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Chris Godwin
By the Numbers

NFL Week 15 WR/CB Matchups and TE Analysis

by Ian Hartitz
Updated On: December 12, 2019, 4:29 pm ET

We're on to Week 15! I'll be breaking down the WR/CB matchups all season long with a focus on figuring out who could be facing shadow coverage as well as the best and worst overall situations. We'll also briefly touch on each team's TE group.

Physical data is courtesy of NFL.com and PlayerProfiler.com, alignment information is from Pro Football Focus while each WR's target share and air yard market share is provided by the fine folks at AirYards.com.

Jets at Ravens

Jets Offense

Position WR Height Weight Speed Tgt Share Air Yard Share CB Height Weight Speed
Left Robby Anderson 75 190 4.41 19% 36% Jimmy Smith 74 211 4.46
Slot Jamison Crowder 68 185 4.56 22% 22% Marlon Humphrey 72 197 4.41
Right Demaryius Thomas 75 224 4.41 16% 19% Marcus Peters 72 197 4.53

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: Anderson is well on his way to orchestrating his annual late-season breakout, posting 4-86-1, 7-101-0 and 7-116-1 lines in the last three weeks against the Raiders, Bengals and Dolphins, respectively. The Jets' overqualified field-stretching WR has double-digit targets over the past two weeks after not clearing eight in Weeks 1-12.

Meanwhile, Crowder has back-to-back-to-back duds despite consistently easy matchups. He's posted a top-20 PPR finish on five separate occasions with Sam Darnold under center, but the Jets' slot WR has emerged as more of a boom-or-bust option as opposed to a high-floor target hog.

The problem in expecting either to have a good game Thursday night comes down to the reality that this Ravens secondary is one of the league's premiere units at shutting down opposing passing attacks:

  • DVOA against the pass (Football Outsiders): No. 3
  • Against No. 1 WRs: No. 7
  • Against No. 2 WRs: No. 9
  • Against 'Other' WRs: No. 3

Treat Anderson as an upside WR3 and Crowder as a boom-or-bust WR4 in this tough draw.

Thomas (knee/hamstring, doubtful) is more banged up than usual and will likely be replaced by Vyncint Smith. Neither are realistic fantasy options.

TE breakdown: Ryan Griffin (ankle, out) played just three snaps in Week 14 before exiting. Daniel Brown played a near every-down role, posting a robust 87% snap rate. Still, he was targeted just twice and finished with seven scoreless yards in a smash spot against the Dolphins. Brown is nothing more than a touchdown-dependent TE2.

Ravens Offense

Position WR Height Weight Speed Tgt Share Air Yard Share CB Height Weight Speed
Left Seth Roberts 74 196 4.46 9% 10% Kyron Brown 73 196 4.66
Slot Willie Snead 71 195 4.62 11% 12% Nate Hairston 72 196 4.52
Right Marquise Brown 69 166   20% 25% Blessuan Austin 73 198 4.74

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: Hollywood Brown is the only WR that receives enough targets to warrant fantasy consideration in the Ravens' run-first offense.

He's been anyone's idea of a boom-or-bust WR this season, with more of the latter coming in recent weeks:

  • Week 1: 4 receptions-147 yards-2 TD (5 targets), PPR WR5
  • Week 2: 8-86-0 (13), WR22
  • Week 3: 2-49-0 (9), WR65
  • Week 4: 4-22-0 (7), WR60
  • Week 5: 3-22-1 (5), WR32
  • Week 9: 3-48-0 (4), WR49
  • Week 10: 4-80-1 (4), WR14
  • Week 11: 2-23-0 (4), WR72
  • Week 12: 5-42-2 (7), WR9
  • Week 13: 1-1-0 (2), WR108
  • Week 14: 3-(-)2-0 (3), WR92

The Ravens have posted season-low point totals in consecutive tough matchups against the 49ers and Bills. We know Lamar Jackson and company can run on anybody, but their ability to get Brown going would add a much-needed field-stretching dimension to this offense.

The Jets are one of just six defenses to allow at least 80 receiving yards per game to opposing No. 1 WRs (Football Outsiders). The likes of Odell Beckham (8-161-1), John Brown (7-123-1), Darius Slayton (10-121-2), Chris Conley (4-103-1), Golden Tate (4-95-2), D.J. Chark (6-79-1) and Preston Williams (5-72-2) among others all had their way with the Jets' mediocre and banged-up secondary.

Treat Hollywood as a boom-or-bust WR3 that is due for a big performance.

TE breakdown: Mark Andrews (thigh, questionable) is tentatively expected to play through the pain and suit up Thursday night. He's been nothing short of remarkable in his second season; only George Kittle in 2018 (2.82) and 2019 (2.91) has averaged more yards per route run among all TEs with at least 50 targets in a single season over the past 10 years than Andrews (2.81) in 2019. Continue to fire up Andrews as a high-end TE1, while Nick Boyle and Hayden Hurst would be upside TE2s if Jackson's favorite receiver is ultimately sidelined.

Patriots at Bengals

Patriots Offense

Position WR Height Weight Speed Tgt Share Air Yard Share CB Height Weight Speed
Left Mohamed Sanu 74 211 4.67 14% 12% William Jackson 72 189 4.37
Slot Julian Edelman 70 198 4.57 26% 31% Darqueze Dennard 71 199 4.51
Right Phillip Dorsett 70 185 4.33 12% 20% B.W. Webb 70 184 4.51

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: Edelman has double-digit targets in eight consecutive games and has been the one consistently-elite fantasy option inside of this offense.

The 2019 Super Bowl MVP has worked alongside the league's very best WRs this season in terms of production from start to finish:

  • Targets: 135 (No. 2 among all WRs)
  • Receptions: 90 (No. 3)
  • Receiving yards: 1,010 (No. 8)
  • Receiving TDs: 6 (tied for No. 13)
  • PPR: 233.6 (No. 4)
  • PPR per game: 17.97 (No. 4)

Each of Cooper Kupp (7-220-1), Dede Westbrook (6-103-0), Jarvis Landry (4-76-0) and Cole Beasley (8-48-0) proved the Bengals and be exploited from the slot. Continue to treat Edelman as the consistent WR1 he's been all season.

N'Keal Harry (hip) played just two snaps last week due to the injury. This led to a three-WR rotation behind Edelman, as each of Mohamed Sanu (58% snaps in Week 14), Jakobi Meyers (57%) and Phillip Dorsett (49%) were used in part-time roles. I'd guess Sanu earns the most targets in this week's #RevengeGame, but each of these complementary options carry low floors inside of the Patriots' 22nd-ranked offense in yards per play.

TE breakdown: Matt LaCosse (81% snaps) worked well ahead of Ben Watson (48%) last week. Still, Tom Brady featured LaCosse (4 targets) and Watson (3) to a similar extent in the passing game, rendering each as non-viable fantasy options due to their lack of a volume ceiling.

Bengals Offense

Position WR Height Weight Speed Tgt Share Air Yard Share CB Height Weight Speed
Left Alex Erickson 74 203 4.58 12% 14% J.C. Jackson 70 201 4.46
Slot Tyler Boyd 73 197 4.58 24% 25% Stephon Gilmore 72 190 4.4
Right John Ross 71 188 4.22 17% 28% Jonathan Jones 69 186 4.33

Projected shadow matchups: Tyler Boyd vs. Stephon Gilmore, John Ross vs. Jonathan Jones, Alex Erickson vs. J.C. Jackson

WR/CB breakdown: We all know how good the Patriots' secondary has been this season; there's no reason to get cute in the fantasy playoffs against a pissed-off version of Bill Belichick and company.

The only important note is that Auden Tate (knee, IR) is done for the season, so Ross (51% snaps in Week 14) is expected to assume more of a full-time role moving forward. This doesn't really matter this week, but try to roster the Bengals' electric field-stretching WR in anticipation of his cake Week 16 matchup against the Dolphins.

I wouldn't bet on Boyd, or any other pass-game option on the Bengals, winning this matchup. The only skill-position player that should continue to be locked into starting lineups is Joe Mixon.

TE breakdown: Please find a better option.

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Buccaneers at Lions

Buccaneers Offense

Position WR Height Weight Speed Tgt Share Air Yard Share CB Height Weight Speed
Left Justin Watson 75 225 4.49 4% 5% Justin Coleman 71 185 4.53
Slot Chris Godwin 73 209 4.42 22% 23% Darius Slay 72 192 4.36
Right Breshad Perriman 74 212 4.3 10% 14% Amani Oruwariye 74 205 4.47

Projected shadow matchups: Chris Godwin vs. Darius Slay

WR/CB breakdown: Jameis Winston (thumb) is tentatively expected to suit up Sunday, but Ryan Griffin took all the first-team reps in practice Wednesday. Winston reportedly wasn't even gripping a football at practice. The entire Buccaneers Offense would need to be severely downgraded if Winston is ultimately ruled out.

Slay is one of the NFL's more-courageous shadow CBs in that he consistently travels into the slot while most No. 1 CBs tend to stay on the outside. Still, the results from his shadow dates this season have featured some up-and-down performances:

It's usually taken double-digit targets to post any type of note-worthy production against Slay, but this should be exactly what Godwin gets for the rest of the season with Mike Evans (hamstring) likely sidelined until 2020. The Buccaneers' stud slot WR has six career performances with at least 100 yards and a touchdown in 15 career games with at least eight targets. Fire up Godwin as a high-end WR1 that is capable of winning this matchup in a big way with enough volume.

Both Watson (5-59-1 in Week 14) and Perriman (3-70-1) found the end zone in the Buccaneers' 38-35 win over the Colts last week. Each is a physically-gifted specimen in a prime matchup against a Lions Defense that has allowed the second-most yards per game to opposing No. 2 WRs this season. I lean towards Watson in this spot due to Perriman's inconsistent nature, but it's honestly a toss-up. Treat both as boom-or-bust WR3s. Note that the return of Scott Miller (hamstring) would throw a wrench into this whole situation and lower the floor of each complementary WR.

TE breakdown: The real "winner" in the absence of Evans might just be O.J. Howard. Cameron Brate has played fewer than 40% of the offense's snaps in three consecutive weeks, while Howard has posted 78%, 83% and 87% snap rates since Week 12. Overall, the Buccaneers' talented starting TE had five or more targets in as many games in Weeks 1-12 (2) as he has over the past two weeks (2). Talent has never been an issue: Howard is the only player averaging double-digit yards per target among all Buccaneers with at least 20 targets since Winston was drafted in 2015. Maybe, just maybe, coach Bruce Arians will treat Howard as the offense's No. 2 pass-game weapon with Evans sidelined. I'm willing to drink the Kool-Aid one last time and treat Howard as a TE1 against the league's 26th-ranked defense in DVOA against the position.

Lions Offense

Position WR Height Weight Speed Tgt Share Air Yard Share CB Height Weight Speed
Left Kenny Golladay 76 218 4.5 20% 31% Jamel Dean 73 206 4.3
Slot Danny Amendola 70 186 4.68 18% 15% Sean Bunting 70 195 4.42
Right Chris Lacy 75 205 4.51 N/A N/A Carlton Davis 73 206 4.53

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: Marvin Jones (ankle, IR) is done for the season. He's tentatively expected to be replaced in three-WR sets by Lacy, who has played 11 snaps on offense this season and doesn't have a target.

The absence of both Jones and T.J. Hockenson (ankle, IR) leaves third-string QB David Blough with few reliable weapons to feed targets.

Of course, Golladay is one helluva pass-game option to get to feed the ball to in a time like this.

The Buccaneers have emerged as potentially the single-worst secondary in the league after 14 weeks of action:

  • Opposing WRs have averaged 48.6 PPR per game against the Buccaneers. The second-worst defense has been the Cardinals at 41.6.
  • The Bucs have allowed 2,639 receiving yards to opposing WRs, well ahead of the 31st-ranked Giants (2,417).
  • Tampa Bay ranks 30th and 32nd in receiving yards allowed per game to opposing No. 1 and No. 2 WRs, respectively.

Amendola has eight targets in consecutive games, but hasn't cleared 50 yards since Week 8. His last touchdown was in Week 1.

Treat Golladay as an upside WR2 and Amendola as a low-ceiling WR3 in this exceptional spot.

TE breakdown: Logan Thomas (56% snaps, 4 targets) and Jesse James (54%, 2) split reps and pass-game opportunities alike last week. Maybe one of them would warrant fantasy consideration with a full-time role in this cake matchup, but there's too much uncertainty here to take that leap of faith.

Texans at Titans

Texans Offense

Position WR Height Weight Speed Tgt Share Air Yard Share CB Height Weight Speed
Left DeAndre Hopkins 73 214 4.57 30% 35% Tye Smith 72 195 4.6
Slot Keke Coutee 70 181 4.43 13% 11% Logan Ryan 71 191 4.56
Right Kenny Stills 72 194 4.38 12% 13% Tramaine Brock 70 195 4.54

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: The Titans' CB group is in an awful state at the moment:

  • Malcolm Butler (wrist, IR) is done for the season.
  • Adoree' Jackson (foot) was sidelined in Week 14.
  • LeShaun Sims (ankle) was out in Weeks 13-14.
  • Logan Ryan is generally #good, but he's also allowed more yards in slot coverage than any other CB in the league.
  • Tye Smith is a career backup that was on IR for all of 2018.
  • Tramaine Brock was released by the Cardinals after Week 13.

Nuk has been getting force fed targets with Will Fuller (hamstring) sidelined. The only WRs I have ranked higher than Hopkins this week are Michael Thomas and Tyreek Hill.

Stills would slide into the slot if Fuller is ultimately able to suit up this week. Deshaun Watson has kept the offense's TEs involved in the passing game all season, and he's even fed Duke Johnson 14 combined targets over the past two weeks. It's unlikely that either Stills or Fuller will see more than five-ish targets as long as they continue to be pigeon-holed as field-stretching WRs. Treat each as boom-or-bust WR3s in this plus spot.

Coutee has the "toughest" matchup of the group in the slot and isn't a recommended fantasy option due to his demonstrated lack of a ceiling.

TE breakdown: Darren Fells and Jordan Akins have each surpassed 30 yards on three separate occasions this season. Fells has been the superior fantasy option due to his enhanced involvement in the red zone, but Akins continues to flirt with a 60% snap rate more weeks than not and racked up a season-high nine targets in Week 14. Both are low-ceiling TE2s against the Titans' 25th-ranked defense in DVOA against the position.

Titans Offense

Position WR Height Weight Speed Tgt Share Air Yard Share CB Height Weight Speed
Left A.J. Brown 72 226 4.49 17% 25% Bradley Roby 71 194 4.39
Slot Adam Humphries 71 195 4.58 14% 13% Vernon Hargreaves 70 204 4.5
Right Corey Davis 75 209 4.53 16% 24% Johnathan Joseph 71 193 4.32

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: Next-Gen Stats calculates how many yards after the catch receivers are expected to gain per play. They can then determine who the league's premiere receivers are with the ball in their hands by subtracting this number from the player's actual average yards after the catch.

Since 2016 only four players have managed to average at least three yards after the catch above expectation in a single season:

Brown has functioned as an electric playmaker with the ball in his hands. There have been some duds along the way, but he's gone off for 4-135-1, 3-45-0 and 5-153-2 lines on a combined 16 targets over the past three weeks.

Davis hasn't surpassed five targets in a game since Week 8, while Humphries (ankle) was replaced by Tajae Sharpe in Week 14.

The only problem in the Titans' suddenly-explosive offense: Volume. Derrick Henry is undoubtedly the engine of this team, as Ryan Tannehill has attempted just 29, 33, 39, 19, 18, 22 and most recently 27 passes in his seven starts this season.

Fire up Brown as an upside WR3 in this plus matchup against the Texans' 27th-ranked defense in pass DVOA, but recognize there's a low floor here for everyone involved in this run-first offense.

TE breakdown: Jonnu Smith has posted 0-0-0, 2-0-0 and 3-29-1 lines since the Titans' Week 11 bye. The talent is there, but volume is an issue for every pass catcher in this offense. Treat the Titans' super-athletic third-year TE as an upside TE2 against the Texans' mediocre secondary. The Texans-Titans' matchup currently has a week-high game total of 50 points.

Broncos at Chiefs

Broncos Offense

Position WR Height Weight Speed Tgt Share Air Yard Share CB Height Weight Speed
Left Courtland Sutton 75 218 4.54 24% 41% Charvarius Ward 73 198 4.49
Slot DaeSean Hamilton 73 203 4.57 9% 10% Tyrann Mathieu 69 186 4.5
Right Tim Patrick 77 210 4.52 11% 17% Bashaud Breeland 71 197 4.62

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: Rookie Drew Lock threw for 309 yards and three scores in Week 14. His target distribution through two weeks is as follows:

Lock's average of 8.05 yards per attempt is higher than any Broncos QB since John Elway joined the front office in 2011. I'm not saying he's the next Peyton Manning, but the Broncos at least appear to have finally upgraded over the likes of Paxton Lynch and Brock Osweiler.

The problem in expecting consistent production from anyone other than Sutton comes down to opportunity. Lock attempted 28 and 27 passes in Week 13 and 14, respectively, and his willingness to get the team's capable RBs and TEs heavily involved in the passing game has rendered Hamilton and Patrick as non-viable fantasy options.

A road trip to Arrowhead seems like the type of spot that could bring out the inexperienced rookie in Lock, especially considering the Chiefs have been much better against the pass (No. 6 in DVOA) compared to the run (No. 30). Still, Sutton's ridiculous contested-catch ability makes him a threat to find the end zone in any matchup. Treat him as a borderline WR2 in this tough spot.

TE breakdown: Fant caught all four of his targets for 113 yards and a score last week, but left early with foot and hip injuries. The Broncos' first-round TE clearly has the talent to thrive with enhanced target share, although Heuerman has also been plenty involved. Treat Fant as a boom-or-bust and low-end TE1 if active, while Heuerman would offer upside TE2 value with a near every-down role if the rookie is ultimately sidelined.

Chiefs Offense

Position WR Height Weight Speed Tgt Share Air Yard Share CB Height Weight Speed
Left Demarcus Robinson 73 203 4.59 11% 17% Isaac Yiadom 73 190 4.52
Slot Sammy Watkins 73 211 4.43 21% 23% Will Parks 73 194 4.68
Right Tyreek Hill 70 185 4.34 22% 41% Chris Harris Jr. 69 194 4.48

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: Harris would be my vote for best slot CB of the 2010-2019 all-decade team. Still, the Broncos haven't asked their stud No. 1 CB to move inside for more than a handful of snaps per game this season, even in matchups against high-volume inside WRs like Keenan Allen and Hill.

Obviously Hill should never be benched. Not even if there's a fire. He's demonstrated a solid floor this season with at least 50 yards in every game that he hasn't left early with an injury while continuing to provide a breathtaking ceiling. I'd only rank Michael Thomas ahead of the artist known as TyFreak, who should avoid Harris for a good portion of the game from the friendly confines of the slot.

Watkins somehow hasn't reached even 70 yards in a game since his 9-198-3 explosion all the way back in Week 1. The same is true for Robinson, but with his 6-172-2 performance in Week 2 being the outlier.

It's a bit confusing why Watkins (91% snaps in Week 14) and Robinson (79%) continue to work so far ahead of Mecole Hardman (18%). The Chiefs' electric second-round rookie has certainly made the most of his limited opportunities this season:

  • Hardman's average of +7.2 yards after the catch above expectation is the highest single-season mark among all receivers in the Next-Gen Stats database (which dates back to 2016).
  • Kenny Golladay joins Hardman as the only players with five touchdowns of at least 30 yards this season.
  • Hardman has caught 8-of-11 targets for 207 yards and four touchdowns since Week 7.

None of the Chiefs' complementary WRs should be treated as anything more than boom-or-bust WR4s.

TE breakdown: Travis Kelce has ripped off 8-101-0, 11-160-1, 7-133-1, 7-78-1, 6-79-1 and most recently 6-44-0 lines against the Broncos since 2016. Obviously you didn't need any more reason to fire up fantasy's No. 1 TE, but there ya go.

Ian Hartitz

All things NFL. Great day to be great. You can follow Ian on Twitter @Ihartitz.