Congrats to all of you who have made the postseason in your season-long league. The shape of the 2023 NFL season is shifting quickly as we head to week 15, and these four matchups offer uncertainty and intrigue to go with it. Happy Holidays from The Elites Outside!
The elites outside – Week 15 WR and TE matchups
Denver Broncos vs. Detroit Lions (Sat)
The Broncos trail the Chiefs by just one game in the AFC West ahead of week 15. Yes, you read that correctly. Courtland Sutton looks to build on his elite touchdown total of 10 (PFF) on the outside, and Jerry Jeudy will work out of the slot. Sutton will face Lions corners Cameron Sutton and Jerry Jacobs this week, with more snaps likely coming against Jacobs.
Buy Courtland Sutton; his matchup with Jerry Jacobs is more than favorable. Jacobs has allowed the second most touchdowns of all NFL corners with seven (PFF)this season and grants a competitive passer rating of 107.8 (PFF). Sutton’s aDoT of 13.2 (PFF) splits those of Cameron Sutton and Jacobs, putting these three players at similar depths. Courtland Sutton is tied for seventh among all receivers in contested catches with 12 in 2023 and should be winning when this tandem of the Lions corners close in.
Jerry Jeudy will draw the toughest coverage assignment out of the slot against Brian Branch of the Lions. Fade Jeudy: while he is targeted deeper than Branch, Jeudy is the lower-graded player in receiving vs. coverage (PFF), and his inconsistency this year makes him difficult to start consistently.
The Lions have an advantage throwing this week as they bring the 6th-best receiving group in to face the 31st-best coverage group of the Broncos, according to PFF grades.
Amon-Ra St. Brown is splitting snaps between the slot and outside in 12 games played this season. In the slot, he will find Ja’Quan McMillian, who does well limiting receptions but has allowed four touchdowns on the season (PFF). St. Brown and McMillian share similar aDoTs at 7.9 and 7.2 (PFF), respectively, but with St. Brown tied for the lead among receivers in contested catches this season with 12 (PFF), expect him to come down with the football even when McMillian is able to stick with him.
Outside, Amon-Ra St.Brown will split snaps against Pat Surtain II and Fabian Moreau. St. Brown’s aforementioned aDoT is well inside that of Surtain II and Moreau, who come in between 11.0 and 12.6 (PFF). Amon-Ra is sixth overall among receivers this season in YAC with 439 yards total (PFF); this, along with the depth of these corners, should solidify his production, making him a buy this week.
Sam LaPorta has taken 43.8% of his snaps this season from the inline spot (PFF); expect this rate or higher from that alignment for him in this matchup with the Broncos. Josey Jewell and Alex Singleton handle most of the box coverage responsibilities at linebacker for Denver and are allowing receptions on over 80.0% of targets they defend (PFF). LaPorta owns the deeper aDoT to go along with this and should have ample opportunity to convert lengthier catches. Jared Goff should automatically target LaPorta in the red zone if he draws Alex Singleton; the Broncos linebacker has allowed five touchdowns on the season (PFF).
Matchup Winners: Cortland Sutton, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Sam LaPorta
Matchup Losers: Managers without players in this game
Dallas Cowboys vs. Buffalo Bills
CeeDee Lamb trails only Tyreek Hill in fantasy output at receiver this season and will look to continue his elite campaign in Buffalo on Sunday. With 58.5% (PFF) of Lamb’s snaps coming from the slot, he will draw Bills corner Taron Johnson for most of his day.
Buy CeeDee Lamb; Johnson is fifth worst among all NFL corners this season in reception rate, allowing completions on 79.2% of targets he defends (PFF). Taron Johnson also concedes a competitive passer rating of 114.2 (PFF), which is 10th worst among all corners this season (PFF).
On the outside both Lamb and Brandin Cooks will face off with Bills corners Rasul Douglas and Christian Benford. Of these two corners, Douglas has held up better when asked to defend targeted players, allowing completions on 63.2% of those routes (PFF). He has, however, allowed four touchdowns on the season, and his running mate Benford is conceding a passer rating of 101.5 (PFF). This should allow Lamb to earn targets on his snaps out wide, supplementing his production against Johnson in the slot.
Brandin Cooks will be out-graded and undersized relative to Rasul Douglas, but he may be able to draw the more lenient assignment against Benford, with Douglas potentially traveling with Lamb on CeDee’s snaps out wide. Buy Cooks; the total in this game is 50.5 (ESPN Bet), and Benford allows receptions on 71.7% of targets he is asked to defend (PFF).
Jake Ferguson is likely to see a combination of Christian Benford, safety Jordan Poyer, and Terrel Bernard at linebacker from the Bills. Buy Ferguson; all of these players allow receptions on over 70.0% of targets they defend and gave up 83 yards to Travis Kelce in week 14.
The Bills pass-catching unit will look to bounce back from an underwhelming performance in week 14 against the Chiefs.
Stefon Diggs is likely to match up with Cowboys corners DaRon Bland, Stephon Gilmore, and Jourdan Lewis on his snaps from the slot. The Bills should move Diggs around outside to get the matchup they want, as Bland and Gilmore stay put on their respective sides. Buy Diggs with this flexibility; he should have at least one opportunity in the red zone to beat Bland or Gilmore for a touchdown; this Cowboys duo has conceded seven scores on the year (PFF). With Jourdan Lewis allowing receptions on 71.7% of targets he defends, Diggs should be able to build his fantasy production on those looks as well.
Gabe Davis posted zero receptions on just two targets in week 14. Fade him this week, especially in a fantasy playoff scenario. Davis plays out of the slot on just 16.0 % (PFF) of his snaps, forcing him out wide against Bland and Gilmore. Both Cowboys corners out-grade him in receiving vs. coverage (PFF). With Davis failing to bring in a single reception in three of the last five weeks, he is not trustworthy to be started in a flex slot.
Dalton Kincaid should see a combination of Cowboys defenders on Sunday, including safeties Donovan Wilson and Jayron Kearse. The matchup with Wilson is favorable, the Cowboys safety concedes a huge passer rating of 132.4 (PFF). Nonetheless, with Kearse and the linebacking core of the Cowboys yet to allow a touchdown in coverage this season (PFF), those snaps may be limited. Fade Kincaid, as he is yet to surpass 100 yards in 12 games this season and has scored just two touchdowns (PFF).
Matchup Winners: CeeDee Lamb, Brandin Cooks, Jake Ferguson, Stefon Diggs
Matchup Losers: Gabe Davis, Dalton Kincaid
Baltimore Ravens vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
There are big playoff implications for the AFC in Jacksonville on Sunday as the Ravens travel south to face the Jaguars.
Both Zay Flowers and Odell Beckham Jr. have had productive outings in recent weeks for the Ravens and will be matched up outside with Darious Williams and Montaric Brown of the Jaguars. Brown will fill in for Tyson Campbell again if Campbell is unable to go. Darious Williams limits receptions to just 60.0% of the targets he defends, and allows a competitive passer rating of only 71.3 (PFF). OBJ will play at a similar depth to Williams, which should limit his production, as Odell has only three contested catches in 2023 (PFF).
Flowers will have a better chance on his snaps against Williams, his aDoT of 8.9 will keep him in front of the Jaguars corner, and grant opportunities to add to his stellar total of 306 YAC (PFF) this season. On the opposite side, Montaric Brown will be the better matchup for both Flowers and OBJ. Brown is conceding a passer rating of 120.9 and allowed three touchdowns (PFF) this season. Flowers should have a better chance to produce for the Ravens on this side as well, particularly on shorter routes. On routes under 10 yards, Flowers comes away with receptions on 78.8% of his targets, and has logged 228 receiving yards (PFF).
Odell Beckham Jr.’s main advantage on Sunday will be his deep aDoT of 14.6, but converting deeper catches will be difficult with OBJ bringing in just 3 catches over 20 yards on the season. Buy Flowers, fade OBJ.
With Christian Kirk on IR, Calvin Ridley and Zay Jones will earn the majority of targets at receiver for Jacksonville in this game. Neither of these Jaguars receivers take snaps from the slot often, setting them up to face Brandon Stephens and Marlon Humphrey of the Ravens on the outside.
Both Ridley and Jones will be taking these corners down the field with aDoTs over 14.0 (PFF). With Stephens and Humphrey limiting receptions to under 62.0% of targets they defend collectively, the production of Ridley and Jones will rely on deeper catches in this game.
Buy Ridley posting multiple deep catches against Marlon Humphrey. Last week against the Rams, Humphrey allowed an average of 23.0 yards per catch, and Ridley carries better numbers on routes over 20 yards than his teammate Jones (PFF). Ridley has tallied 11 receptions, two touchdowns, and 311 of his 742 total receiving yards in that segment of the field this season (PFF). Expect the Jaguars to lean on Travis Etienne Jr. and take the occasional deep shot to Ridley.
Evan Engram currently leads the Jaguars in targets this season with 100 (PFF), and will likely see Ravens safety Kyle Hamilton out of the slot, if Hamilton is able to play. Hamilton is excellent in coverage and shares a nearly identical aDoT with Engram. The Ravens safety has conceded only one touchdown and a competitive passer rating of just 57.7 in 2023; Evan Engram is a fade as long as Hamilton is out there.
Matchup Winners: Zay Flowers, Calvin Ridley
Matchup Losers: Odell Beckham Jr., Zay Jones, Evan Engram
Philadelphia Eagles vs. Seattle Seahawks (MNF)
The Eagles look to right the ship in the first game ever flexed into a Monday Night slot against the Seahawks in week 15.
A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith continue to earn all of the targets for the Eagles offense, and will likely stick to their normal alignments on the outside on Monday night. This sets up a showdown with Tariq Woolen and Tre Brown of the Seahawks. Both Brown and Smith bring in aDoTs of just over 12.0, similar to that of Tre Brown and deeper than that of Woolen (PFF).
Buy both Eagles receivers this week; DeVonta Smith has been on a roll, and Brown will have a physical advantage up against Tre Brown when he is asked to make plays at the same depth. On the opposite side, Brown out-grades Tariq Woolen significantly in receiving vs. coverage (PFF). Smith continues to be a major threat on routes over 20 yards this season. He has posted 349 receiving yards and four touchdowns in this section of the field (PFF) in 2023. The Eagles may lean on the ground game first against a weaker run defense of the Seahawks and set up some of these deep looks to Smith.
The Seahawks have now lost four consecutive games for the first time under Pete Carroll. They may lean on their passing attack to avoid making it five.
Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf will see Darius Slay and James Bradberry on the outside, with Jaxon Smith-Njigba facing Bradley Roby in the slot. Buy DK Metcalf; he will likely draw more snaps against James Bradberry, who is in the middle of the worst coverage season of his career. Bradberry has now allowed eight touchdowns this season, and his aDoT of 12.2 is in front of that of Metcalf, who sits at 15.2 (PFF). Metcalf should be playing at medium depth (10-19 yards), a segment of the field where he is averaging 18.5 yards per catch and scored four of his seven touchdowns (PFF) this season.
Fade Tyler Lockett; Darius Slay is prone to allowing yards after the catch, a category where Lockett ranks outside the top 40 among all receivers this season (PFF). The bulk of Lockett’s production continues to be on short routes, and he will be at a physical disadvantage in those spots against Slay.
Bradley Roby has defended just 26 targets this season, but expect him to be tested by Jaxon Smith-Njigba in this game. These two share nearly identical aDoTs, but JSN out-grades Roby in receiving vs. coverage. Buy JSN; the Seahawks may deploy a more up-tempo attack due to their recent struggles and open up more targets for the rookie slot receiver against a slimy-tested corner.
Matchup Winners: A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, DK Metcalf, Jaxon Smith-Njigba
Matchup Losers: Tyler Lockett
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