words by Brian Johnson (@btxj), rankings by Paul Charchian
1. Julio Jones at TB - 10
Julio Jones has great history against the Bucs. Not only did he log 12-162-1 against the Bucs in Week 8, but Jones has topped 100 yards and/or scored at least once in five of the six prior meetings. Jones has also been more heavily relied upon on the road, averaging 16 targets per game as opposed to 10 targets at home. As it’s been all season, Tampa Bay is far more beatable through the air than on the ground. The Bucs are allowing more than 170 yards and a touchdown per game to wideouts, and more specifically, more than 80 YPG to No. 1 receivers.
2. DeAndre Hopkins at BUF – 9.75
We all know DeAndre Hopkins failed to go off last week in the ripest of matchups, but he should bounce back against the Bills, who have been generous to the last five primary receivers they have faced: Jeremy Maclin (9-160-1), Danny Amendola (9-117), Brandon Marshall (3-23-1), Jarvis Landry (11-69), and Allen Robinson (6-98-1). The Bills have seen the second-most targets and fourth-most red zone targets from opposing wideouts, so Hopkins will have his opportunity to shine, especially in the red. Nuk leads all receivers in red zone target percentage and is the only player with 20+ looks from inside the 20-yard line.
3. Odell Beckham vs NYJ – 10
It sounds like Darrelle Revis (concussion) will be inactive, so giddy up, Odell Beckham. As a whole, the Jets’ secondary is seriously struggling, as they’ve allowed more than 200 yards and two scores per game to receivers over the last five weeks. And Beckham is just on an absolute tear. He has topped 100 yards in four straight (while totaling five touchdowns), and dating back to last year, Beckham has breached that watermark in 13 of his last 20 games. I'll note some concern for the Giants injury-riddled offensive line that may not allow Eli Manning enough time to set up long passes.
4. Alshon Jeffrey vs SF – 9.75
It’s a good week for Alshon Jeffery owners, as he looks healthy heading into a juicy matchup (on extended rest) with the 49ers. Jeffery (groin/shoulder) was very effective on Thanksgiving night, and he didn’t suffer any setbacks, so it’s all-systems-go on Sunday. San Francisco has surrendered a healthy 11 wide receiver touchdown, but more importantly, eight of those scores came with the 49ers on the road. In addition, San Fran is allowing 94 YPG to opposing No. 1 receivers, and Jeffery holds at least a five-inch height advantage over the 49ers’ starting cornerbacks.
5. Antonio Brown vs IND – 9.5
Antonio Brown had a pretty good day against Indy last season (10-133-2), but it’s important to note that cornerback Vontae Davis was injured early in that game. Davis is healthy heading into this one, so the circumstances are different, but Brown’s matchup isn’t half-bad. The Colts are allowing 90 YPG to opposing No. 1 receivers, and according to Pro Football Focus, Davis has only shadowed one receiver since Week 5. That player was Demaryius Thomas, but notable wideouts that Davis did not travel with during that span include Mike Evans, Julio Jones, Brandin Cooks, and DeAndre Hopkins.
6. Allen Robinson at TEN – 9.5
With 100+ yards and/or at least one touchdown in seven straight games, Allen Robinson continues to ascend towards super stardom. Robinson torched the Titans to the tune of 5-113 just two weeks ago, so it’s reasonable to have lofty expectations. Since Week 7, a laundry list of opposing No. 1 receivers (including Robinson) have thrived against Tennessee: Amari Cooper (7-115), Brandin Cooks (4-73-1), DeAndre Hopkins (8-94-1), and Julio Jones (9-92-1). Allen Hurns is also very banged up and questionable to play, so Robinson’s role could expand even more.
7. Brandon Marshall at NYG – 9.5
With five touchdowns in his last four games, Brandon Marshall continues to manufacture points for his fantasy owners. Among wide receivers, Marshall is ranked seventh in target percentage and second in red zone target percentage, so he is obviously a threat from anywhere on the field. As it’s been all season, New York defends the run far better than the pass. Over their last four games, opposing primary receivers like DeSean Jackson, Danny Amendola, Mike Evans, and Brandin Cooks have combined to average 7-96 with three total touchdowns.
8. Calvin Johnson vs GB (Thursday) – 9.25
Calvin Johnson has scored in three of his last four home games against Green Bay, and he logged a respectable 6-81 when these teams met at Lambeau in Week 10. Needless to say, this is a pretty good matchup, as the Lions are surging and the Packers are reeling. According to Football Outsiders, Green Bay is ranked 27th in defending No. 1 receivers, allowing 84 YPG. In addition, Megatron is one of 12 wideouts who have garnered at least 25% of their team’s targets, and the following comparable target hogs have shredded the Pack: Demaryius Thomas (8-168), Keenan Allen (14-157), and Jeremy Maclin (8-141-1).
9. Jarvis Landry vs BAL – 9.0
Jarvis Landry has garnered the most targets from inside the 5-yard line, and the Ravens have seen the third-most targets from receivers in goal-to-go scenarios, so this is a match made in heaven. On a high level, Baltimore’s secondary is absolutely brutal, as they have allowed the second-most touchdowns to wide receivers. In addition, the woeful Rams were the only opposing team that failed to register multiple receiver touchdowns over the Ravens’ last six games. Ryan Tannehill has locked in on Landry over the last four games, targeting him an average 12 times.
10. Martavis Bryant vs IND – 9.0
It’s all about the No. 2 receiver when it comes to facing the Colts. Indy has surrendered 12 wide receiver touchdowns, and 10 of those have gone to secondary options. Enter Martavis Bryant, who has scored in 7 of 10 career home games, which have accounted for 10 of his 13 career touchdowns. Making Bryant even more attractive (statistically) is his usage without Le’Veon Bell. It’s not a huge sample size, but in his three games without Bell on the field, Bryant is averaging an added five targets and 32 yards.
11. T.Y. Hilton at PIT – 9.0
No Andrew Luck? No problem. T.Y. Hilton is averaging more targets, receptions, and touchdowns with Matt Hasselbeck under center, and he has a great matchup in the Steelers. Pittsburgh has allowed the most catches and the second-most yards to receivers (with 14 touchdowns), and they’ve recently been ripped by speedy “T.Y. Hilton types” such as Doug Baldwin (6-145-3), Travis Benjamin (7-113), and John Brown (10-196). In addition, the Steelers have seen the most red zone targets from opposing wideouts, which bodes well for Hilton, who was heavily utilized inside the 20-yard line last week, garnering three targets.
12. Larry Fitzgerald at STL – 9.0
Larry Fitzgerald has always been heavily involved against St. Louis. His catch totals in their last five meetings are 7, 7, 9, 12, and 8. Fitzgerald is having a renaissance season, and he has been very active in the last four games with target totals of 14, 13, 14, and 11. Fitzgerald has also garnered the second-most targets from inside the 10-yard line, and as a result, Fitzgerald is third in touchdowns among receivers. Those are all good things. What’s not good is that the Rams have surrendered just six touchdowns to wide receivers, but on the bright side, three of those scores have come in the last two weeks.
13. Eric Decker at NYG – 8.75
Eric Decker has now scored in eight of 10 games played, and in the two games he didn’t score, Decker had yardage totals of 94 and 81. What more can you want? Okay, as fantasy players, we always want more, but Decker is easily one of the most reliable receiver options out there. He also has a good matchup this week in the Giants. New York is allowing more than 184 YPG to opposing receivers, and they’ve seen the seventh-most red zone targets to the position. Decker has garnered the third-most red zone targets among receivers, so per his usual, he is a legit threat to score.
14. Danny Amendola vs PHI – 8.5
Danny Amendola (knee) is expected to make his return against the Eagles, and oh boy, is it a soft landing spot. The Eagles have surrendered the most touchdowns to wide receivers, and with target totals of 11 and 12 in his last two starts, Amendola is clearly a vital part of the passing game when healthy. And for those living under a rock, Rob Gronkowski won’t be playing, so Amendola should get some extra attention from Tom Brady.
15. Amari Cooper vs KC – 8.5
Amari Cooper rebounded nicely last week, and he could continue to roll against Kansas City. The Chiefs’ secondary has played dramatically better since the return of corner Sean Smith, but No. 1 receivers have seen plenty of opportunities. Opposing primary receivers are averaging well over 10 targets versus the Chiefs, and the only No. 1 receivers who failed to register double-digit looks were Stevie Johnson and Marquess Wilson. Of course, Johnson and Wilson were No. 1s by default (injury), unlike Sammy Watkins, who just went off for 6-158-2 against KC last week.
16. A.J. Green at CLE – 8.5
A.J. Green broke a brutal scoring drought last week, but recent history suggests he won’t stuff the stat sheet against the Browns. Green has failed to top 53 yards or score in their last five meetings. There’s been a mixed bag of healthy/effective Joe Haden during that span, but Haden hasn’t played in over a month, and he won’t really factor in this game, even if he plays. The real concern is how much the Bengals will need to throw, as the Browns own the third-lowest opponent passing play percentage (54%) and will be starting Austin Davis at quarterback, so points should not be expected.
17. Donte Moncrief at PIT – 8.5
Donte Moncrief has seen a slight uptick in catches and yards with Matt Hasselbeck, but his activity has ramped up in Hasselbeck’s last two starts, as Moncrief has totaled 17 targets. Moncrief should be heavily utilized in a projected shootout with the Steelers, who are sneaky good against the run. Pittsburgh has allowed the most catches and the second-most yards to receivers. Furthermore, the Steelers just surrendered five touchdowns to the putrid Seahawks receivers, so there should be plenty to go around for the Colts behind the shockingly efficient Mr. Clean Hasselbeck.
18. Jeremy Maclin at OAK – 8.5
Jeremy Maclin’s picture was on a milk carton for about a month, but he made his presence felt last week, and the upward trend could continue against Oakland. Shockingly, the Raiders have only surrendered five touchdowns to wide receivers, but they are top-nine in yards and top-five in targets and receptions allowed to the position. Maclin should see nice volume, and don’t forget that his recent numbers were suppressed by the smothering secondaries of the Chargers and Broncos. He’s still got game.
19. Brandon LaFell vs PHI – 8.5
If Danny Amendola were to miss this game, Brandon LaFell might be a top-five receiver this week. Alas, Amendola is expected to play, but that doesn’t mean LaFell still isn’t in a great spot. The Eagles are awful in nearly every regard, but they are especially craptastic in defending wide receivers. Philly has surrendered the most touchdowns to the position, and they rank 31st (per Football Outsiders) in defending No. 1 receivers, or split ends, such as LaFell. In addition, Rob Gronkowski will be inactive, so a few more targets should funnel LaFell’s way.
20. Dez Bryant at WAS – 8.25
Dez Bryant is docked serious points when Matt Cassel is his quarterback – there’s no way around it. Washington is a great matchup for wide receivers, as they have allowed the third-most touchdowns to the position, but again … Matt Cassel. This will be the first meeting of the season for these two teams, but Bryant has totaled four scores over his last three games against Washington. That being said, Tony Romo was the quarterback in those games, so let us remind you … Matt Cassel. Be warned.
21. Demaryius Thomas at SD – 8.25
There’s really no point in discussing the history of Demaryius Thomas versus the Chargers. This will be the first meeting of the season between these two teams, and the most recent contests occurred when Peyton Manning had a pulse, and San Diego employed a piss-poor secondary. Times have certainly changed for both teams. Manning is done-zo, and the Chargers have one of the better secondaries in the league behind shutdown cornerback Jason Verrett. San Diego has surrendered seven wide receiver touchdowns, and only two wideouts have topped 100 yards. Thomas was brutal last week, but if Verrett shadows Emmanuel Sanders, which is possible, Thomas could have a very positive matchup against Brandon Flowers.
22. Mike Evans vs ATL – 8.25
The return of Vincent Jackson has obviously hurt Mike Evans’ value, but there’s another troubling trend that looms over his tough matchup with the Falcons. Evans’ home/road splits suggest he prefers playing outside of Tampa, because 11 of his 14 career touchdowns have come in enemy territory. That doesn’t bode well for Evans in this home game, and Atlanta is not an ideal matchup. The Falcons have surrendered a mere three touchdowns to wide receivers, and Evans registered just 3-48 against them in Week 8. Jackson wasn’t active in that game either, so he wasn’t there to steal targets, which further suggests expectations for Evans need to be tempered.
23. Sammy Watkins vs HOU – 8.25
Sammy Watkins went off last week, but don’t get too excited about his prospects against Houston. The Texans have allowed just one wide receiver touchdown over their last four games, and no wideout has topped 100 yards against them since Week 4. Watkins is a wild card in tough matchups, but Rex Ryan has professed they need to get him the ball more, so hopefully he’ll be involved early and often. That held true last week, but that was Watkins’ first game of the season with double-digit targets. Long story short: a repeat monster performance is highly unlikely but not impossible.
24. Emmanuel Sanders at SD – 8.25
The Chargers are much tougher against the pass this year, as they’ve surrendered just seven scores to wide receivers. On a positive note, Sanders is likely to draw coverage from Brandon Flowers, the lesser of San Diego’s two corners, and if he can garner at least nine targets (like he did last week), Sanders should produce. This season, Sanders has seen at least nine targets in six games. In those games, Sanders has averaged 7-96 while totaling four touchdowns.
25. Randall Cobb at DET (Thursday) - 7.75
Let’s start with a history lesson. Randall Cobb rarely does well against the Lions, having scored in just one of their last five meetings. Like he did in Week 10, Cobb will draw coverage from solid slot corner Quandre Diggs, who held him to 5-53. Granted, Cobb was targeted 10 times in that game, which is good, but Detroit’s secondary has buttoned up in their last three games, surrendering just one receiver touchdown during that span. That is bad for Cobb.
26. Kamar Aiken at MIA – 7.75
27. Marvin Jones at CLE – 7.75
28. Michael Crabtree vs KC – 7.75
29. Michael Floyd at STL – 7.75
30. Vincent Jackson vs ATL – 7.75
31. Jordan Matthews at NE – 7.75
32. DeSean Jackson vs DAL – 7.75
33. Brandin Cooks vs CAR - 7.75
34. John Brown at STL – 7.75
35. Kendall Wright vs JAX – 7.75
Tennessee's No. 1 wideout, Kendall Wright, fell off people's radar when a knee injury sidelined him for a month. But, he's back, he's healthy, and he's got a great matchup against a lousy Jaguars secondary. They've allowed WR touchdowns in five of the past six games. And that includes scores to dubious talents like Dontrelle Inman, Chris Givens, Marcus Easley, and Robert Woods.
36. Davante Adams at DET (Thursday) – 7.75
37. Stefon Diggs vs SEA – 7.75
38. Devin Funchess at NO – 7.75
39. Willie Snead vs CAR – 7.5
40. Golden Tate vs GB (Thursday) – 7.5
Non-No. 1 WRs don't do much versus the Packers. And, Tate’s done very little in his three games against the Packers since joining the Lions, as he’s failed to top 52 yards or score a touchdown.
41. Doug Baldwin at MIN – 7.5
42. Rueben Randle vs NYJ – 7.5
43. DaVante Parker vs BAL – 7.5
44. Ted Ginn at NO – 7.5
45. Travis Benjamin vs CIN – 7.25
46. Chris Givens at MIA – 7.25
47. Dontrelle Inman vs DEN – 7.25
48. Tavon Austin vs ARI – 7.25
49. Pierre Garcon vs DAL – 7.25
50. Dorial Green-Beckham vs JAX – 7.0
51. Stevie Johnson vs DEN – 7.0
52. James Jones at DET (Thursday) – 7.0
53. Terrance Williams at WAS – 7.0
54. *Leonard Hankerson at TB – 7.0
55. Nate Washington at BUF – 7.0
56. Tyler Lockett at MIN – 7.0
57. Dwayne Harris vs NYJ – 7.0
58. Jamison Crowder vs DAL – 6.75
59. Anquan Boldin at CHI – 6.75
60. Torrey Smith at CHI – 6.75
61. Marques Colston vs CAR – 6.5
62. Brian Hartline vs CIN – 6.5
63. Jermaine Kearse vs MIN – 6.5