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Conference-Championship 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 Conference-Championship Round

NFC Divisional Playoffs - Los Angeles Rams v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Kevin C. Cox/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

AFC Divisional Playoffs - Buffalo Bills v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Tyreek Hill (KC) vs. Mike Hilton (CIN)

If you’re reading this column for the first time and doing so in order starting here at the first matchup analyzed, then let me tell you something: we’re entering Conference-Championship Round. Obvious, right? Well, what I’m saying is that you just don’t straight fade players in DFS contests during the regular season, let alone do it in the highest stakes games to date. Downgrading or upgrading expectations and projections? Sure. Fade/Start just because of the matchup? No, sir. With that said, Hill is always a must-play guy stuck in a firepower offense led by Pat Mahomes... and this weekend he’s facing a bona fide tasty matchup going against Mike Hilton for most of his projected snaps (as PFF has it). Hill was ridiculously efficient against Pittsburgh two weeks ago (5-5-57 and a touchdown), and doubled his outcome from 16.7 PPR points to a ridiculous 31.8 last weekend (13-11-150 and a score).

Even if Hill gets a low amount of targets (hard to think that’d be the case), Hilton should still leave the door open for him to succeed more often than not. Hilton is one of only 30 CBs with 540+ routes defended this season, in which he’s been targeted 85 times (15.5% of the time, or once every six routes). As many as 61 of those 85 targets (71.8% !!!) ended in the receiver’s hands, so you get an idea of what Hill is stepping into: Wideout Wonderworld. Hilton has allowed opposing QBs to post a silly 99.8 Passer Rating, the sixth-worst mark among those in the cohort. He’s been scored on four times, only intercepted a couple of throws, and surrendered the 12th-most receiving yards (653, or 7.7 YPT).

Tyler Boyd (CIN) vs. L’Jarius Sneed (KC)

Please don’t get Boyd for what he’s not. Boyd, he of the Cincy Ja’Marrs, is the WR2/WR3 of the team depending on how Tee Higgins performs any given week. Now, hear me out: Boyd has only averaged 11.1 PPR points per game this season and he’s coming off his worst game since Week 12; Boyd has also averaged 13.7 PPR points in the past five games including the two postseason matches he’s played and his late stinker against Tennessee, only scoring fewer than 12.9 PPR in that last game. What I mean is that, as I see it, a positive rebound is most probably coming Boyd’s way this weekend. The targets have remained steady at 5 or 6 for five of the past six games, Boyd racked up between 26 and 96 receiving yards in that span excluding his 17-yard outcome against TEN, and before last week’s game, he had scored a touchdown in four (!) consecutive games.

The Chiefs have used L’Jarius Sneed heavily this season, putting him on the field to defend 539 routes through the final game of the regular season—the highest volume for a corner in KC’s secondary. That, though, doesn’t mean he’s been marvelous at stopping opposing receivers to feast on him. He’s allowed a 68.8% completion rate on 80 targets (55 receptions) for 585 yards. That yields an average of 10.6 YPR and 7.3 YPT, which Sneed posted a below-average per-target mark among the 30-player group of CBs with 540+ routes covered. The Pass Rating isn’t insane (91.9) but certainly a meh middle-of-the-pack figure. Definitely not the absolute worst of defenders in play this week, but one of the “weakest” links to exploit by Cincy if PFF’s projection of this matchup holds true for most of the game.

Top WR/CB Matchups to Avoid

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Deebo Samuel (SF) vs. Jalen Ramsey (LAR)

I’m very positive I must rank in the 99th percentile of Deebo stans. It is what it is, and I’m a sucker for Samuel. That said, there are a ton of things going against Deebo this weekend, so you should be taming your expectations a bit. Deebo is knee-banged-up after getting hit right there last weekend. Deebo is also playing for a quarterback that straight refuses to play NFL-level quarterbacking, limiting his receiving upside—good for Deebo, though, is the fact that he is a freak that can turn lead into gold. Even in PPR formats, Deebo has posted better rushing numbers than receiving ones in five of his last 10 games, and that is without rushing the rock more than 10 times in any single one of those matches. Samuel is a unique hybrid, and that goes in his favor, of course, but when it comes to receiving numbers he’s only topped four receptions once in the past nine games, scored just one touchdown in that span, and reached 65+ yards just twice.

And if all of the above isn’t enough, Deebo will be facing Jalen Ramsey through the CC game this weekend for most of his offensive snaps (per PFF projections). Truth be told, that’d make sense. Ramsey is the better CB of the Rams, a bona fide shutdown D-man, and the player any defensive coach would scheme to face the best opposing threat. As simple as that. Ramsey played 16 games through the regular season covering 623 routes and allowing a measly 0.22 FP on a per-route basis. Just for context, only seven players gave up fewer points that Ramsey on a similar volume of routes defended. Ramsey, though targeted 98 times this season (eight-most among CBs) only allowed 624 receiving yards against his coverages (19th-most) which means he was good for an average of just 6.4 YPT (second-best mark among CBs with 98+ targets). Ramsey is also one of only two defenders with just three touchdowns against while targeted 98+ times, and the only one to pair that mark with four interceptions. Jesus Christ.

Odell Beckham Jr. (LAR) vs. Emmanuel Moseley (SF)

Back-to-back 12.9+ PPR outings will get your attention and force you into giving OBJ serious possibilities of playing him this weekend. And hey, you’d not be too crazy if you do, because OBJ has been great since moving west to LA. Excluding his first game for the Rams, in which he only played 15 snaps, he’s averaged 12.6 PPR points and dropped below that mark just three times. The targets are high at 6+ on a per-game basis and he’s catching almost four passes per outing. OBJ has scored a touchdown in all but three games with the Rams (six total TDs on the year, that is) and has four games as a top-12 WR. Not bad. In fact, he’s coming off two games in which he closed the slate as the WR9 and WR10 putting together a 12-10-123-1 receiving line combining those two postseason matches.

Facing the Rams will be San Fran, perhaps the biggest dog of all teams still alive and playing in the CC Round. That, though, doesn’t mean there aren’t particular players in that team’s defense that are a tier above everybody. Enter Emmanuel Moseley. Moseley has “only” played 11 games this season and defended 355 routes. That’s obviously way fewer than the top-volume corners of the year, but still, a large enough sample to consider Moseley a legit D-stud. The Niners corner has allowed a measly 56.4% of his targets (55) to end in receptions (31) for a ridiculous 318 yards against his coverage. Even better? No quarterback was able to throw a pass his way that ended in a touchdown. Moseley is one of just four (!) CBs without a TD-against and 55+ targets on the year. The season-average marks sit at 0.18 FP/R and 1.14 FP/Target for Moseley, something only three corners did in 2021 when defending 190+ routes.