A matchup for the ages
By Jesse Pantuosco, Fantasy Sports Writer
Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - They say actions speak louder than words.
I don't know about that.
My ears are still ringing from the 30 words Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman shouted at Erin Andrews after his team beat the 49ers in Sunday's NFC Championship.
"I'm the best corner in the game," Sherman ranted. "When you try me with a sorry receiver like [Michael] Crabtree that's the result you going to get. Don't you ever talk about me!"
In three sentences, Sherman came across as loud, cocky, frantic and a little bit delusional. But even in his 20 seconds of nationally televised hysteria, there were seeds of truth.
Well, just one seed actually.
Nobody's buying Sherman's claim that Michael Crabtree is a below-average wide receiver.
But the part about Sherman being the best corner in pro football? Well, that's no exaggeration.
Sherman has been a first-team All-Pro the last two seasons, and it wouldn't surprise anyone if he kept that up for the next decade. That's how good this guy is.
At Stanford University, Sherman spent most of his time as a wide receiver before being selected 154th overall in the 2011 NFL Draft. Since then, no player in the league has amassed more interceptions (20) than the 25-year-old Compton native.
Next weekend in northern New Jersey, Sherman will draw his toughest assignment of the season. He'll be asked to contain Denver wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, owner of 14 regular-season touchdowns and 1,430 receiving yards.
So can he do it?
As good as Sherman has been, we haven't seen him go against many top-flight receivers this season.
In 18 games, Seattle's secondary has allowed just four 100-yard receivers. But during that time, the Seahawks have only faced two of the 11 wideouts invited to this year's Pro Bowl. Those were Houston's Andre Johnson in Week 4 and Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald in Weeks 7 and 16.
When it came to covering Pro Bowlers, Sherman manhandled Fitzgerald (a combined five catches for 35 yards in two games) but struggled against Johnson (nine receptions, 110 yards). On the plus side, he didn't allow a touchdown to either one.
Three of the four 100-yard receivers Seattle allowed this season came in consecutive games. Cecil Shorts, Johnson and T.Y. Hilton each went over 100 yards against the Seahawks in Weeks 3-5.
It's worth noting that Shorts, who went against Seattle in Week 3, did most of his damage in the second half (128 of his 143 yards) with Sherman already out of the game. Head coach Pete Carroll opted to rest his starters after the Seahawks jumped out to a 31-0 lead early in the third quarter.
But that still doesn't explain Sherman's mediocre performances against Johnson and Hilton, two talented but containable opponents. So it seems Sherman can be beaten.
Comparing receivers to corners isn't exactly the same thing, especially when you consider how loaded Denver's offense is. With so many terrific options in the receiving game, the Broncos didn't always need Thomas to have a big week. His seven games in a row with fewer than 100 yards earlier this season would speak to that fact.
Yet, when the stakes were highest, Thomas usually came through for the AFC champs.
Denver had five games on its schedule against Pro Bowl cornerbacks. Two were against Kansas City's Brandon Flowers. Each time, Thomas got the better of that matchup (five receptions for 121 yards in Week 11, 106 yards on three catches in Week 13).
New England's Aqib Talib, who is a bit taller than the 5-foot-9 Flowers, proved to be the more difficult matchup for Thomas. The first time Thomas went against Talib, he was held to 41 yards on four catches. The second time, during last weekend's AFC title game, Thomas finished with 134 yards and a touchdown, though 105 of those yards came after Talib went down with a knee injury.
Thomas also squared off against Tennessee's Alterraun Verner in Week 12. Verner prevented Thomas from reaching 100 yards (88 on seven catches), but he couldn't keep him out of the end zone.
So where does that leave us?
You could argue that Andre Johnson presented a difficult matchup for Sherman because of his superior size. Johnson's height and weight (6-foot-3, 230 pounds) are about the same as Thomas'.
Thomas also seemed to have an easier time against smaller cornerbacks while taller players like Talib gave him more problems. The 6-foot-3 Sherman is actually two inches taller than Talib.
So it would appear that neither player has a real advantage. Maybe it would help if we knew how Sherman operated against Peyton Manning, but these two have never played each other in a game.
Add in a few inches of snow, and we could be looking at all-out craziness a week from Sunday. Expect the unexpected, ladies and gentlemen.
And definitely don't expect Sherman to keep quiet about it.
"The No. 1 defense against the No. 1 offense," said Sherman. "I'm sure it's going to be a fantastic game."
Let's hope so.
01/22 18:36:12 ET