Wide Receivers vs. Cornerbacks: Week 13 Matchups

Wide Receivers vs. Cornerbacks: Week 13 Matchups

This article is part of our Corner Report series.

This article will go game by game for the Week 12 slate looking at the top wide receivers from an offense and, based on the inside/outside and left/right splits of those receivers, identify the cornerbacks most likely to face them in man coverage.

Receivers rarely see the same corner every play, be it due to formation 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.

BAL vs DEN

BALTIMORE WIDE RECEIVERS

Patrick Surtain had pretty much taken no losses in his NFL career until two weeks ago, and since then both Davante Adams and DJ Moore have arguably gotten the better of Surtain. Great players don't win every time, so in a case like this you either need to hear about an injury to explain a downturn or you have to chalk it up to bad luck or some other sort of randomness. Either way, whatever receiver Baltimore lines up against Surtain is unlikely to have

This article will go game by game for the Week 12 slate looking at the top wide receivers from an offense and, based on the inside/outside and left/right splits of those receivers, identify the cornerbacks most likely to face them in man coverage.

Receivers rarely see the same corner every play, be it due to formation 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.

BAL vs DEN

BALTIMORE WIDE RECEIVERS

Patrick Surtain had pretty much taken no losses in his NFL career until two weeks ago, and since then both Davante Adams and DJ Moore have arguably gotten the better of Surtain. Great players don't win every time, so in a case like this you either need to hear about an injury to explain a downturn or you have to chalk it up to bad luck or some other sort of randomness. Either way, whatever receiver Baltimore lines up against Surtain is unlikely to have any luck themselves. Demarcus Robinson is the one who lines up wide the most, so he should see a lot of Surtain even if it's not a shadow assignment. Devin Duvernay might see Surtain a handful of times but tends to get into the slot more than Robinson.

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: Devin Duvernay, Demarcus Robinson
Even: N/A


DENVER WIDE RECEIVERS

Courtland Sutton is a good candidate to see a shadow assignment from Marlon Humphrey, though that probability lessens if Jerry Jeudy (ankle) is able to return. Humphrey is especially quick to shadow a WR1 when they play regularly in the slot, and while Jeudy is not the clear WR1 in Denver he does play the slot more than Sutton. So it might be a boost for Sutton here if Jeudy can return, rather than a detriment. Even if Humphrey shadows Sutton he might be one of the more matchup-indifferent receivers since he has the frame to box out even bigger corners and doesn't need separation to make a play.

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy

HOU vs CLE

HOUSTON WIDE RECEIVERS

The Browns corners have dealt with myriad injuries this year and the latest has been Greg Newsome sitting out a concussion since Week 11. Newsome's presence would clarify the quality of Cleveland's slot coverage, where A.J. Green has otherwise been the substitute. Denzel Ward is a candidate to shadow Brandin Cooks on outside reps, but Ward seems unlikely to follow Cooks into the slot. If Cooks finds Newsome in the slot then that's a whole lot tougher than Green. Martin Emerson is doing a fine job especially by rookie standards, but Nico Collins could prove a formidable test for him.

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Brandin Cooks (arguable downgrade if Newsome returns), Nico Collins

CLEVELAND WIDE RECEIVERS

The Texans have a couple corners who can play well underneath – Steven Nelson outside and Desmond King in the slot – but Amari Cooper outclasses them especially once you're talking downfield routes. If the Houston pass rush can make Deshaun Watson throw early than maybe Cooper won't generate the separation that is otherwise almost predetermined, but the Houston pass rush is among the league's least frightening. Derek Stingley (hamstring) can run with Cooper but not at less than 100 percent, and even then Cooper is likely to school the rookie on route running. Donovan Peoples-Jones has the athleticism to threaten Nelson/King downfield and has otherwise shown enough polish lately that we can probably give his skill set the benefit of the doubt against the rookie Stingley, Rookie slot wideout David Bell is the kind of receiver King used to eat up at Iowa.

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: David Bell
Even: Amari Cooper, Donvan Peoples-Jones

NYG vs WAS

GIANTS WIDE RECEIVERS

Richie James has done a consistently good job when subbing for Wan'Dale Robinson, so even as the lesser talent of the two James is worth some amount of consideration against Bobby McCain. The role of Kenny Golladay seems unsettled but for him to take more snaps he'd need to displace Isaiah Hodgins. Brian Daboll knows Hodgins from Buffalo and might harbor some amount of favoritism toward Hodgins at Golladay's expense. Darius Slayton seems to have his three-down role locked in, at least, so it would seem like Golladay/Hodgins are the ones in conflict for playing time and usage. Darius Slayton might draw most coverage from Kendall Fuller but Fuller (and few corners) have the wheels to keep up with Slayton downfield. Slayton is liable to return a low catch rate but he can definitely run, and Fuller is both smaller and slower.

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Darius Slayton, Richie James, Isaiah Hodgins

WASHINGTON WIDE RECEIVERS

With Adoree' Jackson out the Commanders catch the Giants in a tough spot. Terry McLaurin probably could beat Jackson anyway, so to slow McLaurin the Giants will likely need to roll coverage his way. Be it Cor'dale Flott, Radarius Williams or Nick McCloud, the backup Giants corners aren't going to cover any of McLaurin, Curtis Samuel or Jahan Dotson without safety help. If they give help on McLaurin they risk cutting one or both of the other two loose. It's easier said than done for the Washington offensive line to hold a clean pocket for Taylor Heinicke, but if they do then these receivers should be open unless the Giants completely neglect the flats.

Upgrade: Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel, Jahan Dotson
Downgrade: N/A
Even: N/A

DET vs JAC

DETROIT WIDE RECEIVERS

DJ Chark gets to face his former team at home, though his level of opportunity is more difficult to figure out. Tyson Campbell is tough at one outside corner spot and the Jaguars might want to use him to shadow cover Chark. Amon-Ra St. Brown inhabits the slot too much for the Jaguars to send Campbel his way, so St. Brown should more so face Darious Williams. Williams is springy and competent for the most part but still might not be good enough to stall a player like St. Brown. When in zone coverage the Jaguars seem almost likely to let St. Brown get the better of them. Kalif Raymond is a slight danger to Williams and a heightened threat to whoever the non-Campbell boundary corner might be.

Upgrade: Amon-Ra St. Brown
Downgrade: N/A
Even: DJ Chark (arguable Downgrade if shadowed by Campbell), Kalif Raymond

JACKSONVILLE WIDE RECEIVERS

Christian Kirk had a tough matchup in Week 12 but gets a much easier one here. Will Harris is a good athlete but has no NFL results to show for it to this point, so Kirk will at the very least have to draw substantial double coverage to get slowed down. Zay Jones might have made Kirk's job a little easier going forward, because catching 11 passes for 145 yards on 14 targets will make the next defense take note in their game planning. Jerry Jacobs and Mike Hughes are not concerns for Zay, nor Marvin Jones, though the latter especially is limited at this point. So long as Trevor Lawrence avoids any inexplicable road yips these three receivers should all be eligible for viable target opportunities.

Upgrade: Christian Kirk, Zay Jones, Marvin Jones
Downgrade: N/A
Even: N/A

MIN vs NYJ

MINNESOTA WIDE RECEIVERS

Justin Jefferson figures to draw the boundary rep coverage of Sauce Gardner but might be able to avoid him by lining up in or motioning into the slot. Whether Jefferson need worry about Gardner at all is up to some question – Gardner is clearly one of the league's better corners already and might get better yet, so if he can neutralize Jefferson here it would put him in the CB1 conversation. Adam Thielen probably can't separate from D.J. Reed at this point, which would be a shame if so because K.J. Osborn hasn't beaten anyone all year. Slot corner Michael Carter can probably handle Osborn, because Osborn has been one of the most ineffective receivers in many years.

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, K.J. Osborn

JETS WIDE RECEIVERS

Garrett Wilson can likely beat both of Patrick Peterson, who tends to play on the left, and Cam Dantzler, who tends to line up on the right. Both corners might be able to contain Wilson underneath in off coverage, but if they have to chase Wilson laterally it will likely go badly for them. If Wilson goes deep against Dantzler the Vikings can either roll safety help or watch Wilson get open. Elijah Moore could post big numbers against Chandon Sullivan but if the Jets continue to set themselves back to give out ceremonial snaps to Braxton Berrios then they will voluntarily decrease their own yardage output. Corey Davis doesn't project especially well against Peterson but might be able to bully the skinnier Dantzler.

Upgrade: Garrett Wilson
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Corey Davis

ATL vs PIT

ATLANTA WIDE RECEIVERS

The Steelers corners usually have help in the form of varied coverages and a reliable pass rush, allowing them to avoid getting beat in one-on-one situations where they otherwise might lose in other defenses, so the fact that Drake London is more talented as a receiver than the Pittsburgh corners are at their position won't necessarily matter. London could beat them all day in drills, but when the Atlanta offense as a whole has to face the Pittsburgh defense it's possible that the superiority of the latter makes things difficult for London.

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Drake London, Olamide Zaccheaus

PITTSBURGH WIDE RECEIVERS

A.J. Terrell might shadow a Pittsburgh receiver but it's not clear whether it would be George Pickens or Diontae Johnson. Johnson's production can be contained to the underneath while Pickens presents a clearer downfield threat, so it might be reasonable for Atlanta to shadow Pickens if either of the two. The other outside corner, Darren Hall, could get beat all day for short gains but at least Johnson can't get behind him.

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: N/A
Even: George Pickens (arguable Downgrade if shadowed by Terrell, arguable Upgrade if not), Diontae Johnson (see Pickens)

PHI vs TEN

PHILADELPHIA WIDE RECEIVERS

Corners like Kristian Fulton and Roger McCreary play with a Vrabel-approved combination of smart and fearless corner but their ruggedness is unlikely to pay off against A.J. Brown, who easily outclasses the corners in terms of overall tools. Brown's 4.49 40 isn't itself a problem but when combined with his massiveness it demands a cushion for the room to plant and anchor that makes it difficult to account for his speed at that point. DeVonta Smith can beat both corners too but he's tended to function mostly underneath and that suits Fulton and McCreary. Quez Watkins doesn't often pop up but he is definitely too fast for slot corner Elijah Molden.

Upgrade: A.J. Brown
Downgrade: N/A
Even: DeVonta Smith, Quez Watkins

TENNESSEE WIDE RECEIVERS

Treylon Burks probably can't beat Darius Slay or James Bradberry with any regularity at this point, and Slay in particular would be challenging. Slay might shadow Burks rather than Robert Woods since the latter isn't a big-play threat, and if so it might be tough for Burks to get open outside. Burks could be moved into the slot for upwards of 25 snaps, though, so that might be where he needs to do his damage.

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Treylon Burks (arguable Downgrade if shadowed by Slay), Robert Woods

CHI vs GB

CHICAGO WIDE RECEIVERS

Chase Claypool will probably see double teams with Darnell Mooney out, but in terms of one-on-one matchups the Packers aren't so intimidating for Claypool. Jaire Alexander has had a down season and he's not built to defend the rim against Claypool. Rasul Douglas does more or less match Claypool's build and might actually be the tougher matchup between himself and Alexander, though if Douglas gets left one-on-one against Claypool on the sideline Douglas can definitely get burned deep.

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Chase Claypool


GREEN BAY WIDE RECEIVERS

Christian Watson is on a tear and while he'll eventually cool off it's difficult to see why he would in this setting. Jaylon Johnson is a good corner but he's not big or fast, and skill doesn't play against Watson as much as tools do. The other Bears corners are hopeless against not just Watson but pretty much anyone else, Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb included.

Upgrade: Allen Lazard, Christian Watson, Randall Cobb
Downgrade: N/A
Even: N/A

SF vs MIA

SAN FRANCISCO WIDE RECEIVERS

Xavien Howard is a playmaker at corner but one who gives up plays, so he's not a concern to players like Deebo Samuel or Brandon Aiyuk. Undrafted rookie Kader Kohou might be a viable starter for the Dolphins but isn't imposing to these receivers, either. Jauan Jennings is much bigger than Kohou and could give him some trouble in the slot.

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, Jauan Jennings

MIAMI WIDE RECEIVERS

The 49ers corners have no hopes of covering Tyreek Hill or Jaylen Waddle, but they might be able to derail the Dolphins passing game via the pass rush with left tackle Terron Armstead out. Hill and Waddle are both major threats after the catch, but if they can't leverage the whole field then the 49ers corners no longer have to play a game of covering Hill/Waddle and can instead defend the space/depth the wideouts are limited to. There's not actionable concern here for Hill or Waddle, but this might not be as good of a matchup as the WR vs. CB question would normally dictate.

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Tyreke Hill, Jaylen Waddle

LAR vs SEA

RAMS WIDE RECEIVERS

Hmmm. No.

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: N/A
Even: N/A

SEATTLE WIDE RECEIVERS

Jalen Ramsey might or might not shadow DK Metcalf, but it's kind of a big Who Cares anyway. Ramsey has not done well this year and the continued collapse of the Rams roster is unlikely to improve his focus. Tyler Lockett can get open against pretty much anyone, so he should be fine too even if he sees Ramsey some number of times.

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: N/A
Even: DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett

LV vs LAC

LAS VEGAS WIDE RECEIVERS

Davante Adams need not fear any of these corners, but the Chargers do have a way of running a lot of off coverages that keep the corner in route-jumping position and can deter a skittish quarterback from attacking the cushion. If the Raiders can pass block long enough for Adams to remove the cushion then he and Derek Carr should be able to strike in sync at that point, but if Carr faces pressure and he fails to release quickly then there could be some needless sluggishness in the Raiders passing game. Mack Hollins probably can't lose Michael Davis but Asante Samuel is much too small to match up with Hollins.

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Davante Adams, Mack Hollins


CHARGERS WIDE RECEIVERS

Keenan Allen is back but so might be Nate Hobbs (wrist), in which case this matchup would go from Great to merely Decent for Allen. Hobbs doesn't scare you off Allen, but Hobbs is a good player and his backups would be helpless against Allen. Joshua Palmer might not be able to reliably beat Rock Ya-Sin but he should hold his own at worst and just as importantly, the other Raiders corners are highly unproven at best. DeAndre Carter and Palmer both might be in position to step up if Hobbs stalls Allen at all.

Upgrade: Joshua Palmer, DeAndre Carter
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Keenan Allen (upgrade if Hobbs is out)

CIN vs KC

CINCINNATI WIDE RECEIVERS

Who knows how close to full health Ja'Marr Chase might be, but if he's himself then Chase and Tee Higgins both are mismatches against the Chiefs boundary corners, who are all three rookies. L'Jarius Sneed is the toughest Chiefs corner and sometimes lines up outside but generally lines up in the slot. Perhaps the Chiefs change that setup here – Sneed is somewhat overqualified against Tyler Boyd, so Kansas City might decide to move him outside to get him against Chase and Higgins more consistently. If Sneed is outside then Trent McDuffie is in the slot. McDuffie is the best of the three Chiefs rookie corners – he would be a tough matchup for Boyd – but Jaylen Watson and Joshua Williams can only be hidden so much.

Upgrade: Tee Higgins, Ja'Marr Chase
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Tyler Boyd

KANSAS CITY WIDE RECEIVERS

Cam Taylor-Britt made a nice play on the Derrick Henry fumble last week but remains mostly untested. This setting will be like none he's ever played in, so there might be an element of unfamiliarity for the otherwise toolsy rookie. Eli Apple is not a concern on the other side. Mike Hilton is a capable throwback slot defender but has issues against bigger or faster targets. Marquez Valdes-Scantling can run past the non-Taylor-Britt, non-Apple Bengals corners but remains mostly a decoy player. JuJu Smith-Schuster might conduct a route-running clinic at the expense of Apple and/or Taylor-Britt, and Justin Watson can overpower Hilton in the slot. Skyy Moore seems to be catching on a bit and can't be ignored if he pushes for 25 snaps.

Upgrade: JuJu Smith-Schuster
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Justin Watson, Skyy Moore

DAL vs IND

DALLAS WIDE RECEIVERS

Stephon Gilmore might follow CeeDee Lamb when the latter lines up outside but Lamb gets into the slot a good amount and should avoid Gilmore for upwards of 20 snaps. That's not to say Lamb can't beat Gilmore, there are just easier completions to make than Gilmore's part of the field. Michael Gallup would benefit if Gilmore shadows Lamb.

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: N/A
Even: CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup

INDIANAPOLIS WIDE RECEIVERS

Michael Pittman, Alec Pierce and Parris Campbell are all capable of doing damage against this Dallas secondary, but have you seen Matt Ryan or/and the Colts offensive line lately? It will be a miracle if Ryan doesn't lose three fumbles in this game.

Upgrade: N/A
Downgrade: N/A
Even: Michael Pittman, Alec Pierce, Parris Campbell

TB vs NO

TAMPA BAY WIDE RECEIVERS

Marshon Lattimore (abdomen) might be back in which case he basically played Mike Evans twice and sat out the rest of the year. That's improbably bad luck for Evans, who both does his worst against Lattimore and seems to do worse against Lattimore than anyone else. It's puzzling, because aside from this matchup Evans almost never loses. Julio Jones and especially Chris Godwin benefit from Lattimore fixating on Evans.

Upgrade: Chris Godwin

Downgrade: Mike Evans

Even: Julio Jones

NEW ORLEANS WIDE RECEIVERS

Chris Olave probably can beat all but three-to-five cornerbacks in the NFL, and the number figures to dwindle steadily over time. Whether the meantime is a fair setting to expect Olave to beat the formidable Buccaneers trio of Jamel Dean, Carlton Davis and Antoine Winfield is less clear. It's not a downgrade but about as close as it gets without calling it such. Jarvis Landry gets arguably the toughest draw against Winfield. It's a bad setup for the Saints offense.

Upgrade: N/A

Downgrade: Jarvis Landry

Even: Chris Olave

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mario Puig
Mario is a Senior Writer at RotoWire who primarily writes and projects for the NFL and college football sections.
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