INDIANAPOLIS --- There is one match-up going into semifinals week that has held my fantasy football attention, partially because I've heard the majority of analysts saying arguably the best fantasy receiver in the game is going to get shut down Sunday. Many have even said to bench him this week, with a chance to get to your fantasy championship.
Odell Beckham Jr. will face Josh Norman and the Panthers Sunday, and there's one stat in particular that has been tossed around the Internet and Twitter about how dominant Norman has been:
Here's why I'm not just accepting that stat vs. Beckham Jr., even though Norman has been the best cornerback in the league this season allowing a QB rating of just 43.1.
The quarterbacks throwing to the receivers mentioned above included Ryan Mallett, Jameis Winston (early rookie season Winston, 4 INTs that game), ½ a game of Matt Cassel, and Matt Ryan having one of the worst years of his career.
Odell Beckham Jr. has 24 receiving touchdowns in 25 games. Since Odell Beckham started playing, after missing the first four weeks of the regular season, his 24 touchdowns are five ahead of the next closest player...Rob Gronkowski. He's been match-up proof.
But Josh Norman, you say. I get it. He's been amazing, but I wanted to see what Beckham did in the toughest match-up of his career: last season at Seattle against Richard Sherman.
Sherman last season had a passer rating allowed of 48.4 (not as good as Norman's this year but still incredible), but it would have been better if not for Beckham. After watching the tape of that November game last season, 74 of Beckham's 108 yards that day came matched up against Sherman, otherwise Sherman's passer rating allowed would have been even more impressive, if not for Beckham.
Beckham beat Sherman in man-to-man coverage, getting past press coverage at the line of scrimmage, then putting a double move on him to create enough separation for a 44 yard catch down the right sideline. Beckham beat Sherman in straight man-to-man on two more of this 7 receptions in this game.
Beckham also beat Sherman in cover 3 (zone coverage where Sherman makes sure Beckham doesn't get behind him with help underneath). On two such occasions, Beckham found the opening in the zone with elite change of direction, not giving the defense enough time to break on the route. I believe this is what we could see from Beckham Sunday against Carolina. Maybe not a lot of long receptions, but enough medium range catches in the Panthers' zone to have a solid fantasy line.
Conclusion: You can't bench Odell Beckham Jr. in your fantasy playoffs. If Norman shuts him down, tip your hat, but the feeling would be far worse if you bench Beckham to cost you a win in the fantasy playoffs. He's proven he can beat elite corners.
He ended that day in Seattle against Sherman with 7 receptions for 108 yards and added an 11 yard rush. He goes into Sunday with six straight games with more than 100 yards, including more than 140 in the last three.
Don't. Get. Cute. Start him, with these other picks for week 15:
Week 15 Start 'Em (16 points for QBs, 10 for RB/WR; 52-29 for season)
Chiefs QB Alex Smith (@BAL)
Lions QB Matthew Stafford (@ NO)
Jaguars RB Denard Robinson (vs. ATL)
Saints RB Tim Hightower (vs. DET)
Cardinals WR Michael Floyd (@ PHL)
Lions WR Golden Tate (@ NO)
SLEEPER OF THE WEEK - Patriots RB Brandon Bolden
HONORABLE MENTIONS - Seahawks RB Bryce Brown, Panthers back-up RBs: These look like full on committees and are too risky to start in the fantasy playoffs.
TIGHT END WEEK 15 SLEEPER - Bears TE Zach Miller
Week 15 Sit 'Em ( < 16 points for QBs, < 10 for RB/WR; 51-30 on the season)
Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger (vs. DEN)
Titans QB Marcus Mariota (@ NE)
Ravens RB Javorius Allen (vs. KC)
Cowboys RB Darren McFadden (vs. NYJ)
Steelers WR Martavis Bryant
Browns WR Travis Benjamin