. Williams on the perimeter and play their rookie defensive back, Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, full time in the slot.
#Saints CB Marshon Lattimore suffered a hamstring strain that has him considered week-to-week, source said. That’s a tough loss. His absence was felt quickly Sunday, when #Falcons WR Julio Jones went for a 54-yarder as soon as he exited.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) November 11, 2019
Evans has also been on a warpath since getting shut down by Lattimore. Since that matchup, he’s seen 51 targets and caught 36 balls for 556 yards and 3 touchdowns in just four games. New Orleans isn’t likely to shadow him with Eli Apple, so Evans should dominate against the weak links of this secondary.
Chris Godwin has cooled off in the wake of Evans’ dominance, but that should change. He compiled 125 yards and 2 scores on the Saints earlier this season, and now he’ll be matched up with the rookie, Gardner-Johnson, in the slot. They should both be able to succeed in this potential shootout.
Deebo Samuel (SFO) vs. Byron Murphy (ARI)
Everything came together for Deebo Samuel in Week 10. With Emmanuel Sanders leaving early with a rib issue, the rookie receiver set a season-high in routes, targets, receptions, and yards. With George Kittle all but ruled out this week and Sanders trending towards sitting, Samuel’s expanded role will continue.
With all the flack the #49ers WRs took, Deebo Samuel should get some credit.
He led the way with 8 catches for 112 yards, stepping up admirably for Sanders and Kittle.
He continues to grow and his physical skills are something that don’t get enough credit . pic.twitter.com/tNM50Yt1C2
— ourSF49ers (@OSf49ers) November 12, 2019
Meanwhile, the Arizona Cardinals rank 29th in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play and could be without Patrick Peterson, who is dealing with a calf strain. That would put Byron Murphy on Samuel, who has allowed over 500 yards and 6 scores in his coverage this season. If Arizona’s offence can keep this game competitive like they did in Week 9, Samuel could be in for a big game.
Matchups to Avoid
Courtland Sutton (DEN) vs. Xavier Rhodes (MIN)
Courtland Sutton topped 50 yards and scored in his first game with Brandon Allen, but he’ll have some tough sledding this week. The Minnesota Vikings rank eighth in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play, and Xavier Rhodes matches up well with Sutton as a big, physical cornerback that can run.
The Vikings have allowed the fourth-most receiving yards to receivers this season, so Sutton has a shot at producing as the only viable option for the Denver Broncos. The issue is that the Denver offence could fall flat against the Vikings front, as they rank fourth in adjusted sack rate on Football Outsiders. If (and when) the pass rush gets to Allen, Sutton could struggle to receive accurate targets.
Christian Kirk (ARI) vs. Richard Sherman (SFO)
The Cardinals have transitioned Christian Kirk out of the slot where so many receivers create mismatches. Instead of declining, Kirk had a career day, posting 138 yards and 3 touchdowns while torching the Buccaneers’ cornerbacks.
The San Francisco 49ers, however, are a different animal defensively. They currently rank second in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play on the back of Richard Sherman, who ranks top-10 in yards per target, yards per reception, and passer rating allowed, according to PlayerProfiler. Kirk was held to just two catches for eight yards when these teams played in Week 9, so don’t expect another ceiling game from the second-year breakout wide receiver.