words by Brian Johnson (@btxj), rankings by Paul Charchian
1. Larry Fitzgerald vs BAL - 10
Larry Fitzgerald versus Baltimore’s secondary almost isn’t fair. Against wide receivers, the Ravens are allowing 25 targets, 16 catches, and 222 yards per game (with nine total touchdowns). And only two teams have allowed more touchdowns two wideouts. Matchups don’t get much juicier than this, so lock-in Fitzgerald as a starter and focus your attention elsewhere.
2. DeAndre Hopkins at MIA – 9.75
DeAndre Hopkins is currently on pace to garner a redonkulous 237 targets this season. Going back to 2007, only two receivers have topped 190 targets, and that was Brandon Marshall (194) and Calvin Johnson (204) in 2012. Hopkins is on a historic pace, and he should continue to roll against the Dolphins, who are allowing more than 182 yards per game to wide receivers. Miami is also ranked 30th by Football Outsiders in defending No. 1 receivers.
3. Odell Beckham vs DAL – 9.5
Odell Beckham clearly wasn’t at 100% last week, but he managed to score his fourth touchdown in five games, but more importantly, he didn’t suffer any setbacks to his hamstring injury. Beckham was quiet against the Cowboys in the opener (5-44), but he scored twice in both games against them last year. Dallas has only surrendered four touchdowns to wideouts, but they came from top-flight players like Julio Jones (twice), Jordan Matthews, and Julian Edelman. And after a hot start, the Dallas secondary is slumping, allowing multiple passing touchdowns in three straight.
4. Brandon Marshall at NE – 9.5
With touchdowns in four of five games, and four straight outings with at least seven catches and 100 yards, Brandon Marshall has been one of fantasy’s most trusted commodities. There’s no reason to think he can’t continue to stay hot against the Patriots, who are allowing more than 187 YPG to wide receivers. And No. 1 receivers like Antonio Brown, Sammy Watkins, and T.Y. Hilton have scored against New England.
5. Keenan Allen vs OAK – 9.5
Keenan Allen was on pace to catch 20+ balls last week if not for a hip injury sustained early in the third quarter. Early reports indicate he’ll be fine on Sunday, so fantasy owners should plan to put Allen in their starting lineup. Per their usual, Oakland is a plus matchup for wide receivers, as they allow more than 185 YPG to the position. Opposing No. 1 receivers are also averaging more than 11 targets against the Raiders. Of note, Allen did very little in the two matchups with Oakland last year.
6. Julio Jones at TEN – 9.25
Julio Jones didn’t appear to suffer any setbacks to a hamstring injury that has slightly hampered him in recent weeks, so he should be good to go against Tennessee. But the Titans have been a tough matchup for wide receivers so far, as they are only allowing 132 YPG to the position, and only one wideout has topped four catches against them (Rishard Matthews). The Titans are easier to beat via the ground than the air, and this game shapes up like a Devonta Freeman outing. With all that said, Julio is a must-start every week.
7. Allen Robinson vs BUF (London) - 9.25
Allen Robinson has averaged 11 targets over the last four games, and he is now second among wide receivers in catches of 20+ yards (11). Robinson should see ample opportunities against the Bills, who have allowed the most overall targets and red zone targets to wide receivers. That bodes for Robinson, as 100% of Jacksonville’s red zone touchdowns have come via the pass. Check the injury report for updates on his leg injury, although we believe he'll be okay for the game.
8. Eric Decker at NE – 9.25
Eric Decker has scored in every game this year, and New England has surrendered a touchdown to a No. 2 receiver in three of the last four games (Donte Moncrief, Allen Hurns, and Robert Woods). That puts Decker in a pretty good spot this week against the Patriots, who are allowing more than 187 YPG to opposing wide receivers. New England also just placed cornerback Tarell Brown on IR (foot).
9. Calvin Johnson vs MIN – 9.0
Calvin Johnson doesn’t have a great track record against the Vikings, but he logged a very serviceable 10-83-1 line against them in Week 2. According to Football Outsiders, Minnesota has allowed the second-most targets to No. 1 receivers, who are also averaging a healthy 82 YPG. Johnson was targeted a whopping 17 times in that Week 2 game, and he can expected to be involved early and often in this week’s rematch. Last week was proof that the Lions' best chances of winning games is by feeding Calvin throughout the game.
10. Martavis Bryant at KC – 8.75
Much like Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant struggled mightily last week with Mike Vick at quarterback. Then Landry Jones got into the game. In less than one half of play, Jones and Bryant connected for 4-129-2, and the duo could find similar success against Kansas City on Sunday. The Chiefs have surrendered the most catches, yards, and touchdowns to wide receivers. And according to Football Outsiders, K.C. is the only team allowing more than 90 YPG to No. 2 receivers.
11. Allen Hurns vs Bills (London) – 8.75
Buffalo owns the highest opponent passing play percentage in the NFL, so there’s usually a piece of pie for any primary receivers in an opposing pass attack. Allen Hurns has scored in four straight games, and he actually has caught more passes than the more ballyhooed Allen Robinson. According to Football Outsiders, Buffalo is allowing the most targets to No. 2 receivers, and in the last four weeks, Marvin Jones, Rueben Randle, Dwayne Harris, and Rishard Matthews have combined for five touchdowns.
12. Julian Edelman vs NYJ – 8.5
Julian Edelman has just one career touchdown against the Jets, and he hasn’t topped 80 yards against them since 2009. New York also has Darrelle Revis now, which obviously makes this matchup less appealing. But Revis has only spent 17% of his snaps in slot coverage, so Edelman could see more of, Buster Skrine, the Jets’ nickel corner. Skrine has played well so far, though. According to Pro Football Focus, Skrine is 4th in QB rating against (72.3) among corners who have taken 50% of their snaps in slot coverage. In addition, Skrine has yet to surrender a touchdown. No matter how you slice it, Edelman is in for some tough sledding, but it’s virtually impossible to put him on the bench.
13. Antonio Brown at KC – 8.5
Antonio Brown owners rejoice! It sounds like Mike Vick won’t be playing on Sunday, which is great news. Landry Jones will most likely get the start for the Steelers, and that’s not all that bad considering five of Brown’s eight targets last week came when Jones was under center. Of course, the return of Ben Roethlisberger would be the ideal scenario, but Brown still has a great matchup in the Chiefs. Kansas City has surrendered the most catches, yards, and touchdowns to wide receivers, and comparable wideouts like DeAndre Hopkins, Emmanuel Sanders, and Randall Cobb have combined for seven scores against the Chiefs.
14. T.Y. Hilton vs NO – 8.5
T.Y. Hilton might be taking a back seat to Donte Moncrief, but there should be plenty to go around in a game with the week’s highest over/under total (52.5 points). Hilton has averaged more than 10 targets over the last three weeks, and even though he has yet to top 100 yards, his home run potential makes him a must-start, especially in a potential shootout such as this. The Saints have allowed passing touchdowns to wide receivers in every game this year (except to the invisible wideouts in Carolina).
15. John Brown vs BAL - 9
John Brown finally popped off last week, and he stands good chance to stuff the stat sheet again versus Baltimore on Monday night. According to Football Outsiders, the Ravens are one of three teams allowing more than 80 YPG to opposing No. 2 receivers. Volume shouldn't be a problem for Brown, as he's been targeted 24 times in the past three games. In addition, Baltimore might still be without starting cornerback, Ladarius Webb (thigh).
16. Donte Moncrief vs NO – 8.5
Donte Moncrief has scored in each of Andrew Luck’s four starts, while averaging more than nine targets. When Luck is under center, it appears that Moncrief is the Colts wideout you want on roster. New Orleans is a very neutral matchup, and in the last two weeks, they have surrendered scores to non-No. 1 receivers like Roddy White and Josh Huff.
17. Pierre Garcon vs Bucs – 8.5
DeSean Jackson is unlikely to make his return this week, so Pierre Garcon should enjoy at least one more game as Washington’s primary receiver. Despite already having their bye, Tamp Bay has allowed the second-most touchdowns to wide receivers, and according to Football Outsiders, the Bucs rank dead last in defending No. 1 receivers. Garcon has scored in three of the last five games, while averaging nearly nine targets.
18. *Jeremy Maclin vs PIT – OUT
Jeremy Maclin is currently under concussion protocol, so this is a situation that needs to be monitored as the week progresses. Hopefully he is cleared to play, because Pittsburgh is a very nice matchup. Opposing wide receivers are averaging a hearty 15-180 against the Steelers, who are ranked 30th in pass coverage by Pro Football Focus. Maclin is top-12 in target percentage among wideouts, and he should be heavily involved if able to suit up.
19. Mike Evans at WAS – 8.25
Mike Evans has been a disappointment so far, but he could get right against the Redskins, a team he torched for 7-209-2 last year. Washington is far more susceptible to the pass than the run, as evidenced by the fact that they have allowed the third-most touchdowns to wide receivers. Evans will have to compete with Vincent Jackson for targets, but this is a good matchup for him, as Evans is healthy and coming off a bye.
20. Steve Smith at ARI – 8.25
Steve Smith shocked the fantasy world by making his return last week—and dominating, no less. Since he didn’t suffer any setbacks, he is all but guaranteed to lace them up on Monday night. That’s the good news. The bad news is he’s facing the Cardinals, a team allowing a meager 47 YPG to No. 1 receivers (per Football Outsiders). Smith will most likely draw shadow coverage from the resurgent (and probably still overpaid) Patrick Peterson, who has allowed just 10 catches and owns a 43.6 QB rating in his coverage according to Pro Football Focus.
21. Brandin Cooks at IND – 8.25
The Colts’ secondary had been pretty stout in prior years, but they have been getting gashed by wide receivers this season. Indy is allowing well over 190 yards (6th worst) and a touchdown per game (4th worst) to the position. And Vontae Davis has been surprisingly human. According to Pro Football Focus, Davis is ranked 40th in pass coverage among cornerbacks, and he has already allowed three touchdowns. And after Davis, things really go south with lousy depth guys Greg Toler and Darius Thomas.
22. Willie Snead at IND – 8.25
Among wide receivers with at least 25 catches, Willie Snead is third in YPC (16.8). With numbers like that, it’s no surprise Snead is 20th in yards; ahead of guys like Randall Cobb, Jordan Matthews, Brandin Cooks, and Golden Tate. Snead has a great matchup on paper this week, as the Colts are allowing 75 yards per game on the second-most targets per game to No. 2 receivers (Football Outsiders).
23. Amari Cooper at SD – 8.0
Amari Cooper is the real deal, but he’ll surely be tested by San Diego on Sunday. The Chargers are holding opposing wide receiver corps to just 15 targets, eight catches, and 121 yards per game. Those are tiny numbers. Furthermore, only one receiver has topped four catches against them (Travis Benjamin). It’ll be hard to bench Oakland’s electric rookie, but expectations should be tempered in a tough matchup.
24. Jarvis Landry vs HOU – 8.0
Although it came on the ground, Jarvis Landry finally found the end zone last week. His owners will take a touchdown any way they can, but considering Landry leads all wideouts in targets inside the 10-yard line, his zero receiving touchdowns is a little concerning, if downright inexplicable. Houston has allowed five wide receiver scores over their last three games, so there’s hope Landry can hit pay dirt, but he is a far better play in PPR formats at this point.
25. Vincent Jackson at WAS – 8.0
26. *Sammy Watkins at JAX (London) – 8
27. Jordan Matthews at CAR – 7.75
There’s not much to like about Jordan Matthews’ matchup this week, but at least he should avoid primary coverage by Josh Norman, who is arguably the best cornerback in the league. Norman has only taken four snaps in slot coverage, while Matthews has run more than 93% of his routes from the seam. That’s the silver lining in this otherwise tough matchup. Carolina has only allowed three touchdowns to wide receivers, and Matthews hasn’t scored or topped 60 yards since Week 2.
28. Stefon Diggs at DET – 7.75
29. Rueben Randle vs DAL – 7.75
30. Michael Floyd vs BAL – 7.75
31. Mike Wallace at DET - 7.75
32. Golden Tate vs MIN – 7.75
33. Michael Crabtree at SD – 7.75
34. Robert Woods at JAX (London) – 7.75
35. Anquan Boldin vs SEA (Thursday) – 7.5
36. Kendall Wright vs ATL – 7.5
37. Terrance Williams at NYG – 7.5
38. Travis Benjamin at STL – 7.5
39. Jamison Crowder vs TB – 7.5
40. Ted Ginn vs PHI – 7.5
41. Doug Baldwin at SF (Thursday) – 7.5
42. Brandon LaFell vs NYJ - 7.5
Roddy White at TEN – 7.5
Danny Amendola vs NYJ – 7.5
*Marques Colston at IND – 7.5
Rishard Matthews vs HOU – 7.5
Albert Wilson vs PIT – 7.5
Leonard Hankerson at TEN – 7.25
Tavon Austin vs CLE – 7.25
Andre Johnson vs NO – 7.25
Torrey Smith vs SEA (Thursday) – 7.25
*Stevie Johnson vs OAK – 7.25
Chris Conley vs PIT (if Jeremy Maclin sits) – 7.25
Kenny Stills vs HOU – 7.0
Kamar Aiken at ARI – 6.75
Dorial Green-Beckham vs ATL – 6.5