Cowboys look to even record, Eagles hope to avoid eighth straight loss
The Philadelphia Eagles will try to get their first win since late September when they square off against the Dallas Cowboys tonight at 8:20 p.m. ET on NBC. The Eagles (3-8) have lost seven games in a row, including a 38-23 loss to the Cowboys on Nov. 11. Meanwhile the Cowboys (5-6) would like nothing more than to get back to .500 by handing their NFC East rivals a second defeat in less than a month.
What can the Philadelphia Eagles do for you this fantasy season? Check out Athlon Sports' team report as we break down the rookies, veteran players to watch and avoid, fantasy playoff schedule and more to help you get ready for the 2012 season.
These premier players disappointed in 2011, can they rebound in 2012?
There are first-round flops and high-priced mistakes made in every fantasy draft, every season. Here’s a look at those players who failed to live up to their expectations in 2011, and a preview of what to expect from those “busts” in 2012.
It was a wild, injury-filled second week of the NFL season
Michael Vick returned to the city where he first electrified NFL audiences before his stunning fall from grace and equally stunning climb back to glory. Would he complete his return from scandal and ignominy by leading his team to a dramatic victory over the franchise that discarded him?
Week 1 of the 2011 NFL season is in the books. Here are some numbers that stood out to me from the Week 1 action that's already happened.
-2 How many owners were screaming at the final play of Sunday night's Cowboys-Jets game when Felix Jones was the last to touch the ball? He was the last of many to lateral the ball as the Cowboys tried to score on the final play from their own 34. And Jones' last touch ended up in the hands of Jets DL Jamaal Westerman. The result will be minus-2 points in many fantasy leagues for the fumble lost by Jones, and perhaps the difference in a win or loss come Tuesday morning.
1 - Targets Green Bay Packers WR James Jones received Thursday night in 20 snaps of action. He turned it into one catch for one yard. Why did he re-sign with the Packers again? Was it just to jumble this receiving corps up even more for fantasy owners?
4 & 1 - Tampa Bay WR Mike Williams and Houston's Andre Johnson were each targeted a league-high four times in the red zone. Johnson caught two of his, including one for a score. Williams caught one of his for a score.
5 -We're down on Falcons TE Tony Gonzalez this year because his numbers have declined. However, he did receive seven targets Sunday against a solid Bears LB corps, and turned it into five catches for 72 yards. All of those numbers are above his 2010 16-game average of 6.8 targets, 4.4 catches and 41 yards per game. Three targets came in the first quarter, three in the third and one in the fourth. He had the third-longest day of the play for the Falcons, a 30-yard catch in the first quarter.
9.75 - Yards per attempt for Chicago QB Jay Cutler, who completed 22-of-32 passes for 312 yards and two scores. He was still sacked five times, which puts him on pace for 80 this season — well above his league-leading 56 last year.
12 - DeSean Jackson, more known for what he is able to do with limited targets, was the go-to guy for Mike Vick Sunday against St. Louis. Jackson was targeted 96 times over 14 games last season for a 6.9 per game average. Sunday, he was targeted 12 times, one behind league leader Roddy White (ATL). Jackson caught six of the targets for 102 yards and a score. He was targeted double-digit times in just three games last season, including the 2010 opener (11), but keep an eye on this trend as it pertains to how Vick sees the field. TE Brent Celek and WR Jeremy Maclin received just three targets apiece.
13 - The Titans ran the ball just 13 times against Jacksonville, and fell to 0-12 all-time when they have rushed 13 times or fewer. Only three times in Jeff Fisher's tenure did the team run 13 times or less.
21.9 - Wes Welker enters Week 2 with his yards per catch nearly double his career average of 10.9 after an eight-catch, 160-yard performance Monday night against Miami. He was at 9.2 before a 99-yard TD catch in the fourth quarter. He also has his average targets per game well above last year's average of 8.2 after Tom Brady went his way 12 times. That's a good sign for Welker owners as he is still a favorite option despite so many mouths to feed.
21.9 - Fantasy points New Orleans Saints RB/return man Darren Sproles had Thursday night. He tied for the team lead in targets (9) and turned it into seven catches for 75 yards to go with two carries for seven yards. On special teams, he had two punt returns for 92 yards, including a 72-yard TD return, and two kickoff returns for 76 yards.
25 - Matthew Stafford was 18-of-25 for 265 yards, two TDs and an interception by halftime. He went 6-of-8 in the second half with 40 more yards and a score. He had already targeted WR Calvin Johnson seven times, TE Brandon Pettigrew six times and Nate Burleson four times in the first half.
25 - Tim Hightower and Cedric Benson led the league with 25 carries apiece on Sunday. Hightower went for 72 yards and a score with his; Benson scored as well, on a 39-yard run, rushing for 121 yards. Hightower added three catches for 25 yards; Benson had one catch for 2 yards. 18.8 fantasy points for Benson, 18.2 for Higtower.
39 - Minnesota QB Donovan McNabb threw for 39 yards. ... Has that sunk in yet? He threw for 39 yards, 1 TD, 1 interception and added 32 yards rushing for a fantasy day of 9.76 points. It's going to be hard for Adrian Peterson, who miraculously had 98 yards on 16 carries, to consistently find any running room with McNabb stretching the field to the tune of 39 yards.
46 - Denver QB Kyle Orton attempted 46 passes in Monday night's loss to Oakland. And it was not all in the second half as the Broncos attempted to come back. The Broncos ran 33 first-half plays, traling by no more than 10 points, yet 23 of those 33 plays were pass attempts by Orton. He attempted 46 or more passes just twice last season under Josh McDaniels. So just because John Fox came to town, and many worried that the forward pass would cease to exist, Orton should still be slinging the ball.
71 -Dallas WR Dez Bryant had three catches for 71 yards and a score in the first quarter. The first two catches and the score came against New York Jets DB Antonio Cromartie, the final catch, a 26-yard play down the sidelines came against Darrelle Revis. It was the last catch of the night for Bryant, despite five more targets.
We take an in-depth look at the Eagles chances at making a Super Bowl run this year.
In the Andy Reid era, which has endured into its fourth presidential term, the Eagles have been no strangers to startling personnel moves. Reid broke from his usual way of doing things by going after Terrell Owens in 2004, then stunned the football world by taking a chance on Michael Vick in 2009.
• Inside the Locker Room
With Phil Sheridan of the Philadelphia Inquirer
Can LeSean McCoy approach old Brian Westbrook fantasy numbers?
McCoy certainly showed he has the ability to put up very good numbers, but the perfect storm that created Westbrook’s garish stats just isn’t there. Westbrook was used as the primary check-down receiver because the Eagles lacked a difference-making tight end. And for most of his tenure, Westbrook was the best wideout option on the team. So he was used the way the Eagles use DeSean Jackson now — to stretch the field or on short screens. Simply put, McCoy is one of several potent weapons, where Westbrook was often the lone serious threat.
Has DeSean Jackson maxed out or is there another gear left?
This is a question that will go a long way toward deciding the Eagles’ fate in the next few years, since Jackson is due a big long-term contract. He is still a threat to score from anywhere on the field. At the same time, though, defenses have learned that he can be neutralized at times with physical play. The emergence of Jeremy Maclin as a reliable target also means fewer throws in Jackson’s direction.
Will Brent Celek ever be a reliable fantasy tight end starter with Vick at QB?
That’s a tough call. Celek took a plunge last season as Vick took over the starting job from Kevin Kolb. But there was more at work than the QB change. Celek played through injuries, including a painful hand injury that led to some drops. Meanwhile, with defenses trying every possible blitz to slow down Vick, Celek was called on to block more often than in the past. So 2011 should be telling.
Vick: Better or worse in 2011?
Depends which part of the first year you’re comparing him to. Vick put up some ridiculous numbers in wins over Washington and the New York Giants but tailed off at the end of the season as teams began finding ways to blitz him into poor decisions. Best guess: Vick will be steadier in 2011, putting up reliably good numbers without as many extreme highs or lows. Also, expect his rushing totals — Vick had nine of the Eagles’ 18 rushing TDs last year — to be down. One thing Vick and the coaches want is for him to protect his body more.
• Fantasy Playoff Run — Weeks 14-16: @MIA, NYJ, @DAL
Miami and New York were both top-10 defenses in fantasy points allowed, while Dallas was 28th. The Jets did surrender 26.7 points per game to WRs and 17.6 per game to QBs last season. So if Michael Vick, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and LeSean McCoy can get hot vs. the Jets, a trip to Dallas is enticing, since last year’s matchup saw Vick throw for 270 yards and two TDs, McCoy rush for 149 and Jackson catch four balls for 210 and a TD.
• Athlon Best Bets
Sleeper: Jason Avant, WR Deep-Sleeper: Riley Cooper, WR Overvalued: Michael Vick, QB Top Rookie: Alex Henery, K Bounce-Back: Vince Young, QB Top IDP: Trent Cole, DL
• Try to Avoid
Brent Celek, TE
The Eagles’ offense under Michael Vick rarely features the tight end. One year removed from a stellar 2009 season, Celek saw 34 fewer targets in 2010. WAIT UNTIL: 20th RD
• Draft Class Fantasy Impact
The Eagles are set at the skill positions and at quarterback, which allowed most of the draft attention to fall to the offensive line and adding depth to the defense. Even though he’s a rookie, Henery could be a viable fantasy kicker as he is replacing fantasy football’s most consistent kicker over the last three seasons in David Akers.