This article is part of our Corner Report series.
This article will go game by game for the Sunday main slate looking at the top wide receivers from an offense and, based on the inside/outside and left/right splits in the alignment data of those receivers, identify the cornerbacks most likely to face them in man coverage.
Receivers very rarely see the same corner every play, be it due to formational quirks or zone coverage calls by the defense, so a receiver's fortunes depend on much more than just the quality of the corner they're likely to see the most in a given game. Even against a bad corner, a good receiver can be denied the opportunity if the pass rush or something else outside his control complicates things. But it's part of the puzzle, and it's worth keeping track of.
Receivers are left with an Upgrade, Downgrade, or Even verdict based on their projected matchup. This shouldn't be read as 'good' or 'bad' but rather a measured tweak from the receiver's baseline projection.
Keep in mind that outside of matchups with playoff significance it might be a fool's errand to project playing time at any particular position, let alone wide receiver and cornerback. I'm forced to generalize more than usual here.
JAC vs IND
JACKSONVILLE WIDE RECEIVERS
INDIANAPOLIS WIDE RECEIVERS
CLE vs CIN
CLEVELAND WIDE RECEIVERS
It should be a fine matchup for Jarvis Landry in theory – he should be able to hold his own against Mike Hilton and Case Keenum shouldn't be a huge downgrade from Mayfield – but his upside is somewhat limited unless he scores touchdowns. Donovan Peoples-Jones or/and Anthony Schwartz have the explosiveness to strike deep off the playaction, but the mid-range targets might be hard to come by on a day where the Browns figure to run a lot.
CINCINNATI WIDE RECEIVERS
MIN vs CHI
MINNESOTA WIDE RECEIVERS
Jaylon Johnson is good but the other Bears corners are not.
CHICAGO WIDE RECEIVERS
Darnell Mooney is a really tough cover for bigger, linear corners like Patrick Peterson and Kris Boyd. Allen Robinson is not Allen Robinson at this point in the year due to Covid, but if he's back to normal he should be dangerous to most NFL corners. Betting on him being back to normal and betting on Andy Dalton to play with basic competence are two much bleaker prospects than the general question of 'Is Allen Robinson Good?'
BAL vs PIT
BALTIMORE WIDE RECEIVERS
Marquise Brown has not worked well at all with Tyler Huntley, and it's hard to see how that changes here. Huntley can't throw downfield or to the sidelines, where Brown makes most of his big plays. Brown is a monster in the open field and could make a big play with yards after the catch, but that might be the only way short of a blown coverage. Rashod Bateman is a bigger target than Brown who operates closer to the line of scrimmage, so he projects more easily for targets, especially catchable ones. They might both soon pay the price for the fact that Huntley can't throw the ball very well – once defenses realize they don't need to defend farther than 15 yards (and almost no one aside from Mark Andrews) the going could get especially tough for the Ravens.
PITTSBURGH WIDE RECEIVERS
Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool both have pronounced advantage over the practice squad-type personnel the Ravens are forced to use at corner these days. Ray Ray McCloud sometimes gets targets because defenses correctly don't care what he does, but that's the way he'll get his targets if he gets them. And he'll probably do less with them than almost any other receiver in the league.
HOU vs TEN
HOUSTON WIDE RECEIVERS
Brandin Cooks is one of the best, so it generally takes one of the best to stop him. The Titans have at least one good corner in Kristian Fulton, but he almost always plays on the right side and therefore can be avoided by simply lining up Cooks on the offense's right, or in the slot. Janoris Jenkins still has a bit left in the tank on the other side and actually might mirror Cooks' physical traits better than the slightly taller Fulton. Whether these two can slow Cooks might come down to the play of the quarterback, the pass blocking, etc. But if Cooks has enough time to run his route and a capable passer, he can beat corners better than these. Nico Collins is more likely to beat the 5-foot-9 Jenkins than Fulton, though he's safely bigger than both.
TENNESSEE WIDE RECEIVERS
NYG vs WAS
GIANTS WIDE RECEIVERS
This Washington secondary played poorly most of the year, but it's not clear whether this Giants offense even means to pass, let alone whether they could if they tried. Kenny Golladay and Darius Slayton would normally project well for their own parts, but nothing seems reasonable with this team or situation.
WASHINGTON WIDE RECEIVERS
James Bradberry would rather lock horns with a hulking wideout like Mike Evans than a blur like Terry McLaurin. It's not an upgrade for McLaurin, but whatever fear might be warranted for McLaurin here doesn't pertain to the cornerback matchup. Cam Sims would project poorly against Bradberry, but against Adoree' Jackson he has a major size advantage. Adam Humphries doesn't do anything but he's hanging around for whatever reason.
DET vs GB
DETROIT WIDE RECEIVERS
Particularly with Jared Goff (knee) hopefully back in the fold and against a Packers team fast forwarding to the playoffs, Amon-Ra St. Brown should again be in position to produce here. The rookie wideout has become the focal point of the Lions offense and instead of diminishing returns he has only picked up the pace. Maybe he has an off game for variance reasons, but it's impossible to doubt him with his current usage level. Josh Reynolds has a thigh injury and might not be himself, but he seems to work well with Goff most of the time regardless of the matchup. Kalif Raymond has quietly done a solid job all year and can't be ignored here, either.
GREEN BAY WIDE RECEIVERS
The Packers backups don't project for the slam-dunk advantage that their starters would here, but the Lions defense is largely a group of backups itself. Davante Adams would be the first one to the bench if the Packers rest their starters. What happens after that is less clear – the Packers could also rest Marquez Valdes-Scantling – their one speed threat – along with Allen Lazard – but it also wouldn't be shocking if those two saw a couple quarters of starter snaps before letting the remaining snaps split between Equanimeous St. Brown, Amari Rodgers and the wretched Juwann Winfree. Rodgers is the best player between himself, St. Brown and Winfree, but also the most slot-dependent of the three. If there are slot snaps then Rodgers could be interesting, but if he can't get slot snaps he might get blocked out again.
Even: All ('Upgrade' for anyone who plays 40-plus snaps)
MIA vs NE
MIAMI WIDE RECEIVERS
DeVante Parker might normally draw the shadow coverage of the intimidating J.C. Jackson, but the Patriots might want to send Jackson into the slot more than usual to instead shadow Jaylen Waddle. If Jackson doesn't shadow Waddle then the Patriots might bring some trouble on themselves, though to be fair Parker is dangerous against any non-Jackson Patriots corner.
NEW ENGLAND WIDE RECEIVERS
BUF vs NYJ
BUFFALO WIDE RECEIVERS
All green lights here. The Jets corners aren't bums, but they are generally fringe prospects and they're all very young.
JETS WIDE RECEIVERS
Not good. The Buffalo defense is one of the worst to face with personnel like this. Braxton Berrios has done well lately and might be legitimately good for his own part, but the Bills are adept at crowding the part of the field where Berrios is dependent for production. Denzel Mims is the one Jets wideout with the athletic traits to threaten these moneyball Bills corners, but his skill set and application in the offense seem less certain.
ARI vs SEA
ARIZONA WIDE RECEIVERS
D.J. Reed is a decent corner but at 5-foot-9 he is not well-suited to covering Antoine Wesley in single coverage, even with it being noted that Reed is a better corner overall than Wesley is a receiver. It's just an ideal matchup for Wesley because he's more than a half-foot taller than Reed. Sidney Jones would face a similar problem being as skinny as he is, but he's still a few inches taller than Reed. Jones might more so face A.J. Green on the other side, and Green poses a significant threat for the same reasons. Christian Kirk is a tough cover for Ugo Amadi or whoever else might be in the slot.
SEATTLE WIDE RECEIVERS
The Cardinals won't play one-on-one matchups with DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. The Cardinals outside corners were weak to start the year in general, but now they're down to their fourth- and fifth-string corners with Marco Wilson and Robert Alford out. The Cardinals tend to just drop deep coverage with big cushion off of most snaps, which forces Russell Wilson to pull the trigger before anyone is obviously open (it depends on where the route heads relative to the not-yet-revealed coverage assignment, which often becomes clear only after the Arizona pass rush arrives). Lockett has killed the Cardinals with this approach, perhaps because the seam is the most obviously open part of the field while Wilson is dropping back.
ATL vs NO
ATLANTA WIDE RECEIVERS
The slot is the weakest part of the Saints defense, so Russell Gage might project surprisingly well in this homecoming game. The outside corners haven't been beaten much all year, no matter whether it's Marshon Lattimore, Paulson Adebo or Bradley Roby in question. Be it Olamide Zaccheaus or anyone else, the outside Atlanta receivers have a tough matchup.
NEW ORLEANS WIDE RECEIVERS
The Falcons moved around A.J. Terrell last week after previously leaving him only on the left side. That's bad news for Marquez Callaway, who can beat Fabian Moreau but not Terrell. Tre'Quan Smith might go against rookie fourth-round pick Darren Hall, who previously was behind rookie fifth-round pick Avery Williams in the slot. Hall probably can't be worse than Williams, but he gets no benefit of the doubt in the meantime. Deonte Harris is always dangerous, though his abbreviated workload makes it a matter of catching lightning in a bottle.
LAR vs SF
RAMS WIDE RECEIVERS
Matchups don't matter for Cooper Kupp, but this one has no signs that would otherwise cause concern. Slot corner K'Waun Williams will need help from Fred Warner or some such thing to hold his own, but that's likely easier said than done, or else why wouldn't the 49ers have done something to stop Kupp from catching 11 receptions for 122 yards on 13 targets in the first game. Josh Norman and Ambry Thomas are beatable outside and probably constitute upgrades for Odell Beckham and Van Jefferson, though Matthew Stafford has not worked as well with them for whatever reason.
SAN FRANCISCO WIDE RECEIVERS
Deebo Samuel figures to draw the attention of Jalen Ramsey as often as the Rams can match the two up. It's not clear whether this matters much for Samuel. It hasn't lately – Samuel has obliterated the Rams in his last three games against them. Brandon Aiyuk probably can't get open against Ramsey, but if Ramsey is following Samuel then Aiyuk might more so see Darious Williams – a good player but a much more manageable matchup.
TB vs CAR
TAMPA BAY WIDE RECEIVERS
Well, that was interesting. Mike Evans forges ahead, suddenly the lone Tampa Bay wideout of note, and in this one he might see a lot of Stephon Gilmore. Even so, it might not be a downgrade. Gilmore got lit up by DeVante Parker in recent years, and Evans presents a more dangerous version of the same traits. Cyril Grayson has the speed to threaten any particular defense if they don't take the deep threat seriously, so he's surprisingly interesting. Tyler Johnson et al don't appear to be as poised to produce, however.
CAROLINA WIDE RECEIVERS
DJ Moore is very good and catches the Buccaneers defense with its pass rush on the shelf, but it's still difficult to imagine things shaping up well with the oafs in charge of this team. Carlton Davis is a tough corner, moreover, and he might follow around Moore.
Even: DJ Moore