Best, worst wide receiver matchups for Week 7 in fantasy football

Mike Clay
ESPN PLUS


By using our play-by-play data, we're now able to identify where each wide receiver and cornerback lines up on each play. By tracking matchups between the two positions, including potential shadow situations, we can offer the best projections, rankings and fantasy advice each week.


Below are the receivers with the best and worst Week 7 matchups, as well as the corresponding fantasy impact.


To view the primary defenders that the top three wide receivers for each team will see this weekend, be sure to check out our Weekly WR vs. CB Cheat Sheet.


Advantageous Matchups


Falcons' Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley vs. Giants' Janoris Jenkinsand Eli Apple


The Giants have allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers, but a closer look shows that they've been elite against the slot (fewest allowed), but not so hot against the perimeter (ninth most allowed).


Jones has aligned on the perimeter on 78 percent of his routes this season, and Ridley sits at 76 percent. The two receivers will see oft-targeted and struggling Jenkins and Apple on most of their Week 7 routes. Receivers facing Jenkins have scored 96 fantasy points this season, which is third highest in the league.


Keep in mind that this game is on Monday Night Football, and both Ridley and Sanu are both looking questionable due to injury. That makes both risky plays, and Sanu is also looking at a tough matchup against a defense that, as mentioned, has shut down the slot. If both are out, Justin Hardy would be the next man up, but he would be a shaky flex option.


Panthers' Devin Funchess vs. Eagles' Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills


Philadelphia is a staple in this article because the Eagles' perimeter corners continue to struggle. With Darby and Mills handling most of the snaps at outside corner, Philadelphia is allowing 32.8 fantasy points per game to perimeter receivers, which is second most behind only the Saints (35.9). Incredibly, the two corners both rank top-three in terms of how often opposing receivers are targeted when lined up against them. Receivers against Mills have 36 catches for 566 yards, both league highs.


Enter Funchess, who aligns outside on 82 percent of his routes and has been targeted on a generous 21 percent of his routes this season. Expect that number to be higher this week, as Darby and Mills have both been targeted on one-quarter of their routes. Former Eagle Torrey Smith also benefits from the matchup but isn't seeing enough volume to warrant a fantasy start.


Browns' Jarvis Landry vs. Buccaneers' M.J. Stewart


The Buccaneers are allowing 41.1 fantasy points per game to slot receivers, which is 10.1 more than any other defense. Stewart's struggles have been the main culprit. Receivers aligned against him have been targeted on 28 of 95 pass routes and have caught 24 passes for 301 yards and four touchdowns. Stewart has been targeted on a massive 29 percent of his coverage snaps and is allowing 0.82 fantasy points per coverage snap, which is easily worst among corners who will play a sizable role this week. Landry is in prime position for a big rebound week.


Rams' Brandin Cooks vs. 49ers' Jimmie Ward


The 49ers are allowing the third-fewest fantasy points to players lined up wide to the right (Richard Sherman's side) but the second-most fantasy points to players lined up wide to the left (Ward's side). That, of course, makes sense. Ward replaced struggling Ahkello Witherspoon in the lineup but hasn't been much better.


Cooks has aligned wide to Jared Goff on 56 percent of his routes, which means he -- not Robert Woods (15 percent) -- will see Ward most often. Cooks should obviously be upgraded both because of the matchup and with slot man Cooper Kupp sidelined. Speaking of which, Woods played in the slot more often last week with Kupp out. That means he'll match up with K'Waun Williams this week, leaving Josh Reynolds to run most of his routes against Sherman. Cooks and Woods are terrific plays, but Reynolds shouldn't be started.


Vikings' Adam Thielen vs. Jets' Buster Skrine or Parry Nickerson


The Jets are allowing the sixth-most fantasy points to wide receivers this season and are yet another defense with a hole in the slot. New York is surrendering 29.7 fantasy points per game to slot receivers, which is third highest in the league. Skrine was struggling early on, but a concussion has kept him sidelined since early in Week 5. That's meant a larger role for overmatched 2018 sixth-round pick Nickerson. Nickerson has been targeted on 26 percent of his coverage snaps, and Skrine is even higher at 29 percent.


Thielen aligns in the slot 60 percent of the time, and regardless of whether its Skrine or Nickerson, he's a terrific bet to continue his outstanding early-season success.


Chargers' Mike Williams vs. Titans' Malcolm Butler


Tennessee is allowing a league-high 17.4 fantasy points per game to receivers lined up wide to the left. That's where Butler has been aligned on 78 percent of his routes. Receivers lined up across from the former Patriot have scored a league-high 114 fantasy points this season.


Williams has lined up wide to the left on 39 percent of his routes, which isn't a huge number, but it is highest on the Los Angeles roster. Williams will run roughly 60 percent of his routes against Adoree' Jackson and Logan Ryan, who have been solid, but he gets the biggest upgrade among Chargers receivers because he'll see the struggling Butler most often. Expect Keenan Allen to draw Butler on one quarter of his routes and Tyrell Williams on 15-20 percent.


Other notables:


Upgrade Ravens slot man Willie Snead IV vs. Saints slot corner P.J. Williams.


The Eagles' Alshon Jeffery figures to be shadowed by the Panthers' James Bradberry, but considering Bradberry's struggles, this is actually an upgrade for Jeffery.


The Redskins' Josh Doctson should be on waivers but is an obvious avoid even in deep leagues against the Cowboys' Byron Jones. However, the Cowboys have struggled on the other side of the field, so the Redskins' Paul Richardson is a deep sleeper against Chidobe Awuzie (ankle) or Anthony Brown.


Tough Matchups

Titans' Corey Davis vs. Chargers' Casey Hayward (shadow)


The 2018 Chargers cornerback unit hasn't been nearly as dominant as the 2017 version, but there's no doubt Hayward remains one of the best in the business. The Chargers' top corner has shadowed Kelvin Benjamin, Amari Cooper and Antonio Callaway already this season and is a near lock to travel with Davis in Week 7. That's bad news for Davis, who has been heavily targeted and shown well in good/great matchups but also has been useless in fantasy when the matchup is tough. He's a shaky flex play.


Meanwhile, Desmond King has once again been terrific in the slot, which is where he'll see a lot of Tajae Sharpe this week. Davis will escape to the slot on one quarter of his routes, but life won't be much easier against King. The door is open for Taywan Taylor to have a bounce-back week against oft-targeted and slumping Trevor Williams.


Bears' Allen Robinson vs. Patriots' Stephon Gilmore (shadow)


Gilmore has picked up where he left off in 2017, showing well in coverage while usually shadowing the opposing team's top perimeter receiver. He's already traveled with DeAndre Hopkins, Donte Moncrief, Marvin Jones Jr. (part time) and Sammy Watkins this season. That said, we should plan for a showdown with Robinson in Week 7. Chicago's top receiver has aligned on the perimeter on two-thirds of his routes this season. He's aligned against Gilmore on 31 routes in his career, catching four of seven targets for 50 yards and one touchdown.


Downgrade Robinson, though he should still be in lineups. Taylor Gabriel will draw Jason McCourty, who has been solid, and rookie Anthony Miller is a deep sleeper in the slot against Jonathan Jones. The Patriots have allowed the sixth-most fantasy points to slot receivers.


Texans' DeAndre Hopkins vs. Jaguars' Jalen Ramsey (shadow), and Texans' Will Fuller V vs. Jaguars' A.J. Bouye (shadow)


The Jaguars' defense was roughed up by Dallas last week, but Jacksonville is still allowing a league-low 28.5 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers. That includes 14.1 per game to perimeter receivers, which is where Hopkins (79 percent perimeter) and Fuller (79 percent) align most of the time.


These teams met twice in 2017, with Ramsey shadowing Hopkins and Bouye shadowing Fuller in the second meeting. Hopkins caught 11 of 28 targets for 135 yards and two scores on 80 routes in the two meetings. Fuller missed the Week 1 affair but caught all five of his targets for 44 yards and no scores on 34 routes in Week 15. Despite some limited success last season, both should be downgraded in one of their toughest showdowns of the season.


With Hopkins and Fuller dealing with tough matchups, it opens the door for a big day for slot man Keke Coutee against Tyler Patmon, whom Dak Prescottadmitted Sunday the Cowboys had game-planned to attack (Cole Beasley posted a 11-9-101-2 line in the game).


Saints' Michael Thomas and Ted Ginn Jr. vs. Ravens' Marlon Humphrey, Brandon Carr and Jimmy Smith


Baltimore continues to dominate opposing offenses, allowing the second-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks, the fourth-fewest to wide receivers and the third-fewest to perimeter receivers. The loaded secondary will face one of its toughest challenges of the season in Week 7 against the red-hot Saints offense.


Thomas has crashed to earth following three straight top-eight fantasy weeks to start the season, finishing 60th and 38th in his past two games. He lines up outside on 70 percent of his routes, which means he'll see the Ravens' terrific trio most of the time this week. The same can be said for Ted Ginn Jr. or, if he remains out, replacement Tre'Quan Smith. Cameron Meredith should be serviceable against Ravens slot corner Tavon Young.


Other notables:


Downgrade Cardinals primary slot WR Larry Fitzgerald vs. Broncos slot corner Chris Harris Jr.


If T.Y. Hilton returns for the Colts this week, expect him to be shadowed by surging Bills corner Tre'Davious White. That would mean a significant downgrade. If Hilton is out, White doesn't figure to shadow. Those with Chester Rogers shouldn't be overly concerned, as he lines up in the slot 92 percent of the time and White has traveled inside on only 3 percent of his coverage snaps this season