This Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers welcome the Minnesota Vikings to Heinz Field.
The Vikings are coming off a thrashing of the New Orleans Saints defense on Monday Night Football, where Sam Bradford looked more like Tom Brady and Stefon Diggs like, well, Antonio Brown.
Speaking of AB, he’s asked to go against one of the top cornerbacks in the game on Sunday, Xavier Rhodes. Let’s look deeper into that match up.
Coming off a dominant performance against the Browns, AB leads the league in receiving after week one with 11 receptions for 184 yards. Rhodes did well against Drew Brees and the Saints offense, limiting Michael Thomas to five receptions for 54 yards. He didn’t play all of the game though, cramping up midway through the first half and taking some snaps off in the second half.
Looking back at last season, Rhode’s stats deserve the high praise: 55 tackles, one forced fumble, five interceptions, one touchdown and eleven pass defense.
Digging deeper, the DB’s numbers make him look like a potential top ten player; in 2016 Rhode’s allowed a 39.2 passer rating and 41.8% catch rate, both NFL lows.
Pretty good to me, AB should have his hand full, right?
I looked back at all sixteen games last season and I noticed something alarming. Xavier Rhodes played one elite quarterback-wide receiver combo last season, that combo was Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson. Jordy finished the game with 11 receptions, 154 yards, and two touchdowns.
Just one game I know, but what about the other fifteen games?
I will admit, he can match top receivers; Allen Robinson, T.Y. Hilton, Alshon Jeffery, and Deandre Hopkins combined for only twelve receptions against Rhodes, none of them topping 60 yards and only Hopkins found the end zone once.
His most impressive game came against Odell Beckham Jr. The New York City superstar only tallied three receptions for 24 yards, which I assume was a frustrating night for the wide receiver. OBJ came in at sixth on the Giants final receiving leaders that night. Hats off to Rhodes on this one.
Who throws to all these great wide receivers?
Those are the quarterbacks Rhode’s and the Viking’s defense spent more than half their season going up against.
Considering Eli Manning, Andrew Luck, and the roller coaster of Kirk Cousins are tied for a distant second behind Aaron Rodgers for Rhode’s most difficult competition, I’ll take my chances with Big Ben on Sunday.
At the end of the day, against the only Ben Roethlisberger–Antonio Brown-like duo that Rhodes has faced, he’s struggled mightily. I expect a battle from these two on Sunday, with AB getting the last laugh in front of the Pittsburgh faithful.