words by Brian Johnson (@btxj); rankings by Paul Charchian
1. Antonio Brown at BAL - 10
Pay no attention to the 5-42 line Antonio Brown posted against the Ravens in Week 4. That was a Michael Vick game, and we all know that he is diseased. What deserves attention in the fact the Ravens have allowed the most touchdowns to wide receivers (25), and oh yeah, Brown just hung 16-189-2 on the best defense in the universe. It’s worth noting that Brown has scored on Baltimore just once in his career, but fantasy owners have to be feeling pretty good heading into this matchup.
2. Allen Robinson at NO - 10
So, Allen Robinson didn’t make the Pro Bowl. Makes perfect sense … not. Name recognition probably kept him out, but that won’t happen again. Robinson is now tied for the league lead with 13 receiving touchdowns, and he now gets to face the Saints, who have allowed the second-most touchdowns to wide receivers (23). In addition, New Orleans is ranked 28th by Football Outsiders in defending No. 1 receivers, which makes him a very strong play on Sunday. Look for Robinson to give the figurative “finger” to the flawed Pro Bowl voting system.
3. Mike Evans vs CHI - 9.5
It’s pretty simple, if you own Mike Evans, you want Vincent Jackson to sit on Sunday. Evans is averaging 4-62 with Jackson in the lineup, but when V-Jax is inactive, Evans’ per-game average spikes to 7-122 on an added six targets per game. Jackson (knee) is probably on the wrong side of questionable in what is now a lost season for the Bucs, so Evans is looking like a strong play. Chicago just allowed Stefon Diggs to score twice, and according to Football Outsiders, the Bears are ranked 30th in defending No. 1 receivers.
4. Jeremy Maclin vs CLE – 9.25
Jeremy Maclin now has six touchdowns in his first season with the Chiefs. Before this year, Kansas City wideouts totaled six touchdowns over their last 28 games. Talk about a difference maker, huh? And don’t forget that he missed some time with a concussion too! Anyways, Maclin has a great matchup with the Browns, who have allowed 19 touchdowns to wide receivers. Over the last four weeks, Maclin leads all wide receivers in target percentage, as he’s garnered more than 41% of the Chiefs’ targets. Expect his activity level to remain high as K.C. continues to push Denver for the AFC West crown.
5. Allen Hurns at NO – 9.25
Here’s something you may not know about Allen Hurns, he’s a road warrior. When away from Jacksonville, Hurns is averaging an added 27 yards, and nine of his 14 career touchdowns have come on the road (in three fewer games). As we all know, New Orleans is not a team to fear. TheSaints have allowed the second-most touchdowns to wide receivers (23), and non-No.1 receiver has scored against the Saints (at least once) in 11 straight games … 11! Hurns is listed as questionable, but that’s been the story all season, so he should suit up on Sunday.
6. DeSean Jackson at PHI (Saturday) – 9.0
DeSean Jackson missed the first meeting between these two teams, but last year, he had two monster performances against his former employer, totaling 9-243-1. The Eagles have surrendered the third-most touchdowns to wide receivers, and Jackson has scored in four of his last five games, so like John Travolta in the 70’s, Jackson should have fun on Saturday night. Washington could also clinch the NFC East with a win, so Jackson will be plenty motivated. Note that only five of Kirk Cousins’ 22 touchdown passes have come on the road.
7 and 8. Michael Floyd and John Brown vs GB – 9.0
Michael Floyd missed scoring by half a yard last week, which would have given him seven touchdowns in his last eight games. As for John Brown, he has now scored or registered at least 99 yards in his last eight full (healthy) games. This week, Floyd and Brown draw the Packers, who are somewhat stingy against the pass but could remain without top corner Sam Shields, who remains in concussion protocol. With Shields on the sideline last week, Oakland’s wide receivers racked up 200+ yards, which is a feat Floyd and Brown could accomplish as well. There’s a chance Shields (concussion) will play, which would drop their value a little, but Floyd and Brown are both solid WR2 play as Arizona looks to lock up a bye in the first round of the playoffs.
9. Doug Baldwin vs STL - 9.0
Doug Baldwin has now scored 10 touchdowns over the last four weeks. To put that into perspective, only six other receivers have managed to score 10 touchdowns … all season. Needless to say, Baldwin is white hot, and even though his matchup with the Rams doesn’t jump off the page, Baldwin remains a must-play. The Rams secondary has given up explosive games to an opposing receiver in four straight outings: Last week it was Mike Evans (157 yards), before that Golden Tate (two TDs), before that Both John Brown and Michael Floyd topped 100 yards, and before that AJ Gree scored twice. It’s worth noting Baldwin logged 7-35 against St. Louis in Week 1, but that was a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away….
10. Randall Cobb at ARI – 9.0
Randall Cobb has been really disappointing, but he could reel off some big plays now that Arizona’s standout slot corner, Tyrann Mathieu (knee), is done for the season. Just look at the 8-159-1 line fellow slot receiver Jordan Matthews posted on the Cardinals last week. Green Bay still has a chance to claim the No. 2 seed if they win this game, so the Packers will have the pedal to the metal. Over the last four weeks, Cobb has more receiving yards than Davante Adams and James Jones combined, so he remains the primary option in the passing game for the Pack.
11. Brandin Cooks vs JAX – 8.75
Brandin Cooks has scored seven touchdowns over his last seven games, and his prospects remain promising against the Jaguars, who haven’t faced many big name receivers this year. But the rare big names who played Jacksonville have good/great days. Just ask Julio Jones (9-118-1), T.Y. Hilton (4-132), Brandon Marshall (4-44-1), Jarvis Landry (8-110), and DeAndre Hopkins (10-148-2). Drew Brees (foot) is considered day-to-day, but he has vowed to play on Sunday, so Cooks owners shouldn’t be too worried on that front (hopefully).
12. Julio Jones vs CAR – 8.75
With two trips to Josh Nor-man’s land in the last three weeks, Julio Jones owners cannot catch a break. Jones managed a respectable 7-88 against Carolina two weeks ago, but a decent chunk of that production came in garbage time with Norman out of the picture. But, where will Josh Norman’s head be this week? It’s fair to speculate if the week’s distractions will affect him on the field. Regardless, Jones is a talent you cannot bench, and if Odell Beckham can score on Norman (should have scored twice), you have to give Jones a decent shot. Working in his favor is the fact that eight of the 11 wide receiver touchdowns allowed by the Panthers have come on the road.
13. DeAndre Hopkins at TEN – 8.75
DeAndre Hopkins owners are praying that Brian Hoyer (concussion) can make his return this week, because Brandon Weeden is the quarterbacking equivalent to Steve Harvey, beauty pageant host. In Week 8, Hopkins had 8-94-1 against the Titans, who have allowed a whopping nine touchdowns to wide receivers over their last five games, and six in their last three. In addition, four of the last six aforementioned touchdowns have gone to primary receivers. The Weeden downgrade factor is very real. He torpedoed the Cowboys for a month, and he could the same to Hopkins.
14. Jarvis Landry vs IND – 8.75
Jarvis Landry has seen double-digit targets in five of his last seven games, and in those five games he’s seen 10+ targets, Landry has caught a minimum of seven passes. He should remain busy against the Colts, who over their last five games, have allowed the second-most yards and the third-most touchdowns to wide receivers. Landry ranks fourth among wide receivers in red zone target percentage, which makes him a safe WR2 play (at worst) in a meaty matchup.
15. Sammy Watkins vs DAL – 8.75
If you take out two brutal matchups against the Jets and Patriots, when Sammy Watkins was shadowed by elite corners Darrelle Revis and Malcolm Butler, Watkins has scored in six straight games, totaling eight touchdowns. On paper, his matchup with Dallas isn’t all that great, as the Cowboys have surrendered just eight touchdowns to wide receivers, three in their last six games. But comparable primary receivers have dropped some big numbers on Dallas. See DeSean Jackson (6-80-1), Mike Evans (8-126), Jordan Matthews (9-133-1 and 6-80-1), Julian Edelman (4-120-1), and Julio Jones (12-164-2).
16. Martavis Bryant at BAL – 8.75
Martavis Bryant was still serving his suspension when these teams met in Week 4, but he has a nice history against the Ravens in his short career. Bryant totaled three touchdowns in two meetings with Baltimore last year, and it’s not farfetched to think he’ll add to that total on Sunday. The Ravens have allowed the most touchdowns to wide receivers (25), and according to Football Outsiders, they rank 26th in defending No. 2 receivers. Over the last five games, Bryant is averaging 10+ targets per game, so his usage rate should be high on Sunday in a must-win for the Steelers. Note that two of Ben Roethlisberger’s 18 touchdowns have come on the road.
17. Eric Decker vs NE – 8.5
Despite missing one game due to injury, Eric Decker is now the most targeted wide receiver in the red zone and also inside the 10-yard line. Decker was targeted 12 times when these teams meat in Week 7, and with Brandon Marshall tied up with Malcolm Butler, Decker was a fantasy helper with 6-94. A similar outcome can be expected on Sunday, as Marshall and Butler are sure to tango again, which should leave Decker to roam free among New England’s inferior corners. The Patriots could also be without starting safety Devin McCourty, who missed last week’s game with an ankle injury.
18. Demaryius Thomas vs CIN – 8.5
Brock Osweiler has been confirmed as the starting quarterback on Monday night, which probably bodes well for Demaryius Thomas considering four of his five touchdowns have come from Osweiler. Denver was once destined for the playoffs, but they could be left on the outside looking in if they lose out, so they’ll be firing on all cylinders come Monday night. Over the last four weeks, the Bengals have allowed the most catches to wide receivers, but they do have corners Adam Jones and Leon Hall back in the mix, so as it’s been all year, you’ll want to temper your expectations with Thomas.
19. Golden Tate vs SF – 8.5
Golden Tate was once left for dead, but with five touchdowns over his last four games, he has become fantasy-viable when it matters most. Tate could continue to be a savior against the 49ers, who are allowing a healthy 13-182 and nearly a touchdown per game to opposing wide receivers. In addition, opposing secondary receivers have registered a minimum of 89 yards in three of San Fran’s last four games. Calvin Johnson has also been vert ineffective as of late, so Tate could see some extra targets come his way.
20. Ted Ginn at ATL – 8.5
Is this real life? Ted Ginn has scored two receiving touchdowns in three straight games, which now gives him 10 on the season. Before this year, Ginn had caught 11 touchdowns across eight seasons! One of those two-touchdown games came two weeks ago against this week’s opponent, Atlanta, so you have to put faith in Ginn this week, no? In addition to Ginn, the Falcons have surrendered four touchdowns to primary receivers over their last three games, so continue to ride the hot hand.
21. T.Y. Hilton at MIA – 8.5
22. Kamar Aiken vs PIT – 8.25
Kamar Aiken has averaged 10+ targets over his last six games, and he should be busy against the Steelers, who are targeted 23 times per game (on average) by opposing wide receivers. In Week 4, Aiken logged 5-77-1 against the Steelers, who have allowed nine wide receiver touchdowns over the least five weeks. As of this posting, it’s yet to be determined whether Jimmy Clausen or Ryan Mallet will start at quarterback for the Ravens, but it really doesn’t matter. Either guy is sure to send plenty of passes Aiken’s way, as Baltimore should surely be playing from behind for the majority of this game.
23. Emmanuel Sanders vs CIN – 8.25
Unlike Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders fared better with Peyton Manning under center, as he averaged more targets, receptions, yards, and touchdowns. Sanders does have two 100+ yard games in his four starts with Brock Osweiler at the helm, so he certainly has potential to produce (Osweiler is starting by the way). Over the last four weeks, the Bengals have allowed the most catches to wide receivers, but they do have corners Adam Jones and Leon Hall back in the mix.
24. Brandon Marshall vs NE – 8.25
It’s not a great week to be a Brandon Marshall owner because a meeting with shutdown corner Malcolm Butler is on the books. When these teams met in Week 7, Marshall managed 4-67, which is the kind of production you can expect on Sunday. According to Football Outsiders, New England ranks fifth in defending No. 1 receivers, allowing 60 YPG. Furthermore, the Patriots have surrendered only two scores to wideouts over the last five weeks, and they both went to receivers running out of the slot.
25. Stefon Diggs vs NYG – 8.25
26. Jordan Matthews vs WAS (Saturday) – 8.25
27. Calvin Johnson vs SF – 8.0
Calvin Johnson (ankle) just doesn’t look right. In each of the last two games, he has caught just one pass for less than 20 yards. Ouch. And at a much higher level, he’s been brutal all season (outside of three touchdowns on Thanksgiving), as his only 100 yard performance required overtime to get there. Still, Megatron’s name brand makes him tough to bench, and this is a good matchup for wide receivers. San Francisco is allowing 13-182 and nearly a touchdown per game to opposing wideouts, and they have been waaaay worse when playing on the road.
28. Larry Fitzgerald vs GB - 8.0
29. Rueben Randle at MIN – 8.0
Rueben Randle gets a significant bump now that Odell Beckham’s suspension has been upheld.
30. Amari Cooper vs SD (Thursday) – 8.0
31. Michael Crabtree vs SD (Thursday) – 8.0
32. A.J. Green at DEN – 8.0
A banged up A.J. Green (back) with A.J. McCarron as his quarterback is bad news against the Broncos. Be warned.
33. Willie Snead vs JAX – 8.0 (if Brees plays)
34. Tyler Lockett vs STL – 8.0
35. Dez Bryant at BUF – 7.75
36. *Danny Amendola at NYJ – 7.75
37. *Julian Edelman at NYJ – 7.75
38. Donte Moncrief at MIA – 7.75
39. Brandon LaFell at NYJ – 7.75
40. Pierre Garcon at PHI – 7.75
41. *Stevie Johnson at OAK (Thursday) – 7.5
42. Dontrelle Inman at OAK (Thursday) – 7.5
43. Anquan Boldin at DET – 7.5
44. DaVante Parker vs IND – 7.5
45. Dwayne Harris at MIN – 7.25
46. Nate Washington at TEN – 7.25
47. Dorial Green-Beckham vs HOU – 7.25
48. *Kendall Wright vs HOU – 7.25
49. Travis Benjamin at KC – 7.25
50. Marques Colston vs JAX – 7.25
51. Tavon Austin at SEA – 7.25
52. Malcolm Floyd at OAK (Thursday) – 7.25
53. Jermaine Kearse vs STL – 7.0
54. Davante Adams at ARI – 7.0
55. Devin Funchess at ATL – 7.0
56. James Jones at ARI – 7.0
57. Jamison Crowder at PHI – 7.0
58. Marvin Jones at DEN – 6.75
59. Chris Givens vs PIT – 6.75
60. Terrance Williams at BUF – 6.75
61. Brandon Coleman vs JAX – 6.5