Matchups to Attack
Julio Jones vs Donte Jackson
Julio Jones was a featured part of the Atlanta Falcons offense on Thursday Night Football, recording 10 receptions for 169 yards on 19 targets. He saw a ridiculous 44% target share for the Falcons in that game. Jones failed to find the end zone on Thursday, but saw a league-high three red zone targets in that game. While it may be unlikely Jones continues to see 19 targets per game, he has only ever recorded a catch rate below 60%, suggesting he will be a more efficient player as the season continues.
Jones played the majority of his snaps (42%) as the Falcons left outside receiver. He’ll matchup against Donte Jackson, who played almost exclusively (97%) as the Panthers right outside corner in limited snaps. Jackson has graded out as a bottom-10 cornerback in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus (PFF). In limited snaps, he has allowed a 71% catch rate, while being targeted on 19% of his routes covered. Jones will be a step up in competition from the Dallas Cowboys receivers, and he should find plenty of success in this matchup.
Michael Thomas vs Terrance Mitchell
Michael Thomas made a statement during the offseason suggesting that he is the best wide receiver in the NFL. He made a statement in his first game, catching 16 passes for 180 yards and one touchdown on 17 targets. He was also tied with Julio Jones for the league-lead with three red zone targets, converting one for a touchdown. Most importantly, Thomas saw a 38% target share on one of the most prolific offenses in the NFL during the first week.
Thomas has played 45% of his snaps as the Saints left outside receiver, meaning he’ll face off against Terrance Mitchell, who has played 74% of his snaps as the Browns right outside cornerback. He has only allowed a respectable 54% catch rate, but Mitchell has been targeted on 25% of his routes covered, which is the third highest in the NFL. He has graded out as a bottom-20 cornerback in the league, according to PFF. There have been rumors that Denzel Ward could potentially shadow Thomas, but that seems unlikely after Ward failed to shadow Antonio Brown last week. If that were the case, Thomas would get bumped down in terms of matchup. For now, he gets one of the best matchups on the slate.
Mike Wallace vs Carlton Davis
Mike Wallace has been a consistent receiver in the NFL since joining the league in 2009. He failed to record a catch on Thursday Night Football on three targets. He saw 109 air yards and a 36.3 aDOT, though, suggesting he comes with tremendous upside. Nick Foles and company are still trying to get on the same page, and another week of practice with a better matchup will only help that.
Wallace has played all over the formation throughout his career, but he’s expected to play the majority of his snaps as the Eagles right outside receiver. He’ll be matched up against Carlton Davis, who played 90% of his snaps as Tampa Bay’s left outside corner last week. He struggled quite a bit, allowing his opponents to catch 75% of their targets. He was also targeted on 21% of his routes covered. While the sample size is small for Davis, this is a matchup Wallace can take advantage of.
Matchups to Avoid
Chris Hogan vs Jalen Ramsey
Hogan was a surprisingly small part of the New England offense last week, totaling only one catch for 11 yards on five targets. The Patriots have proven that they are willing to follow a game plan, as Hogan only saw four targets against this Jacksonville secondary during the playoffs last season. The most concerning part about the first week is that Hogan saw fewer targets than Rob Gronkowski, James White, and Phillip Dorsett, while seeing only one more target than James Develin.
Hogan is another moving piece in the New England offense, but he’s expected to play the majority of his snaps as the Patriots left outside receiver. He’ll be matched up against Jalen Ramsey, who has been an elite talent since joining the NFL. He has been targeted on only 20% of his routes covered, while allowing a 58% catch rate. Ramsey is graded out as Pro Football Focus’ second best cornerback in the league. If Hogan does not lineup against Ramsey, he’ll face off against A.J. Bouye, who has also been one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. Ramsey and Bouye make up one of the best duo’s in the NFL, and New England will likely shy away from them this weekend.
Michael Crabtree vs William Jackson
Michael Crabtree simply wasn’t needed during the Ravens week one victory. Still, he posted a 3/38/1 line on six targets. It’s a bit worrisome that Crabtree saw only a 16% target share, but he was tied with Willie Snead, Nick Boyle, and Buck Allen for a team-high six targets. He will likely be more involved in the Baltimore offense during games that stay closer. That could be this week, but this matchup could limit his potential targets.
Crabtree has played 43% of his snaps as the left outside receiver, and he will continue to play that position for Baltimore. He’ll see the majority of his snaps against William Jackson, who has lined up as the Bengals right outside corner on 84% of his snaps. Jackson has graded out as PFF’s fifth best cornerback in the NFL, and his numbers support that. He has been targeted on only 15% of his routes covered, while giving up only a 45% catch rate. Crabtree will certainly have week in which he dominates, but this is one of the most difficult matchups in the NFL. He will struggle to produce, especially in an offense that may have overachieved last week.
Buffalo Bills vs Los Angeles Chargers
The Buffalo Bills have arguably the worst passing attack in the NFL. Last week, they totaled only 98 passing yards without any touchdowns and two interceptions. Kelvin Benjamin, Jeremy Kerley, and Zay Jones also combined to record only six receptions for 43 yards on 17 targets. Buffalo features arguably the worst quarterback/receiver pairing in the NFL, and this could be the most difficult matchup on the slate.
Buffalo’s receivers will have a difficult time finding success against average secondaries, let alone potentially the best secondary in the NFL. Casey Hayward, Desmond King, and Trevor Williams currently rank first, eighth, and 22nd in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus. The Bills do not have the talent to compete with Los Angeles’ secondary, and they will be in for another long week.
By: Justin Bales (Twitter)