Breaking down the key perimeter matchups for Week 11.
Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs vs Rams Secondary
Before the season, Stefon Diggs was a WR2 with upside and Adam Thielen was a sneaky pick in the later rounds. Before Diggs’ injury, he was the WR 1 through the first four weeks of the season, and Thielen is currently the WR 3 in PPR formats and the WR 5 in standard. These two are the best wide receiver tandem in football right now. On a 16 game slate (if both players played all 16 games fully healthy), Thielen and Diggs are on pace to combine for 2,551 yards. The only other wide receiver duos that hit that mark over the last five years were: Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders (2014), Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb (2014) and Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall (2013). That is the level that Thielen and Diggs are playing on right now, and while Thomas and Nelson had Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers, they’ve got Case Keenum.
I think they will obliterate the Rams secondary on Sunday. The Rams defense has graded favorable according to Pro Football Focus, but that is a result of playing some of the weakest offenses in the league. They’ve seen the Colts, 49ers, Jaguars, Giants, and Texans (with Tom Savage) who all have below average passing games. Trumaine Johnson got walked over by the Savage/DeAndre Hopkins connection last week, and Thielen has been burning every slot corner he’s faced all season so he should have a pretty easy time with Nickell Robey-Coleman.
Eagles Receivers vs. Cowboys Secondary
The Cowboys looked clueless last week without star running back Ezekiel Elliott and left tackle Tyron Smith. When their offense couldn’t generate anything, it left their defense out on the field longer, making them more vulnerable (also didn’t help that Sean Lee left the game with injury). The Eagles are coming in extremely hot. Alshon Jeffery has three touchdowns in his last two games and two of those were against Aqib Talib. His target share will likely drop from last week assuming Zach Ertz is coming back, but the Cowboys have given up the sixth most PPR points to wide receivers and Jourdan Lewis has given up three touchdowns in coverage. Quarterbacks have a rating of 102.7 when throwing at Lewis. Jeffery should be able to keep up his hot streak. I also like Nelson Agholor going up against slot corner Orlando Scandrick. Agholor has been quiet and out of the end zone in his last two games, but Pro Football Focus gives him a 27% matchup advantage and he’s due for a big game.
DeAndre Hopkins vs. Patrick Peterson
DeAndre Hopkins owns 2 of the top 4 game grades by a WR this season 👀 pic.twitter.com/023N9VWSML
— PFF (@PFF) November 9, 2017
Patrick Peterson has shadowed a wide receiver in every game except for last week. Doug Baldwin plays mainly in the slot where Peterson doesn’t usually cover so he bounced around. DeAndre Hopkins, however, plays only 17% of his snaps out of the slot so I think there’s a good chance Peterson follows him around. This is a battle of powerhouses. Hopkins has been targeted more than any receiver in the league and has the fifth most catches. Peterson is targeted the third least frequently in the league, give up the third fewest yards per target, and only surrenders a reception on one out of every 29.7 snaps that he’s in coverage, which is by far the best ratio among cornerbacks. Something’s gotta give here though, and one will get the best of the other.
Another matchup I like a lot is Mike Evans against Xavien Howard. Due to an injured Jameis Winston followed by a suspension, Evans has been in a bit of a slump lately. Even with Ryan Fitzpatrick as quarterback, he should be able to burn Miami’s defense. In two out of their last three games, Miami has given up 40+ points; once to the Ravens and once to the Panthers. Those two team are 30th and 16th in team offense respectively. Howard has given up three touchdowns and 343 yards in coverage, and quarterbacks have a 108.2 passer rating when throwing in his direction. Pro Football Focus gives Evans a 29% matchup advantage.
Josh Doctson vs Marshon Lattimore
After his spectacular, game saving catch against the Seahawks, Josh Doctson was followed around by Xavier Rhodes last week and couldn’t get himself free. In his second year, Doctson has shown big play ability but hasn’t been able to create much separation against the better cornerbacks in the league. This week he’ll be primarily covered by Marshon Lattimore, both Pro Football Focus’ highest graded rookie and highest graded overall cornerback. Lattimore is fifth in yards per cover snap and 14th in receptions per cover snap. The lone area of weakness in the Saints’ secondary has been Kenny Vaccaro covering the slot. With that in mind, look for another big day for Jamison Crowder who has combined for 13 catches and 199 yards in his last two games. He’s been the most targeted Redskin in that span.