With the trade deadline behind us, it’s time to gear up for the back half of the 2023 regular season in the NFL. This edition of The Elites Outside will feature four of the top 10 fantasy receivers thus far, as Week 9 offers plenty of interesting matchups.
Get ready for a great week of NFL football; it’s a privilege to start it with all of you once again!
The elites outside – Week 9 wide receiver matchups
Seattle Seahawks vs. Baltimore Ravens
The Seahawks will bring the 3rd-best receiving grade in the NFL to Baltimore on Sunday to face the Ravens. Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf are staying on their respective sides out wide, with rookie Jaxon Smith-Njigba getting most of the looks out of the slot.
Based on alignments so far in 2023, DK Metcalf will be matched up with Brandon Stephens for most of his day. While Metcalf outgrades Stephens overall, the Ravens’ corner is putting together a solid season in coverage, giving up zero touchdowns (PFF) and a passer rating of just 68.4 (PFF). Metcalf has the deeper aDoT, but has not tallied huge YAC numbers, one of the softer areas of Stephens’ numbers, allowing 152 (PFF) yards in the category this season. With Stephens at 6’1”, 215 lbs this will be a very physical matchup where catches, and especially touchdowns, may be hard to find.
Tyler Lockett will likely be to Geno Smith’s right, where he has a favorable matchup with Marlon Humphrey. Humphrey has played in only four of eight games and allowed receptions on 72.7% (PFF) of targets, a passer rating of 122.8 (PFF), and a touchdown. Lockett’s aDoT sits at 12.3 (PFF), deeper than that of Humphrey; he will have an opportunity to build on his elite production of 14 yards per route run (y/rr, PFF) on routes between 10 and 20 yards.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba has found the end zone in consecutive weeks, I believe he makes it three straight against Arthur Maulet in the slot. Maulet is allowing receptions on 72.2% of targets, each of them coming with over eight YAC (PFF) attached; JSN has cracked the top 40 in YAC across the league despite his lack of targets.
Zay Flowers and Mark Andrews continue to provide the bulk of the fantasy output for the Ravens. Flowers is likely to be moved around drawing matchups with Tariq Woolen, Tre Brown and Devon Witherspoon. The fade is on for Flowers; Seattle’s corners are all being targeted deep down the field, limiting the Ravens’ chances to catch them over the top. Flowers is going to have to make contested catches against this trio of corners, all of which have forced incompletion percentages north of 15% (PFF), that is good for top 30 in the NFL for all three.
Mark Andrews has now played 81.1% (PFF) of snaps out of the slot, setting up a showdown with the exceptional rookie Witherspoon, who has only allowed receptions on 42.9% of targets and a competitive passer rating of 53.2 (PFF). Despite all of this, Andrews should compile receptions underneath on drives with an aDoT inside that of Witherspoon’s; this combined with the six inches Andrews will have on the rookie in the red zone should make for a decent fantasy output.
Matchup Winners: Tyler Lockett, Mark Andrews
Matchup Losers: DK Metcalf, Zay Flowers
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Miami Dolphins (Frankfurt, Germany)
To Germany, where Travis Kelce and the committee of Chiefs receivers take on the Dolphins’ coverage group, who have done well battling injury early this season.
Travis Kelce is spending about half of his time in the slot at 51.7%(PFF); the primary coverage option inside for the Dolphins is Kader Kohou. If this matchup holds, look for Kelce having a big-time week; he will have a size advantage over Kohou and an opportunity to expose him as the Dolphin’s slot corner is allowing receptions on 83.3% (PFF) of targets at 11.1 YPC (PFF).
I also like Rashee Rice this week in the same matchup; Patrick Mahomes should be taking advantage of the 126.0 (PFF) competitive passer rating from Kohou and the three touchdowns he has already given up. When Travis Kelce takes his inline snaps, he will be seeing Jerome Baker and David Long Jr; he will have the edge against these two, as he does against most linebackers. Both have struggled with YAC, and Long Jr. is conceding a passer rating of 136.3 (PFF). Patrick Mahomes will have no issues finding Kelce for big-time plays, particularly in the red zone.
Jalen Ramsey has returned to action on the outside in Miami and hopefully will be joined by Xavien Howard, who is listed as questionable. If Howard does not go, Eli Apple will continue to fill in. With the inconsistency from the receivers playing wide in Kansas City, it is hard to find a viable fantasy option against this Miami coverage group. The best hope for catching a longer touchdown would be Marquez Valdez-Scantling, who is still doing his thing on deep routes (20+ yards), scoring his only touchdown of 2023 in this section of the field with an aDoT of 31.5 (PFF).
Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle will be matched up with L’Jarius Snead and Jaylen Watson on the outside and Trent McDuffie in the slot. McDuffie has been the best corner thus far for the Chiefs, so I would expect Mike McDaniel to keep Tyreek Hill outside primarily. Both Hill and Waddle will benefit from an extreme mismatch up against Watson, who is conceding a passer rating of 130.8 (PFF) and has allowed five touchdowns already. Tua Tagovailoa should be targeting whoever draws Watson. I would expect Jaylen Waddle to get more snaps against the soft corner, boosting his floor and making him a WR2. Hill will continue a potential all-time fantasy season.
Matchup Winners: Travis Kelce, Rashee Rice, Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle
Matchup Losers: Marques Valdez-Scantling, Skyy Moore
Cincinnati Bengals vs. Buffalo Bills
The arrival of Rasul Douglas from Green Bay will certainly give the Bill’s coverage unit a different look on Sunday when they take on the Bengals. Before the addition of Douglas, the Bills were graded in the top 10 in coverage (PFF) at number seven, with Taron Johnson in the slot and the pair of Christian Benford and Dane Jackson on the outside.
Ja’Marr Chase will likely see all four, including Douglas, throughout the game, and I expect him to produce fantasy points. The only Bills defender I see with a chance to slow down Chase is Benford; he gives up receptions at a lower rate than his teammates and has limited opponents in YAC, a category in which Chase is feasting. There should be no concern for Chase owners in this one, as Rasul Douglas will be phased in and has allowed three touchdowns(PFF) despite his excellent coverage grade of 79.6 (PFF).
Dane Jackson and Taron Johnson both allow receptions over 80% (PFF) of the time while targeted, with Johnson already surrendering three touchdowns and a passer rating of 127.0 (PFF); the start is on for Tyler Boyd this week against Johnson in the slot. Tee Higgins will have opportunities against Dane Jackson and potentially Rasul Douglas, but his inconsistency so far in 2023 makes him difficult to work into a lineup for me.
The wide corners of the Bengals, DJ Turner II, and Cam Taylor-Britt, do not grade as high in coverage as Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis do in receiving, but they are not conceding the type of production leading to fantasy points. Turner II and Taylor-Britt have given up only one (PFF) touchdown between the two of them, and opposing quarterbacks are completing just 48.4% (PFF) of throws when targeting them. I am not ready to fade Stefon Diggs; I believe he will correct some of the numbers of Turner II, in particular, who is a rookie and only has received 17 (PFF) targets so far in 2023.
I am not as confident in either Gabe Davis or Dalton Kincaid this week. Davis will be working against Turner II and Taylor-Britt primarily and will not be stretching their coverage down the field; he may have a decent reception/yardage day, but I see him as a flex start at best.
If the alignment trends continue with Dalton Kincaid, he will likely square off with Bengals’ safety Mike Hilton for most of the day out of the slot; Hilton is a challenge for Kincaid, coming in with a deeper aDoT at 8.1 (PFF), and is yet to concede a touchdown. Hilton should be stout in the red zone to keep touchdowns off the board for Kincaid and limit him to short catches between the numbers.
Matchup Winners: Ja’Marr Chase, Tyler Boyd, Stefon Diggs
Matchup Losers: Tee Higgins, Gabe Davis, Dalton Kincaid
Los Angeles Chargers vs. New York Jets (MNF)
The Chargers’ pass-catching group will have its hands full on Monday night, taking on the excellent coverage unit of the Jets. Keenan Allen continues to work out of the slot at a high rate of 62.5%(PFF), drawing a matchup with Michael Carter II. This sets up well for Allen as he is doing most of his damage on routes under 10 yards, posting 284 yards, two touchdowns, and a receiving grade of 92.7 (PFF) on such routes. Carter II is allowing 8.6(PFF) yards per reception with an aDoT of 12.8 (PFF); this should lead to the receptions underneath for Allen, on the outer limit of his best section of the field, and make for excellent fantasy output.
Joshua Palmer will have the task of facing Sauce Gardner at left corner and DJ Reed at right corner for the Jets. From the looks of the numbers thus far for Gardner and Reed, they allow you to catch the ball frequently, with reception percentages around 70% (PFF), but not run with it, giving up a combined YAC total of 103 (PFF) yards thus far across 11 total games between them. The fade is on for Joshua Palmer, as he is relying on 4.4 YAC per reception (PFF), and the combination of Gardner and Reed has allowed only a single touchdown so far in 2023.
To all of the Garrett Wilson managers out there, I believe the touchdown drought will end Monday night. Wilson has the flexibility to move back and forth across formations, which will allow the Jets to find him a very favorable matchup with Chargers’ corner Michael Davis on the outside. Davis has already allowed five (PFF) touchdowns on the season and a passer rating of 120.8 (PFF). If the Jets are looking to take advantage of their best weapon in the passing game, sending Wilson toward Davis is a no-brainer.
Matchup Winners: Keenan Allen, Garrett Wilson
Matchup Losers: Joshua Palmer
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