Davis Mattek’s Wide Receiver/Cornerback Matchups To Watch For The Wild Card Weekend
One of my favorite parts of watching NFL football is the wide receiver/cornerback matchups. These matchups will determine the games in the NFL Wild Card Weekend. Elite corner play is a massive advantage in the NFL in 2018 because it changes how the offense has to approach a defense. Few things a defense can do actually changes the way the offense calls their plays and when a team is able to do that, it forces the opposing team out of their comfort zone.
This column will be an examination of four wide receiver/cornerback matchups I expect to have an impact on the final score of the Wild Card Weekend NFL matchups. All data is courtesy of Pro Football Focus, using their WR/CB Matchup charting.
Carr is most well known for his time spent in Kansas City and Dallas, first as a true shutdown NFL corner and then as a glaring liability. While the story of an outside wide receiver moving into the slot as they age is a tale as old as time, we see it happen with cornerbacks less often. However, that is the tale of Brandon Carr. He has been the primary slot cornerback in Baltimore this season and allows only .21 Fantasy Points Per Route ran against. Allen runs 55% of his routes out of the slot and is targeted on 27% of his snaps. Carr vs Allen is one of the biggest indicators as to how well the Chargers will do against the Ravens this weekend.
T.Y. Hilton vs Shareece Wright and Jonathan Joseph
Hilton is struggling with an ankle injury that has forced him to limp around the field over the last month of the season. The Colts have said that if it was the regular season, Hilton would likely not be active. Hilton does, however, have a great history against the Texans defensive backs and it is easy to see why. Wright and Joseph both posted 40 times slower than Hilton’s 4.34 time and are considerably past their primes. Wright, in particular, allows .34 Fantasy Points Per Route ran against in coverage; this should be an attack spot for Indianapolis, if Hilton is even close to 100% health.
Byron Jones has been one of the 10 best defensive backs in the NFL this season. He is targeted on only 15% of his routes in coverage and allows only 59% of those targets to be turned into receptions, which is among the lowest of all qualified defensive backs still in the playoffs. Jones plays on the right side of the Dallas defense where Lockett will see about 35-40% of his snaps. While Lockett is a low target player, if he is able to burn Jones even once, that could have a huge impact on the outcome of the game. It is my hope that Dallas chooses to let Jones follow Lockett around the formation just a little bit in order to stifle the Seattle offense.
On the other side of this game, Dallas’ star wide receiver gets one of the better matchups in the playoffs. Griffin has allowed 70% of the targets in his coverage to turn into receptions and should match up with Cooper on the left side of the formation about 40% of the time in this game. Griffin also has allowed .35 Fantasy Points Per Route ran against this season while Cooper has scored .42 Fantasy Points Per Route ran this season. If Cooper draws Griffin a significant amount of the time, that is an advantage for Dallas. Griffin will play despite dealing with a recent ankle injury.