Fantasy football Week 2 shadow report

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11:00 AM ET

  • Mike ClayESPN Writer


    • Fantasy football, NFL analyst for
    • Member of Pro Football Writers of America
    • Founding director of Pro Football Focus Fantasy
    • 2013 FSTA award winner for most accurate preseason rankings

By utilizing our play-by-play data, we’re able to identify defensive schemes and where each wide receiver and cornerback lines up on each play. By tracking these WR/CB matchups, including potential shadow situations, we can offer the best projections, rankings, sit/start decisions, and fantasy advice each week. Fantasy football is a weekly game, so knowing the matchups can also help you make the best waiver wire pickups.

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Down below are the receivers with the best and worst Week 2 matchups, as well as the corresponding fantasy impact. To view the primary defenders and the top three wide receivers for each team will see this weekend, be sure to check out our weekly WR vs. CB Cheatsheet. Note that, unless otherwise noted, references to where teams rank in statistical categories adjusts to a per-game basis in order to avoid distortion due to bye weeks.

Advantageous Matchups

Bears’ Allen Robinson II and Darnell Mooney vs. Bengals’ Chidobe Awuzie and Eli Apple

The Bengals upset the Vikings in Week 1, but that was despite allowing a 22-250-2 receiving line to Minnesota wide receivers. Yes, the 59 fantasy points allowed to the position (third most) was partially related to heavy volume in an overtime game, but even if we adjust for that, they were sixth worst.

Trae Waynes was sidelined for that game and is expected to be out again in Week 2, which means Awuzie (6-83-0 receiving line allowed in Week 1) and Apple (7-79-1) will again handle perimeter duties, with Mike Hilton (7-58-1) in the slot. Hilton is a quality slot corner, but he was targeted on a hefty 31% (10 total) of his coverage snaps in Week 1. Robinson (57% perimeter) and Mooney (62%) align all over the formation and will see plenty of all three corners. Both should be upgraded.

Bengals’ Tee Higgins, Ja’Marr Chase and Tyler Boyd vs. Bears’ Jaylon Johnson, Kindle Vildor and Marqui Christian

Concerns about Chicago’s cornerback room were expressed in this column last week and there was so much uncertainty that two of the projected top-three corners ended up not playing a single snap in the team’s Week 1 loss to the Rams. That game didn’t go so well for the group, as the Bears surrendered the fifth-most fantasy points to the wide receiver position in the opening week.

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That included the fifth-most to slot receivers, which is where Boyd (92% slot in Week 1) will face off with Christian – a safety who has been tasked with manning the slot for Chicago. Christian was in coverage for 21 plays on Sunday night and allowed a horrific 5-85-2 receiving line on six targets. Chase (90% perimeter) and Higgins (69%) will work outside against youngsters Johnson and Vildor. All three Bengals’ wideouts should be upgraded and are viable fantasy starters.

Packers’ Davante Adams, Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling vs. Lions’ Amani Oruwariye, Ifeatu Melifonwu and AJ Parker

The Packers’ offense is coming off a very rough Week 1, but they’re well positioned for a rebound at home against Detroit this week. The Lions entered the season with one of the league’s shakiest cornerback situations and we saw the struggles in play in Week 1 when they allowed the third-most fantasy points to perimeter receivers. And that was with Jeff Okudah in the lineup. The 2020 first-round pick tore his Achilles and is out for the season. That moves third-round rookie Melifonwu (12 career snaps) into an every-down role opposite Oruwariye, who struggled badly in Week 1. The Lions faced only 61 pass routes and 16 targets by 49ers’ wideouts, but allowed a 12-219-2 receiving line. Undrafted rookie Parker was not targeted in coverage in his pro debut, but remains a major question mark. Adams (63% perimeter), Valdes-Scantling (52%) and Lazard (54%) were Green Bay’s top wideouts in Week 1 and stand to benefit in a big way in Week 2.

Cardinals’ A.J. Green vs. Vikings’ Bashaud Breeland

It’s rare these days to find a team that aligns its wide receivers in the same position throughout the majority of the game. The Cardinals are an exception, with Green aligning at right perimeter receiver 93% of the time in Week 1 and DeAndre Hopkins on the left side on 81% of his routes. Minnesota, meanwhile, aligned Patrick Peterson at right corner and Breeland at left corner on 100% of their coverage snaps in Week 1. This week, that will mean a showdown between Hopkins and Peterson (Revenge game!) on one side and Green and Breeland on the other. Breeland was picked on early and often in Week 1, as Joe Burrow targeted him 38% of the time he was in coverage. Breeland didn’t show well, allowing a 6-122-2 receiving line on nine targets. That works out to 30 fantasy points – most among defenders for the week. Perhaps Breeland will play better in his second game with the team, but Green has the look of an intriguing sleeper. Peterson, meanwhile, was only targeted on three of his 30 coverage snaps and allowed a 2-24-0 receiving line in Week 1. We’re never benching Hopkins, but this has the look of a tougher matchup than usual.

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Other notable upgrades:

Browns’ Odell Beckham Jr. and Donovan Peoples-Jones vs. Texans’ Vernon Hargreaves III and Terrance Mitchell

Vikings’ Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen vs. Cardinals’ Marco Wilson and Robert Alford

Patriots’ Nelson Agholor, Jakobi Meyers and Kendrick Bourne vs. Jets’ Bryce Hall, Michael Carter II and Brandin Echols

Seahawks’ DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett vs. Titans’ Janoris Jenkins, Kristian Fulton and Elijah Molden

Tough Matchups

Bills’ Stefon Diggs vs. Dolphins’ Xavien Howard (shadow)

Bills’ Emmanuel Sanders vs. Dolphins’ Byron Jones (shadow)

When these teams met in Week 17 last season, Howard shadowed Diggs on 20 of his 26 routes, including all 17 perimeter routes. Diggs didn’t have much trouble in the game, posting a 7-76-0 receiving line on eight targets (5-55-0 on five targets against Howard). Despite Diggs’ success in that small sample, he’s still set to face off with one of the league’s best corners in Howard. Miami had little trouble against New England’s underwhelming WR room in Week 1, allowing the seventh-fewest fantasy points to the position. Howard was terrific, allowing a 2-11-0 receiving line on 36 coverage snaps. Expect Diggs to see a ton of Howard this week and lower expectations a bit. Sanders was Buffalo’s clear No. 2 perimeter receiver in Week 1 (his 50 routes trailed Cole Beasley by three for most among the team’s wideouts) and he aligned outside 68% of the time. With Howard on Diggs, Sanders will see Jones on roughly two-thirds of his routes. He should also be downgraded, whereas Beasley can upgraded inside against Nik Needham.

WFT Terry McLaurin and Dyami Brown vs. Giants’ James Bradberry and Adoree’ Jackson

When these teams met last season, Bradberry shadowed McLaurin in the second half of the Week 6 meeting and throughout the entire Week 9 game. McLaurin posted good receiving lines (7-74-0 and 7-115-1) in both games, though a big chunk of that came on two big plays against Blake Martinez. McLaurin was covered by Bradberry on 40 of his routes and posted a 7-58-0 receiving line on seven targets. McLaurin may not be shadowed this week since the Giants upgraded to Jackson at their other perimeter corner spot. McLaurin aligned outside on 68% of his routes in Week 1, so he’ll see plenty of Bradberry (87% perimeter) and Jackson (97%) in this one. It’s a tough matchup, especially after the Giants allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to the perimeter in Week 1 (Courtland Sutton was held to a 1-14-0 receiving line on 31 routes). Lower expectations for McLaurin, as well as the rookie Brown on the other side.

Slot Showdowns

There aren’t many clear-cut tough perimeter matchups this week, but Week 2 will surely be highlighted by a ton of intriguing showdowns in the slot. So, instead of forcing some additional tough matchups, here’s a quick look at the biggest downgrades (as well as some upgrades) in the slot.

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Downgrade Rams’ Cooper Kupp vs. Colts’ Kenny Moore (slot)

The Colts’ primary slot corner is also their best corner. Moore aligned inside 79% of the time and was targeted on only 13% of his coverage snaps against Seattle. Kupp (63% slot) will have his hands full and should be downgraded.

Downgrade Colts’ Zach Pascal vs. Rams’ Jalen Ramsey (slot)

Pascal is fresh off a two-TD debut in Week 1, but the Colts’ slot man (inside 92% of the time) will see plenty of Ramsey in Week 2. Ramsey moves all over the place, so it won’t be a full-time matchup, but he did align inside on 50% of this coverage snaps against Chicago. No team surrendered fewer points to the slot than the Rams in Week 1. Consider avoiding Pascal in your flex this week.

Downgrade Jaguars’ Laviska Shenault Jr. vs. Broncos’ Bryce Callahan (slot)

Shenault racked up eight targets in Week 1, but we’ll need to lower expectations against Denver. Underrated Callahan (100% slot) was his usual productive self against the Giants, as the Broncos allowed the second-most fantasy points to the perimeter, but sixth-fewest to the slot.

Downgrade Browns’ Jarvis Landry vs. Texans’ Desmond King (slot)

Houston allowed the eighth-most fantasy points to wide receivers in Week 1, but a lot of that was in garbage time. King has been one of the league’s best slot corners since entering the league and allowed only four catches for 28 yards on 45 coverage snaps in Week 1. Landry (50% slot in Week 1) will work inside more if Beckham is back this week.

Downgrade Giants’ Sterling Shepard vs. WFT’s Kendall Fuller (slot)

Shepard came up big with a 7-113-1 receiving line in Week 1, but he has a tough showdown with Fuller in Week 2. Granted Fuller struggled a bit in his return to the slot last week, but we know he’s one of the league’s better corners. Shepard (69% slot) will see plenty of him on Thursday.

Downgrade Cowboys’ Cedrick Wilson vs. Chargers’ Chris Harris Jr. (slot)

Wilson stepped in for an injured Michael Gallup and aligned in the slot on 84% of his routes in Week 1. Harris, meanwhile, remains the Chargers’ primary slot man, working inside 86% of the time in Week 1. The 32-year-old is one of the best slot receivers in the league over the past decade, which is concerning news for Wilson’s sleeper appeal.

Upgrade Chargers’ Keenan Allen vs. Cowboys’ Jourdan Lewis (slot)

On other side of that game, we have Allen (68% slot in Week 1) facing off with Lewis (92%). Dallas struggled against the slot in Week 1, surrendering the seventh-most fantasy points to the position, as well as the sixth-most to receivers overall. Allen will see a bit of Anthony Brown and, though he may shadow Mike Williams, perhaps Trevon Diggs. Diggs, by the way, shut down Mike Evans in a shadow role in Week 1, so Williams is in jeopardy of a down game.

Upgrade Falcons’ Russell Gage vs. Buccaneers’ Ross Cockrell (slot)

Sean Murphy-Bunting is on injured reserve, which means Cockrell is the next man up in the slot. Though Jamel Dean was the one Dak Prescott picked on most often in Week 1, Cockrell is the inferior player, so we should expect an uptick in production for Gage (57% slot in Week 1) and perhaps Kyle Pitts, as well (16 if his 30 routes were against corners in Week 1).

Upgrade Steelers’ JuJu Smith-Schuster vs. Raiders’ Nate Hobbs (slot)

Hobbs manned the slot for Las Vegas on Monday Night Football. The fifth-round rookie was only asked to handle 16 coverage snaps, but that number figures to rise against the ’11’-happy Steelers. It’s a good spot for Smith-Schuster (76% slot in Week 1).