words by Brian Johnson (@btxj), rankings by Paul Charchian
1. A.J. Green at BUF – 9.75
Among wideouts with at least 30 catches, A.J. Green is first in YPC at 16, which is a whole two yards more than the next guy in line (Antonio Brown). That difference adds up quickly when talking the kind of catch volume he gets. This is a pretty good matchup for Green, as the Bills own the highest opponent passing play percentage in the NFL (68%). Buffalo has also allowed the most red zone targets to wide receivers, and as a result, the fourth-most touchdowns.
2. Randall Cobb vs SD – 9.75
Randall Cobb has been quiet the last two weeks, but as we all know, he can rack up big numbers on any given Sunday. We're only two games removed from a three-touchdown outburst. The Chargers have a solid secondary led by standout cornerback Jason Verrett, but Verrett has only seen 12 snaps in slot coverage. As a team, San Diego has surrendered three scores from the slot already, so Cobb should produce in one of the week’s highest over/unders.
3. Brandon Marshall vs WAS – 9.75
Brandon Marshall has scored and/or topped 100 yards in every game thus far. He is also one of six receivers with a target percentage higher than 30%, so it’s safe to assume he’ll stay heavily involved against the Redskins, who hold a healthy 62% opponent passing play percentage. Washington has also surrendered touchdowns to the undead corpses of Miles Austin, Riley Cooper, and Kenny Britt. Brandon Marshall is not a corpse.
4. Larry Fitzgerald at PIT – 9.75
Larry Fitzgerald is one of 10 receivers with a red zone target percentage higher than 35%, and he also leads all wideouts with 11 catches of 20+ yards. The Steelers are ranked 31st in pass coverage by Pro Football Focus, and they could very well be without starting corner Cortez Allen and starting safety Will Allen.
5. DeAndre Hopkins at JAX – 9.5
DeAndre leads all receivers with 74 targets, which is 12 more than the next closest player (Julio Jones). Arian Foster is rounding into form, so Hopkins might garner a little less attention as a result, but he has become a premium play in his third year. Last season, Hopkins only totaled 6-54 in two meetings with the Jaguars, but this season is obviously a different story. Jacksonville is currently ranked 30th in pass coverage by Pro Football Focus, and they could remain without linebacker Paul Posluzny, who is the quarterback of their defense and vital to every level.
6. *Odell Beckham at PHI – 9.5
Odell Beckham was forced to leave last week’s game with a hamstring injury, and even though he briefly returned, Beckham was clearly in pain. His status for Monday night is in question, but Beckham has said the injury isn’t too serious. Either way, you are going to want to have a contingency plan in place. Hopefully he can suit up because this is a juicy matchup. Beckham went off the to the tune of 12-185-1 in his last meeting with the Eagles, who are allowing 217 yards per game to wide receivers and 107 per game to No. 1 receivers (the most in the league, per Football Outsiders).
7. Julian Edelman at IND – 9.25
Julian Edelman wasn’t utilized much in the last two meeting with the Colts, as the Patriots relentlessly pounded the rock via the ground game. That said, Bill Belichick rarely plays the same card twice, so don’t you dare consider benching Edelman because history favors LeGarrette Blount. The Colts are one of seven teams allowing 90+ YPG to opposing No. 1 receivers. Edelman has scored at least once and/or topped 85 yards in every game, and he has totaled 14 more targets than Rob Gronkowski.
8. Jordan Matthews vs NYG – 9.0
Monday night is an “if not then, when?” scenario for Jordan Matthews. In their last meeting, Matthews logged 8-105-1 against the Giants, who own the third-highest opponent passing play percentage (66%). To make matters better, Matthews will frequently square off with New York’s nickel corner, Trumaine McBride, who has surrendered the most catches, yards, and YAC from slot coverage.
9. Calvin Johnson vs CHI – 8.75
Let’s clear the air: Matt Stafford is bad. And as a result, Calvin Johnson is suffering accordingly. Thankfully, Megatron draws a good matchup against Chicago this week—his first favorable matchup of the year. The Bears have surrendered the third-most touchdowns to wide receivers, and last season, Johnson topped 100 yards in both games against Chicago while totaling two touchdowns.
10. Keenan Allen at GB – 8.75
Green Bay has good numbers against wide receivers, but their competition hasn’t been all that great. The only receivers they have faced who are comparable to Keenan Allen are Alshon Jeffery and Jeremy Maclin. Those two combined for 22 targets and over 200 yards (with a touchdown). Like most visiting teams in Lambeau, the Chargers will likely be playing from behind, and if they are to have a chance, Allen needs to be involved early and often.
11. Eric Decker vs WAS – 8.75
Eric Decker has scored in every game he’s played this season, and that streak could very well continue against Washington, who is ranked 24th in pass coverage by Pro Football Focus. Washington has also surrendered touchdowns to secondary receiving options like Miles Austin, Riley Cooper, and Kenny Britt. Of course, Decker is on another level from those aforementioned has-beens, so this is a plus matchup for the former Golden Gopher.
12. *Alshon Jeffrey at DET – 8.75
There’s finally some good news on the Alshon Jeffery front! He’s not a lock to suit up on Sunday, but Jeffery was back at practice on Wednesday, and that’s certainly an encouraging sign. Hopefully he can play, because unlike recent years, the Lions are a pretty good matchup. Detroit is allowing 189 YPG to wide receivers, and Jeffery has scored at least once and/or topped 100 yards in their last four meetings.
13. Allen Robinson vs HOU – 8.5
Allen Robinson didn’t play in either game against the Texans last season, so there’s no past performance to analyze, but Robinson’s recent play has been off the charts. He, Larry Fitzgerald, and Julio Jones are the only receivers to registers two games with multiple touchdowns, and Robinson is one 14 receivers to garner at least 30% of their team’s red zone targets. In addition, 100% of Jacksonville’s red zone touchdowns have come via the pass, so even in a somewhat difficult matchup (like this one), Robinson has become an every-week play.
14. T.Y. Hilton vs NE – 8.5
T.Y. Hilton didn’t do much in two games against the Patriots last year, but he was also on Revis Island, so you can throw that out the window. The Patriots are allowing 170+ yards and a touchdown per game to wide receivers, and with the Colts expected to be playing from behind, Hilton should be heavily involved. Hopefully, Andrew Luck (shoulder) will make his return, but Matt Hasselbeck sent 22 passes Hilton’s way over the last two weeks, so he’ll be in the mix regardless of who’s under center.
15. Emmanuel Sanders at CLE – 8.5
Emmanuel Sanders is now Denver’s leading receiver, and he has seen the same amount of red zone targets as Demaryius Thomas. Through five weeks, Sanders is clearly the better Broncos wideout to own at this point. The Browns have already surrendered six touchdowns to wideouts, and according to Football Outsiders, opposing No. 2 receivers are averaging more targets than No. 1 receivers.
16. John Brown at PIT – 8.5
John Brown hasn’t topped 75 yards yet, but he scored last week and has potential for a big game against Pittsburgh. The Steelers are ranked 31st in pass coverage by Pro Football Focus, and according to Football Outsiders, they rank 30th in defending No. 2 receivers. Pittsburgh could also very well be without starting cornerback Cortez Allen and starting safety Will Allen.
17. James Jones vs SD – 8.5
With five scores in just as many games, James Jones has cemented himself as a high-upside WR2. He draws a tough matchup this week though, as Jones figures to see a lot of coverage from San Diego’s standout corner, Jason Verrett, who doesn’t spend much time in the slot. When in primary coverage Verrett has only allowed seven receptions on 14 targets and zero touchdowns (via Pro Football Focus).
18. Demaryius Thomas at CLE – 8.25
There’s no denying that the deteriorating Peyton Manning is destroying Demaryius Thomas’ value. Thomas has only one touchdown and one game of 100+ yards … gross. What’s more troubling is that he has the same number of red zone targets as Emmanuel Sanders; a stat that Thomas has dominated in recent years. But, you just can’t bench him. The Browns are a favorable matchup, and Joe Haden is a shell of his former self. According to Pro Football Focus, Joe Haden is currently ranked 100th among cornerbacks in pass coverage and holds an opposing QB rating of 131.
19a. Julio Jones at NO (Thursday) – 8.25
Julio Jones (hamstring) is officially probable for Thursday’s game, which is good news, but it doesn’t mean he won’t play a decoy role, or be on a pitch count, or suffer reinjury. It’s virtually impossible to bench Jones when he’s in uniform, especially when he has a plus matchup like this. According to Pro Football Focus, the Saints are ranked 29th in pass coverage, and Jones has caught seven balls in each of his last three games against New Orleans and has topped 100 yards in the last two. Every snap on CB Brandon Browner's side of the field can be a touchdown.
19b. Stefon Diggs vs KC - 8.25
20. Jeremy Maclin at MIN – 8.25
Over the last three games, Jeremy Maclin has seen target totals of 12, 13, and 11, and he should see extended looks with Jamaal Charles now on the shelf. Maclin should also see a good amount of Xavier Rhodes, who has been good this year, but not great, as the Vikings are allowing 100 YPG to No. 1 receivers.
21. Brandin Cooks vs ATL (Thursday) – 8.25
Brandin Cooks finally broke out last week, and he’ll look to keep rolling at home against Atlanta. Cooks tallied 7-77-1 in one career game against the Falcons, who have allowed the ninth-most targets to wide receivers and own the second-highest opponent passing play percentage (68%). I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop with the Falcons secondary, arguably the league's worst last year. This could be the other game.
22. Donte Moncrief vs NE – 8.25
It appears that Andrew Luck will make his return on Sunday night, which bodes well for Donte Moncrief, who has scored in each of Luck’s three starts. This game has one of the highest over/unders of the week (55 points), and with the Colts expected to be playing from behind, they should be throwing it a ton against the Patriots, who are allowing 170+ yards and a touchdown per game to wide receivers.
23. Antonio Brown vs ARI – 8.0
No one is missing Ben Roethlisberger more than Antonio Brown. In Michael Vick’s two starts, Brown has totaled only eight targets and has failed to top 50 yards. The matchup isn’t great either, as Arizona is only allowing 59 YPG to No. 1 receivers. That’s thanks in large part to a resurgent Patrick Peterson, who has only allowed eight catches on 18 targets in his coverage.
24. Jarvis Landry at TEN – 8.0
Despite playing one less game (bye week), Jarvis Landry leads all receivers with seven targets inside the 10-yard line and six inside the 5-yard line. To put the importance of those opportunities into perspective, only one running back has more than six CARRIES inside the 5-yard line (Devonta Freeman). That said, Landry has scored zero touchdowns (sigh). The Titans have allowed just 119 YPG to opposing wide receivers, so this isn’t an ideal matchup, but Landry is practically a lock for 10 targets. Let’s just hope he can do something with them.
25. Allen Hurns vs HOU – 8.0
26. Steve Smith at SF – 8.0
If there’s anyone who can play with micro fractures in their back, it would have to be Steve Smith. He isn’t guaranteed to play, but there’s hope and a great matchup on the horizon. According to Football Outsiders, San Fran ranks 29th in defending No. 1 receivers, while allowing more than 100 YPG.
27. Willie Snead vs ATL (Thursday) – 8.0
28. Kamar Aiken at SF (if Steve Smith sits) – 8.0
29. Anquan Boldin vs BAL – 7.75
30. Golden Tate vs CHI – 7.75
31. Kendall Wright vs MIA – 7.75
32. Leonard Hankerson at NO (Thursday) – 7.75
33. Pierre Garcon at NYJ – 7.75
34. *Mike Wallace vs KC – 7.75
35. *Rueben Randle at PHI – 7.75
36. Martavis Bryant vs ARI – 7.5
37. Sammy Watkins vs CIN – 7.5
38. Marvin Jones at BUF – 7.5
39. Andre Johnson vs NE – 7.5
40. Torrey Smith vs BAL – 7.5
41. Davante Adams vs SD – 7.25
42. Rishard Matthews at TEN – 7.25
43. Travis Benjamin vs DEN – 7.25
44. Doug Baldwin vs CAR – 7.25
45. Jamison Crowder at NYJ – 7.5
46. Percy Harvin at BUF – 7.0
47. Roddy White at NO (Thursday) – 7.0
48. *Stevie Johnson at GB – 7.0
49. Danny Amendola at IND – 7.0
50. Ted Ginn at SEA – 6.75
51.*Marques Colston vs ATL (Thursday) – 6.5
52. Dorial Green-Beckham vs MIA – 6.75