Matchups to Attack
Brandin Cooks vs Tre Flowers
Brandin Cooks hasn’t needed a huge target share to produce at a high level this season. He has only seen a 24.6% target share (33 targets), but he has turned those into 26 receptions for 452 yards and one touchdown. His touchdown rate is significantly lower than fellow wide receivers, Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods, but Cooks currently ranks second on the team in red zone targets (7), suggesting he could see positive regression throughout the season. Furthermore, he has scored between 14 and 29 DK points in each of his four games, while failing to record double digit targets in any game.
Cooks has played 57% of his snaps as Los Angeles’ left outside receiver this season, meaning he’s likely to match up against Tre Flowers, who has played 92% of his snaps as Seattle’s right outside corner. Flowers has graded out as Pro Football Focus’ second worst cornerback in the NFL. He has allowed a 65% catch rate, while being targeted on 25% of his routes covered. He has also struggled, allowing 0.43 fantasy points and 2.07 yards per route covered. Cooks has flashed early in his career with the Rams, and it’s only a matter of time before he has a breakout game similar to Cooper Kupp last week.
Stefon Diggs vs Jalen Mills
Stefon Diggs hasn’t taken over as the Vikings top receiver, as many expected, but he has still seen plenty of opportunities this season. Through four games, he’s averaging 6.8 receptions for 77.8 yards and 0.8 touchdowns on 11.0 targets per game. While Diggs is somewhat of a clear number two behind Adam Thielen, this offense has proven it can sustain two dominant WRs, as both receivers rank in the top-12 of the NFL in air yards this season. Diggs has also flashed elite upside, scoring 26.3 and 38.9 fantasy points in two of his four games.
He moves around the formation quite a bit, but he has played the majority (39%) as the Vikings right outside receiver. He gets a matchup against Jalen Mills, who has played 97% of his snaps as the Eagles left outside cornerback. Mills has been targeted on 22% of his routes covered, allowing a 66% catch rate this season. He also ranks in the bottom-10 of the NFL, allowing 2.36 yards per route covered. Overall, Mills has graded out as PFF’s seventh worst cornerback in the NFL. The other Philadelphia corners – Sidney Jones and Ronald Darby – have also struggled quite a bit this season, meaning Diggs could find success in any matchup, regardless of where he lines up, this week.
JuJu Smith-Schuster vs Brian Poole
JuJu Smith-Schuster has taken on a bigger role in the Steelers offense, recording only four fewer targets than Antonio Brown this season. Overall, he owns a 26.5% target share, while leading the team in receptions and receiving yards. He has proven that he can create his own yardage, ranking third in the NFL in yards after catch (191) this season. Most importantly, Smith-Schuster has been a major factor in the red zone, as he has seen 13 red zone targets through only four games. Early this season, he has featured an elite 54.2% red zone target share, although he has only successfully found the end zone once.
Smith-Schuster has run 87% of his routes out of the slot this season, and he will be matched up with Brian Poole, who has played 95% of his snaps as Atlanta’s slot corner. Poole has only been targeted on 15% of his routes covered this season, but Pittsburgh will manufacture targets for Smith-Schuster in this game. Poole has allowed a 68% catch rate, and Atlanta’s defense has taken another hit with Grady Jarrett injured this week. Regardless of Jarrett’s injury, Poole has graded out as a bottom-15 cornerback in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus. Smith-Schuster has the potential to dominate some of the best corners in the league, and this is a matchup he should have no problems finding success in.
Matchups to Avoid
Pierre Garcon vs Patrick Peterson
I recommended to avoid Garcon last week, and he posted one of his best games of the season, but still struggled. He has failed to score double digit fantasy points in any of his first four games, while averaging a 2.8/35.3/0.0 line on 5.3 targets per game. He ranks second on the San Francisco team in targets, but features only a 17.1% target share. He will also be playing with C.J. Beathard at quarterback, who continues to be a major downgrade from Jimmy Garoppolo.
Garcon has played 47% of his snaps as the 49ers outside right receiver this season. He’ll matchup with Patrick Peterson, who has played 68% of his snaps as the Cardinals left outside cornerback. Peterson has allowed a 60% catch rate this season, but he has only been targeted on 11% of his routes covered. He also ranks in the top-five of the NFL, allowing only 0.13 fantasy points per route covered. Furthermore, Peterson has graded out as PFF’s second ranked cornerback in the NFL this season. Garcon has struggled in plus matchups, and there’s no reason to believe he will find success in a significantly more difficult matchup this week.
John Brown vs Denzel Ward
John Brown has quietly been enjoying an outstanding season, although he has been a bit inefficient. He only features a 50% catch rate, but he ranks third in the NFL in air yards, while also ranking first of receivers with 60 or more receiving yards in aDOT. Brown has also found the end zone three times, although he has only seen three red zone targets. He ranks second on the team in targets, but only features a 17.9% target share. Overall, he makes up for his inefficiencies as a receiver with his big play potential, as he’s averaging 22.5 yards per reception this season.
Brown has played the majority of his snaps (47%) as the Ravens right outside receiver, while Denzel Ward has played the majority of his snaps (90%) as the Browns outside left corner. They’ll matchup against each other, and the advantage seems to go to Ward. He has graded out as a top-three cornerback in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. Overall, he has allowed a 57% catch rate, while being targeted on 17% of his routes covered. He is also giving up only 1.33 yards per route covered, suggesting he is the type of cornerback that could slow down Brown’s big play ability. Without his big plays over the top of defenses, Brown could struggle to hit value for the first time this season.
Doug Baldwin vs Nickell Robey-Coleman
Doug Baldwin returned to action this week, catching five passes for 41 yards on seven targets. He played 75.8% of the offensive snaps, which is a bit low for him, but he is expected to see a larger share this week. Seattle has been spreading the ball around this season, and they have attempted only 26 passes in each of their last two games. They seem to have a heavier focus on running the ball this season, although they should be playing from behind against the Los Angeles Rams, suggesting they could throw 30+ passes this week. Still, Baldwin’s injury and role is a bit unknown at this points.
While Baldwin has only played limited snaps this season, he has been Seattle’s slot receiver for quite some time, and that has not changed. He’ll face off against Nickell Robey-Coleman, who has played 95% of his snaps as Los Angeles’ slot corner this season. Robey-Coleman has allowed a 65% catch rate, while being targeted on 17% of his routes covered this season. More importantly, he has allowed only 0.27 fantasy points per route covered, while grading out as PFF’s 12th best cornerback in the NFL. I may have considered Baldwin if he was healthy and Seattle’s offense was playing well, but there are simply too many factors against him this week, including Robey-Coleman’s dominant play early this season.