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By the Numbers

NFL Week 9 WR/CB Matchups and TE Analysis

by Ian Hartitz
Updated On: October 31, 2019, 12:26 pm ET

We're on to Week 9! 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.

49ers at Cardinals

49ers Offense

Position WR Height Weight Speed Tgt Share Air Yard Share CB Height Weight Speed
Left Deebo Samuel 71 214 4.48 15% 14% Patrick Peterson 72 219 4.34
Slot Emmanuel Sanders 71 180 4.41 19% 27% Tramaine Brock 70 195 4.54
Right Kendrick Bourne 73 203 4.68 8% 12% Byron Murphy 71 190 4.55

Projected shadow matchups: None.

WR/CB breakdown: The first game of the Emmanuel Sanders era in San Francisco went about as well as possible, as the 49ers absolutely massacred the Panthers 51-13. Jimmy Garoppolo went 18-for-22 for 175 yards and a pair of scores. His target distribution was as follows:

Sanders spent a position-high 18 snaps in the slot, which is good news for his chances at escaping Patrick Peterson's shadow coverage. The Cardinals didn't have Peterson travel inside with Sanders when they played the Broncos in 2018, and the long-time stud CB has spent just 11-of-139 (8%) snaps in the slot since returning from suspension in Week 7 this season.

Fire up Sanders as an upside WR3 against the Cardinals' 27th-ranked defense against opposing No. 1 WRs (Football Outsiders).

Samuel appears to have the best chance of emerging as the No. 3 pass-game target in this offense. His 70% snap rate last week was the highest among anyone other than Sanders, and coach Kyle Shanahan clearly has a soft spot for the 49ers' second-round pick considering he's fed the rookie five rush attempts this season.

Bourne could very well be relegated to a bench role with Marquise Goodwin (personal) back this week. Pettis (30% snap rate) is off the fantasy grid.

TE breakdown: Kittle has at least six catches in all but two games this season. What better time for some positive touchdown regression to come than against the league's single-worst defense against the position in just about every metric?

Cardinals Offense

Position WR Height Weight Speed Tgt Share Air Yard Share CB Height Weight Speed
Left Damiere Byrd 69 180 4.32 12% 17% Emmanuel Moseley 71 184 4.47
Slot Larry Fitzgerald 75 225 4.48 20% 24% K'Waun Williams 69 189 4.58
Slot Christian Kirk 71 201 4.47 24% 28% Dontae Johnson 74 200 4.45
Right Trent Sherfield 72 203 4.5 4% 10% Richard Sherman 75 195 4.6

Projected shadow matchups: None.

WR/CB breakdown: Christian Kirk returned last week for the first time since Week 4. The Cardinals' snaps and targets at WR were as follows:

Kirk's average of 9.6 targets per game trails only Michael Thomas (11.1), Cooper Kupp (10.9), Tyler Boyd (10.4), DeAndre Hopkins (10.1) Keenan Allen (10) and Julian Edelman (9.9). Fire him up as a WR3 despite the piss-poor matchup against the 49ers' beastly defense.

Byrd hasn't caught even three passes in a game since Week 2, while Fitzgerald has limped to 1-12-0 and 2-8-0 lines on just seven combined targets over the last two weeks despite prime matchups against the Giants and Saints, respectively.

Don't play any pass-game option in fantasy other than Kirk this week if you can help it. The Patriots and 49ers have each allowed just 3.9 net yards per pass attempt this season. The next-closest defense is the Panthers ... at 5.2.

TE breakdown: Charles Clay caught 3-of-3 targets for 88 yards last week, but largely benefited from broken coverage on both of his chunk gains. He's not a realistic fantasy option as long as he and Maxx Williams continue to split snaps right down the middle, particularly in this aforementioned brutal matchup.

Texans at Jaguars (in London)

Texans Offense

Position WR Height Weight Speed Tgt Share Air Yard Share CB Height Weight Speed
Left DeAndre Hopkins 73 214 4.57 29% 33% A.J. Bouye 72 186 4.6
Slot DeAndre Carter 68 185 4.49 1% 2% D.J. Hayden 71 191 4.45
Right Kenny Stills 72 194 4.38 12% 14% Tre Herndon 71 186 4.52

Projected shadow matchups: DeAndre Hopkins vs. A.J. Bouye.

WR/CB breakdown: The Jaguars have had Bouye track Michael Thomas as well as Tre Herndon shadow Robby Anderson since Week 6. This would seemingly indicate Bouye and Nuk squaring off in this week's London-themed matchup, leaving the faster Herndon to spend most of his time across from field-stretching WR Kenny Stills.

Either way, Hopkins is set up beautifully against the league's single-worst defense in average receiving yards per game allowed to opposing No. 1 WRs.

The difference in workload and (accordingly) production for Nuk over the past three games compared to the first five weeks of the season has been striking.

  • Weeks 1-5: 44 targets, 31 receptions, 347 yards, 2 TDs, PPR WR17
  • Weeks 6-8: 37 targets, 29 yards, 270 yards, 1 TD, PPR WR3

The absence of Will Fuller (hamstring) certainly had something to do with this, but we also should've realized Deshaun Watson wasn't going to feed one of the league's best WRs between 7-8 targets per game forever. Continue to fire up Hopkins as an every-week high-end WR1.

Stills (3-22-0) disappointed in his first full game without Fuller, but he's set up for plenty of opportunity moving forward after playing over 90% of the offense's snaps in back-to-back weeks. Perhaps a bounce-back performance will come this week against Herndon, who is PFF's 70th-highest graded CB among 81 qualified full-time corners.

Keke Coutee lost his starting spot to DeAndre Carter, who has never found the end zone and has caught more than two passes in just 3-of-23 career games.

TE breakdown: I've cautioned against using the Texans TEs in fantasy because Darren Fells and Jordan Akins were largely splitting snaps and targets without a defined role for most of the first seven weeks. This changed in Week 8, as Fells (90% snaps, 6 targets) was on the field significantly more than Akins (52%) for the first time all season. Fells isn't exactly young at 33 years of age, but the 6-foot-7 and 281-pound TE has developed great chemistry with Deshaun Watson in the red zone. Fells is the PPR TE8 at the season's midway point and should be fired up as a mid-tier TE1 against the Jaguars' 22nd-ranked defense in DVOA vs. TEs.

Jaguars Offense

Position WR Height Weight Speed Tgt Share Air Yard Share CB Height Weight Speed  
Left Chris Conley 74 213 4.35 15% 28% Lonnie Johnson 74 213 4.52  
Slot Dede Westbrook 72 178 4.44 21% 17% Justin Reid 73 207 4.4  
Right D.J. Chark 75 199 4.34 23% 36% Gareon Conley 72 195 4.44  

Projected shadow matchups: None.

WR/CB breakdown: The Jaguars are all kinds of banged up at WR, as Dede Westbrook (neck, shoulder) was pulled from last week's game and eventually ruled out. Marqise Lee's (shoulder, IR) season is over. Keelan Cole will get the start in the slot if Westbrook is ultimately sidelined. Be sure to monitor our Week 9 Injury Dashboard for daily practice participation along with estimated and official game statuses for every injured player.

Hopefully Westbrook is ready to go by Sunday because he doesn't want to miss this matchup. The only position group more banged up than the Jaguars WRs in this game is undoubtedly the Texans CBs:

  • Starting CB Johnathan Joseph (shoulder) didn't play in Week 6, was forced out of Week 7 after playing just 14 snaps, and didn't suit up in Week 8.
  • Starting CB Bradley Roby (hamstring) is reportedly expected to be out through the team's Week 10 bye.
  • Starting CB Lonnie Johnson (concussion) is in the protocol and should be considered very questionable for Sunday.
  • Backup CB Phillip Gaines (ankle, IR) is done for the season.

Oh yeah, and the Texans will also be without some defensive lineman named J.J. Watt (pec, IR) for the rest of the season.

Gardner Minshew helped each of his top-three WRs in D.J. Chark (6-79-1), Chris Conley (4-103-1) and Cole (2-12-1) find the end zone last week against the Jets. The entire passing game is set up even better in this week's matchup against a Texans unit that was significantly better against the run (No. 5 in DVOA) than the pass (No. 23) even before losing the heart-and-soul of their defense along with half of their secondary.

TE breakdown: The Jaguars split reps up between Seth DeValve (59% snaps), Josh Oliver (39%) and Ben Koyack (38%) last week. They combined for three targets, rendering each as non-viable fantasy options. Note that the team reportedly does want to get their third-round rookie TE more involved moving forward, as Oliver has just two targets since making his season debut in Week 7.

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Bears at Eagles

Bears Offense

Position WR Height Weight Speed Tgt Share Air Yard Share CB Height Weight Speed
Left Allen Robinson 74 220 4.56 26% 39% Ronald Darby 71 193 4.38
Slot Anthony Miller 71 201 4.55 11% 17% Sidney Jones 72 186 4.47
Right Taylor Gabriel 68 167 4.45 11% 18% Jalen Mills 72 191 4.61

Projected shadow matchups: None.

WR/CB breakdown: A-Rob has somehow maintained a solid floor this season despite having to deal with Mitch Trubisky's existence. Overall, the Bears' undisputed No. 1 WR has been anyone's idea of one of the better receivers in the league through eight weeks:

  • Receptions per game: 6.6 (No. 6 among all WRs)
  • Receiving yards per game: 75.1 (No. 18)
  • PPR per game: 16.7 (No. 11)

Continue to fire up Robinson as a high-end WR2 that might as well be a WR1 this week against an Eagles Defense he posted a 10-143-1 line against in the Bears' Wild Card loss to the Eagles last season.

Anthony Miller has posted respectable enough 4-52-0, 5-64-0 and 3-67-0 lines over the Bears' past three games, while Taylor Gabriel always offers big-play potential and had a deep chance last week that was overthrown by Trubisky. Still, it's tough to get behind either Miller or Gabriel as realistic fantasy options despite the amazing matchup as complementary pass-game options in the league's 27th-ranked scoring offense. Trubksiy has averaged a pathetic 217 passing yards per game in his four complete starts this season on an average of 38.4 attempts per game (5.6 YPA).

Yes, the Eagles CBs have been a laughing stock for the better part of the last season and a half. Also yes, Week 9 will be just the second game of the season that they'll have both Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby healthy. I wouldn't anticipate the secondary suddenly becoming elite, but perhaps they'll at least be a bit more competent against opposing No. 1 WRs moving forward.

TE breakdown: Trey Burton has six consecutive games with 20 or fewer receiving yards to start the season, while Adam Shaheen continues to steal red zone work and between 20-46% of the position's snaps per game. Neither are realistic fantasy options against an Eagles Defense that is one of just nine units to allow fewer than 45 yards per game to the TE position.

Eagles Offense

Position WR Height Weight Speed Tgt Share Air Yard Share CB Height Weight Speed
Left Alshon Jeffery 75 216 4.53 25% 26% Prince Amukamara 72 206 4.48
Slot Nelson Agholor 72 198 4.42 17% 23% Buster Skrine 70 186 4.48
Right DeSean Jackson 70 175 4.35 23% 41% Kyle Fuller 72 190 4.49

Projected shadow matchups: None.

WR/CB breakdown: DeSean Jackson (abdomen) returned to practice Wednesday and appears to have a real chance to suit up for the first time since Week 2. Backup field-stretching WR Mack Hollins has one reception since Week 4 despite playing at least 45% of the offense's snaps in every game along the way.

And then we have Nelson Agholor, who has failed to do much of anything since being absolutely roasted by his own fan base back on September 23.

Alshon Jeffery figures to benefit from less attention if D-Jax gets back on to the field this week. The Eagles' No. 1 WR has scored a touchdown or caught at least four passes for 50-plus yards in all but one of his full games this season, but he's cleared the century mark just three times over the past three and a half seasons.

I'm as big a fan of #RevengeGames as the next loser fantasy analyst, but it's tough to trust Jeffery as anything more than an upside WR3 against the Bears' third-ranked defense in DVOA against No. 1 WRs.

TE breakdown: Wentz has enabled two of fantasy's top-10 TEs over the past five weeks:

Ertz joins Mark Andrews, Travis Kelce, Darren Waller, Evan Engram, George Kittle and Aaron Jones as the only non-WRs in the league that lead their team in targets. He's also out-targeted Goedert 9-to-4 inside the 20-yard line this season. The potential return of D-Jax should help clear out the middle of the field for Wentz's longtime favorite target. Don't give up on Ertz just yet, while Goedert is still more likely to offer borderline TE1 value more weeks than not as long as he continues to play well more than half of the offense's snaps per game.

Colts at Steelers

Colts Offense

Position WR Height Weight Speed Tgt Share Air Yard Share CB Height Weight Speed
Left Zach Pascal 74 219 4.55 9% 13% Steven Nelson 70 197 4.49
Slot Chester Rogers 72 185 4.56 8% 9% Mike Hilton 69 178 4.6
Right T.Y. Hilton 69 183 4.39 25% 36% Joe Haden 71 193 4.62

Projected shadow matchups: None.

WR/CB breakdown: The Steelers haven't had Joe Haden shadow this season. Even if he does decide to track T.Y. Hilton this week, the Colts' stud WR doesn't need to be downgraded against PFF's 80th-ranked CB among 127 qualified corners.

Jacoby Brissett might not be Andrew Luck, but that doesn't mean he's not capable of some truly fantastic QB play at times:

It was tough to get behind any of the Colts receivers other than Hilton as solid fantasy options with up to six different competent WRs and TEs playing a decent amount of snaps in any given week. The good news is last week's matchup against the Broncos appeared to *finally* provide some resemblance of a defined pecking order at WR. 

Note that Campbell has spent nearly as many snaps in the slot (58) as he has out wide (64) this season, making Rogers the likely odd man out as the Colts get their second-round pick more involved as the season goes on.

Hilton is an every-week WR2 as the lead pass-game option in the league's 16th-ranked scoring offense, while Pascal can be treated as more of a boom-or-bust WR4 as long as this type of snap rate persists. Hilton boasts the week's second-best spot in terms of difference in 40-yard times for projected WR/CB matchups.

TE breakdown: Unfortunately, Jack Doyle (72% snaps in Week 7) continues to largely relegate Eric Ebron (34%) to the bench. The Colts still make sure to feed Ebron (4 targets in Week 8) a decent workload, but Doyle (5) remains nearly just as involved. An injury to either would result in a weekly TE1, but for now each is better approached as a boom-or-bust TE2.

Steelers Offense

Position WR Height Weight Speed Tgt Share Air Yard Share CB Height Weight Speed
Left Diontae Johnson 70 183 4.53 17% 21% Rock Ya-Sin 72 192 4.51
Slot JuJu Smith-Schuster 73 215 4.54 20% 28% Kenny Moore 69 185 4.52
Right James Washington 71 213 4.54 13% 24% Pierre Desir 73 198 4.59

Projected shadow matchups: None.

WR/CB breakdown: The Colts have gotten cute in recent weeks and had Rock Ya-Sin and Pierre Desir (hamstring) shadow the likes of DeAndre Hopkins, Kenny Stills and Courtland Sutton. Still, neither Ya-Sin (4.5% slot rate) nor Desir (6%) have moved inside with any sort of frequency this season, meaning JuJu Smith-Schuster should be free to feast on Kenny Moore in the slot whenever the Steelers please.

Let's take a deeper look at JuJu's "disappointing" third-year campaign from an efficiency perspective:

  • 2018: 2.08 yards per route run, 12.8 yards per reception, 8.6 yards per target
  • 2019: 2.01 yards per route run, 14.8 yards per reception, 9.6 yards per target

The difference, of course, is volume. Smith-Schuster saw 10.4 targets per game last season compared to just 6.6 in 2019. We shouldn't expect this to change too much this season considering Mason Rudolph has thrown fewer than 30 passes in four of his five extended appearances, but it remains difficult to call JuJu anything other than a great WR even if the top-tier fantasy production hasn't been there to this point.

The Steelers' latest rookie WR that is turning heads is Diontae Johnson, who caught 5-of-7 targets for 84 yards and a score against the Dolphins last Monday night. The performance could've been even bigger had Rudolph managed to hit Johnson on a deep ball that likely would've gone to the house. I was low on Johnson prior to last week's game because both of his long touchdowns earlier in the season were largely the result of busted coverage, but the Steelers' third-round pick deserves credit for balling out in Week 8. Treat him as an upside WR4 ahead of relatively difficult matchups against the Colts, Rams and Browns.

James Washington posted a putrid 47% snap rate last week and has caught more than two passes just once this season. He's off the fantasy radar as the offense's No. 4 pass-game option behind each of JuJu, Johnson and James Conner.

TE breakdown: Vance McDonald has posted 3-34-0, 1-5-0 and 3-19-0 receiving lines without seeing even five targets in a game since the Steelers added Nick Vannett. Neither are realistic fantasy options as complementary pieces inside of the league's 19th-ranked scoring offense.

Ian Hartitz

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