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Fantasy implications in Eagles' Week 4 matchup with Chargers

Analyzing the Eagles' Week 4 matchup with the Chargers from a fantasy perspective:

WR Alshon Jeffery
Jeffery's modest statistical line in Week 3 against the Giants was predictable as he was facing star cornerback Janoris Jenkins at times. Jeffery had his chances, but the two biggest plays he was involved in (aside from the grab that set up Jake Elliott's 61-yard, game-winning field goal) resulted in a long pass interference call and a poorly thrown deep-ball. Neither nets you any fantasy points.

This weekend, Jeffery's path to a big game won't be as challenging. The Chargers are without their top cornerback Jason Verrett, who is out for the season with a knee injury.

That means Jeffery, who has lined up on the left side for 52 percent of his snaps and the right side for 33 percent, will match up with corners Casey Hayward and Trevor Williams.

That duo has been targeted 24 times this season and allowed 14 catches for 191 yards.

Hayward last season actually had the third-lowest opposing QB rating in the NFL at 53.4, behind only Xavier Rhodes and Aqib Talib. It was mostly because of Hayward's seven interceptions, but he also allowed just 54 receptions on 93 targets (58 percent). 

Jeffery has experience going against Hayward from their days in the NFC North when Jeffery was a Bear and Hayward was a Packer. 

Jeffery has a four-inch and 25-pound advantage on both corners.

The Chargers have allowed the eighth-most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers. They've surrendered five receiving touchdowns, which is tied for the most in the NFL.

This game will likely be high-scoring — the over/under is 47.5 — so expect Jeffery to get his targets and end-zone opportunities. Carson Wentz is just 4 for 16 on passes 20-plus yards downfield and the Eagles will likely give him a few chances this Sunday to correct that.

The one factor in this game that could work against Jeffery is the Chargers' pass rush. If Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram are able to generate constant pressure on Wentz, the Eagles will have to get the ball out quicker and those deep jump-balls to Jeffery won't have as much time to develop.

Projected stat line: 7 catches, 115 yards, TD

• • •

RB Melvin Gordon
Gordon will play this Sunday after suffering a bone bruise in his knee last week against the Chiefs. That's bad news for the Eagles because he's one of the most dynamic running backs in the league.

Gordon hasn't done much on the ground this season, rushing 44 times for 146 yards (3.3 average), but he's added 12 catches for 90 yards and has three total touchdowns.

He's averaged more than 18 touches and he's a consistent fantasy stud because he remains involved even when the Chargers trail by more than a score or two. Philip Rivers loves to use him as a checkdown option and could really make use of Gordon if he follows Eli Manning's strategy of getting the ball out in less than two seconds to nullify the Eagles' pass rush.

In the early going, the Eagles have been one of the best defenses in the NFL against running backs, allowing two rushing touchdowns and just 164 rushing yards (fifth-fewest). However, they've faced two of the lamer starting running backs in the league in Rob Kelley and Paul Perkins.

Projected stat line: 130 total yards, 6 catches, TD

• • •

TE Zach Ertz
Ertz leads all tight ends with 21 catches and 245 yards, but don't be surprised if this is one of his quiet weeks.

The Chargers have allowed just nine catches for 125 yards to TEs this season and no tight end has exceeded three catches. Last week, the Chargers held Travis Kelce to one catch for one yard after he lit the Eagles up the previous Sunday.

Still, if you have Ertz in fantasy, you're obviously playing him. The position is so incredibly thin this season and Ertz is the only tight end who's produced in all three weeks.

Projected stat line: 5 catches, 60 yards

• • •

RB Wendell Smallwood, RB LeGarrette Blount
Smallwood was a popular waiver wire pickup this week after Darren Sproles suffered season-ending injuries against the Giants. Smallwood rushed 12 times for 71 yards against the Giants, and a few days later Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich said the second-year RB will get more playing time.

Because the Chargers' defensive strength is clearly their pass rush, the Eagles will have to use the running game to keep them honest. Ideally, that should mean about 12 to 15 carries each for Smallwood and LeGarrette Blount.

Blount's presence affects Smallwood's fantasy value in obvious ways. If the Eagles are inside the five-yard line on first or second down, Blount will likely get those carries. Smallwood's best chance to score would be from the 10-yard-line or so.

The Chargers' run defense hasn't been good so far. They've allowed 121, 119 and 171 rushing yards in three games, although all three of those games were against better running teams (Broncos, Dolphins, Chiefs).

If you're in a PPR league, it's going to be pretty tough to confidently start either Eagles running back, especially because Corey Clement is also in the picture. I'd start Blount or Smallwood only if my other options were players like Ameer Abdullah, Terrance West or Frank Gore.

Projected Smallwood stat line: 13 carries, 45 yards, 2 catches, 12 yards

Projected Blount stat line: 15 carries, 55 yards, TD

• • •

WR Keenan Allen
This could be a pretty big week for Allen against Eagles slot corner Patrick Robinson. Allen runs more than 60 percent of his routes from the slot, which is where Sterling Shepard was positioned on his 77-yard touchdown last week.

The Eagles have allowed the fourth-most points to wide receivers in PPR leagues, and last week alone they allowed more than 70 fantasy points to the trio of Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall and Shepard.

Philip Rivers always spreads the ball around but Allen is his favorite target and will likely be able to create early separation from Robinson. 

Projected Allen stat line: 9 catches, 108 yards

• • •

Stay away from:

• Both Chargers tight ends. The Eagles have been a top-two defense against fantasy tight ends since the start of 2016, and you never know which Chargers tight end will be involved in a given week. Hunter Henry had seven catches for 80 yards in Week 2 but had 0 targets in the other two games. Antonio Gates has had two catches in all three games. 

For me, Gates is a safer start between the two because he has more touchdown upside than most tight ends in the NFL. He just also has more two-point potential than most tight ends as well.

• If you've seen enough to trust Torrey Smith or Nelson Agholor in Week 4, good luck. You'd have to be in really, really bad wide receiver shape to do so.