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 QB Carson Wentz favorite to win NFL MVP

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Eagles QB Carson Wentz favorite to win NFL MVP

Carson Wentz is in his second NFL season, but he could already be on his way to his first MVP award. 

At least, he's now the favorite. 

The Eagles' starting quarterback is now the favorite to win this year's NFL MVP award, according to Bovada. Wentz is just ahead of Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith. 

Here's the top five: 

1. Carson Wentz: +175
2. Alex Smith: +200
3. Tom Brady: +400
4. DeShaun Watson: +1,000
5. Russell Wilson: +1,200

Basically, this means that a $100 futures bet would win $175. Since Wentz pays out the least, he's the favorite. 

It's no surprise Wentz and Smith are atop this list. They have both led their teams to 5-1 records (tops in the NFL) through six games. 

Wentz has completed 60.9 percent of his passes for 1,584 yards, 13 touchdowns, three interceptions and a passer rating of 99.6. He's well on his way to becoming the first Eagles quarterback to throw for 4,000 yards in a season. 

The last (and only) Eagles player to win an MVP came during the 1960 championship season, when quarterback Norm Van Brocklin took the award. 

The last player to win the MVP award in his second NFL season was Kurt Warner in 1999. But Warner had a long road to get to the NFL and was 28 years old in 1999. Wentz is just 24. 

Vegas isn't alone with the Wentz hype. According to Dick's Sporting Goods, the Eagles' quarterback has the best-selling jersey of all NFL players. In another few months, those people might have the jersey of an MVP winner. 

Rob's Rants: Hey Philly, don't take the bait and feed the trolls

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Rob's Rants: Hey Philly, don't take the bait and feed the trolls

This week’s Rob’s Rants has a sole focus — or should I say a troll focus. It’s more of a public service announcement, if you will. I am imploring all Philadelphia sports fans: Don’t take the bait!

Trolling was around long before the advent of social media. Contrarians have been going against the grain and saying things they don’t even believe to invoke a reaction since the beginning of time. Or as far back as Jaromir Jagr’s rookie season. Same thing. 

Just six weeks into the NFL season, we’ve already heard from some of the usual suspects, who will go nameless in this post. I refuse to give them the attention and ratings they are so desperately begging for. You know who they are, I know who they are, don’t give them the satisfaction. Don’t continue to line their pockets. Don’t let yourself walk into their trap. A reply on Twitter or some other social platform, a tune in, a reaction, is a win for them.

So brace yourself for the inevitable national talking head contrarian with the hot take of, “Carson Wentz looks like a deer in headlights.” Or, “besides the Panthers, who have the Eagles played? Or, “they haven’t even won a playoff game since 2008 and the fans have them in the Super Bowl.”

The trolling won’t be reserved exclusively for Eagles fans either. Prepare yourselves, Sixers fans. As we embark on the start of the NBA season, the anti-process truthers are just lying in wait with pithy Joel Embiid barbs about minute restrictions or injuries or tanking. It’s only a matter of time before we get something like, “see what another year of tanking gets you? Markelle Fultz isn’t even good enough start.” It’s coming.

There’s a fine line between trolling and having a strong, thought-provoking, independent point of view. The goal of any good columnist, radio host, television host or analyst is to make you think or react. Whether you agree or disagree. But there is a cottage industry now of blowhards who don’t have an original, creative or sincere thought of their own. They are either told by a producer or boss or decide on their own to go after a city, player, or team ... one typically with a fan base that will be reactive. You don’t see a lot of shade thrown at the Atlanta Hawks. You know why? No one cares. Not even their fans. Say something about Carson Wentz or snowballs at Santa and loyal Philadelphia fans will go bonkers. Mission accomplished for the troll.

So revel in the Eagles' early season success. Be excited for the infusion of youth for the Flyers. And what could be if Embiid, Ben Simmons, Fultz and Dario Saric can actually stay on the court.

Soak it in. We appear to be exiting out of the dark days. Just be prepared for it and don’t allow yourself to be lured into the troll trap.