Fantasy football

Fantasy implications in Eagles' Week 5 matchup with Cardinals

Fantasy implications in Eagles' Week 5 matchup with Cardinals

There are plenty of startable fantasy players in the Eagles' Week 5 home game against the Cardinals, especially because of bye weeks for the Saints, Falcons, Broncos and Redskins.

Let's take a look at Sunday's matchup from a fantasy perspective:

WR Alshon Jeffery
If you have Jeffery, you're most likely starting him unless it's a 2-WR league and you're just super deep at wide receiver.

But temper your expectations for Jeffery this week. He'll be shadowed by Cardinals star cornerback Patrick Peterson, who followed Dez Bryant all over the field in Week 3.

There are 79 cornerbacks so far this season who've played at least 50 percent of their team's snaps, and Peterson has allowed the second-fewest catches (5) and third-fewest yards (56). If you're basing your wide receiver decisions on what has happened the first four weeks, then Peterson is the top shadow corner to avoid.

No. 1 outside receivers just haven't fared well against the Cardinals. Marvin Jones had two catches for 37 yards in Week 1. T.Y. Hilton had four catches for 49 yards in Week 2. Bryant had two catches for 12 yards and a TD in Week 3, but the touchdown was a 5-yard pass over the middle that Bryant caught before morphing into beast mode and carrying tacklers into the end zone. 

The Eagles don't move Jeffery around a whole lot. He has lined up on the outside in nearly nine of every 10 snaps.

Projected Jeffery stat line: 4 catches, 45 yards

• • •

WR Larry Fitzgerald
You're obviously starting Fitzgerald this Sunday, so we're mentioning him here only to note that he could be the top wide receiver play in the NFL this week.

The ageless Fitzgerald has had just one quiet game out of four this season. He went 6-for-74 against the Lions, 3-for-21 against the Colts, 13-for-149 with a TD against the Cowboys and 4-for-32 with a game-winning TD against the 49ers.

This week, he'll face Eagles cornerbacks who will simply be overmatched. The Eagles have been burnt by enormous gains from slot receivers in back-to-back weeks. Sterling Shepard had the 77-yard TD two weeks ago. Tyrell Williams — who wasn't technically the slot receiver on the play but did line up inside the numbers — caught a 75-yard pass over the middle for a TD last week. Keenan Allen later added a 50-yard catch-and-run out of the slot.

Fitzgerald lines up all over the place and Bruce Arians and Carson Palmer get him involved early and often. Fitzgerald already has 41 targets through four games.

The Eagles are pleased with how Patrick Robinson has adjusted to the slot, but this is a journeyman going up against a Hall of Famer.

The last time the Eagles faced Fitzgerald (Dec. 20, 2015) was the first time he faced them and didn't score. In the previous seven meetings, he had 47 catches for 802 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Projected Fitzgerald stat line: 7 catches, 110 yards, 2 TD

• • •

RB Wendell Smallwood, RB LeGarrette Blount
Smallwood had an impressive day in Los Angeles with 79 total yards, four catches and a rushing touchdown. He will still cede most of the goal-line work to LeGarrette Blount, but Smallwood last Sunday got his short rushing TD after a long run by Blount and a few failed attempts by the bigger back.

Smallwood owners will like the fact that he led the Eagles' backfield in snaps in Week 4, got 10 rushing attempts and six targets in the passing game. With Darren Sproles out for the season, it looks like Smallwood will benefit the most with checkdowns, which gives him additional value in PPR leagues.

Statistically, this doesn't look like a great matchup for Smallwood or Blount. The Cardinals have allowed the eighth-fewest rushing yards and receiving yards to running backs this season. Ezekiel Elliott had 22 carries for 80 yards and a TD against them in Week 3, and Carlos Hyde had 22 touches for 95 total yards in Week 4. It seems unlikely that Smallwood or Blount will accrue 22 touches in this game.

I'd start Smallwood and Blount this week over guys like Doug Martin, Joe Mixon, Latavius Murray, Isaiah Crowell and any Seahawks running back.

Projected Smallwood stat line: 60 total yards, 4 catches

Projected Blount stat line: 55 total yards, rushing TD

• • •

TE Zach Ertz
Starting tight ends have not fared well against Arizona. Aside from Colts TE Jack Doyle's 8-catch, 79-yard performance in Week 2, tight ends have combined for five catches and 47 yards with no TDs against the Cards. That's 2-for-15 per game. Yuck.

Granted, Eric Ebron, Jason Witten and George Kittle aren't nearly as threatening as Ertz.

Ertz has been targeted between 8 and 10 times each game by Carson Wentz. He's gone 8-for-93, 5-for-97, 8-for-55 with a TD and 5-for-81. Ertz has been the most consistent option in the league at a volatile fantasy position.

With Wentz unlikely to test Peterson by targeting Jeffery often, he'll need to find his yards somewhere. That will mean more targets than usual for Torrey Smith and Nelson Agholor, but it should also mean another heavy dose of Ertz.

Projected Ertz stat line: 6 catches, 66 yards

• • •

WR Jaron Brown
Jaron Brown, not John Brown, was a popular waiver-wire pickup this week because of how heavily involved he's been in Arizona's aerial attack the last three weeks. In those three games, he's drawn 29 targets and caught 14 passes for 205 yards and a TD.

With John Brown (quad) and J.J. Nelson (hamstring) banged up, Arizona's passing game isn't nearly as crowded as usual. This figures to be another high-volume game for Jaron against a shaky Eagles secondary.

Projected Brown stat line: 5 catches, 85 yards

• • •

Eagles D/ST
This is a great spot for the Eagles' fantasy defense against a bad Cardinals offensive line that has allowed 16 sacks in its last three games and a turnover-prone Palmer who already has five interceptions and a fumble.

The best way for Palmer to combat the Eagles' pass rush will be to replicate Eli Manning's method of getting the ball out ASAP. That will mean checkdowns to Andre Ellington and quick slants to Fitzgerald. But you can't do that for four full quarters, and it's pretty tough to imagine a washed-up Chris Johnson gouging the Birds on the ground to help Palmer.

I predicted a big game from the Eagles' D/ST against the Giants and it didn't happen, but the stars are all aligned in this one. Palmer is also significantly worse on the road.

Projected Eagles D/ST stat line: 4 sacks, 2 interceptions, fumble recovery, defensive TD, 17 points allowed

Fantasy football: Plenty of waiver wire options after an injury-filled Sunday

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Fantasy football: Plenty of waiver wire options after an injury-filled Sunday

This was an awful, awful week for injuries around the NFL.

In fact, in the NBC Sports Philadelphia fantasy football league, my 3-0 team went up against John Boruk's 3-0 team and poor Boruk lost Derek Carr, Julio Jones, Dalvin Cook and Davante Adams in the same week. (That's not how I wanted to win, JB!)

If you had Cook, you're going through the miserable realization now that you lost your most exciting player. He was the NFC version of Kareem Hunt, breaking big play after big play and factoring heavily into the passing game. 

His backup, Latavius Murray, is this week's top waiver-wire pickup, but expectations should be tempered.

RB Latavius Murray (Vikings)
Murray carried the ball seven times after Cook left Sunday's game with a torn ACL. Murray offers none of the total yards or passing-game upside Cook does, but he has proven to be a solid goal-line back.

Last season, Murray had 1,052 yards from scrimmage and 12 touchdowns in 14 games. Solid RB2 numbers. But that was in a much more prolific offense with more weapons and a better offensive line. This is a wholly different situation.

Still, based on volume alone, Murray is the unquestioned top pickup this week. He seems like a safe bet for 15 to 20 touches per game moving forward, but his upside will be similar to LeGarrette Blount's or Mike Gillislee's.

If you're in a league in which you spend free-agent auction bucks on the waiver wire, Murray is worth a sizable sum — I'd say 30 to 35 percent of your season-opening total.

Side note: You're not going to confidently start Jerick McKinnon, ever, so you might as well let him linger in free agency.

RB Eddie Lacy (Seahawks)
Lacy got a bulk of the work for Seattle after standout rookie Chris Carson was carted off with a leg fracture Sunday night.

The thing is, Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise were both inactive, so Lacy's workload may not be a sign of things to come. 

This Seattle running situation will be too tough to predict on a weekly basis, so I would not advise breaking the bank for Lacy. 

QB DeShaun Watson (Texans)
Three starting-caliber fantasy QBs are on bye in Week 5: Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Kirk Cousins. Add Marcus Mariota (hamstring injury) and that's four top QBs who could be off the board next week.

Enter DeShaun Watson, who has in the span of three weeks become the franchise cornerstone for the Texans.

The last two weeks against the Patriots and Titans, Watson went 47 for 67 (70.2 percent) for 584 yards with six TDs and three interceptions, also adding 65 rushing yards and a rushing TD.

Watson looks like a slightly better fantasy version of Tyrod Taylor and is worth picking up in all leagues. He does have a tough Week 5 matchup against the Chiefs, but it's at home and the Chiefs will be on a short week. 

I'd rather start Watson in Week 5 than Taylor, Alex Smith, Matthew Stafford, Jared Goff or Blake Bortles. Maybe over Eli Manning (at Chargers), too.

WR Jaron Brown (Cardinals)
It's always confusing with the Cardinals' receivers because there's John Brown and Jaron Brown, so if you go scanning the waiver wire, make sure you've selected the right J. Brown.

Carson Palmer has targeted Jaron Brown a whopping 29 times the last three weeks and Brown has turned it into 14 catches for 205 yards and a TD. 

This Sunday, he draws the Eagles' average secondary, which was just victimized by Keenan Allen and Tyrell Williams in L.A.

Larry Fitzgerald will always get his in Arizona's offense, but Palmer is utilizing Jaron Brown a lot with the running game nonexistent and John Brown and J.J. Nelson playing at less than 100 percent.

TE Cameron Brate (Buccanneers)
Somehow, Brate is available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues despite the thinness of the tight end position. 

Brate on Sunday scored for the second straight week, catching four balls for 80 yards. Over the last two games, he has eight catches for 113 yards and two TDs. 

Rookie tight end O.J. Howard also scored a long TD for the Bucs in Week 4 and that will likely take attention away from Brate. If you need a tight end, Brate is a pretty safe option.

He has a solid matchup Thursday night against the Patriots, who have been horrendous on defense and allowed 300-plus passing yards and multiple TDs to every QB they've faced in 2017.

RB Aaron Jones (Packers)
Packers head coach Mike McCarthy indicated that starting running back Ty Montgomery (ribs) could play in Week 5 with the long layoff. 

Whether or not he plays, I wouldn't advise going hard after Jones. Yes, he scored a touchdown in relief of Montgomery and Jamaal Williams in Week 4, but he's a pretty small back (5-9/208). There's little reason to think he would hold up with a Montgomery-like workload, and this seems more like a situation in which the Packers would add a running back off the street before giving Jones 20-plus touches.

Defenses to stream in Week 5
• The Ravens travel to Oakland to face the Raiders, who are without Carr for 2 to 6 weeks as he recovers from a back injury. That means the Ravens' defense will be facing E.J. Manuel. 

Given the Oakland QB situation, the Michael Crabtree chest injury, Amari Cooper's invisibility and the fact that Marshawn Lynch has rushed 15 times for 30 yards the last two weeks, this is a good bounce-back matchup for the Baltimore D/ST. 

• Would you have been able to find one person on Earth who'd guess the Jets would be ahead of the Patriots in the AFC East standings four weeks in? The Jets' defense really isn't that bad, and this Sunday they get the hapless, turnover-prone Browns.

Fantasy implications in Eagles' Week 4 matchup with Chargers

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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.