Written and Ranked by Brian Johnson (@btxj)
1. Odell Beckham vs SF
Odell Beckham isn’t necessarily lighting it up, but he’s averaging 10+ targets and has scored in both home games this season. Beckham has a plus matchup in the 49ers, who have surrendered the third-most yards to wide receivers, and they have allowed big days to No. 1 receivers such as Antonio Brown (9-195-1) and Larry Fitzgerald (9-134-2).
2. Julio Jones vs WAS
Well, Julio Jones is human after all. But he has a nice matchup on the horizon against the Redskins, so Jones could be in store for a big bounce-back game. Washington has allowed at least one touchdown to opposing wide receivers in every game, and Jones is third among wideouts in red zone target percentage (47.1%), so he should have ample opportunity to touch painted grass.
3. Keenan Allen vs PIT
Keenan Allen is third in catches and touchdowns among wide receivers, and his production thus far has come against some tough competition including the Bengals and Vikings. But Allen draws a layup this week at home against the Steelers, who are ranked 27th in pass coverage by Pro Football Focus. Pittsburgh could also remain without starting cornerback Cortez Allen (knee), so like most weeks, Allen is an auto-start.
4. Demaryius Thomas at OAK
In his last six games against the Raiders, Demaryius Thomas is averaging 7.5-103, and his lowest yardage output was 83. He has only totaled two touchdowns during that span, but DT still makes for a solid play, even with the deteriorating Peyton Manning at quarterback. Thomas is one of three receivers with at least 50 targets, and the Raiders have surrendered the third-most red zone targets to wide receivers.
5. Calvin Johnson vs ARI
It’s pretty much a given that Calvin Johnson will be shadowed by cornerback Patrick Peterson on Sunday. Since 2013, Peterson has allowed 15 touchdowns to 14 different players, and Megatron was the one receiver to score twice on Peterson. Furthermore, only one of those 15 players stands shorter than 6’0” (DeSean Jackson). Furthermore, the average height of those players is 6’3” and that includes no-names like Cooper Helfet, Mike Preston, and Danny Noble. Long story short, it pays to be tall against the grossly overpaid Patrick Peterson, which obviously bodes very well for the 6’5” Johnson, who will certainly be motivated after last Monday’s heartbreak.
6. Julian Edelman at DAL
Julian Edelman is averaging 14 targets and 10 receptions, and needless to say, his owners are excited to have him back following New England’s bye. Edelman is also averaging the second-most red zone targets per game, and the Cowboys have surrendered the second-most red zone touches to wide receivers, so another stuffed stat line could certainly be in store.
7. Antonio Brown at SD
Antonio Brown’s streak of at least five catches and 50 yards ended last week at 36 games (insert slow clap). It was quite the run for Brown, who will find himself in a tough spot against the Chargers on Monday night. San Diego has allowed the second-fewest catches, yards, and touchdowns to wide receivers. Even without Ben Roethlisberger under center, Brown is a must-play, but his owners need to temper their expectations this week.
8. Randall Cobb vs STL
The Rams have only allowed one touchdown to wide receivers, but they have surrendered the third-most receptions to the position. This isn’t necessarily a good matchup for Randall Cobb, but there’s no way you would ever consider benching him, especially at Lambeau. In his last 19 home games, Aaron Rodgers’ TD:INT ratio is 48:0, and 85% of the Packers’ red zone touchdowns this season have come via the pass.
9. DeAndre Hopkins vs IND (Thursday)
We learned two important things about the Texans last week. One, they suck. And two, they are not afraid to give DeAndre Hopkins extended run (and targets) in garbage time. After an astounding 22 targets, Hopkins leads all receivers in that category, and he also has the most red zone targets with 14. Hopkins hasn’t scored against Indy in his career, but nine of his 11 career touchdowns have come at home. In addition, the Colts’ top corner, Vontae Davis, has been limited with a toe injury, and these teams are playing on a short week.
10. Mike Evans vs JAX
Mike Evans has yet to truly break out, but he was hampered early on by a hamstring injury and was blanketed last week by shutdown corner Josh Norman (a.k.a Nor-man’s Land). This week, he gets the Jaguars, who are a neutral threat against receivers on their best day. Jacksonville is allowing 15-171 per game to opposing receiver units, and No. 1 receivers have averaged more than 11 targets against them over the last three weeks.
11. Jeremy Maclin vs CHI
In his last two games, Jeremy Maclin has totaled 24 targets and nearly 300 receiving yards. This week, he draws his easiest matchup to date in the Bears, who have surrendered the second-most touchdowns to wide receivers with eight. As we all know, wide receiver touchdowns aren’t commonplace in Kansas City, but this is a great matchup, which makes Maclin an A-level start.
12. A.J. Green vs SEA
Dating back to last season, the Seahawks have now allowed six wide receiver touchdowns in their last 20 regular season games. Needless to say, this is a brutal matchup for A.J. Green, but if there’s a silver lining, Randall Cobb and Calvin Johnson combined for 15 catches on 22 targets against Seattle this year. Green is certainly of that ilk, so he’ll see his opportunities on Sunday, especially if he lines up primarily on the left side and avoids Richard Sherman.
13. Emmanuel Sanders at OAK
Emmanuel Sanders scored twice the last time he was in Oakland, and he stands to have another solid outing by the Bay on Sunday. The Raiders are ranked 31st in pass coverage by Pro Football Focus, and shockingly, they are one of six teams with at least a 65% opponent passing play percentage.
14. Jordan Matthews vs NO
Jordan Matthews has yet to see fewer than eight targets, and that shouldn’t change against the Saints, who are ranked dead last in pass coverage by Pro Football Focus. In addition, New Orleans is ranked 27th by Football Outsiders in defending No. 1 wideouts. Outside of their meeting with the virtually receiver-less Panthers, New Orleans has surrendered a touchdown to their oppositions’ top receiving threat in every game.
15. Allen Robinson at TB
Allen Robinson is one of 13 wide receivers with a red zone target percentage above 30%, and all of Jacksonville’s red zone touchdowns have come via the pass. Julius Thomas isn’t expected to play this week, which means A-Rob will remain Blake Bortles’ primary target inside the twenties. The Bucs have allowed the fourth-most touchdowns to wideouts, and according to Football Outsiders, they rank 31st in defending No. 1 receivers.
16. Larry Fitzgerald at DET
Don’t call Larry Fitzgerald old. He is top-20 in YAC and leads all receivers in catches of 20+ yards with 10. The Lions , who will be on short rest, are one of 10 teams allowing more than 175 yards per game to opposing receivers and one of eight teams to allow 60+ catches to the position. Fitzgerald’s “worst” showing this season is 6-87, and that should be a safe floor for him in this one.
17. *Alshon Jeffrey at KC
Early reports say the Bears are optimistic Alshon Jeffery (hamstring) will play on Sunday, but this is a situation that probably needs to be monitored up until kickoff. Hopefully Jeffery is able to suit up, because they Chiefs have been a good matchup for wide receivers thus far, allowing the most receptions, yards, and touchdowns to the position. And the return of top cornerback Sean Smith didn’t help all that much, as the Bengals receivers rolled up 225 yards and a touchdown against K.C. last week.
18. *Brandin Cooks at PHI
Brandin Cooks has yet to break out in 2015, but that could change against the Eagles with a healthy Drew Brees under center. Philadelphia is the only team allowing more than 100 yards per game to opposing No. 1 receivers, and they could be without their top cornerback Byron Maxwell (quad), who left last week’s game. That may be addition by subtraction considering Maxwell is ranked 100th among corners in pass coverage by Pro Football Focus, but either way, this is a plus matchup for the explosive Cooks if he plays (ankle).
19. Pierre Garcon at ATL
DeSean Jackson’s status for Sunday is unclear, but if he is able to play through his hamstring injury, it can be assumed he won’t be at 100%. That means Pierre Garcon should enjoy another week as Kirk Cousin’s primary option, and he is averaging more than 11 targets when that’s the case. Atlanta is one of 11 teams to allow more than 90 targets to wide receivers, and with Washington likely to be playing from behind, Garcon will be heavily involved.
20. Kendall Wright vs BUF
Kendall Wright is averaging more than 10.5 yards per target, and he’s about to face the Bills, who far and away, have allowed the most targets to wide receivers (125). As a result, Buffalo has also surrendered the sixth-most yards to the position, and with a wobbly run game against a stout front seven, Tennessee should take it to the air early and often.
21. Vincent Jackson vs JAX
When Mike Evans is healthy (as he is now), it’s safe to say that Vincent Jackson is Tampa Bay’s secondary receiving option. That being said, V-Jax is still subject to some explosive output, especially in a decent matchup with Jacksonville. The Jaguars are ranked 26th in pass coverage by Pro Football Focus and are allowing 15-171 per game to opposing receivers.
22. John Brown at DET
John Brown has taken a backseat to the resurgent Larry Fitzgerald, but big play potential makes him an enticing option most weeks. The Lions are one of 10 teams allowing more than 175 yards per game to opposing receivers and one of eight teams to allow 60+ catches to the position. Detroit has also surrendered scores to comparable receivers like Stevie Johnson and Doug Baldwin.
23. Amari Cooper vs DEN
With 100+ yards and/or a touchdown in three straight games, Amari Cooper is on a roll. Unfortunately, the ridiculously talented rookie runs into a buzz saw in the form of the Broncos. According to Pro Football Focus, Denver is the top ranked team in pass coverage, and they have allowed just one No. 1 receiver to top 80 yards (Mike Wallace).
24. Martavis Bryant at SD
25. T.Y. Hilton at HOU (Thursday)
In three career games at Houston, T.Y. Hilton has totaled 19-422-5. Yes, Andrew Luck is banged up, and the Texans are allowing just 36.4 YPG to No. 1 receivers, but this is a matchup where player history reigns supreme.
26. James Jones vs STL
27. Terrance Williams vs NE
28. Golden Tate vs ARI
29. Willie Snead at PHI
30. *Sammy Watkins at TEN
31. Michael Crabtree vs DEN
32. *Stevie Johnson vs PIT
33. Donte Moncrief at HOU (Thursday)
Donte Moncrief has seen as many targets as Andre Johnson and Philip Dorsett combined, which clearly makes him Indy’s No. 2 receiver. Houston is one of four teams allowing more than 65 YPG to No. 2 receivers, and even with questions swirling around Andrew Luck’s shoulder, Moncrief makes for a decent WR2 play this week.
34. Percy Harvin at TEN
35. Kamar Aiken vs CLE
36. Rueben Randle vs SF
37. *Davante Adams vs STL
38. Eddie Royal at KC
39. Leonard Hankerson vs WAS
40. Allen Hurns at TB
41. Travis Benjamin at BAL
42. Tavon Austin at GB
43. Anquan Boldin at NYG
44. Danny Amendola at DAL
45. Nelson Agholor vs NO
46. Marques Colston at PHI
47. Jamison Crowder at ATL
48. Torrey Smith at NYG
49. Dorial Green-Beckham vs BUF
50. Doug Baldwin at CIN
51. Andre Johnson at HOU (Thursday)