Super Bowl 50’s wide receiver/cornerback showdowns

Mike Clay uses PFF's unique snap and route data to break down each Super Bowl 50 wide receiver/cornerback matchup.

| 1 year ago
(AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

(AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

Super Bowl 50’s wide receiver/cornerback showdowns

Super Bowl 50 is only days away, which means it’s time to take a close look at each team’s top wide receivers and projected opposition at the cornerback position.

Before you set your DFS lineup this week, be sure to also study our Wide Receiver vs. Cornerback matchup tool.

More information on weekly WR vs. CB matchups can be found in the regular season Shadow Report.

Carolina Panthers Wide Receivers vs. Denver Broncos Cornerbacks

  1. Corey Brown (5’11/185) vs. Aqib Talib (6’1/205)

Having handled at least 22 percent of Carolina’s targets in four consecutive games, Brown has emerged as Cam Newton’s No. 2 target behind Greg Olsen. Brown moves around the formation quite a bit, but roughly half of his routes will come wide to Newton’s right. This is where Talib lines up when not shadowing (Denver rarely shadows). Although Talib is our lowest-graded corner among Denver’s “Big 3”, he falls into the margin of error. Talib, Chris Harris, and Bradley Roby have each been strong in coverage throughout the season. Brown runs one third of his routes from the slot, which means he’ll also see plenty of Harris. This is an extremely tough matchup for Brown, who is no better than a pedestrian talent. He’ll struggled to find openings and, barring an early Carolina deficit, is unlikely to eclipse five or six targets.

  1. Ted Ginn (5’11/185) vs. Bradley Roby (5’11/194)

A slew of long touchdowns propelled Ginn into fantasy relevance during the regular season, but most of his production came during a one-month, late-season push. In addition to his volatile production, Ginn has seen a severe dip in usage over the past month. Since averaging 6.2 targets per game during Weeks 1-15, Ginn has seen a total of six targets during his past three games. Ginn lines up wide to Newton’s left on 62 percent of his pass routes, which is where he’ll draw Roby in coverage. Ginn rarely lines up in the slot (nine percent), but he will see Harris when Carolina has its second tight end on the field. Ginn’s big-play ability will allow him a deep shot or two, but he’ll have his hands full against Roby and Talib.

  1. Jerricho Cotchery (6’1/205) vs. Chris Harris Jr. (5’10/199)

Operating from the slot on 86 percent of his pass routes, Cotchery is likely to see a lot of Harris – Denver’s slot corner – during Sunday’s game. In terms of targets faced and fantasy points allowed on a per-route basis, Harris is the best among Denver’s cornerback trio. Of course, Carolina has its second tight end on the field for 48 percent of its pass plays, which is the league’s second-highest mark. When Ed Dickson is in the game, Harris will join Talib on the perimeter. Cotchery has been plenty involved and effective when in the game this season, but he’s unlikely to see enough work to make a major impact, especially against one of the game’s top corners.

*Devin Funchess has run a grand total of 12 pass routes and has seen three targets during the playoffs

Denver Broncos Wide Receivers vs Carolina Panthers Cornerbacks

  1. Demaryius Thomas (6’3/229) vs. Josh Norman (6’0/195)

This week’s featured matchup includes a showdown between one of the game’s top wide receivers and arguably the league’s top cornerback. Although it definitely isn’t a lock (despite what you might read elsewhere), I do think Norman will spend some, if not a lot, of time following Thomas around this week. Thomas is not a stay-at-home wide receiver. He runs just under 80 percent of his routes from the perimeter, but those snaps are split almost evenly between the left and right side of the formation. Norman, meanwhile, has shadowed DeAndre Hopkins, Vincent Jackson, T.Y. Hilton, Davante Adams, Dez Bryant, Brandin Cooks, Julio Jones (x2), Odell Beckham, Mike Evans, and Michael Floyd this season. In some of those cases, Norman shadowed on a part-time basis and in most cases, he did not follow the noted wide receiver to the slot. Of the 771 pass plays Norman has been on the field for this season, he’s lined up in the slot only 1.6 percent of the time. That being the case, Thomas is, at least, going to dodge Norman’s coverage when he lines up inside. Of course, because Emmanuel Sanders has outplayed Thomas this season, especially as of late, it’s very possible Norman does not shadow. Most corners who aren’t shadowing simply play one side of the field, but that won’t be the case for Norman. If he’s not shadowing, he’ll bounce around the perimeter, covering both Sanders and Thomas.

  1. Emmanuel Sanders (5’11/180) vs. Robert McClain (5’9/195)

Like Thomas, Sanders spends roughly 80 percent of his routes on the perimeter. It’s here where he’ll see plenty of McClain on Sunday. If Norman shadows Thomas, Sanders will work against McClain roughly 80 percent of the time. The clear weak spot in Carolina’s secondary, McClain has been heavily targeted and has struggled badly in coverage since replacing injured Charles Tillman. This would obviously be an outstanding matchup for Sanders, and Peyton Manning will surely exploit it. If Norman does not shadow Thomas, Sanders will still see McClain roughly 40-45 percent of the time. So, regardless of Carolina’s defensive gameplan, Sanders figures to be in for a busy evening. He’s a sneaky prop bet choice for MVP.

  1. Jordan Norwood (5’11/180) vs. Cortland Finnegan (5’10/190)

Not many teams utilize a committee attack at slot receiver, but Denver does exactly that. Norwood, Bennie Fowler, Andre Caldwell, and even Cody Latimer will get work from the slot in Sunday’s game. The group has seen a surge in targets as of late, but it’s unlikely to be enough to allow committee-leader Norwood to emerge as a major difference maker. That’s despite the fact that Finnegan – a late-season replacement for injured Bene Benwikere – won’t pose much of a threat in coverage. Finnegan has lined up in the slot on 97 percent of the 224 pass plays he’s defended this season.


    1. Emmanuel Sanders
    2. Demaryius Thomas
    3. Corey Brown
    4. Ted Ginn
    5. Jordan Norwood
    6. Jerricho Cotchery

Follow Mike Clay on Twitter: @MikeClayNFL

  • T. Kothe

    Interesting article. Could it be expanded to include tight ends somehow? That’d make it much more well-rounded, considering the importance and volume of targets Greg Olsen will command for the Panthers’ offense and the lower-profile but sneaky threat presented by Owen Daniels & Green/Davis.