words by Brian Johnson (@btxj), rankings by Paul Charchian
1. DeAndre Hopkins vs NO - 10
One week after turning Revis Island into a luxury resort with all-inclusive stats, DeAndre Hopkins gets to face one of the worst secondaries in football. It’s almost not fair. The Saints have allowed the second-most touchdowns to wide receivers, and No. 1 receivers like Odell Beckham (8-130-3) and T.Y. Hilton (4-150-2) have torched them in recent weeks. Brian Hoyer will be back at quarterback, which is good because Hopkins averaged an added two receptions and 20 yards with Hoyer under center.
2. Odell Beckham at WAS - 10
Odell Beckham has played Washington twice in his career and has totaled 19-222-4. Needless to say, OBJ has been very successful against his division rival, and he’ll look to stuff the stat sheet again on Sunday. The Redskins have surrendered the second-most touchdowns to wide receivers, and opposing primary receivers have scored in five straight games. Beckham can obviously score from distance, but he’s also ranked third among receivers in red zone target percentage, so lofty expectations are warranted in this one.
3. Julio Jones vs MIN – 9.75
There’s a plethora of impressive Julio Jones stats, but it must be noted that Jones is currently on pace to tie Marvin Harrison’s single-season record of 143 receptions set in 2002. With yardage totals of 160, 137, and 162 in his last three games, Jones is just on another planet right now and is a must-start regardless of opponent. Minnesota doesn’t pose as the best matchup on paper, but over the last four weeks, the Vikings have allowed the sixth-most catches and fourth-most touchdowns to wide receivers. Jones could also be relied upon more if Devonta Freeman (concussion) were forced to sit.
4. Calvin Johnson vs PHI (Thursday) - 9.25
There’s no denying it, Calvin Johnson comes to play on turkey day. Megatron has scored at least once in his last six Thanksgiving games, and he’ll have a great chance to keep that streak alive against Philadelphia. The Eagles have seen the second-most red zone targets from opposing wideouts, and according to Football Outsiders, Philly is ranked dead-last in defending No. 1 receivers. Johnson (ankle) is still listed on the injury report, but he didn’t suffer any setbacks last Sunday, so he’ll be fine come Thursday.
5. Larry Fitzgerald at SF – 9.25
Despite being the elder statesman, Larry Fitzgerald is Arizona’s healthiest starting wide receiver, and as a result, he has seen lofty target totals of 13 and 15 over the last two games. Fitz has had monster games this year, but he has also been incredibly consistent. He has topped 85 yards and/or scored at least once in every game but one. But back to those monster games; back in Week 3, Fitz tallied 9-134-2 against the 49ers, who allow more than 187 yards and a touchdown per game to wide receivers.
6. Antonio Brown at SEA – 9.25
Normally, you sit any receiver going into Seattle, but c’mon, this is Antonio Brown. Over the last four weeks, Brown has garnered the most targets, caught the most passes, and tallied the most yards among wide receivers. And, Brown has only played three games during that span. As for the Seahawks, they have allowed a mere three touchdowns to wide receivers, but two came against the Cardinals in Week 10, who absolutely shredded Seattle’s secondary. Even Anquan Boldin had a nice day in Seattle last Sunday, totaling 93 yards on five catches.
7. Brandon Marshall vs MIA - 9
Miami’s once dominant secondary is now a miserable mess, which means Brandon Marshall should be in line for another great game on Sunday. The Dolphins have allowed eight wide receiver touchdowns over their last five games; and that bodes well for Marshall, who has scored in seven of 10 games and is ranked fourth in red zone target percentage. Marshall went for 7-128 in Week 4 against the Dolphins, who are ranked 30th by Football Outsiders in defending No. 1 receivers.
8. Demaryius Thomas vs NE - 9
Brock Osweiler has been Denver’s starting quarterback for basically a game and a half. In those six quarters, Osweiler has targeted Demaryius Thomas 17 times, as the two players appear to be building some chemistry. The Broncos will need this duo to step up against the Patriots, who have allowed the second-most yards to wide receivers. Thomas is averaging 7-117 (with two total TDs) in six career games against New England and has failed to top 90 yards just once.
9. Brandin Cooks at HOU - 9
The sheer awfulness of the Saints defense is a blessing in disguise for Brandin Cooks, as New Orleans is often forced to resort to the pass because they’re playing from behind. Cooks has scored five times in his last three games, and he’s yet to record fewer than four catches in a game. His matchup this week is on the better side of neutral, as the Texans are allowing more than touchdown per game to receivers and could be without their top cornerback, Johnathan Joseph, who left last week’s game with a knee injury.
10. Mike Evans at IND – 8.75
Since the start of last season, Mike Evans has averaged an added six targets in games when Vincent Jackson was inactive, so Evans owners were not happy to see V-Jax return to the lineup last week. Evans saw only seven targets against the Eagles, but he should get more looks versus the Colts. Opposing wide receivers are averaging more than 23 targets against Indy, who has also surrendered the fifth-most touchdowns to the position (12). More importantly, Colts cornerback Vontae Davis left last week’s game with a hamstring injury and did not return. His status for Sunday is very much in question.
11. Eric Decker vs MIA – 8.75
Eric Decker dropped his first true stinker of the season last week, but he’ll look to make right against a reeling Dolphins defense. Decker logged a 4-46-1 line against Miami in Week 4, and it’s safe to say their secondary has gotten worse since then. The Dolphins have allowed eight wide receiver touchdowns over their last five games, and according to Football Outsiders, they are ranked 29th in defending No. 2 receivers. And Decker is a force in the red zone. On plays run from inside the 20-yard line, Decker is eighth in targets fourth in receptions, and second in touchdowns.
12. Jarvis Landry at NYJ – 8.75
In three career games against the Jets, Jarvis Landry has never scored or topped 70 yards. When these teams met in Week 4, Landry logged 4-40 (with 29 rushing yards), but he was targeted a hearty 12 times. Landry was also shadowed by Darrelle Revis on more than half of his routes, but that might not be a concern on Sunday. Revis suffered a concussion against Houston last week and has not yet been cleared to play. The Jets have also allowed nine wide receiver touchdowns in their last six games, so there’s hope for Landry to score.
13. *Alshon Jeffrey at GB (Thursday) – 8.75
Alshon Jeffery (shoulder/groin) has been a limited participant in practice and will probably be a game-time decision come Thursday night. Jeffery managed to log 5-78 against the Packers in Week 1, but it’s unlikely he was at 100% (which is no surprise). Green Bay isn’t the greatest matchup on paper, as they’ve allowed only seven touchdowns to wide receivers. But according to Football Outsiders, the Packers are ranked 27th in defending No. 1 receivers, allowing 78 YPG. And comparable primary target hogs have had big days against the Pack. See: Jeremy Maclin (8-141-1), Keenan Allen (14-157), and Demaryius Thomas (8-168).
14. DeSean Jackson vs NYG – 8.75
Since returning from injury in Week 9, DeSean Jackson has been Washington’s most-targeted receiver, and his services will be sorely needed in a crucial divisional matchup. Jackson did practically nothing against the Giants last year (as a Redskin), but he’s no stranger to monster games against the G-Men. The Giants are allowing 84 YPG to opposing No. 1 receivers, and over their last three games, opposing receiver corps are averaging 27 targets. Cornerback Prince Amukamara (pectoral) is slated to make his return, which hurts Jackson’s cause, but the best way to beat New York is still through the air and not on the ground.
15. *Michael Floyd at SF – 8.5
There is hope that Michael Floyd (hamstring) will be able to play on Sunday, but he’ll probably come down to a game-time decision, so be sure to monitor his status closely. Hopefully he can suit up, because history suggests Floyd will have a good game. He filled the box score with 8-153-2 in his last full game against the 49ers, and Floyd topped 90 yards and/or scored at least once in their last five meetings. The 49ers aren’t much of a threat against the pass, as they allow more than 187 yards and a touchdown per game to wide receivers.
16. *Emmanuel Sanders vs NE – 8.5
Emmanuel Sanders (ankle/toe) wasn’t able to suit up last Sunday, and his status for Sunday night’s tilt with New England is murky at best. This is a situation that needs to be monitored very closely, but if Sanders is deemed healthy enough to play, he warrants a start in most fantasy formats. The Patriots have seen the fifth-most targets from opposing wide receivers, and as a result, they have surrendered the second-most yards to wide receivers. And for what it’s worth, Sanders caught 10 balls for 151 yards when these teams met last November.
17. Randall Cobb vs CHI (Thursday) – 8.5
Randall Cobb isn’t reeling off big games as some expected, but with touchdowns in two of his last three, he’s trending in the right direction. Cobb has totaled six touchdowns in his last four games against Chicago, which included a 5-38-1 line versus the Bears in Week 1. Chicago’s defense has been playing better of late, but they have allowed multiple wideout touchdowns in four games, the latest instance coming last week against Denver. Cobb is ranked second in red zone target percentage among receivers, and he has more RZ targets than every other Packer wideout combined, so he’s always a threat to score.
18. Allen Robinson vs SD – 8.5
Allen Robinson is now sixth in yards and third in touchdowns among wide receivers, and his 20 catches of 20+ yards are the most in the league (by a fair margin). And Robinson rarely hurts his fantasy owners, as he has topped 80 yards and/or scored at least once in eight of his last nine games. With a target percentage north of 25%, Robinson is getting a healthy amount of looks, but he could get more attention with Allen Hurns nursing multiple injuries. This week’s matchup with San Diego is tough. The Chargers have allowed the third-fewest yards to wideouts, and cornerback Jason Verrett is emerging as one of the better shadows in the business. But Robinson has become unbenchable, so start him as you would, but temper expectations.
19. Michael Crabtree at TEN – 8.5
It’s still hard to determine if the Raiders’ No. 1 receiver is Michael Crabtree or Amari Cooper, but you can make the argument that Crabtree is the more efficient of the two. Crabtree has logged more targets, catches, and touchdowns, and he’s done in it in 82 fewer snaps than Amari Cooper. For whatever reason, Crabtree isn’t on the field as much, but since Oakland’s Week 6 bye, he has garnered 48 targets to the 41 of Cooper. This week’s matchup is fairly neutral for Crabtree. The Titans have allowed just one wide receiver touchdown over the last three games, but their secondary has been decimated by injury, and they no longer have their best corner, Jason McCourty.
20. Amari Cooper at TEN – 8.5
Amari Cooper had the worst game of his young career last week, failing to catch at least four passes for the first time all season. Cooper was a landmine in fantasy lineups, but he shouldn’t be relegated to the bench as a result. Cooper is one of 11 receivers with 50+ catches and 700+ receiving yards, and in the last three weeks, his red zone targets have tripled from the from the games prior. This week’s matchup isn’t great by any means, as Tennessee has allowed just one wide receiver to score over their last three games. But their secondary has been decimated by injury, and they no longer have their top corner, Jason McCourty.
21. T.Y. Hilton vs TB – 8.5
With only three touchdowns and one 100-yard game, it’s been a rough season for T.Y. Hilton owners, but at least there’s a prime matchup on the horizon. Tampa Bay is far more susceptible to the pass than they are the run. The Bucs have surrendered 13 wide receiver touchdowns to just four (rushing) touchdowns to running backs. Yes, the ancient Matt Hasselbeck is the starting quarterback, but in two of three starts by Mr. Clean (Hasselbeck), Hilton was a fantasy helper in PPR (7-67 and 5-88).
22. Allen Hurns vs SD – 8.5
Allen Hurns only played in 70% of Jacksonville’s offensive snaps last week, and coupled with his poor performance, it’s quite possible his abdomen injury is a significant hindrance. That being said, there are no signs that point toward Hurns sitting on Sunday, and he should be a solid start against San Diego. Cornerback Jason Verrett is likely to shadow Allen Robinson for the majority of this game, which would leave Brandon Flowers to cover Hurns. Flowers has been brutal this year, and that’s why more than half of the wide receiver touchdowns surrendered by the Chargers have gone to secondary receivers.
23. Dez Bryant vs CAR (Thursday) – 8.25
Dez Bryant versus Josh Norman … oh boy, this is going to be good. It doesn’t get much better, so watch your tryptophan levels, because you’ll want to be awake for this showdown. For those residing under a rock, Norman has become an elite cover corner, and he’s sure to travel with Dez all day. Bryant looks to be nearly 100% after missing most of the season with a broken foot, and the return of Tony Romo is certainly a boon for his value. He’s in store for a battle in Nor-man’s land though. According to Football Outsiders, the Panthers are the top-ranked team in defending No. 1 receivers, and they have allowed just six touchdowns to the position (as a whole).
24. A.J. Green vs STL – 8.25
Ugh. Tyler Eifert has harpooned A.J. Green’s fantasy value. Since Week 4, Green has scored one touchdown, while Eifert has scored eight (!) times. During that same span, Green has topped 100 yards only once. It’s been a brutal stretch, and it probably won’t get better against the Rams. St. Louis has allowed four scores to wideouts all year, and just one opposing receiver has topped 100 yards.
25. Martavis Bryant at SEA – 8.25
Yes, the matchup/location is daunting, but Martavis Bryant is now a must-start, especially when Ben Roethlisberger is healthy. Bryant has scored at least once in four of five games, and he’s garnered fewer than eight targets just once during that same span. Pro Football Focus projects that Richard Sherman will shadow Antonio Brown, which would leave the inferior Cary Williams on Bryant. That is yet to be seen though, so don’t get your hopes up. But even though Seattle has allowed only three wide receiver touchdowns, they were exposed by the Cardinals in Week 10. Arizona’s wideouts combined for 20-281-2, and the Steelers have comparable fire power, so again, Bryant is a must-start.
26. Vincent Jackson at IND - 8
27. Nate Washington vs NO – 8
28. Willie Snead at HOU – 8
29. *Danny Amendola at DEN – 8
30. Stevie Johnson at JAX - 8
31. Travis Benjamin vs BAL – 8
32. Donte Moncrief vs TB - 8
33. Jeremy Maclin vs BUF – 7.75
34. Stefon Diggs at ATL – 7.75
35. Sammy Watkins at KC – 7.75
36. Jordan Matthews at DET – 7.75
37. *Kendall Wright vs OAK – 7.75
38. Dorial Green-Beckham vs OAK – 7.75
39. Cecil Shorts III vs NO – 7.75
40. Rueben Randle at WAS – 7.75
42. John Brown at SF – 7.75
43. Brandon LaFell at DEN – 7.5
44. Golden Tate vs PHI (Thursday) – 7.5
45. James Jones vs CHI (Thursday) – 7.5
46. Tavon Austin at CIN – 7.5
47. Rishard Matthews at NYJ – 7.5
48. Doug Baldwin vs PIT – 7.5
49. Tyler Lockett vs PIT – 7.5
50. Pierre Garcon vs NYG – 7.25
51. Anquan Boldin vs ARI – 7.25
52. Devin Funchess at DAL (Thursday) – 7.25
53. Jamison Crowder vs NYG – 7.25
54. Ted Ginn at DAL (Thursday) – 7.25
55. Marquess Wilson at GB (Thursday) – 7.25
56. Brian Hartline vs BAL – 7.25
57. Leonard Hankerson vs MIN – 7
58. Kamar Aiken at CLE – 7
59. Dontrelle Inman at JAX – 7
60. Andre Johnson vs TB – 7
61. Terrance Williams vs CAR – 6.75
62. Chris Givens at CLE – 6.75
63. Marvin Jones vs STL – 6.75
64. Marques Colston at HOU – 6.75
65. Robert Woods at KC – 6.5
66. Torrey Smith vs ARI – 6.5