Words by Brian Johnson (@btxj), rankings by Paul Charchian
1. Julio Jones vs TB - 10
Julio Jones is one of two receivers with 700+ yards and five touchdowns, and he’ll look to pad his lofty numbers this week against a familiar foe. Jones popped off in both games against Tampa Bay last year to the tune of 8-119 and 9-161-2. In addition, he has topped 115 yards in four of six career games versus the Bucs and has totaled five touchdowns in their last five meetings. Tampa is allowing a healthy 180 YPG to wide receivers, and they’ve already surrendered 10 scores to the position.
2. Calvin Johnson at KC (London) - 10
It’s pretty easy when it comes to the Chiefs and their ability to defend wide receivers. Quite simply … they cannot. Kansas City has allowed the most receptions, yards, and touchdowns to the position, and they’ve also surrendered the most red zone targets to wideouts. Calvin Johnson is one of seven receivers to garner double-digit red zone targets, and 87% of Detroit’s red zone touchdowns have come via the pass, so the stars are aligning for Megatron in this one.
3. Keenan Allen at BAL – 10
It’s a great week to own Keenan Allen, who now leads all wideouts in catches with 62. Baltimore has been getting blasted by wide receivers, as they allow 214 yards and 1.6 touchdowns per game to the position. In addition, the Ravens are one of six teams to surrender 2+ passing touchdowns in more than 70% of their games, and they are allowing 86 YPG to opposing No. 1 receivers (according to Football Outsiders).
4. DeAndre Hopkins vs TEN – 9.75
DeAndre Hopkins finally fell to Earth last week after garnering “only” 12 targets, his second-lowest total of the season. He draws a tough matchup in the Titans this week, who are allowing only fewer than 10 catches and 141 yards per game to wide receivers. Still, Tennessee has surrendered six touchdowns to the position over their last five games, and Hopkins reeled off 9-238-2 in their last meeting. The Titans could also be without their top cornerback Jason McCourty, who left last week’s game with a hamstring injury.
5. A.J. Green at PIT – 9.5
A.J. Green has scored just one touchdown in his last five meetings with Pittsburgh, but he has averaged 9-111 during that same span. Green should be in line for another good game against the Steelers, who are one of six teams to allow more than 100 targets to wide receivers, and they have surrendered the fourth-most red zone targets to the position. Green is also a road warrior, as more than 60% of his career touchdowns have come on the road, where Green is also averaging 102 YPG as opposed to 62 YPG at home.
6. Brandon Marshall at OAK – 9.5
Last week, Brandon Marshall had a regrettable performance that included a crucial drop in the end zone, but he’ll look to put that behind him against the Raiders. Oakland owns the highest opponent passing play percentage in the NFL (67%), and they have allowed the fourth-most red zone targets to wide receivers. Marshall is one 11 receivers to garner at least 30% of their team’s red zone targets, and 91% of the Jets’ red zone passing touchdowns have gone to wideouts.
7. Odell Beckham at NO – 9.5
Odell Beckham is not in 2014 form, which is causing frustration among his owners, but OBJ is still a fine play on any given Sunday, and particularly this Sunday. He is one of 13 receivers to garner at least 30% of his team’s targets, and as a result, Beckham has caught seven balls and scored a touchdown in more than half of his games. The Saints are one of six teams to surrender 2+ passing touchdowns in more than 70% of their games, and they are allowing more than a touchdown per game to wide receivers.
8. Mike Evans at ATL – 9.5
Mike Evans will be in line for extended targets this week, as Vincent Jackson will be inactive due to a knee injury. Atlanta has proven to be a tough matchup for wide receivers, as they are allowing only 142 yards and less than half a touchdown per game to the position. But on the flipside, the Falcons are one of three teams with an opponent passing play percentage above 65%, and other opposing big name receivers like Jordan Matthews, Odell Beckham, and DeAndre Hopkins have combined to average 16 targets, nine catches, and 135 yards. Evans also posted 7-125-1 in their last meeting, so similar success isn’t too farfetched.
9. Antonio Brown vs CIN – 9.5
Ben Roethlisberger’s return is, obviously, a boon for Antonio Brown, but his numbers haven’t been that bad with Landry Jones, who has targeted Brown 13 times in roughly six quarters of play. Regardless of who’s under center, Cincinnati is generally a tough matchup for wideouts, but comparable No. 1 receivers like Jeremy Maclin (11-148) and Steve Smith (13-186-2) had success versus the Bengals. Last season, Brown posted solid stat lines in two games versus Cincy (7-128-1 and 9-117), and he has scored in his last three home games against them.
10. Julian Edelman vs MIA (Thursday) – 9.25
In his last three games against Miami, Julian Edelman has averaged 12 targets, nine catches, and 116 yards from scrimmage, while tallying two touchdowns. Needless to say, he enjoys playing the Dolphins, who have surrendered at least one touchdown to opposing wide receivers in four of their last five games. Miami’s defense has played much better under new coach Dan Campbell, but those improved performances came against the lowly Titans and the craptastic Texans. Compared to those teams, the Patriots are practically from another planet, and Edelman remains a must-play, especially in PPR formats.
11. Eric Decker at OAK - 9
Eric Decker has scored in four of five games played, and in the one game he didn’t touch painted grass, he logged 6-94 on 12 targets. Long story short, Decker has been pretty good when healthy. Speaking of health, Decker is currently nursing a minor knee injury, so you’ll want to monitor his status closely, but he should be good to go in a favorable matchup with Oakland. The Raiders own the highest opponent passing play percentage in the NFL (67%) and are one of two teams to allow 2+ passing touchdowns in over 80% of their games. Oakland has also surrendered the fourth-most red zone targets to wide receivers, and 91% of the Jets’ red zone passing touchdowns have gone to wideouts.
12. Larry Fitzgerald at CLE – 9
Troubling for Larry Fitzgerald is the improved play of John Brown and the re-emergence of Michael Floyd. After totaling five touchdowns in his first three games, Fitz has scored only once in the last four weeks and has failed to top 100 yards during that span. Opposing wide receivers are averaging a touchdown per game against the Browns, but with plenty of mouths to feed in Arizona, Larry isn’t looking like the lock for he was earlier in the season. Fitzgerald moves around the field a lot, but he'll mostly see coverage from cornerback K'waun Williams, a neutral matchup.
13. Stefon Diggs at CHI – 9
He has only played in three games, but Stefon Diggs sure looks like the Vikings best wide receiver. In his three games, Diggs has amassed more targets and receptions than Mike Wallace, and Diggs has more than twice the receiving yards. Despite the fact that Minnesota hasn’t won in Chicago since 2007, the Bears are a great matchup, as they have already surrendered 11 touchdowns to wide receivers. Diggs has yet to see fewer than nine targets or catch fewer than six passes, and that shouldn’t change on Sunday.
14. Martavis Bryant vs CIN – 9.0
Much like Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant’s value hinges on the potential return of Ben Roethlisberger. Or does it? In roughly six quarters with Landry Jones as his quarterback, Bryant has tallied 9-182-3, but let’s keep it real, Big Ben’s return would be very beneficial to any pass catcher in black and gold. The Bengals are always a tough matchup for wide receivers, but Bryant scored against them in both games last season, and like the sirens’ song, his homerun potential is impossible to resist.
15. Alshon Jeffrey vs MIN – 8.75
Alshon Jeffery was quiet in his last game against Minnesota (2-34), but he posted monster lines in the two meetings prior (11-135-1 and 12-249-1). Of course, Brandon Marshall was in the mix back then. So this will be Jeffery’s first crack at the Vikings as the Bears’ alpha dog receiver. Jeffery is sure to draw primary coverage from Xavier Rhodes, who is an emerging shutdown corner, but the Vikings are one of eight teams allowing more than 85 YPG to No. 1 receivers, and the very comparable Calvin Johnson and Keenan Allen have combined for four touchdowns against them.
16. Jeremy Maclin vs DET (London) – 8.75
Jeremy Maclin (concussion) expects to practice in full this week and should make his return against the Lions in London. Detroit has been torched by wide receivers, as they allow 206 yards and a touchdown per game to the position. Before sitting out last week, Maclin had seen double digit targets in three of his last four games, while averaging 7.5 catches and 106 yards.
17. Jarvis Landry at NE (Thursday) – 8.75
Coming on the heels of explosive output in Week 7, Jarvis Landry will look to light up the box score again against New England. The Patriots have been very generous to wide receivers, allowing more than 13 catches, 190 yards, and a touchdown per game to the position. Landry leads all receivers with six targets inside the 5-yard line, and he registered 8-99 in his last game against the Patriots, so he’ll be heavily utilized, especially under the assumption that Miami will be playing from behind.
18. Brandin Cooks vs NYG – 8.75
Brandin Cooks saw a season-high 13 targets last week, and he has seen fewer than eight targets just once in the last six games. But Cooks has yet to truly blow up after many people pegged him to be a top-10 wide receiver this year. All that could change on Sunday when Cooks and company host the Giants, who have allowed a wide receiver touchdown in each of their last three games. Opposing No. 1 receivers are also seeing heavy volume against New York, as Julio Jones, Pierre Garcon, Anquan Boldin, and Jordan Matthews have combined to average 12.5 targets, 8 catches, and 93 yards.
19. Demaryius Thomas vs GB – 8.5
Demaryius Thomas is currently on pace for 128 receptions, which would be 17 more than he had last year. That’s pretty shocking, but as we all know, DT’s TDs have dried up due in large part to Peyton Manning’s struggles. Green Bay isn’t a great matchup for wide receivers on paper, as they allow a modest 11 catches, 152 yards, and less than a touchdown per game to the position. But comparable opposing No. 1 options like Alshon Jeffery, Jeremy Maclin, and Keenan Allen have combined to average more than 12 targets, nine catches, and 125 yards, so you have to stick with Thomas despite Manning’s excruciating ineptitude.
20. Emmanuel Sanders vs GB – 8.5
Emmanuel Sanders suffered a sprained shoulder in Week 6, but he should be good to go against the Packers on Sunday night. The Packers aren’t a great matchup on paper, but they have surrendered a wide receiver touchdown in four straight games. Believe it or not, Sanders has seen more red zone targets than teammate Demaryius Thomas, and as a result, he leads the team in receiving touchdowns. Peyton Manning’s incompetence has sapped the value of Denver’s entire passing game, but it’s impossible to drop Sanders any lower than a WR2.
21. Michael Floyd at CLE – 8.25
22. Steve Smith vs SD – 8.25
There’s no denying that this is a tough matchup for Steve Smith. San Diego is allowing fewer than nine catches and 135 yards per game to wide receivers. More so, opposing No. 1 receivers are averaging just 60 YPG versus the Chargers (Football Outsiders). It’s anticipated that Smith will draw shadow coverage from emerging cornerback Jason Verrett, but you never want to bet against the guy who can register 100+ yards and a touchdown with four broken bones in his back. This game has the second-highest over/under of the week (50.5 points), but the Ravens should be employing a run heavy game plan, and it's unclear how much work Smith will see.
23. Randall Cobb at DEN – 8.25
Whenever possible, you want to avoid playing a wide receiver against Denver, but that’s a tough proposition with a guy like Randall Cobb. Even though he is struggling (hasn’t topped 45 yards or scored in three straight games), Cobb is tough to bench, but this might be the week to do it. He’ll likely square off with Chris Harris, who was the reigning top-ranked cornerback by Pro Football Focus, and the Broncos are allowing only 124 YPG to wide receivers, while surrendered one lone touchdown to the position. It’s highly unlikely you have a better option, but if at all possible, pivoting from Cobb should be taken into consideration.
24. Amari Cooper vs Jets – 8.25
It’s been said a few times, but Amari Cooper is the real deal. He is one of seven receivers with 30+ catches who is averaging more than 15 YPC, and Cooper is also tied for the most catches of 40+ yards. There’s just one problem for the electric rookie: he’s slated to visit Revis Island on Sunday. We all know there probably isn’t a tougher matchup for a No. 1 receiver than Darrelle Revis, so temper your expectations with Cooper. But he’s still startable considering the Jets own the second-highest opponent passing play percentage in the NFL (66%).
25. T.Y. Hilton at CAR – 8.0
T.Y. Hilton finally exploded last week, but the good times could be short-lived, as he and the Colts head south to Carolina on Monday night. The Panthers are allowing a meager 136 YPG to opposing receiver corps, and they also employ arguably the best corner in the game, Josh Norman. Only one receiver has topped 80 yards against the all season (Vincent Jackson). Hilton has averaged 11.5 targets over the last four weeks, but his opportunities and upside should surely be limited this week.
26. *Dez Bryant vs SEA – 8.0
27. Kendall Wright at HOU - 8.0
28. Golden Tate at KC (London) - 8.0
29. Rueben Randle at NO - 8.0
30. John Brown at CLE – 9
John Brown managed to escape last Monday without suffering a setback to his hamstring injuries, and he’ll look to stay hot this week against Cleveland. The Browns should get back starting cornerback Joe Haden back, but he has been awful this year and is really a non-factor. Brown should see Haden, as Tramon Williams is expected to get Larry Fitzgerald. According to Pro Football Focus, Brown is one of nine receivers averaging more than half a (fantasy) point per pass route run (in PPR formats), and he is the only receiver with 50+ targets to average more than 11 yards per target.
31. Rishard Matthews at NE (Thursday) – 7.75
32. Donte Moncrief at CAR – 7.75
33. Ted Ginn vs IND – 7.75
34. Michael Crabtree vs NYJ – 7.75
35. James Jones at DEN – 7.75
36. Marvin Jones at PIT – 7.75
36. Mike Wallace at CHI – 7.75
37. Willie Snead vs NYG – 7.75
38. Anquan Boldin at STL – 7.5
39. Justin Hunter at HOU - 7.5
40. Travis Benjamin vs ARI – 7.5
41. Doug Baldwin at DAL – 7.5
42. Tavon Austin vs SF – 7.5
43. Eddie Royal vs MIN – 7.25
44. Davante Adams at DEN – 7.25
45. Brandon LaFell vs MIA (Thursday) – 7.25
46. Torrey Smith at STL – 7.25
47. Danny Amendola vs MIA (Thursday) – 7.25
48. Stevie Johnson at BAL – 7.25
49. Roddy White vs TB – 7.0
50. Andre Johnson at CAR – 7.0
51. Terrance Williams vs SEA – 7.0
52. Leonard Hankerson vs TB – 7.0
53. Dorial Green-Beckham at HOU – 6.75
54. Marques Colston vs NYG – 6.75