Eagles

Best and worst fantasy plays of Eagles-49ers

Best and worst fantasy plays of Eagles-49ers

Carson Wentz is the No. 2 fantasy quarterback through seven weeks, trailing only Alex Smith.

So if you've got Wentz, you're 100 percent starting him this week against the hapless 49ers. The only fantasy quarterback I'd even consider starting over Wentz this week is Drew Brees, who faces the Bears at home. The Saints' home field is the offensive equivalent of Coors Field in baseball.

And yes, that means that I'd start Wentz over Tom Brady (vs. Chargers) this week. 

On to some of the tougher fantasy plays of Eagles-49ers:

WR Alshon Jeffery
We're at the point now where benching Jeffery is a legitimate option. If you're in a league that starts three wide receivers, you're probably starting Jeffery. But if you start two wide receivers and a flex, there are just so many players performing at a more consistent level than Jeffery.

Jeffery has shown rust all season. He isn't gaining separation deep down the field and he's not coming up with tough catches on jump-balls, aside from the sideline fade he caught late in Monday night's win.

Would you believe that Jeffery has now gone 18 straight games without reaching 100 receiving yards? Would you believe that he's scored just four times in his last 19 games?

With the way Wentz is spreading the ball around and heavily involving Zach Ertz on intermediate routes and in the red zone, Nelson Agholor inside the 20 and Mack Hollins on deep passes, Jeffery has become an increasingly risky start.

The 49ers are a dream matchup for any skill player. They've allowed the most fantasy points in the NFL to running backs, the second-most to quarterbacks and the 10th-most to wide receivers.

Still, temper the expectations for Alshon this week. I thought he was poised to break out against a depleted Redskins secondary and it never materialized.

I'd start Jeffery this week over Demaryius Thomas, T.Y. Hilton and DeSean Jackson.

I would not start Jeffery this week over Chris Hogan, Amari Cooper, Doug Baldwin, Kelvin Benjamin or Adam Thielen.

Projected stat line: 4 catches, 55 yards

• • •

RB LeGarrette Blount
This right here? This is a Blount game.

The forecast calls for torrential rain on Sunday, and given that Wentz is relatively inexperienced playing in those kinds of conditions, the Eagles could rely heavily on the running game against San Francisco.

The 49ers are dreadful against running backs — they've allowed 1,325 total yards and nine TDs. Granted, a lot of that was caused by Ezekiel Elliott last week and Blount isn't nearly that type of dual threat.

Still, expect a high-volume game from Blount, who gained just 29 yards on 14 carries in Week 7.

I'd start Blount this week over Carlos Hyde, Doug Martin, C.J. Anderson and all of the Patriots' running backs.

I would not start Blount ahead of Lamar Miller or Joe Mixon.

Projected stat line: 22 carries, 110 yards, TD

• • •

TE Zach Ertz
The 49ers have allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to tight ends, but that doesn't necessarily mean they're a good defense vs. TEs. It's more so the byproduct of so many other skill players doing damage against them.

Ertz is matchup-proof, which he proved against the Panthers with two touchdowns against a defense that typically stifles tight ends. 

If you have Ertz, you're starting him. Let's not even waste time explaining why.

Projected stat line: 6 catches, 66 yards, TD

• • •

RB Carlos Hyde
The Eagles' run defense is on a historic stretch of limiting running backs. It could suffer a bit with Jordan Hicks out for the season, but the Eagles still have so many players who can collapse the pocket, run blitz effectively and tackle in the open field.

Hyde should accumulate some numbers this Sunday out of sheer necessity from the 49ers. I mean, C.J. Beathard is this team's starting QB. Just don't expect huge production. 

With Matt Breida getting more and more involved, the possibility exists that Hyde has a goal-line carry or two vultured away.

Projected stat line: 80 total yards

• • •

WR Pierre Garcon
Garcon is the only 49ers skill player I like this week because San Fran is expected to be behind by a lot early in the game and forced to pass. 

Garcon always plays well against the Eagles. The last eight times he's faced them, he's averaged five catches for 60 yards. He's scored four TDs in the last six meetings.

Because the Eagles limit opposing running games, it means they face more pass attempts. It seems probable that Garcon will see double-digit targets in this one.

Projected stat line: 7 catches, 86 yards, TD

• • •

WR Nelson Agholor
I've said in this space several times this season that Agholor is a risky start because he's so touchdown-dependent. The guy's averaging 3.4 catches per game, but he has five TDs. 

But at this point, with how well Agholor has caught slants and converted red-zone opportunities, he's a legit WR3. 

I'd start Agholor ahead of Mohamed Sanu, all Redskins receivers, Danny Amendola, Jordan Matthews, Paul Richardson and Ted Ginn Jr. 

Projected stat line: 4 catches, 60 yards

• • •

Other thoughts:
• The idea that the Eagles will run the ball a lot Sunday would benefit more than just Blount. It could also lead to a TD for Wendell Smallwood, but I'd advise starting Smallwood only in deep, 12-team leagues.

• The Eagles' defense is a top-3 play this week. The only two defenses I'd start ahead of them would be the Vikings (vs. Browns in London) and Chiefs (home vs. Broncos on Monday Night Football).

Lane Johnson using underdog status to raise money for Philly schools

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Lane Johnson using underdog status to raise money for Philly schools

How do you turn being a home underdog into a good thing? Use it as motivation to win a football game.

How do you turn being a home underdog into a great thing? Raise money for Philadelphia schools and win football games. That’s what Lane Johnson is doing.

After the nation doubted the Eagles against the Falcons, Johnson and Chris Long donned dog masks after divisional round win, embracing the role of underdogs. Now, Johnson has his own T-shirt and is raising money. A lot of it, too.

Shirts can be purchased at lj65.shop for just $18 and Johnson tweeted that more than 3,000 have already been sold.

Hopefully, the home dogs continue to eat this weekend against the Vikings.

Game-winning stand just another play for Eagles' defense

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USA Today Images

Game-winning stand just another play for Eagles' defense

There were no special instructions. No extraordinary measures taken. Not much was said. Not much needed to be said.

The game was on the line. The season was on the line. For the Eagles' defense, it was just another play. The stakes were just incredibly high.

It was 4th-and-goal for the Falcons at the Eagles' 2-yard-line in the final seconds Saturday.

Give up a touchdown, and the season's over. Stop the Falcons and you're one game closer to the Super Bowl.

"Our guys, we don't do a whole lot," Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. "Our guys know what to do, and they have downloaded that software enough that it's a little bit automatic for them.

"We also didn't change. We don't surprise the players. What we practiced in our red-zone period is what we played."

The Falcons had already driven from their own 24-yard-line down to the 2-yard-line.

Their quarterback, Matt Ryan, has the fourth-highest passer rating in NFL postseason history, behind Jeff Hostetler and Hall of Famers Kurt Warner and Bart Starr.

That's what the Eagles' defense was up against.

"At that point, you sort of have to trust the players and the players have to trust the scheme," Schwartz said. "I think you saw a combination of both of those. We didn't feel the need to blitz. Played coverage, played good technique."

The clock showed 1:05.

Ryan’s two favorite receivers, Julio Jones and Mohamad Sanu, both lined up on the right side of the formation, Jones outside with Jalen Mills on him and Sanu in the slot with Malcolm Jenkins covering him in a battle of North Jersey natives.

Ryan took the shotgun snap from center Alex Mack at the 7-yard-line and immediately rolled to his right, retreating to the 10 as he neared the sideline.

Nigel Bradham, lined up as the left linebacker, trampled blocking tight end Levine Tollolo, who had his hands full with Brandon Graham, and ran around guard Wes Schweitzer, giving him an angle on Ryan. 

Meanwhile, Vinny Curry, after getting cut blocked to the ground by Falcons running back Tevin Coleman, quickly bounced back up and began pursuing from Ryan’s left. 

Ryan pumped once toward Sanu, who was covered by Jenkins. He quickly looked left but saw only Curry closing in. Thanks to the pressure, he had to quickly backpedal back to the 14-yard-line and finally was forced to unload that lob toward Jones at the right sideline in the end zone.

At that point, it was up to Mills, who had Jones blanketed, and the rest is history.

The ball went through Jones’ hands, his feet came down out of bounds anyway, and after an agonizing moment looking for flags, the play was over.

"A lot gets made of what Jalen did, rightfully so," Schwartz said. "You're talking about a Pro Bowl, All-Pro receiver, 1-on-1. But Malcolm playing the seven route to Sanu and Rodney (McLeod’s) ability to help him leverage that, that was because he's looking for Julio Jones first.

"Julio slips, he's looking for Sanu, nowhere to go and now he has to re-rack that thing and by then, Nigel is closing down on him and everything else.

"If Malcolm doesn't get that route that he covered, if he doesn't get that covered, nobody's talking about Jalen Mills right now."

Mills was physical with Jones but not physical enough to draw a flag. Schwartz said Mills has made huge strides this year with his technique, and on the biggest play of his life, his technique was perfect.

"It's one thing to have confidence, but that's just not the sole requirement for the position," Schwartz said.

"There's a lot of technique that goes along with playing, and I think if you look at that last play, he did a great job of staying square. Meaning his shoulders were perpendicular to the line of scrimmage.

"What the receiver there is trying to do is get you turned so he can come back for the ball. He could never get Jalen turned."

Mills is 23 years old, a second-year pro, a former seventh-round pick, a first-year starter.

To think that he made one of the most historic plays in Eagles postseason history is remarkable.

"I think every player makes a big jump from year one to year two, as far as knowledge of scheme and knowledge of opponents and things like that," Schwartz said.

"(Defensive backs coach Cory) Undlin and Jalen have worked really hard. He's haunted the hallways quite a bit, even on off days this year, just trying to improve his technique. It hasn't been by chance that his technique has gotten better. It's a lot of hard work that's gone into it from a coaching standpoint and from a player's standpoint."

The bottom line is that this defense has played tremendous football all year.

And with the season on the line, everybody simply went out and did their job. Nothing more, nothing less.

"I just think a part of our success is our guys just understand what's asked of them in the schemes," Schwartz said.

"They communicate well. We don't make a lot of mistakes, mental mistakes, and I think that makes it hard to drive the ball on us.

"When you get into those situations where is it's closed quarters and you don't have to defend deep balls, our guys have a good understanding of what opponents are going to do. I was proud of them on that play."