Wide Receivers vs. Cornerbacks: Week 10 Matchups

Wide Receivers vs. Cornerbacks: Week 10 Matchups

This article is part of our Corner Report series.

This article will go game by game for the Week 10 slate looking at the top wide receivers from an offense and, based on the inside/outside and left/right splits of those receivers, identify the cornerbacks most likely to face them in man coverage. This post will have to be a little shorter and lean more on speculation/generalities than the entries to come, because teams haven't yet conclusively revealed their personnel tendencies.

Receivers rarely see the same corner every play, be it due to formation quirks or zone coverage calls by the defense, so a receiver's fortunes depend on much more than just the quality of the corner they're likely to see the most in a given game. Even against a bad corner, a good receiver can be denied the opportunity if the pass rush or something else outside his control complicates things. But it's part of the puzzle, and it's worth keeping track of.

Receivers are left with an Upgrade, Downgrade, or Even verdict based on their projected matchup. This shouldn't be read as 'good' or 'bad' but rather a measured tweak from the receiver's baseline projection.
 

New England Patriots vs. Indianapolis Colts

NEW ENGLAND WIDE RECEIVERS

Demario Douglas appears to be the only functional New England wideout at this point. It's somewhat unfortunate, then, that Douglas tends to run his routes near to where Kenny Moore defends, as Moore is easily the best of an otherwise weak Colts corner rotation. Douglas should still be fine in PPR, and

This article will go game by game for the Week 10 slate looking at the top wide receivers from an offense and, based on the inside/outside and left/right splits of those receivers, identify the cornerbacks most likely to face them in man coverage. This post will have to be a little shorter and lean more on speculation/generalities than the entries to come, because teams haven't yet conclusively revealed their personnel tendencies.

Receivers rarely see the same corner every play, be it due to formation quirks or zone coverage calls by the defense, so a receiver's fortunes depend on much more than just the quality of the corner they're likely to see the most in a given game. Even against a bad corner, a good receiver can be denied the opportunity if the pass rush or something else outside his control complicates things. But it's part of the puzzle, and it's worth keeping track of.

Receivers are left with an Upgrade, Downgrade, or Even verdict based on their projected matchup. This shouldn't be read as 'good' or 'bad' but rather a measured tweak from the receiver's baseline projection.
 

New England Patriots vs. Indianapolis Colts

NEW ENGLAND WIDE RECEIVERS

Demario Douglas appears to be the only functional New England wideout at this point. It's somewhat unfortunate, then, that Douglas tends to run his routes near to where Kenny Moore defends, as Moore is easily the best of an otherwise weak Colts corner rotation. Douglas should still be fine in PPR, and his limitations have more to do with his own offense than they do anything about this matchup. Douglas' challenge is overcoming the Patriots, not beating the Colts.

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Demario Douglas


 


 

INDIANAPOLIS WIDE RECEIVERS

Jonathan Jones and Jack Jones probably won't give up much separation to Michael Pittman, but Pittman probably doesn't need separation to reel in targets against corners as small as the Joneses. We have to worry about the Patriots unveiling confusing disguised coverage to throw off Gardner Minshew, but the corners specifically probably can't do anything to stop Pittman. Particularly if Josh Downs (knee) is out, then this might be a game where the Colts simply have no choice but to feed Pittman, especially if they're never going to use Alec Pierce as a serious target.

Upgrade: Michael Pittman
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Alec Pierce, Josh Downs

Baltimore Ravens vs. Cleveland Browns

BALTIMORE WIDE RECEIVERS

Zay Flowers is the only Baltimore wide receiver given a three-down role, and therefore the only one being given any meaningful opportunity to succeed or fail. The returns have been sporadic at best and notably lacking a downfield dimension, but there's no indication that the Ravens plan to change policy. If they don't, then this could be a challenging spot, especially if Greg Newsome (groin) is back for the Browns. Newsome is their primary slot corner, which is where Flowers usually lines up. Newsome is one of the best out there and was probably a primary reason why Flowers could only draw four targets on 54 snaps the last time these teams played.

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Zay Flowers (arguable Downgrade if Newsome is active)


 


 

CLEVELAND WIDE RECEIVERS

Amari Cooper might or might not see a shadow coverage assignment from Marlon Humphrey, but even if he does it might not doom Cooper to a bad game. Humphrey is likely more challenging than Brandon Stephens on the other side, but both are competent and moreover, Cooper is good enough as a wide receiver to win tough matchups. Elijah Moore isn't as easily believed at this point, though in the slot he should be something of a lateral mismatch against the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Kyle Hamilton. The Ravens might more so try to get Moore matched up with someone more his own size, like depth corner Arthur Maulet. One could argue that whatever the matchup details, the bigger obstacle for Cooper and Moore might be the play of Deshaun Watson.

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Amari Cooper, Elijah Moore

Cincinnati Bengals vs. Houston Texans

CINCINNATI WIDE RECEIVERS

Derek Stingley might finally be back for Houston, but even if he does his former teammate Ja'Marr Chase has no cause for concern. It would probably be easier to run against a hobbled Steven Nelson, though, or if Nelson is out then the replacement (Shaquill Griffin?). Tee Higgins might not as easily clear a talent like Stingley, but Higgins can fend for himself even against tough corners. With Higgins out Trenton Irwin will need to play more, but Irwin is not the caliber of talent to threaten any corner he's likely to see in this game. Tyler Boyd might have the toughest matchup here, running against slot corner Tavierre Thomas.

Upgrade: Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Tyler Boyd, Trenton Irwin
 


 

HOUSTON WIDE RECEIVERS

Nico Collins might be out and if he is it would leave an incredible amount of slack on Tank Dell and Dalton Schultz. It appears that Collins will not be 100 percent even if he does play, in which case it's not easy to be optimistic for him against big, fast corners like Chidobe Awuzie and Cam Taylor-Britt. Dell can probably get behind Mike Hilton in the slot but might find Hilton's rugged game challenging underneath. Noah Brown is unlikely to thrive if Collins is no longer drawing disproportionate attention from the defense. Edit: Collins is out, and I neglected to mention that Robert Woods would be available previous

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: Nico Collins
Even: Tank Dell, Noah Brown, Robert Woods

Jacksonville Jaguars vs. San Francisco 49ers

JACKSONVILLE WIDE RECEIVERS

None of the 49ers corners can cover Calvin Ridley, not even Charvarius Ward. The good news for Ward and Deommodore Lenoir is that the Jaguars offense is so predictable and monotonous under offensive coordinator Sherwood Taylor that you don't need to cover anyone – you just run the routes for the receiver because you already know the route he's running based on various tipoffs in the Sherwood offense. Of course, Ridley has the added difficulty that Sherwood Taylor will simply not try to free up Ridley even after Sherwood witnesses the defense scheme extensively to neutralize Ridley specifically. Sherwood's tactical genius allows him to conclude that, "Hey, if the defense doesn't want me to throw to Ridley, then I'll show them by doing exactly what they want." The Jaguars will be easily outschemed in every single game on offense. It's difficult to quantify the handicap that places on Ridley and even Christian Kirk, but so long as defenses scheme against Ridley specifically it will apparently be the response of Sherwood that the Jaguars should cease all further attempts to target Ridley. Zay Jones will be more effective than Jamal Agnew, but the overall trend won't change in Jacksonville until Taylor is fired.

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: Calvin Ridley
Even: Christian Kirk, Zay Jones


 


 

SAN FRANCISCO WIDE RECEIVERS

Deebo Samuel (shoulder) is back, which is of course huge for the 49ers offense as they face this challenging Jaguars defense. Samuel can probably run over corners like Darious Williams and Tre Herndon, and Tyson Campbell might be a challenging assignment for Brandon Aiyuk on downfield routes. It seems like there is both an opportunity and a need for the 49ers to get Samuel rolling here. Of course, Aiyuk is good enough to beat even a strong corner like Campbell, and there's no reason why Samuel and Aiyuk can't both enjoy big games here despite the general difficulty of the setting.

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk

Minnesota Vikings vs. New Orleans Saints

MINNESOTA WIDE RECEIVERS

If K.J. Osborn (concussion) can't play then it would leave Jordan Addison and Brandon Powell as the top two Vikings receivers, though maybe with Jalen Nailor getting most of Osborn's snaps specifically. None of them is an encouraging play against a Saints corner rotation with three good players. The only one with a chance to transcend circumstances like these is Addison, who at least is a rare talent.

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: K.J. Osborn
Even: Jordan Addison, Brandon Powell, Jalen Nailor


 


 

NEW ORLEANS WIDE RECEIVERS

A matchup like this is basically a buffet to a quarterback. Chris Olave could run his routes blindfolded and still easily separate from corners like Akayleb Evans and Byron Murphy. Rashid Shaheed can torch either of them as well, not to mention slot rover Josh Metellus. Michael Thomas doesn't as obviously separate from these corners but he should remain steady at worst.

Upgrade: Chris Olave, Rashid Shaheed
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Michael Thomas

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Green Bay Packers

PITTSBURGH WIDE RECEIVERS

Jaire Alexander (shoulder) appears to be trending in the wrong direction, which is good news for both George Pickens and Diontae Johnson. Alexander is excellent, but the remaining Packers corners might not be in the league in two years. I don't mean to be dismissive or too reductive but the boring fact is the Packers corners are helpless in man coverage against these two receivers. The same optimism would not apply to Allen Robinson, to be clear, though it's generally a favorable matchup for him as well.

Upgrade: George Pickens, Diontae Johnson
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Allen Robinson


 


 

GREEN BAY WIDE RECEIVERS

Joey Porter has predictably been an immense upgrade over Levi Wallace and Patrick Peterson on the boundary, and for the first time since Ike Taylor the Steelers have a corner worth fearing. Of course, Wallace remains a moneyball corner and Peterson has become an even bigger liability while playing in the slot, which he plainly cannot do. The slot should therefore be the most open route most of the time, meaning Jayden Reed gets the easiest matchup. Christian Watson or Romeo Doubs can both dust Wallace, though whichever is on Porter might find things difficult.

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs, Jayden Reed

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Tennessee Titans

TAMPA BAY WIDE RECEIVERS

Corners like Kristian Fulton and Roger McCreary are more skilled than toolsy, and a lot of their skill has to do with technique and fundamentals rather than anything that counters standout talent on the other side. Technique can only take you so far, and when lack both athleticism and reach (as Fulton and McCreary do) then the bigger, more athletic receivers tend to present major challenges. Mike Evans obviously qualifies as such, and Chris Godwin likely does too. The key to hurting these corners is getting downfield against them, though, and that might be a little more toward Evans' game than Godwin's.

Upgrade: Mike Evans
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Chris Godwin


 

TENNESSEE WIDE RECEIVERS

Carlton Davis might be out and Jamel Dean can't cover DeAndre Hopkins for more than a couple plays a time. Even Davis probably wouldn't be able to stop Hopkins – maybe slow, but not stop. Dean and company probably can't even slow Hopkins. Perhaps the Buccaneers pass rush can get to Will Levis, but if not then Hopkins should see viable targets here. Guys like Nick Westbrook-Ikhine pretty much need the defense to screw up to get open.

Upgrade: DeAndre Hopkins
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, Kyle Philips

Arizona Cardinals vs. Atlanta Falcons

ARIZONA WIDE RECEIVERS

The Arizona offensive line might be a bit challenged especially if D.J. Humphries is out, but the Falcons defense is almost entirely void of pass rushers. First game in a new system, rusty or not, Kyler Murray should be in a decent spot here against a mediocre defense. Marquise Brown can probably beat AJ Terrell if the Falcons line them up that way, and they probably would prefer as much as opposed to letting Brown get cracks at Jeff Okudah. Michael Wilson might struggle against Terrell if the matchup occurs, but against Okudah things would be more manageable. Rondale Moore might suddenly reappear with Murray at quarterback.

Upgrade: Marquise Brown
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Michael Wilson, Rondale Moore


 


ATLANTA WIDE RECEIVERS

Drake London (toe) is in a great spot here, especially if Kyler Murray can score quickly on the other side, forcing Arthur Smith to try to move the ball in response (normally indifferent). London beat better corners in college than the ones the Cardinals are trotting out this year. Van Jefferson should be able to smoke these guys, too – it's that bad.

Upgrade: Drake London, Van Jefferson
Downgrade: N/A
Even: N/A

Los Angeles Chargers vs. Detroit Lions

CHARGERS WIDE RECEIVERS

Keenan Allen will remain a one-man show for a poorly managed Chargers roster, and with such poor management sometimes comes needlessly difficult playing conditions. Namely, there's no reason a defense shouldn't sell out completely to stop Allen – the Chargers quite simply are incapable of countering the outcome. With that said, if the Lions don't sell out to stop Allen then there's reason to think he can beat rookie Brian Branch pretty easily. Quentin Johnston can beat guys like Cam Sutton and Jerry Jacobs deep but the Brandon Staley offense doesn't have a use for downfield targets.

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Keenan Allen, Quentin Johnston


 


 

DETROIT WIDE RECEIVERS

Did you know the Chargers took Joshua Palmer over Amon-Ra St. Brown? St. Brown does. Ja'Sir Taylor might be a good slot corner, who knows, but 'good' isn't going to cut it against St. Brown. Jameson Williams doesn't project as well here – the Chargers tend to play with big cushions, and Jared Goff isn't the type to drop deep in the pocket to wait out a downfield opening. Josh Reynolds is more capable of operating in the intermediate than Williams, and it might be in that range that the Lions need to land their targets.

Upgrade: Amon-Ra St. Brown
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Jameson Williams, Josh Reynolds

Seattle Seahawks vs. Washington Commanders

SEATTLE WIDE RECEIVERS

If DK Metcalf (hip) can't go here then at least one of Tyler Lockett and Jaxon Smith-Njigba should/needs to have a big game against a tanking and awful Washington defense. Kendall Fuller is a good corner and Emmanuel Forbes is a standout talent on the other side, but Jack Del Rio and Ron Rivera are two of the worst defensive coaches of the past 20 years and the Washington defense has yet to get a 1:1 result between its talent and production. To this day Rivera's primary claim to fame is serving as Lovie Smith's defensive coordinator in Chicago. Anyway, if the Seahawks can't get their passing game going here they are in a lot of trouble.

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Tyler Lockett, Jaxon Smith-Njigba


 


WASHINGTON WIDE RECEIVERS

It's great to see Jahan Dotson rolling again, and he has a shot to keep it going here, but it remains to be seen if there is enough room in the Washington passing game for him to coexist with Curtis Samuel, who should be back from his toe injury. Terry McLaurin needs fewer conditions applied – he should be able to beat all of the Seahawks corners from almost any look. It's actually Samuel who gets the toughest matchup, as slot corner Devon Witherspoon is most comfortable defending where Samuel tends to run his routes. To beat Witherspoon you want to get vertical, and it's not clear if the Commanders are prepared to test him that way.

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: Curtis Samuel
Even: Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson

Dallas Cowboys vs. New York Giants

DALLAS WIDE RECEIVERS

Deonte Banks might soon be one of the best corners in the NFL, but even if that's accepted as a given he's still at risk of getting put in the spin cycle by CeeDee Lamb in the short term. Lamb is dominant in a way that exceeds the sum of his athletic traits, so Banks' all-world athleticism isn't guaranteed to save him. What would sooner save Banks is if Dallas targets other corners instead, as Cor'Dale Flott probably can't cover most receivers, including Brandin Cooks or Michael Gallup. Then again, Dallas has shown no interest in utilizing Cooks, so his ability to beat most corners he faces evidently will not show up in the box score this year.

Upgrade: CeeDee Lamb
Downgrade: N/A
Even: N/A


 


 

GIANTS WIDE RECEIVERS

Darius Slayton and Wan'Dale Robinson are not bad players, but it's difficult to put into words how hopeless their situation is with Tommy DeVito.

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: Darius Slayton, Wan'Dale Robinson
Even: N/A

Las Vegas Raiders vs. New York Jets

LAS VEGAS WIDE RECEIVERS

Left tackle Kolton Miller (shoulder) is practicing less than last week, which means the Raiders passing game might be in even more harm's way than usual in this brutal matchup. Aidan O'Connell can't be faulted for struggling against the Jets defense, especially if the rush is getting cut loose on the left side. With that said, for what it's worth, Sauce Gardner and D.J. Reed plainly cannot cover Davante Adams. The problem for Adams is that the Jets can afford to roll help his way, and Jakobi Meyers can only make them pay by moving the chains on occasion. Between the rush, the rookie quarterback and the already-tough matchup, it's not easy to be optimistic for the Raiders receivers here.

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Davante Adams, Jakobi Meyers


 


JETS WIDE RECEIVERS

The only challenging Raiders corner is Nate Hobbs, who tends to stay in the slot. Hobbs might see Garrett Wilson and Allen Lazard a couple times from there, but Wilson should more so get cracks at the patently bad boundary corners on the Raiders defense. As long as the Jets account for Maxx Crosby it might be difficult for even Zach Wilson to screw this up.

Upgrade: Garrett Wilson
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Allen Lazard

Buffalo Bills vs. Denver Broncos

BUFFALO WIDE RECEIVERS

Patrick Surtain might attempt to shadow Stefon Diggs here, and it doubtlessly would be one of Diggs' toughest matchups of the year if so. I personally suspect Diggs basically cannot be covered, though, and I think a defense makes him more dangerous when they believe otherwise. In this case the danger for Denver is believing that Surtain himself is enough, rolling extra coverage help away from Surtain and toward whoever is covering Gabe Davis and Khalil Shakir. If the Broncos do this then I think Diggs will hurt them for it – he quite simply needs to be bracketed to be slowed down. Then again, if Denver brackets Diggs they risk cutting loose Diggs and Shakir.

Upgrade: Gabe Davis, Khalil Shakir
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Stefon Diggs


 


 

DENVER WIDE RECEIVERS

Rasul Douglas has limitations downfield and laterally due to his heavy feet, but against Courtland Sutton these limitations might matter less. Not because Sutton is sluggish or any such thing, but because Douglas quite simply would prefer to face the biggest wide receivers since their strides are more similar to his. If Douglas has to track Jerry Jeudy in and out of breaks then eventually Douglas is going to get crossed up or just tip over. The good news for Douglas is that Jeudy mostly plays the slot, where he'd instead face Taron Johnson – the top remaining Bills corner.

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mario Puig
Mario is a Senior Writer at RotoWire who primarily writes and projects for the NFL and college football sections.
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