Matchups to Attack
Adam Thielen vs Parry Nickerson
Adam Thielen has been the best fantasy receiver in the NFL through six weeks this season. Overall, he owns 58 receptions for 712 yards and four touchdowns on 79 targets. He’s averaging 9.7 receptions for 118.7 yards and 0.7 touchdowns (28.5 DK points) on 13.2 targets per game this season. He has also recorded 10+ targets and 100+ yards in all of his six games in 2018, while scoring a touchdown in each of his last three. Furthermore, Thielen leads the Minnesota Vikings with nine red zone targets this season.
He has played 60% of his snaps as the Vikings slot receiver through six games. He’ll match up against Parry Nickerson, who has played 96% of his snaps as the New York Jets slot corner. Nickerson has graded out as Pro Football Focus’ fourth worst cornerback, allowing a 64% catch rate, while being targeted on 24% of his routes covered. He also ranks in the bottom-12 of the NFL in fantasy points allowed per route covered (0.45) and yards allowed per route covered (2.38). Thielen has dominated some of the top cornerbacks in the NFL throughout his career, and he should have very few problems against New York’s backup.
Brandin Cooks vs Ahkello Witherspoon
Brandin Cooks has slowed down since taking a big hit early in his Week 5 game against the Seattle Seahawks. He then struggled in a cold, snowy game in Denver last week, but conditions are returning to normal in San Francisco this week. In his first four games, Cooks totaled 28 receptions for 505 yards and one touchdown on 33 targets. He’s also a big part of the red zone attack, seeing seven red zone targets early this season.
Cooks has played the majority of his snaps (56%) as the Los Angeles Rams left outside receiver this season. He’ll see plenty of time across from Ahkello Witherspoon, who has spent the majority of his snaps (65%) as the San Francisco 49ers right outside cornerback. Witherspoon has been targeted on 22% of his routes covered, while allowing a 67% catch rate. He is also allowing 0.54 fantasy points per route covered and 2.28 yards per route covered, which both rank in the bottom-10 of the NFL. Witherspoon has graded out as a bottom-five cornerback in the league, per PFF, making this a must attack matchup for Cooks.
Willie Snead vs P.J. Williams
Willie Snead has quietly performed well this season, as he’s averaging 5.0 receptions for 52.2 yards and 0.2 touchdowns on 7.2 targets per game. Snead has also recorded double digit fantasy points in five of his six games this season. He hasn’t been a big part of the Baltimore Ravens red zone attack, but he’s averaging 8.0 targets per game over his last three games, suggesting his role is as defined as ever for this team.
Snead has been the Baltimore slot receiver this season, playing 79% of his snaps out of the slot. He draws an elite matchup against P.J. Williams, who has played 68% of his snaps as the New Orleans Saints slot corner. Williams has been targeted on 19% of his routes covered this season, allowing his opponents to post a 70% catch rate. He has also struggled, allowing 0.5 fantasy points per route covered and 2.0 yards per route covered, while grading out as Pro Football Focus’ third worst cornerback in the NFL this season. Baltimore is in an elite spot this weekend, and Snead draws the most favorable matchup of the group.
Matchups to Avoid
Mike Evans vs Denzel Ward
Mike Evans has found quite a bit of success this season, but he has had his worst two games with Jameis Winston as his quarterback. Evans averaged a 7.7/122.3/1.0 line on 10.0 targets per game through his first weeks with Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback. Fitzpatrick then struggled in the first half against the Chicago Bears, and was benched for Winston. In his last two games, Evans is averaging a 5.0/58.5/0.0 line on 7.0 targets per game. Most surprisingly, Evans has only seen three red zone targets this season, tying O.J. Howard and Peyton Barber for third on the team behind Cameron Brate and Chris Godwin.
Evans spends the majority of his time as an outside receiver for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but that won’t matter this week. He’s expected to be shadowed by Denzel Ward, who has proven to be an NFL ready player early in his career. He has faced off against some of the best receivers in the NFL this season, allowing only a 52% catch rate, while being targeted on 19% of his routes covered. He has graded out as a top-five cornerback in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus, and he’s seemingly getting better as he gains more experience. Evans could see limited targets again this week, while struggling with efficiency in a tough matchup.
New England Patriots WRs vs Chicago Bears CBs
The New England Patriots have been a more run heavy offense this season, as Tom Brady has only attempted more than 35 passes in two of six games. Their receiving group also hasn’t been a major part of the offense, as only 15.5 pass attempts per game have gone to receivers. James White (RB) and Rob Gronkowski (TE) rank first and second on the team in targets, receptions, and receiving yards.
Last week we attacked the Chicago Bears secondary with Prince Amukamara injured, but he’s expected to return to action this week, completing one of the best secondaries in the NFL. Amukamara, Bryce Callahan, and Kyle Fuller rank fourth, third, and 11th in Pro Football Focus’ cornerback grading system. The Bears pass rushers have helped these cornerbacks, and New England will likely feature a quick pass attack, utilizing James White out of the backfield. The receivers in New England simply have not been getting enough volume to safely be considered against an elite secondary.
Allen Robinson vs Stephon Gilmore
Allen Robinson has shown flashes this season, but he has disappointed for the most part. Through five games, he owns 24 receptions for 281 yards and two touchdowns on 38 targets. He has scored double digit fantasy points in four of those five games, though. Furthermore, Robinson is dealing with an injury, which could leave him limited on the field this week.
He has moved around the Chicago Bears lineup this season, playing between 30% and 35% at each of the three positions. That won’t matter, though, as the New England Patriots are a team that loves shadowing receivers. Stephon Gilmore, who is the best cornerback in New England, is expected to draw the assignment against Robinson. He has allowed a 62% catch rate, while being targeted on 18% of his routes covered. Overall, Gilmore has graded out as a top-seven cornerback in the NFL, per PFF, making him one of the toughest matchups on the slate.
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