words by Brian Johnson (@btxj), rankings by Paul Charchian
1. Antonio Brown at CIN – 10
Antonio Brown has now topped 100 yards and scored twice in two of his last three games, and his prospects look good against a familiar foe. Brown went for 6-47-1 against the Bengals in Week 8, and he has topped 115 yards and/or scored a touchdown in their three meetings prior. The Bengals usually stout secondary has been susceptible to the pass this season, so Brown’s matchup is on the better side of neutral. If you exclude their three games against the hapless Rams and Browns (twice), the Bengals have surrendered 10 wide receiver touchdowns over their last eight games. Starting cornerback Adam Jones is also unlikely to play, so giddy up.
2. Odell Beckham at MIA - 10
Odell Beckham is white hot right now. He has topped 100 yards in five straight games and has totaled six touchdowns during that span. And there don’t appear to be any signs of slowing down with Miami on the horizon. The Dolphins have allowed the fourth-most touchdowns to wide receivers (16), and according to Football Outsiders, they rank dead last in defending No. 1 receivers. Injuries on the Giants’ offensive line remain a concern, but with 58 targets over the last four weeks, New York will find a way to get the ball in Beckham’s hands.
3. Allen Robinson vs IND – 9.5
Over the last four weeks, Allen Robinson has averaged nearly three red zone targets per game, so it’s no surprise he now leads all receivers in touchdowns. He’ll look to stay hot against the Colts, who are top-three in yards allowed to receivers and have surrendered the fourth-most touchdowns to the position (16). Allen Hurns is set to make his return, so Robinson might see a slight decrease in targets, but he’s still a premium play. Robinson logged a respectable 4-80 when these teams met in early October, but opposing primary receivers have had monster days against Indy throughout the season; just ask Brandon Marshall (7-101-1), DeAndre Hopkins (11-169), Julio Jones (9-160), and Antonio Brown (8-118-2).
4. Brandon Marshall vs TEN – 9.5
Brandon Marshall now has at least 100 yards and/or at least one touchdown in every game but one. It’s been an incredible season for Marshall, and it could only get better against the Titans. Tennessee has allowed the fourth-most touchdowns to wide receivers (16), and seven of those scores have come over the last two games! Furthermore, the Titans have seen four opposing wide receivers top 100 yards in just the last three weeks, so Marshall certainly has a chance to shine on Sunday.
5. Sammy Watkins at PHI – 9.5
Sammy Watkins is on a serious roll and all signs point to booyah [Charch: RIP Stuart Scott] with Philly on the docket. The Eagles have allowed the most touchdowns to wide receivers (20), and according to Football Outsiders, they rank 29th in defending No. 1 receivers, allowing 92 YPG. In addition, opposing No. 1 receivers have totaled seven touchdowns over the Eagles’ last five games. Tyrod Taylor has shown the ability to throw the deep ball, so Watkins has become very viable in ripe matchups, and this is certainly fits the bill.
6. Larry Fitzgerald vs MIN (Thursday) – 9.5
Larry Fitzgerald has averaged more than 12 targets and nine catches over the last five weeks, so it appears he’s still been bathing in the fountain of youth. Even though his team is heavily favored, it’s hard to imagine Fitz won’t be showcased on national television against the team from his home state, right?! Minnesota has allowed six wide receiver touchdowns in their last four games, three of which have gone to primary receivers over the last three games. The Vikings are also without key players at every defensive level, including both starting safeties, so start Fitzgerald with confidence.
7. A.J. Green vs PIT – 9.25
Tyler Eifert has absolutely sapped A.J. Green’s value this year, that’s common knowledge at this point. So, it’s no surprise that Green was able to score twice with Eifert on the sideline last week. Unfortunately for Green owners, Eifert is “on track” to play this week, but that doesn’t mean Green can’t have a big game. Including their meeting in Week 8, Green’s catch totals in his last four games against the Steelers are 11, 8, 11, and 9. He has averaged more than 129 yards across those four games, while totaling two touchdowns. The Steelers have also surrendered the second-most red zone receptions to wide receivers, so Green has a chance to touch painted grass, even with Eifert back in the mix.
8. Mike Evans vs NO – 9.25
Mike Evans was strictly a decoy when these teams met in Week 2, so obviously an improvement on his zero catches can be expected. Considering the Saints have allowed the most touchdowns to wide receivers (20), Evans should have a good day, even with Vincent Jackson in the lineup. Evans averages an extra five targets when Jackson is inactive, and although that won’t be the case on Sunday, there should be plenty to go around against New Orleans’ porous secondary. The Saints just surrendered four scores to Carolina’s rag-tag crew of wideouts, so a score for Evans is certainly feasible.
9. Alshon Jeffrey vs WAS – 9.25
Alshon Jeffery was supposed to absolutely destroy the 49ers, and although he disappointed, Jeffery could punish a Washington secondary that has been very generous to wideouts. The Redskins have allowed the third-most touchdowns to wide receivers (20), and they haven’t been able to shut down opposing primary receivers. Washington “found” a way to limit Dez Bryant last week (thanks, Matt Cassel), but in previous games prior, they allowed big days to Odell Beckham (9-142-1), Brandin Cooks (5-98-2), Mike Evans (8-164-1), and Brandon Marshall (7-111-1). The Bears just placed Martellus Bennett on IR, so a slight bump in targets for Jeffery can also be expected.
10. Martavis Bryant at CIN – 9.25
It’s evident that Martavis Bryant has the ability to go bonkers, and there’s no reason he can’t hit his ceiling against the Bengals. Cornerback Leon Hall (back) was inactive last week, and his availability for Sunday is in question. And Adam Jones is highly unlikely to play. Those are two big losses. But overall, Cincy hasn’t been as good against the pass this year. If you exclude their three games against the hapless Rams and Browns (played twice), the Bengals are surrendering more than one touchdown per game to opposing wideouts. Bryant had just 4-49 against Cincy in Week 8, but he scored in both meetings last season, so his past performance is a plus.
11. DeAndre Hopkins vs NE – 9.0
DeAndre Hopkins got back on his horse last week, and he has now scored at least once in four of his last five games. Hopkins’ target totals have actually been down a little in the last two weeks, but he leads all receivers in red zone target percentage, and he’s sure to be active in a crucial showdown with the Patriots. But Hopkins is sure to see shadow treatment from shutdown corner Malcolm Butler, who deserves the majority of credit for recently holding Demaryius Thomas and Sammy Watkins under 40 yards. It’s a tough draw for Hopkins, but hell has to freeze over (twice) before you consider benching him.
12. Jarvis Landry vs NYG – 9.0
Jarvis Landry dropped a giant goose egg in a premium matchup last week, but don’t let that sway you from starting him against the Giants. New York has allowed the second-most catches to wide receivers, which bodes very well for a target hog such as Landry, who is top-10 among receivers in target percentage. Landry is also fourth in catches inside the red zone, and he has garnered the most looks inside the 5-yard line, so he’s a threat from anywhere on the field.
13. Eric Decker vs TEN – 9.0
Eric Decker continues to be a fantasy helper in every game he plays. He has scored in eight of 11 games played, and in the games he’s failed to find pay dirt, Decker has yardage totals of 81, 94, and 101. Without a doubt, Decker has been money in the bank, and he probably won’t disappoint against Tennessee. The Titans have surrendered the fourth-most scores to wideouts (16), and seven of those score have come over the last two games. In addition, the Titans are ranked 30th by Football Outsiders in defending No. 2 receivers.
14. Brandin Cooks at TB – 9.0
Brandin Cooks was somewhat quiet against the Bucs in Week 2 (5-62), but he still has the potential to make some serious noise on Sunday. Tamp Bay has surrendered the third-most red zone receptions to wide receivers, so it’s no surprise they are fourth in touchdowns allowed to the position. The Saints are in a downward spiral as a whole, especially on defense, but that’s been a blessing in disguise for Cooks. He has scored in four of the last five games, totaling six touchdowns. And for what it’s worth, Cooks logged 9-56 in his lone meeting with the Bucs last season.
15. John Brown vs MIN (Thursday) – 9.0
After a full practice on Wednesday, John Brown (hamstring) looks to be fully healthy, even though that was evident when he reeled off 113 yards against the Rams last week. Brown has a very high ceiling against a Vikings team, who has allowed six wide receiver touchdowns in their last four games and will most likely be without their No. 1, 2, and 3 safeties.
16. Calvin Johnson at STL – 8.75
Granted, Calvin Johnson has played indoor home games throughout his career, but it’s worth noting that nearly 70% of his touchdowns have come with a roof over his head. So at least he has that going into a matchup with the Rams that doesn’t look all that good on paper. Or does it? On the bad side, St. Louis has allowed the third-fewest yards to wide receivers, and they’ve only surrendered seven scores to the position. On the bright side, four of those seven touchdowns have come over the last three games, as the Rams all have one foot in the grave and the other in Los Angeles [Charch: isn’t that redundant?]. Megatron is a must-start, but there’s cause for some concern … and some confidence.
17. Demaryius Thomas vs OAK – 8.5
Demaryius Thomas was held in check against the Raiders in Week 5 (5-55), but that was with the flagging Peyton Manning, and he has topped 100 yards in their three previous meetings. With all that said, Peyton Manning was under center in those games, and things are certainly different with Brock Osweiler at the helm. But “different” doesn’t necessarily mean worse. Thomas has scored in two of Osweiler’s three starts, and although the Raiders have allowed a modest seven wide receiver touchdowns, they are top-10 in catches and yards allowed to the position.
18. T.Y. Hilton at JAX – 8.5
It’s been a rollercoaster ride with T.Y. Hilton this season, but unfortunately it’s been more downs than ups. Or are downs better than ups when it comes to rollercoasters? Let’s put it this way, Hilton has been a true WR1 in two games, and a viable WR2 in a handful of others, but he has not taken the next step. Hopefully he can add value this week against the Jaguars, who Hilton had a respectable 7-67 against in early October. Even with a dinged-up Matt Hasselbeck at quarterback, his aforementioned output should be a safe floor, but there’s room for upside against a wobbly Jacksonville secondary. The Jaguars are allowing more than a touchdown per game to wide receivers, and nearly half those touchdowns have come over the last five weeks. If Hasselbeck can’t go, all bets are off.
19. Doug Baldwin at BAL – 8.5
Yes, Doug Baldwin gets a write up this week! With six touchdowns in his last four games, how could he not? Prior to these last four games, Baldwin totaled six touchdowns in his last 27 games. That’s quite the quantum leap. Needless to say, he is in the zone, and the absence of Jimmy Graham certainly helps. And although this pace isn’t sustainable, another big week is plausible with the Ravens on deck. Baltimore has surrendered the second-most touchdowns to wide receivers (19), and “Baldwin types” like Travis Benjamin (6-90-1) and John Brown (4-65-1) have racked up solid number against the Ravens in recent weeks.
20. Vincent Jackson vs NO – 8.5
In 23 games with Mike Evans on the field, Vincent Jackson is averaging 4-59 on eight targets per game. Those numbers are a bit of a downer considering Evans is healthy, but there should be plenty to go around against the Saints. New Orleans has allowed the most touchdowns to wide receivers (20), and over their last five games, they’ve allowed a combined nine touchdowns to depth receiving options Dwayne Harris, Justin Hunter, Jamison Crowder, Cecil Shorts, and Ted Ginn/Jerricho Cotchery/Devin Funchess. Jackson logged 5-54-1 against the Saints in Week 2 with Mike Evans playing decoy, but those numbers are still attainable this week.
21. Michael Floyd vs MIN (Thursday) – 8.5
Michael Floyd was targeted 12 times last week, and he made some amazing catches in route to a nice 100+ yard day. Needless to say, his hamstring looks okay. There are a lot of mouths to feed in the desert, but Floyd could have a big night against Minnesota. The Vikings have allowed six wide receiver touchdowns in their last four games and will most likely be without their No. 1, 2, and 3 safeties.
22. Emmanuel Sanders vs OAK – 8.5
Emmanuel Sanders disappeared last week, but don’t put him on the pine against a team he burned for 9-111 back in Week 5. It’s also worth noting that Sanders totaled two touchdowns in as many meeting with Oakland last year. But of course, Peyton Manning was the starter in those games, but Sanders showed big game potential with Brock Osweiler just two weeks ago. As for this week’s matchup, the Raiders are on the better side of neutral, as they are top-10 in catches and yards allowed wide receivers.
23. Allen Hurns vs IND – 8.5
Allen Hurns had a hell of a day against Indy in Week 4 with 11-116-1, so despite a couple recent clunkers, don’t think twice about starting him on Sunday. Remember, Hurns went seven straight games with a touchdown, and he stands good chance to score in a great matchup. The Colts are top-three in yards allowed to receivers and they have surrendered the fourth-most touchdowns to the position (16). What bodes extremely well for Hurns is that 12 of those 16 touchdowns went to secondary receiver options.
24. Jordan Matthews vs BUF – 8.25
There’s still a case to be made for Jordan Matthews, who despite playing in quarterback purgatory, has scored in three of his last five games. Matthews also has a plus matchup against the Bills, who will be without one of the better corners in the game, Stephen Gilmore (shoulder). At a high level, Buffalo’s resume against wide receivers is not that impressive. The Bills are allowing more than 15-175-1 per game to wideouts, and opposing primary receivers have scored or topped 100 yards in four straight weeks.
25. Danny Amendola at HOU – 8.25
Danny Amendola looked just fine in his return from a knee injury, and he should be all systems go after not suffering any reported setbacks. His matchup against Houston is not all that great, as the Texans have allowed just 105 YPG to opposing receiving corps over the last five weeks. But on the flip side, opposing wideouts are averaging more than a touchdown per game, and Houston has allowed three scores to the position in their last three games, with two going to primary receivers. And with target totals of 13, 12, and 11 in his last three games, Amendola = primary.
26. Julio Jones at CAR – 8.0
Julio Jones hasn’t scored since Week 8, and he’s unlikely to bust that slump against Carolina. Behind the shutdown prowess of corner Josh Norman, the Panthers have held Allen Robinson, Dez Bryant, DeAndre Hopkins, T.Y. Hilton, and Mike Evans to a combined 153 yards. That’s 30.6 yards per player, and oh yeah, none of them scored. Over the last three weeks, Brandin Cooks (6-104-1) and DeSean Jackson (5-87-1) both managed to fill the box score, but in general, this is a bad matchup for Jones. Not to mention, Julio failed to top 60 yards in both meetings with the Panthers last year when Nor-man’s land had not yet been established. Expectations must be tempered.
27. Jeremy Maclin vs SD – 8.0
28. Donte Moncrief at JAX – 8.0
29. Anquan Boldin at CLE – 8.0
30. DeSean Jackson at CHI – 8
31. DaVante Parker vs NYG – 8.0
32. Dez Bryant at GB – 7.75
With Matt Cassel as his quarterback, Dez Bryant is a disaster. He is averaging less than four catches and 50 yards with Cassel at the helm, and their lone touchdown connection was practically a Hail Mary. Bryant is still an insane talent, and he appears to be near 100%, thus very difficult to bench. Unfortunately, his matchup is not all that great, as the Packers have allowed just one wide receiver touchdown in their last four games. Yes, the touchdown went to the comparable Calvin Johnson, but Bryant is diseased with Cassel throwing the ball.
33. Amari Cooper at DEN – 7.75
The Broncos have still just allowed one wide receiver touchdown on the season. Be warned.
34. Marvin Jones vs PIT – 7.75
35. Dorial Green-Beckham at NYJ – 7.75
36. Rueben Randle at MIA – 7.75
37. Randall Cobb vs DAL – 7.5
38. Travis Benjamin vs SF – 7.5
39. Golden Tate at STL – 7.5
40. Malcolm Floyd at KC – 7.5
41. Robert Woods at PHI - 7.5
42. *Marquess Wilson vs WAS – 7.5
43. Devin Funchess vs ATL – 7.5
44. Ted Ginn vs ATL – 7.5
45. Brandon LaFell at HOU – 7.25
46. Michael Crabtree at DEN – 7.25
47. Willie Snead at TB – 7.25
48. Nate Washington vs NE – 7.25
49. Tyler Lockett at BAL – 7.25
50. Brian Hartline vs SF – 7.25
51. Jermaine Kearse at BAL – 7.25
52. Tavon Austin vs DET – 7.25
53. James Jones vs DAL – 7.0
54. Pierre Garcon at CHI – 7.0
55. Stefon Diggs at ARI (Thursday) – 7.0
56. Kamar Aiken vs SEA – 7.0
57. Torrey Smith at CLE – 7.0
58. Marques Colston at TB – 7.0
59. *Stevie Johnson at KC – 7.0
60. *Dontrelle Inman at KC – 6.75
61. Davante Adams vs DAL – 6.75
62. Jamison Crowder at CHI – 6.75
63. Chris Givens vs SEA – 6.75
64. Terrance Williams at GB – 6.5