The impending battle between the Denver Broncos and the San Francisco 49ers will feature many interesting matchups but the most intriguing one is likely to be rookie wide receiver Courtland Sutton taking on established veteran cornerback Richard Sherman. It will be a struggle of old against new, youth versus experience. In his first game as a number-one receiver, Sutton will see his toughest battle yet against the vaunted Sherman. Will he be able to win?
How Do They Stack Up?
Pro Football Focus has Sutton ranked as the 68th-best receiver in the NFL, calling him an “above average” receiver. On the other side, Sherman has an edge according to Pro Football Focus in that he is rated as the 41st-best cornerback in the league although he is also rated “above average.”
At 23, Sutton has a very long NFL career ahead of him and doesn’t have to worry about his age slowing him down. On the other hand, Sherman turns 31 in March and at this point in the season, his age could be a factor that slows him down.
To this point, the battle appears to be a battle between age and skill, although there are a few more factors to look at.
While Sutton is motivated by the prospect of the playoffs, Sherman is likely motivated by personal reasons. Sherman has been putting the Broncos in their place for his entire career, going back to 2014 where he beat the team in Super Bowl 48 as well as in the rematch during the ensuing regular season. It is no secret that the Broncos need to pretty much win out in order to make the playoffs and Sherman likely sees this as another opportunity to spoil the hopes of the team in orange.
Finally, Sherman could be looking to simply put a rookie in his place. Overall, with Courtland under immense pressure and Sherman on the attack, Sutton could be at a mental disadvantage going into the game.
It is expected that Sutton will be contained by Sherman for most of their battles, although Sutton should be able to get a big play or two down the stretch. In the end, Sherman’s healthier mindset and experience will contain Sutton’s youth and wild-card element. Expect Sutton to finish the game with about 65 yards on eight targets and no touchdowns.