Eagles

Fantasy implications in Eagles' Week 1 matchup with Redskins

Fantasy implications in Eagles' Week 1 matchup with Redskins

If you have Kareem Hunt, Tyreek Hill or Mike Gillislee in fantasy, you're off to a great start heading into the first NFL Sunday of the season. (Here's a crazy stat on Hunt.)

Each week, we'll take a look at the Eagles and their opponent from a fantasy perspective to help with any lineup-related decisions.

Obviously, Alshon Jeffery is a must-start, but what should we expect in his Eagles debut? Which Redskins are in position to feast this Sunday?

We'll evaluate the key players on a matchup scale from 1 to 5 stars:

WR Alshon Jeffery
Jeffery is likely to get a heavy dose of Josh Norman in Week 1. When they last matched up on Christmas Eve 2016, Jeffery caught 5 of 10 targets for 92 yards, including a 37-yarder. 

As Doug Pederson said earlier this week, neither player won the matchup but both had their moments.

Obviously, Jeffery is playing with a better quarterback than he had last season in Chicago. And because his size always makes him a threat in the red zone, one play could allow him to overcome a tough matchup on any given week.

Jeffery has a 3-inch and 18-pound advantage on Norman. But Norman is used to holding in check bigger opponents, and last season he allowed completions on just 45 of 84 targets (53.6 percent).

Because the Eagles have other weapons that match up well with the Redskins' weaknesses, this might not be an explosive debut for Jeffery.

Matchup: 3 stars

Projected Jeffery stat line: 5 catches, 80 yards, 0 TD

• • •

TE Jordan Reed
Reed is a monster when healthy and was Kirk Cousins' favorite target even when he had DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon. Reed doesn't have huge numbers against the Eagles because he's had so much trouble staying on the field, but he did destroy them two meetings ago with 9 catches, 129 yards and two TDs on Dec. 26, 2015.

Reed last season missed four games altogether and played sparingly in three others. But in his nine healthiest games, he averaged 7 catches for 70 yards and scored five touchdowns.

Cousins especially likes to involve Reed early in games. Last season, 38 of his 53 catches came in the first half. The year before, when he scored a career-high 11 TDs, he had his most receptions (25), yards (300) and touchdowns (4) in the first quarter.

In 2016, the Eagles' defense actually surrendered the fewest catches (44) and yards (414) to opposing tight ends. The flip side of that fact, though, is that they didn't face many good tight ends. They saw Kyle Rudolph and Jimmy Graham — and that was pretty much it. Reed missed one of the meetings and barely played in the other. 

Matchup: 4 stars

Projected Reed stat line: 7 catches, 90 yards, TD

• • •

TE Zach Ertz
The Redskins last season were so, so, so much worse against tight ends than the Eagles were.

TEs vs Eagles: 44 catches, 414 yards
TEs vs Redskins: 108 catches, 1,119 yards

You did not read that wrong. 

The last three seasons, Ertz has done little against the Redskins in the season's first meeting, then torched them in the second.

2014: 3 catches for 14 yards, then 15 catches for 115
2015: 2 catches for 11 yards, then 13 catches for 122
2016: 1 catch for 22 yards, then 10 catches for 112

The guess here is that the pattern changes in 2017 and Ertz opens up with a big game. The Redskins have a weak defense and won't be able to commit an over-the-top safety to Ertz much if at all. Why? Because the Eagles have a speed threat on one side in Torrey Smith, a deep threat on the other side in Jeffery, and Washington will have to stay home, especially in play-action situations, because of its shaky run defense.

Ertz's matchup: 4.5 stars
Projected Ertz stat line: 6 catches, 80 yards, 0.75 TDs

• • •

RB LeGarrette Blount
There might not be many great matchups for Blount this season because of the Eagles' crowded backfield, but this is one of them. 

Washington's run defense last season was abysmal. The 'Skins allowed 1,741 rushing yards (4.52 per carry) and 15 touchdowns to running backs. And, quite frankly, the run defense could be even worse this season. Chris Baker is now in Tampa Bay, and nose tackle Phil Taylor is out for the season. Washington will go with a weak front three of Jonathan Allen, Ziggy Hood and Stacy McGee. 

I like Blount to score a TD this week and have one of his better rushing afternoons of 2017.

Matchup: 3.5 stars 

Projected Blount stat line: 75 rushing yards, TD, 5 receiving yards

• • •

WR Terrelle Pryor, WR Jamison Crowder
Crowder has the better matchup this week, both because of the cornerback matchup and the fact that he has much more of a rapport with Cousins than Pryor.

Pryor finished with 1,007 receiving yards last season but his year wasn't as impressive as many think. He scored just once in his final 10 games, and in his last eight games averaged 4.5 catches for 59.5 yards. Those aren't even WR2 numbers in fantasy.

Pryor is playing with a better quarterback this year, so I do expect him to exceed last year's totals. But in Week 1, I'd rather be the Crowder fantasy owner than the Pryor fantasy owner.

In three-receiver sets, Crowder will likely spend much of his time in the slot against Patrick Robinson, a winnable matchup for the third-year WR. 

Crowder is listed as questionable for Sunday's game with a hip injury, but he expects to play.

Pryor matchup: 2.5 stars
Projected Pryor stat line: 4 catches, 52 yards

Crowder matchup: 3.5 stars
Projected Crowder stat line: 6 catches, 90 yards

• • •

RBs Rob Kelley, Chris Thompson
Kelley hurt the Eagles last season, rushing 21 times for 122 yards and a TD in the two meetings. When the Eagles and 'Skins first played on Oct. 16, he wasn't yet the feature back, but a 45-yard run late in that game helped push him up the depth chart.

Kelley had a couple huge games last season, notably the 137-yard, 3-TD performance vs. the Packers. But he also averaged less than 4.0 yards per carry in four of his final six games, which is why a lot of fantasy analysts are high on his backup, rookie Samaje Perine.

This isn't a great matchup for Kelley against a strong Eagles defensive line. Pass-catching back Chris Thompson could end up with the juicier stat line.

Kelley's matchup: 2 stars
Projected Kelley stat line: 45 rushing yards, 0 TD

Thompson's matchup: 3 stars
Projected Thompson stat line: 20 rushing yards, 4 catches, 45 receiving yards

Eagles 43, Rams 35: Studs, duds, turning point and more

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USA Today Images

Eagles 43, Rams 35: Studs, duds, turning point and more

BOX SCORE

LOS ANGELES — The Eagles won a game, but they might have lost their season. 

With Nick Foles under center, the Eagles came back to beat the Rams, 43-35, at the L.A. Coliseum (see Roob's observations), but franchise quarterback Carson Wentz left the game early with a knee injury late in the third quarter (see story)

Now all they can do is wait and hope. 

The Eagles clinched the NFC East and also took back sole possession of the No. 1 spot in the NFC after Carolina beat Minnesota earlier in the day. With the win, the Eagles got back to their winning ways after a loss in Seattle. They improved to 11-2. This is the Eagles' first 11-win season since 2009. 

It's just that everything feels so hollow after the Wentz injury. 

ESPN's Adam Schefter reported the Eagles fear Wentz tore his left ACL, but the team hasn't confirmed anything since they ruled him out for the game. 

With the loss, the Rams fell to 9-4. It was just their second loss in their last eight games. 

Chris Long made a huge play in the fourth quarter (see report card). He had a strip sack that set up Jake Elliott's eventual game-winning field goal. 

After Wentz came out, Foles did enough to help the Eagles come back and win the game. It might be his job for a while.

The Eagles took a 10-point lead into halftime, but that wasn't going to be enough in this shootout. The Rams were able to come back and score the first 14 points of the second half to take the lead. 

When Wentz threw a touchdown pass just before leaving the game, the Eagles took a 31-28 lead, but the Rams answered on the next possession. The Eagles' defense had trouble stopping Todd Gurley and the Rams' offense. 

Turning point
Long's strip sack came at a time where the Eagles absolutely needed somebody to step up and make a play. The veteran pass rusher did just that. 

Key stat
Before leaving, Wentz had another four-touchdown game. Before the Arizona game this season, he had never had a three-touchdown game. Since then, he's had six in nine games. 

Offensive stud
Before going out, Wentz was having another Wentz-like game. With his third-quarter touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffery (No. 33), he became the Eagles' single-season passing touchdown record holder. He broke Sonny Jurgenson's franchise record that had stood since 1961. 

Offensive dud
LeGarrette Blount had some opportunities but didn't make the most of them. Meanwhile, Jay Ajayi was much more explosive. For some reason, he didn't get the bulk of the carries. 

Defensive stud
Fletcher Cox is always disruptive but he really seemed to get after Goff on Sunday. It had to feel good facing a quarterback who isn't as elusive as Russell Wilson. 

Defensive dud
Nigel Bradham didn't have a bad game, but he dropped a couple possible interceptions. One came just a couple plays before the Rams scored their second touchdown. He could have kept points off the board. 

Rodney McLeod didn't have a very good game either. He was beaten in coverage a couple times and missed a couple tackles. 

Key plays
• Brandon Graham scooped up the ball and scored a touchdown at the end of the game. 

• Long got a strip sack on Goff and McLeod was able to scoop it up to give the Eagles the ball on the Rams' 25-yard line. That eventually set up a 33-yard field goal from Elliott to give the Eagles a 37-35 lead. 

The Eagles' defense forced a three-and-out on the next drive. And the Eagles were able to kill some time. 

• Foles led a drive that was capped with a 41-yard field goal from Elliott. That made the score: Rams 35, Eagles 34. 

• Gurley seemed pretty unstoppable as the Rams drove down the field on a 75-yard touchdown drive to put them up 35-31 as Wentz was taken into the locker room. 

• After Wentz threw touchdown pass No. 4 of the game, he left with a knee injury and did not return. 

• On 4th-and-goal from the 2-yard line, Doug Pederson left his offense on the field and Wentz found Alshon Jeffery for a touchdown to put them back on top 31-28. It was a tremendous fingertip catch from Jeffery. 

• Donnie Jones had his punt blocked by WR Michael Thomas. It was then scooped up by Eagles 2016 draft pick Blake Countess and returned for a 16-yard touchdown to give the Rams their second lead of the game (28-24). It was their second touchdown in 1 minute and 34 seconds. 

• The Rams came out after halftime and went down the field to score easily. They went on a 71-yard touchdown drive and had the Eagles completely off balance. 

• Pederson challenged a first down spot around the two-minute warning and got it overturned to force a punt. The Eagles were then able to march down the field and get a field goal to give them a 10-point lead (24-14) heading into the locker room. 

• Bad tackling got the Eagles again in the second quarter. Jim Schwartz wasn't happy with his team's tackling in Seattle and this play was like seeing that again. Cooper Kupp caught the ball near the left sideline and made Malcolm Jenkins and Patrick Robinson miss on his way to a 64-yard play. He scored a touchdown a couple plays later to make the score 21-14. 

• Burton's second touchdown catch came early in the second quarter. This time, he caught an 11-yard pass for a touchdown. It was also Wentz's 32nd of the season, tying the franchise record. 

• The Eagles third drive resulted in a touchdown too. This drive went 88 yards on seven plays. Wentz hit Burton for a 20-yard touchdown, his first of the game. Somehow, Wentz was able to weave it through traffic and Burton made a tremendous catch. 

• After a bad first drive, the Eagles responded, going on a 75-yard drive of their own. The big play was the first of the drive when Wentz hit Corey Clement for a 28-yard screen pass. It was the longest pass to a running back all season. 

• The game didn't get off to a good start for the Birds. Wentz's second pass of the game was bobbled by Nelson Agholor and then an interception. On the ensuing drive, the Rams went 37 yards with no trouble to take a 7-0 lead. Gurley broke off a 30-yard run.

Injuries
Wentz left late in the third quarter. He suffered a knee injury and did not return. 

Left guard Stefen Wisniewski injured his ankle in the first half and did not return. Chance Warmack and then Isaac Seumalo filled in. 

The Eagles didn’t have Zach Ertz (concussion) or Joe Walker (neck) for this game. Both were listed as questionable coming into the weekend. 

Up next
The Eagles return to the East Coast, but their road trip isn't over. They're up in North Jersey to face the Giants next Sunday. 

Eagles-Rams: Roob's 10 observations

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AP Images

Eagles-Rams: Roob's 10 observations

BOX SCORE

LOS ANGELES — The sight of Carson Wentz walking off the field late in the third quarter with a towel over his head and a trainer walking next to him was enough to make any Eagles fan's heart stop and send them into shock.

He's taken over our city with such class and grace, it's hard to even remember a time when he wasn't the Eagles' quarterback. It's tough to even imagine playing without him.

But that's the reality we're facing right now. This team has been incredibly resilient all year, and they came from behind to beat a 9-3 Rams team in their own building Sunday without Wentz. With this team? You just never know.

With the dramatic 43-35 win over the Rams at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum Sunday afternoon, the Eagles improved to 11-2 and clinched the NFC East (see breakdown).

So as we all await an update on Wentz, here are tonight's 10 Observations. 

1. Without immediately knowing the extent of Wentz's injury, it's tough to really speculate what this means for the Eagles. With Wentz, the Eagles are a legit Super Bowl contender. Without him? Nick Foles is certainly one of the better backups in the league and is capable of winning a couple games if Wentz is out for a few weeks or longer, especially considering the Eagles finish the regular season with the Giants at the Meadowlands and then the Raiders and Cowboys at home. But Wentz is what makes this team special, and his absence certainly changes everything. Without knowing any details, one alarming thing for me is how quickly Wentz was ruled out after he left the game. The Eagles have kept this thing rolling without Jason Peters, without Darren Sproles, without Jordan Hicks, and they deserve a tremendous amount of credit for that. But if Wentz is forced to miss any appreciable time … it's just hard to imagine this team accomplishing anything special without No. 11 behind center. Wentz has been so incredibly tough over these first 29 games of his career it's hard to even fathom him getting hurt. I think of him as some sort of superhero. Invincible. Watching him walk off the field reminded me of seeing Randall Cunningham carted off the field on opening day at Lambeau Field in 1991. Some things your brain just can't process.

2. Foles? He looked rusty, which you would expect. In his first extended playing time since Nov. 6 of last year with the Chiefs, he completed a few difficult passes, engineered two fourth-quarter field goal drives, made a huge 3rd-and-8 connection with Nelson Agholor just after the two-minute warning, and generally avoided the kind of mistakes that backup quarterbacks often make. Foles is a good quarterback. He'll never be what we saw in 2013. But if Wentz does miss significant time, there aren't a lot of backups I'd rather have.

3. I was eager to see how the Eagles' defense would stack up against one of the NFL's top offenses, and for much of the game, it wasn't pretty. The Rams piled up 28 points in the game's first 46 minutes — they also scored on special teams — and Todd Gurley, despite just 13 carries, really gashed the Eagles, running for 96 yards and two touchdowns along with three catches for 39 more yards. The Eagles' tackling was terrible for much of the game, they didn't force any turnovers for 3 1/2 quarters, Jared Goff was playing efficient and productive football and hitting some big plays. Then Chris Long and Rodney McLeod made the kind of play that great defenses make. Long stripped Goff and McLeod recovered, and that set up Jake Elliott's game-winning field goal. And on the Rams' next drive, which started with 3:45 on the clock, the Rams didn't gain a yard, and then the Eagles essentially ran out the clock. It wasn't always pretty, but the Eagles went into the L.A. Coliseum and beat one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL, and the defense's performance in the fourth quarter is one of the big reasons. When they had to stop the Rams, they did.

4. I really like the way LeGarrette Blount has handled this season, especially his unselfish, team-first approach after the Jay Ajayi acquisition. And Blount has really run the ball well. But I feel like we're at the point where Ajayi needs to be this team's lead running back. Doug Pederson clearly wants a rotation and doesn't want to upset the balance the Eagles have had so far. He feels like it makes the Eagles unpredictable and tougher to defend. But Ajayi just looks explosive right now, even without much work. He's only had 44 carries in the five games he's played, but among them are runs of 71, 46, 30 and 29 yards. He's averaging 7.0 yards per carry since getting here, which is nuts. He knows the offense. He knows the system. He's comfortable with this offensive line. Blount was 7 for 12 Sunday, Ajayi was 15 for 78. Ajayi has to be the guy from here on out.

5. The Rams committed three really stupid three personal fouls in the second half, the first two extending a touchdown drive. Those are penalties great teams don't commit. They're penalties the Eagles don't commit. It really kind of puts into focus how the Eagles really don't lose their cool in the face of adversity, which isn't always an easy thing to do.

6. Was nice to see a big contribution from Torrey Smith Sunday, with 6 for 100 — his first 100-yard game since 2015 and only his second since 2013. Smith has been a non-factor the last two months — just 7 for 98 in his last seven games before Sunday — but he's not the kind of guy to hang his head or demand the ball. He just kept working, and Sunday it paid off.

7. Alshon Jeffery continues to play better than his numbers. He finished 5 for 52 Sunday, but that third-quarter touchdown, where he scooped the ball off the ground just before it hit the field, was a thing of beauty and a huge play on fourth down. Jeffery doesn't have huge numbers, but he does have eight touchdowns, including six in the last six games.

8. How about some props for Trey Burton? This kid has to be the best third tight end in the history of the universe. And what a story. Undrafted out of Florida in 2014, made an immediate impact on special teams, only had three catches his first two seasons, gradually worked his way into the rotation and is now a legit target for Wentz. With Zach Ertz unable to play Sunday with lingering effects of a concussion, Burton caught four passes for 55 yards, the second-most yards of his four-year career, and had his first two-TD game. Burton had one TD in his first 50 games and has four in his last eight. The kid is big and fast, has the softest hands, rarely drops anything, and Wentz clearly loves throwing to him. Burton is due to become a free agent after the season, and the Eagles really need to find a way to keep him.

9. I know it didn’t mean anything in the big picture, but Brandon Graham deserves to get into the end zone. The way that guy plays and what he’s meant to this team over three head coaches and five defensive coordinators and six position coaches? His touchdown on the final play of the game, as the Rams fumbled trying to run some crazy length-of-the-field trick play, gave the Eagles a welcome exclamation point on a wild win. It was the first TD of Graham's eight-year career, and I know he's going to enjoy it.

10. Finally this. Whatever Wentz's injury turns out to be, allow me to put Wentz's recent run in perspective. He threw 27 touchdown passes in the Eagles' last nine games. Only six QBs in NFL history — Tom Brady, Dan Marino, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and George Blanda — have ever thrown more in any nine-game span. All are Hall of Famers. Whatever happens from here on out, this is a special kid and however much time he misses, he's going to win a ton of football games for this franchise over the next decade.