Receiver plays are a week-to-week thought process, due to a variety of outside factors impacting receiver performance. One of the best ways to predict who will break out is by examining their secondary opponents for that individual game. Every week of the season, Sam Smith will take a look at advantageous matchups for receivers against vulnerable secondaries, whether it be schematic advantage or merely a weaker cornerback head up on a star receiver. Let’s get into some NFL Matchups and give out some NFL DFS picks for your fantasy football lines, Week 4 on DraftKings, FanDuel, Yahoo and FantasyDraft, including Keenan Allen and DK Metcalf.
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Chargers at Dolphins: Keenan Allen vs. Xavien Howard
I kept Keenan Allen off my favorable matchups list last week, largely because I liked the way Houston’s secondary on the whole lined up. As it turned out, that “team effort” approach proved completely irrelevant. Allen continued on his torrid pace and now leads the NFL in targets, receptions and yards. On the other side, Xavien Howard‘s individual greatness made no difference in shadowing Amari Cooper last week. Maybe it was an off week.
Either way, he played well below his reputation in week 3. And given the complete lack of help Howard is getting from teammates, it is clear that any top-flight receiver is going to be a must-play against Miami. Allen is a must-play most weeks anyway at this point, so this seems the perfect windfall to throw money at the game’s premier receiver.
Redskins at Giants: Terry McLaurin vs. Janoris Jenkins
Terry McLaurin as WR1; who would have thought? McLaurin was a well-regarded prospect, but he was still a third-round pick, as well as someone who got lost in the shuffle a bit at Ohio State. With no other receivers established much in Washington, it is pretty clear where Case Keenum will be throwing the ball this week against a reeling Giants secondary.
The question will be whether or not New York chooses to shadow McLaurin with Janoris Jenkins. Jenkins had a rough go of it with Mike Evans in week 3 as Evans essentially got whatever he wanted. The problem for New York is that rookie DeAndre Baker has been even worse to this point. As such, the Giants’ best chance at slowing McLaurin may be a bracket coverage while hoping that no one else beats them. But since we have mostly seen Jenkins shadowing, we will assume New York goes in that direction. If that happens, advantage McLaurin.
Seahawks at Cardinals: D.K. Metcalf vs. Cardinals’ Deep Coverage
Here we have one of our first receiver-corner rookie matchups of the season. D.K. Metcalf‘s strong start to his career does not necessarily suggest the projections for him were off. Rather, the projections oversold how much his weaknesses would matter, at least initially. Sure, Metcalf runs in straight lines and not much else. But those straight-line routes have resulted in over 70 yards per game and 24 yards per reception. So even if Metcalf is catching fewer than half of his targets, he has lethal potential, week-in and week-out.
Russell Wilson targeted Metcalf’s counterpart Tyler Lockett a ton in week 3 (14, 11 catches). But if Metcalf matches up against rookie Byron Murphy, the opportunities downfield should be there in abundance. Murphy is better in zone coverage than in man-to-man, particularly in cover 3 where he can float a bit and break on underneath routes. However, defending deep balls against Metcalf can be tough for the most seasoned of cover corners. The Cardinals currently rank 28th in DVOA on deep balls and 31st on short throws to Murphy’s side, per Football Outsiders. In other words, this may be the week to see if Metcalf can become a volume target early in his career.
Steelers vs. Bengals: JuJu Smith-Schuster vs. Bengals’ Secondary
I am curious to see how the Bengals attack this matchup. JuJu Smith-Schuster is far and away the Steelers’ top target and Cincinnati has the NFL’s worst DVOA against opposing top-two receivers. And that number is not even close to being close. However, much of that comes down to the high yardage allowed against a relatively low number of targets. That can be interpreted essentially as the Bengals’ secondary keeping top receivers from getting targeted, but when the targets come, they result in chunk yardage. Smith-Schuster, while not currently ranking among the league’s best statistically, has made his living on home runs through three games. He has at least one catch of 25 yards or more in all three games, including a 76-yarder in week 3.
Cincinnati seems to value its two corners, Dre Kirkpatrick and William Jackson III, about equally. They keep them on their sides, at least they have thus far, so I do not expect either to shadow Smith-Schuster. That said, this will be the first game for the Bengals against a truly-defined ace receiver. In three games, their opposing “number-one receiver” was open to interpretation. That will not be the case this week. With Mason Rudolph delivering the ball, chances are Smith-Schuster sees a low percentage of catchable passes–he caught only three of seven last week. However, he is still going to get the lion’s share of the targets, and against this Bengals’ secondary, he may be ripe for a handful of big plays..
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