Andrew Luck, Julian Edelman, David Johnson, J.J. Watt, Odell Beckham, Joe Thomas, Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Ryan Shazier, Eric Berry, Deshaun Watson, now Carson Wentz … when will it end? No star has been safe this year, not even the pride of Bismarck, North Dakota.
Wentz has thrown 440 passes this year but there won’t be a 441st as the Eagles signal-caller has been ruled out for the remainder of 2017 with a torn left ACL. Equal parts Prince Harry and Aaron Rodgers, the second-year sensation was the MVP frontrunner before his injury, leading Philadelphia to its first playoff berth in four years.
Replacing the league leader in touchdown passes will be a Herculean task for an Eagles team with Super Bowl aspirations as well as fantasy owners who rode Wentz to the semi-finals. Nick Foles is the favorite to replace Wentz under center and gets an enticing matchup with the 2-11 Giants right out of the gate. Already playing without top corner Janoris Jenkins, there’s a strong likelihood the G-Men will also be without Landon Collins, who was sporting a walking boot after injuring himself late in Sunday’s loss to Dallas. Dak Prescott threw for a season-high 332 yards in that game and wasn’t sacked once as the Giants’ pass rush, headed by the likes of Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon, was no match for the Cowboys’ stout offensive line.
In other words, it’s a can’t-miss matchup for Foles, who gets a similarly plush draw at home against the Raiders’ hapless secondary in Week 16. Being thrown into the fire after three months of diligent clipboard-holding is a tough assignment, but for both fantasy and confidence-building purposes, it would be hard to find a softer two-game slate than the one Foles has in front of him.
It all looks good on paper but can Foles, a sixth-year journeyman in his second stint with the Eagles, deliver the goods? Rather hilariously, Foles ranks 130th among fantasy quarterbacks on ESPN with -2.4 points in his four appearances. Of course, that’s over an extremely small sample size as Foles has played all of 57 snaps this year with 23 of those coming in relief of Wentz Sunday against the Rams. Not to get overly nostalgic, but this situation is eerily similar to 2013 when Foles took the reins from an injured Michael Vick and proceeded to have one of the best statistical seasons (not an exaggeration) in NFL history while leading the Eagles back to the playoffs after a three-year hiatus. Foles’ quarterback rating that year still stands as the third-highest in NFL history, trailing only Peyton Manning (2004) and Aaron Rodgers (2011) in that department.
It’s true that was four long years ago and Foles has never come close to matching the heights of his breathtaking 2013. But it’s also true that Foles has a better, or at least deeper, supporting cast now than he did four years ago when Snapchat was in its infancy and nobody knew who LaVar Ball was yet. He has a go-to receiver in Alshon Jeffery, a field stretcher in Torrey Smith, a chain-mover in former first-round pick Nelson Agholor, a short-yardage bruiser in LeGarrette Blount and a red-zone threat in tight end Zach Ertz. Not to mention Jay Ajayi, who has averaged a cool 7.0 yards per carry since defecting from the Dolphins at this year’s trade deadline. In 2013, the Eagles’ offense was essentially DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy and a handful of spare parts including Riley Cooper, who finished second on the team with 835 receiving yards.
Foles has spent the past few years as a backup and didn’t move the needle much in his one quarter Sunday at the L.A. Coliseum (6-for-10, 42 yards). But if he can conjure up some of his 2013 magic, he’ll have a chance to be a useful streamer down the stretch. I imagine Foles will also be a popular play on FanDuel this week, where he’s priced at an eminently reasonable $6,000 against the Giants. Not to give away too much of my strategy, but I’ve always been a proponent of saving up at quarterback because it allows you to pay up at other positions like wide receiver and running back. It worked Sunday with Jimmy Garoppolo (not so much with Blaine Gabbert) and I wouldn’t be surprised if I go that route again with Foles this week.
The Eagles seem fairly confident in Foles, a veteran of Doug Pederson’s offense both from his time in Philadelphia and Kansas City. Fantasy owners only need Foles to be good for two weeks, and with blow-up spots on tap against New York and Oakland, that doesn’t seem like too much to ask. But the Eagles, last we checked, care very little about your fantasy team. For them, the goal is winning a title and nothing else. Not everyone puts up runner-up banners like the Colts. The Eagles have never won a Super Bowl and this might be their best chance yet, which begs the question, can Foles lead Philly to the Promised Land?
If VP of Football Operations Howie Roseman really wants to go for the jugular, he could always kick the tires on Tony Romo. It’s the ultimate Hail Mary and I doubt the ex-Cowboy would leave his cushy broadcast booth at CBS to play for a hated division rival, but if Romo wants one last shot at a title, joining the Eagles would give him that opportunity. Colin Kaepernick would also be a strong fit, though it seems like his NFL ship has sailed, particularly now that he’s suing the league for collusion.
On the waiver wire, Foles is sure to be a hot commodity this week given his matchup and all the chaos that ensued over the weekend with Josh McCown (broken hand) also getting hurt. A quick peek at the wire shows Garoppolo, Blake Bortles and Joe Flacco are still available in most leagues. All three have enticing matchups next week (Garoppolo vs. Tennessee, Bortles vs. Houston and Flacco at Cleveland) and would be acceptable alternatives for owners who fall short in their pursuit of Foles.
Wentz’s injury should also give Tom Brady and Russell Wilson new life in the MVP race. Brady is probably the chalk but Wilson is building a compelling case and Antonio Brown, who is coming off a season-best 213 yards on Sunday Night Football, also belongs in the conversation. Wentz was as strong a candidate as any of them, if not more so, impressing with a league-high 33 touchdown passes to go with just seven interceptions. Let’s hope he comes back better than ever in 2018.