Welcome to Going Deep! This weekly article will make use of charting data, advanced metrics, and other RotoViz tools — specifically the newly released Passing Game Matchup Rater — to help readers better understand the challenges facing wide receivers and tight ends in the coming week. As my process makes heavy use of the Matchup Rater, I’d highly recommend that you set aside half an hour to watch the tutorial/walkthrough and take a spin through the tool.
Week 3 Matchups
Giants at 49ers
Daniel Jones and company had Giants fans scared through six quarters of football, but rallied in the second half of their matchup with the Cardinals, finishing the game with 321 passing yards. This week, the team faces a 49ers defense that has been favorable to opposing WRs. In the team’s six most recent games, it has allowed fantasy relevant WRs to score 128% of their point per game averages (PPG). (Fantasy relevant WRs, for purposes of this article, are those with PPG of 5.0 or greater.)
Through two games in 2023, New York’s most heavily targeted receivers have been Darius Slayton (11), Parris Campbell (10), and Isaiah Hodgins (8). Tight end Darren Waller leads the team in targets with 13.
Campbell operates out of the slot at the highest rate on the team (86%) and will draw coverage from Deommodore Lenoir who is allowing 11.0 PPG on direct targets. This leaves Hodgins and Slayton to split coverage from Charvarius Ward and Ambry Thomas who are allowing a combined 8.1 PPG on direct targets.
San Francisco hasn’t been quite as forgiving to TEs but is still allowing them to approximate their PPG averages. As a result, Waller can be expected to finish the game with somewhere around 10.0 PPR in an average outing. Per the GLSP, 46% of his matches reached this threshold.
Brandon Aiyuk’s status will need to be monitored, but Deebo Samuel is in line for an average matchup and will see coverage from Adoree’ Jackson and Tre Hawkins III. The duo is allowing a respectable combined 10.4 PPG on direct targets. Jauan Jennings is the only other San Francisco WR with targets (4) this season and he doesn’t project as a fantasy factor.
George Kittle should be prepared for a big outing. New York is allowing opposing TEs to score 155% of their PPG averages. In recent games, Zach Ertz posted 11.6 PPR in Week 2, Dallas Goedert 10.6 in Week 18, and T.J. Hockenson 35.9 in Week 16.
Titans at Browns
The Browns have allowed opposing WRs to score just 64% of their PPG averages in recent weeks. As a result, this will be a tough matchup for DeAndre Hopkins and Treylon Burks.
In two games as a Titan, Hopkins has produced 21.5 PPR on 18 targets. With an expected points total of 28.2, he’s yet to fully grasp the opportunity being sent his way. Hopkins will face ample coverage from Martin Emerson Jr. as well as Denzel Ward. Emerson Jr. has allowed just 1.1 points per target(PPT) since 2022 and Ward 1.4. As a point of reference, the league average when covering WRs lined up out wide is 1.5, and when covering WRs lined up in the slot 1.6. Burks and Nick Westbrook-Ikhine will draw some coverage from the aforementioned defenders, as well as Greg Newsome II. Like his teammates, Newsome II has been reluctant to allow points on direct targets, with just 1.7 surrendered points per game in recent weeks and 1.0 PPT.
To help you make up your mind about leaving Hopkins or Burks in your lineup, check out the table below that shows how notable fantasy receivers fared against the defense in recent games.
Despite Struggles from Deshaun Watson, who has completed just 55% of passes in 2023, Amari Cooper has scored 22.7 PPR and Elijah Moore 16.3. Both receivers will look to raise their 2023 PPG numbers in this contest. The Titans are allowing opposing WRs to score 119% of PPG. Further, the three players that they will spend the most time being covered by have been ripe for the picking on direct targets with Sean Murphy-Bunting, Roger McCreary, and Kristian Fulton allowing a combined 20.5 PPG on direct targets.
That said, the matchup is more favorable for Moore than Cooper. Moore draws a matchup rating of 73 and Cooper 53.
David Njoku’s matchup rating of 49 is partially explained by Tennessee’s reluctance to allow TEs to score fantasy points. The defense is allowing opposing TEs to score just 70% of PPG. Njoku lines up in the slot at a high rate for a TE, and Tennessee allows 0.1 more PPT than the league average to TEs operating from this alignment.