When one thinks of a New York Giants-Pittsburgh Steelers matchup they envision a hard-hitting affair between big bodied linemen and linebackers. That may have been the case in years past, but the game has changed immensely in this decade. The biggest matchup in this Sunday's upcoming game between the two legendary franchises will likely take place between two 5"10" speedsters.
The Steelers' most explosive player is WR Antonio Brown, the 5'10" four-time Pro Bowler who has been virtually unstoppable the past several seasons. Fantasy players know Brown well and in legacy leagues, he rarely lasts past the first few selections. In DFS, Brown is one of the highest-valued names. He'll cost you, but he's usually worth it.
Over the past three seasons, Brown has amassed 375 receptions for 5,031 yards and 31 touchdowns. This season, in 11 games, Brown has 82 receptions for 998 yards and 10 TDs. His numbers are a little down this year, but don't let that fool you. He is as dangerous as ever.
The Giants will try to counter Brown with a 5'10" weapon of their own, CB Janoris Jenkins, who has played nearly 98 percent of the Giants' defensive snaps this season and is as battle-tested as they come. Jenkins, one of the high-priced free agents GM Jerry Reese brought in last winter to fix his broken defense, has 15 passes defensed and has fared well against some of the league's elite wideouts this season.
Jenkins faced Brown last season as a member of the Rams. He had an INT int he game but said it wasn't while covering Brown, who had 11 catches for 108 yards on 13 targets in the Steelers' 12-6 win.
Jenkins. who goes by the moniker of "Jackrabbit," says he stays sharp by lining up against Odell Beckham, Jr. in practice, another of the game's elite receivers. Brown will present a challenge for him, but he's up for it.
"He's one of the best, yes. He's up there," Jenkins said of Brown. "Many say he's the best. You play football and just have fun...You just got to take to fundamentals and techniques. Just playing corner, you got to understand, guys like that, quick and shifty, got to get your hands on them and just play how you play."
Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo would not commit to assigning Jenkins to Brown full time on Sunday, but of all the Giants' DBs, Jenkins is the obvious choice.
"He likes that challenge. He will be all over the place," said Spagnuolo. "All of them are going to have to be challenged by a great wide receiver, but I know one thing, he does not back down from anything. He loves to compete. He likes competing out on the field here. Remember back in training camp? He wanted #13 to come out to his side because he loves that."
The Steelers are well aware that Jenkins will be the one shadowing Brown come Sunday and that the matchup will be an entertaining one to watch.
"Jenkins is a guy that they brought over from St. Louis and expected big things and he is doing things," said QB Ben Roethlisberger. "We anticipate him to travel with AB (Antonio Brown), he is locking guys down."
Low-key Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin agreed. "We played the Rams a year ago when he (Jenkins) was over there. He's a top flight, shutdown corner. He's competitive, he's good at the ball. He's a savvy, high quality veteran player. I've got a lot of respect for him."
But it appears Tomlin is content with the matchup. Brown has toasted just about every corner in the league. He has seen Brown do things on the football field that defies convention.
"He's a talented worker and, really, there's nothing mystical about it," Tomlin said of Brown. "He's got high pedigree, he's highly talented and he's got a work ethic to match."
Of the receivers Jenkins has faced, he says Brown compares to Beckham more than any of the others. He's that good.
"He's explosive and he's got different releases off the line," Jenkins said of Brown. "I think he's great with his hands and adjusting to the ball. We all have to be aware of what's going on and we know they like to give him the ball a lot."
That is true. Brown has gotten 120 targets -- almost three times the amount of any other receiver on the club. RB Le'Veon Bell is second with 70. The Steelers will continue to get the ball in the hands of Brown and Bell against the Giants on Sunday, and they can't be faulted for that. They have won their past two games and are favored to win this one.
If Jenkins can shut down Brown, the Giants just might be able to keep rolling. If not, their chances of keeping pace with the Cowboys in the NFC East will narrow considerably.