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Divisional Round WR/CB Matchups: Who to target and avoid in NFL DFS lineups

Identifying the best and worst NFL DFS plays at the WR position based on CB matchups for the Divisional Round

Atlanta Falcons v Buffalo Bills Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images

When it comes to season-long leagues, your lineup will always feature your top wideouts. You just have to go with your best players no matter what. In DFS contests, though, you better keep an eye on some of the upcoming WR/CB matchups if you want to really identify the best and worst plays of the upcoming slate of games.

With wide receivers being the second-highest scoring position only behind quarterbacks, it’s critical to pick the best possible players at the position if you want to rack up big-time points every week. One important point to consider that most people forget about: different wideouts face different cornerbacks, and different cornerbacks have wildly varying defensive levels.

I’m here to highlight some of the best WR/CB matchups to target, and some of the worst WR/CB matchups to avoid for this weekend slate of games.

Top WR/CB Matchups to Target

Baltimore Ravens v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

Stefon Diggs (BUF) vs. Charvarius Ward (KC)

Last week marked the first time in a month a half in which Diggs was limited to fewer than 10 PPR points in a single game. Truth be told, Buffalo was facing a top-tier defense and a D-savant in HC Bill Bellichick, and Diggs got just four targets from Josh Allen, though he was still good for three receptions and a fantastic 60 receiving yards. Of course, not finding paydirt hurt Diggs’ numbers, but he was this close to finishing with 15 PPR points had he scored a TD even without getting more than three catches. That, simply put, is insanely efficient production. Diggs had gotten at least seven targets in all prior seven games and has averaged 16 PPR points per game in the last month of play, including the WC Round. You can safely count on Diggs getting 10+ targets, grabbing at least five of those, reaching 50+ targets... and that’s just the worst-case baseline.

Looking at secondary defenders with at least 450 routes defended through the season, Chavarius Ward ranks in a very putrid 28th-worst position and 26th percentile when it comes to his FP/R allowed mark (0.24). Ward has surrendered four touchdowns against this season, and although it’s not that he allows incredible amounts of passes to get completed (51.3%) he gets targeted more than a few times per game (6+) and that means receptions will fall for his main covered WRs no matter what. Ward’s 511 yards allowed make for an average of 13.1 per completion and 6.7 per target, and opposing QBs have been good for nearly an 80 Passer Rating against him. Not the worst league-wide, but surely one to target in DFS contests by rostering Diggs—and potentially his bomb-thrower in QB Josh Allen as one bounty could lead to another.

Tee Higgins (CIN) vs. Kristian Fulton (TEN)

In a very weird development, the Las Vegas Raiders opted to throw tough-as-nails and best-LV corner Casey Hayward Jr. in Higgins’ way last week in the Wild-Card game between them and Cincy. That was surprising considering Ja’Marr Chase was out there doing it on the field for the Bengals, but the coverage worked as expected with Tee falling to a measly 4-1-10 receiving line for just 2 PPR points... That shouldn’t be the case this weekend, though, with Tennessee 1) not having such a great CB to deploy on Chase/Higgins and 2) the Titans being the No. 1 team in the conference for a reason (knowing how and on who they should put their best defenders on...). Higgins’ stinker in the WC Round will keep some fantasy GMs at bay and scared of a potential egg, but it’s not that Higgins is a bad player. He’s scored 16+ PPR points in four of the last six games played before the postseason kicked off, and he’s reached that mark every time he’s gotten 7+ targets. As long as Tee is fed, Tee eats. To wit: the 43.4-PPR explosion on a 13-12-194-2 (!!!) day against Baltimore in W16. Let Chase grab the defense’s attention while Higgins feast on the margins.

Fulton missed a few games here and there through the regular season for the Titans, but he still racked up defensive coverages with 475 routes defended—one of only seven secondary DBs with such a number in 13 or fewer games played. While Fulton has allowed fewer FP/Target than the other two main defenders in Tennessee’s secondary, the truth is that he’s surrendering the most FP per route covered at 0.21 compared to his counterparts’ lower figures (0.15 and 0.11). On the season, Fulton has allowed 37-of-72 targets to end in completions for opposing quarterbacks while also getting scored on two of those passes. Quarterbacks are averaging 13.4 Y/R and 6.9 Y/T when targeting Fulton, and Burrow is not going to fear a thing about aiming for Higgins if he gets Fulton’s coverage as PFF is projecting.

Top WR/CB Matchups to Avoid

Green Bay Packers v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

Deebo Samuel (SF) vs. Jaire Alexander (GB)

This matchup is tasty, spacy, and risky when it comes to dropping Deebo from lineups. At the end of the day, Samuel has been a marvelous performer at the wide back (?) position or the running receiver (?) spot. What I’m saying, is that Deebo can do it all and is the clear go-to man of the 49ers offense, no matter how you label him. Samuel has scored more on the ground than on pass plays of late, but we’re assessing WR/CB matchups here so we’re focusing on the receiving end of things. In that case, Deebo has logged 7+ targets just once in the past two-plus months of play (nine games) while only scoring one touchdown in the past eight weeks (including the WC Round game against Dallas). If you trust Samuel’s ground game, go ahead and field him. If you are not convinced about that workload getting bulky and Samuel having to rely on catching the rock and producing through pass plays, maybe you want to reconsider picking Deebo.

Of course, there are doubts in terms of how rusty Jaire Alexander might be this weekend. If this was entirely devoid of context, then yes, this matchup would be one of the toughest ones out there for Samuel this weekend. But Alexander has missed all games from Week 4 on, and although he’s already practiced he’s tagged as questionable. I am assuming he gets to play (high stakes football once for all, folks!) the same as PFF is doing in their projections for the weekend. If that’s the case, then he should surely put the clamps on Deebo (of course in plays in which he actually runs down the field looking to catch passes, not on rushing snaps). Alexander, even on a small sample, has defended 136 routes for just a total of 37 PPR-against through his four games. He’s allowed a low 12-of-22 of his targets to turn into completed passes, though the yardage went for a midget 131 yards for averages of 10.9 Y/R and 6.0 Y/T. Those two marks are inside the 67th and 83rd percentiles respectively, not bad indeed.

Tyreek Hill (KC) vs. Taron Johnson (BUF)

Hill didn’t need to work that much in order to excel last week against the lowly, now-done Steelers. Just five targets from Pat Mahomes were enough for him to grab ‘em all, putting up 57 yards and scoring a touchdown. Good for 16.7 PPR points on the WC Round game and now getting into the Divisional affair with Buffalo. There is a precedent in this matchup, taking place all the way back in W5 when Hill finished with 14.8 PPR points, not a bad tally but surely below his best marks through the season (three games above 32 PPR points) and also below his season average of 17.3 PPR per game. What I’m saying is that you don’t entirely fade a stud like Hill playing under a wonderful QB like Mahomes, but that you have to give it a couple of seconds of thought before rostering him, taming your expectations given the WR/CB matchup he’ll be most probably facing—also, it’s been three of four games for Hill with five or fewer target and he’s not been able to top 12 PPR points in five of his past seven outings, just in case.

The Bills were true to their starters on the secondary with two corners and two safeties racking up at least 550+ routes defended each this season, taking on the heavier burden of the pass defense. Jordan Poyer was stunning at the S position, but Johnson was the leading corner of the Bills all year long. Let’s not overcomplicate this thing: 87 D-backs with the same volume of routes covered as Johnson, and the corner ranks 23rd-best in FP/Route against (0.14) while clocking in fifth-best on a per-target basis (1.19 FP/T). Even though Johnson has played in 16 games this season, he’s gotten targeted only 65 times over the year allowing 36 completions (55.4%) for 354 yards and a measly one-TD-against in all of those nights. Only seven corners have kept 9.8 Y/R and 5.4 Y/T averages from opposing quarterbacks when targeted, and Johnson has done so on the fourth-largest volume of targets faced among those in that group.