Greg Cosell is one of the most respected NFL analysts in the country, and he’s been a contributor/consultant with Fantasy Guru for about 10 years. When it comes to analyzing matchups and personnel, Greg is the best. No one watches more film than he does thanks to his gigs at NFL Films and as the Senior Producer for the Matchup Show on ESPN. It’s been great to have him on our side, and he’s really helped us with our player scouting and more.
Yet again we’ve locked Greg into doing a weekly matchup column. Greg usually rolls into the NFL Films offices at the crack of dawn each Monday morning, and he dives right into the coach’s tape. He’s absorbed in film for 3-4 days, and this season he’ll be paying special attention to specific matchups for the upcoming week that can greatly affect the fantasy world.
Arizona Game Plan
It looks as though Carson Palmer is a no-go for tonight’s matchup, and with Drew Stanton under center, HC Bruce Arians and the Cardinals will likely be tweaking their offense to a great extent. Arians has been around Stanton for awhile now, and while he’s no Carson Palmer, Arians knows the strengths and the limitations of Stanton. There’s no way he’s looking at the San Fran offense and thinking they’ll put up 27-30 points, so the Cards will likely play it close to the vest and limit turnovers. NaVorro Bowman is out for San Fran so I expect a heavy dose of not only David Johnson, but also Andre Ellington. We’ll see a strong run game along with some short passes, an area in which Ellington could certainly excel if Johnson needs a breather—which could be the case, considering how much the Cards will want to use the run game.
Eagle WRs vs. Lions Pass Defense
Coming off their bye, the Eagles are looking really really good on paper. For their Week 5 matchup, my eyes are going right to Eagle WR Jordan Matthews. He’s already developed nice chemistry with QB Carson Wentz, and on the opposite side, Quandre Diggs is the Lions’ slot CB and much much smaller than Matthews. Additionally, Matthews is almost the one constant in this entire offense. Other WRs may get targets here and there, the backfield is a committee of sorts, but we know that Matthews is going to get plenty of targets on a weekly basis. I’m not totally sure where returning TE Zach Ertz fits in right now, but the Lions defense has a lot of openings and places to attack. Most importantly for the Eagle passing attack is that Matthews likely won’t see much (if any) of CB Darius Slay, one of the best in the league.
DeAndre Hopkins/Will Fuller vs. Xavier Rhodes/Terence Newman
I know so many people are frustrated with the lack of production from DeAndre Hopkins, and he simply hasn’t been used the way he was before, and it looks like Will Fuller could be the different maker going forward. And this is definitely not a get-well matchup by any means. Hopkins doesn’t have explosive quickness by any means like a WR such as Odell Beckham does and he should be seeing Xavier Rhodes all night, who excels with man-to-man, so Rhodes will likely contain him. Elsewhere in the Viking secondary, Terence Newman is up in there in age, but he’s obviously playing better than Trae Waynes. Overall, Brock Osweiler’s top 2 passing options should have some trouble. And Osweiler likely will have issues himself, too. The double-A gap look and the nickel package with Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr manning the LB positions in the center should cause a lot of disruption in this Houston passing attack.
Jets Defensive Struggles vs. Steelers Offensive Successes
So far this season, the Jets have had numerous breakdowns in zone coverage concepts, which is very uncharacteristic of a Todd Bowles defense. They also haven’t blitzed as much, which is also something that doesn’t come to mind when you think of a Jet defensive unit. They can certainly get back to that but right now the communication struggles in the secondary are more than evident, and without a great pass rush, the Pittsburgh offense should have no trouble moving the ball well. Sammie Coates has a 22 YPC rate right now and is catching over 70% of the passes thrown to him, so he’s been the best beneficiary of Antonio Brown’s talents. The Steelers move Brown all over the place which makes it difficult for teams to zero in on him with certain coverage concepts. Having Brown and Coates on opposite sides has proved to be lethal, as Coates gets the 1-on-1s. We even saw this last week against one of the top CBs Marcus Peters. Brown drew major attention from the KC secondary, and Coates was able to beat Peters on the first play of the game in 1-on-1 coverage for a 40+ yard gain.
Atlanta vs. Denver
This could be a really fun game to watch on both sides of the ball. Atlanta has as good a fusion of run and pass concepts of any in the league, but they're now playing a great defense in Denver. One thing Atlanta has going for them though is that they play primarily out of base personnel, and when you’re playing Denver, you really want to avoid playing Denver in their dime package because it’s so good. So if Atlanta can stay in a relatively manageable down-and-distance for most plays and play the majority of the game against Denver’s base package, they should be in OK shape.
On the other side of the ball, Desmond Trufant has been traveling quite well with the elite WRs of the league, shutting down Brandin Cooks two weeks ago and then Kelvin Benjamin last week. I’d like to think he’d match up against Emmanuel Sanders this week. Demaryius Thomas is their No. 1 WR, but Sanders usually lines up on Trufant’s traditional side and recently, Sanders has been more of a deadly weapon here. That’s not to say it’ll be an exclusive battle, but I’ll be looking for the Trufant vs. Sanders matchup closely, something which could definitely open up a door for Demaryius.
Dallas vs. Cincinnati Battle in the Trenches
The Dallas offensive line is really starting to play well together. Even this past week they didn’t have La’El Collins or Tyron Smith and still performed up to the task. Mainly, it’s because of the interior of Ronald Leary and Zack Martin at G and Travis Frederick at C. They did a nice job last week working together and opening up holes for Ezekiel Elliott. Cincy’s run defense is nothing to scoff at though, so how well those three work together will be key, as they’ll be working against some excellent tackles in Domata Peko and Geno Atkins. Dallas has evolved pretty much into a run first team with Zeke, which is originally what I believed they wanted to do before the season began.
Oakland Passing Offense vs. San Diego Defense
Things could have been a little better for the Chargers, but now that they don’t have Jason Verrett in the secondary, it could get ugly. Verrett likely would have matched up on Amari Cooper playing zero-man which would have allowed the rest of the secondary to try and do other things to take away Michael Crabtree. A lot of people are upset with Cooper so far, but sometimes the tape shows more than the stats. Two weeks ago against Tennessee, Cooper ran right by Jason McCourty and left him in the dust, but Derek Carr overthrew what would have been a 45-yard TD. There are plenty of plays like that which don’t show up on the stat-sheet and, if they were converted, no one would be complaining. I can’t say for sure that Carr is elevating himself to be an elite quarterback, but what I can say is that there’s no one better right now operating in the redzone than Carr. He’s thrown 16 redzone passes this season and 7 of them have gone for TDs. Oakland leads the NFL in redzone TD percentage at over a whopping 90%.
New York Giants vs. Green Bay
The entire Giant offense was bad last week and it seemed like they were so concerned about the speed of the Viking defense that they tried to play fast and wound up playing too fast to handle themselves. But this week for Odell Beckham, Eli Manning and company, things look a bit better. Sam Shields is still in concussion protocol and Damarious Randall has been very up and down. He’s also iffy to play so if he can’t go, the lack of depth might force this Packer defense to be a nickel defense on 3rd down instead of dime. There just wouldn’t be any other option if they don’t have enough CBs.
It’s not like the Giant defense is unstoppable, however. Green Bay is coming off the bye and their best performance of the season. Eli Apple is out of practice right now and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie might only have a limited role, so I’m thinking this could very well be a shootout. The Giants also have a lot of issues at Safety. For Green Bay, Aaron Rodgers had a get-well game last time out against a bad defense that had defined looks. Rodgers is a QB who’s all about timing and rhythm and when the defense gives defined looks, he’s able to get into that rhythm. S Nat Berhe is concussion and S Darian Thompson didn’t practice Wednesday for the Giants, so if neither can go it’ll be a big issue.