We predict each of the Eagles' remaining games and it doesn't look good for Philly.
The Philadelphia Eagles have already declared the Dream Team “dead”, but they only meant the nickname, not the team itself. They still remain confident that they’re talented enough and have enough time to turn their sinking ship around.
Never bench your studs. Yeah, right. Just because you drafted a running back in the first round, don't think you can just set him in the starting lineup and not have to worry about him falling on his face.
Case in point is Week 1 and Baltimore's Ray Rice. If you're in a non-PPR sit him. If you're in a league without a flex position, sit him. And if you're in a PPR league with a flex position, really consider going somewhere else this week if you have better options/matchups.
Ray Rice gets Pittsburgh to open the season — he will also have to face the Steelers and their No. 1 run defense in the NFL and No. 1 in points per game allowed to RBs in fantasy last season at just 12.9 in Week 9. Yes, we love Ray Rice. But maybe we love him too much considering he has to face the Steelers twice this season and the Jets in Week 4 (No. 2 in PPG to RBs at 14). But back to Week 1. In two games against the Steelers last year, Rice ran for 52 yards total, caught three balls for 27 yards total and failed to reach the end zone. In two starts that's 10.9 points in a full PPR league and 7.7 in a standard league — in TWO starts.
In five regular-season games against the Steelers in his career, Rice has a total of 281 yards rushing, nine catches for 108 yards and NO touchdowns. That's 77.8 total yards and 1.8 catches per game. So his career fantasy average vs. the Steelers in a full-PPR league is 9.5 points and 7.7 in non-PPR.
You need look no further than what Chris Johnson, coming off a 2,000-yard rushing season, did in the opener against Pittsburgh last year: 34 yards rushing and five catches for 19 yards — 5.3 in a non-PPR and 10.3 in a full-PPR.
Rice was the ninth-best back in PPG last year at 15.3. Seeing Pittsburgh twice a year, along with the Jets, all before the fantasy postseason, is not a confidence builder for his 2011 prospects if you just assume he is not going to come close to reaching his average in those three games.
No other top-12 back faces Pittsburgh twice, but there are three that face Pittsburgh and the Jets: Rice, Jamaal Charles and Maurice Jones-Drew.
We know Rice's numbers vs. the Steelers. He has played the Jets once (last year's season opener) and went for 43 yards rushing, 19 yards receiving on two catches and no scores. That's 6.2 points in a non-PPR and 8.2 in a full-PPR.
Charles has faced the Steeler and Jets once each — 58 yards rushing, two catches for eight yards and one score against the Steelers in 2009 and 45 yards rushing, one catch for four yards and no scores against the Jets in his rookie season of 2008.
MJD has faced the Steelers three times, rushing for 80 yards and one score and adding 13 catches for 59 yards and no scores. He has faced the Jets twice, rushing for 182 yards and three scores and catching two balls for 22 yards and no scores. Clearly, MJD is the best against these two teams, but now with the release of QB David Garrard and teams knowing it's stack the box time, having success against these two teams in the first six weeks of the season is a tall order.
Here are the top five fantasy defenses against RBs last season, and which RBs have to face them this year.
Pittsburgh — 12.9
New York Jets — 14.0
Green Bay — 15.7
Atlanta & Baltimore — 16
No. 1 Arian Foster — Pittsburgh (Week 4), Baltimore (Week 6), Atlanta (Week 13) No. 2 Adrian Peterson — Green Bay (Week 7), Green Bay (Week 10), Atlanta (Week 12) No. 3 Ray Rice — Pittsburgh (Week 1), N.Y. Jets (Week 4), Pittsburgh (Week 9) No. 4 LeSean McCoy — Atlanta (Week 2), New York Jets (Week 15) No. 5 Jamaal Charles — Pittsburgh (Week 12), New York Jets (Week 14), Green Bay (Week 15) No. 6 Chris Johnson — Baltimore (Week 2), Pittsburgh (Week 5), Atlanta (Week 11) No. 7 Rashard Mendenhall — Baltimore (Week 1), Baltimore (Week 9) No. 8 Maurice Jones-Drew — New York Jets (Week 2), Pittsburgh (Week 6), Baltimore (Week 7), Atlanta (Week 15) No. 9 Darren McFadden — New York Jets (Week 3), Green Bay (Week 14) No. 10 Steven Jackson — Baltimore (Week 3), Green Bay (Week 6), Pittsburgh (Week 16) No. 11 Matt Forte — Atlanta (Week 1), Green Bay (Week 3), Green Bay (Week 16) No. 12 Frank Gore — Baltimore (Week 12), Pittsburgh (Week 15)
Of course you can't run from all of the top-12 backs in fantasy football, but this is just meant to inform you of when to beware. And maybe with eight of the first 12 backs each facing a top-five fantasy run defense at least three times, perhaps their value is not as great as once thought.
Bottom line: Sit em vs. the Steelers and Jets and cross your fingers for the rest.
On to Ask Athlon for Week 1...
Kevin Kolb or Jay Cutler Week 1? — Mike Crowther from Athlon Sports on Facebook
Wow, that's a tough one. Cutler was sacked a league-high 56 times last season, but Kolb's opponent, Carolina, wasn't far behind with 50 sacks allowed. Cutler faces an Atlanta team that allowed the fifth-most points to fantasy WRs last year (30.5 PPG), while Carolina was much better at fifth-best (22.8 PPG). Arizona has Larry Fitzgerald and Todd Heap and a new QB in Kolb and the Cardinals are on the road against a coach In Ron Rivera hired for his defensive mind. The Bears are at home, with more weapons and Cutler in his second year in Mike Martz's offense. It's a close call, but I'd go Cutler.
Julio Jones, Jonathan Stewart or Marshawn Lynch at the flex spot, non-PPR — Chris Kaschok from Athlon Sports on Facebook
All I see when I think of the Falcons, Week 1 and a receiver is Michael Jenkins streaking down the field to catch Matt Ryan's first-ever pro pass for a 62-yard touchdown in 2008. One play and Jenkins had 12.2 points in non-PPR leagues, add a point in PPR. Chicago's Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman are no bums when it comes to covering receivers but the Bears' rush defense was second in the league last season. So expect the Falcons to come out showing off their new weapon in the rookie receiver from Alabama. I feel better about his opportunities to get you the 12 points you want from your flex spot than the other two options.
Stewart ran for 137 yards and no scores against Arizona last season when he was the primary back. But DeAngelo Williams is back, rookie QB Cam Newton can't throw and expect the Cardinals to key on the run. With Stewart playing second fiddle and the Cardinals focused on one thing — stopping the run — hard to expect much from JStew in this one.
Lynch is in Seattle. Enough said. Get the great playoff run he had against the Saints out of your mind. I am not touching a single Seahawk this season until they get a new QB — and that QB is not currently on the roster.
Who do you like more this week. Big Ben at the Ravens or Tony Romo at the Jets? — @AthlonBraden on Twitter (because even Athlon editors need help setting their lineups)
Both teams are in similar situations. The Steelers and Cowboys go up against top-notch run defenses and will probably have to go to the air to have success. I give the edge to Roethlisberger for three reasons: familiarity, health and the other team's defensive backfield.
Roethlisberger has not lost in his last seven tries against his AFC North rivals, and averages 21.6 points per game over the last 12 meetings. The Steelers are healthy, minus Emmanuel Sanders being banged up with his foot injury, although Antonio Brown filled in nicely in the preseason. Jets shutdown corner Darrelle Revis is not on the other side of the field for Big Ben to face.
Romo has only faced the Jets once — 195 yards, two scores and an interception in 2007. Romo does have to face Revis. He does so with a hamstring injury to his No. 1 receiver, Miles Austin, who would be lined up against Revis. His No. 2, Dez Bryant, is unproven with Romo at the helm so far. Add all that with the fact the Cowboys' No. 16 run offense from a year ago, now minus Pro Bowl center Andre Gurode who they released, goes up against the No. 3 ranked rushing defense.
Houston's Arian Foster is giving fantasy footballers everywhere heart palpitations after his Tweeting of an MRI of his right hamstring.
Jacksonville's Maurice Jones-Drew, easily in the conversation with Johnson and Adrian Peterson last year for which back to draft No. 1 overall, is pouting on the satellite airwaves of his own SiriusXM show that he doesn't understand why he has fallen so far on draft boards after issues with his knee all last season. It's because we haven't seen you all preseason, MJD. Hopefully that will change tonight in the final preseason game.
And then there are the Indianapolis Colts. What to do with this backfield? Do they even run enough for us to care as fantasy players? Can Joseph Addai stay healthy? Will Donald Brown ever live up to his first-round selection. Is Javarris James or rookie Delone Carter going to be the goal line back. Where does former Virginia Tech stud Darren Evans fit into the mix?
But back to the Johnson signing. It puts him squarely back into the conversation as one of the top four backs to select in your fantasy football drafts. Or does it?
I still have Foster pegged as No. 1 until we hear anything worse on his hamstring. If it's a tear, I drop him to 14th.
We still have Adrian Peterson ranked No. 2 because, well, because he's Adrian Peterson and he seems to get it done no matter how bad the Vikings are. If he does it again this year, he will be No. 1 forever.
Ray Rice sits at No. 3. And he could easily move to the No. 1 spot in all formats as he is the safest pick.
LeSean McCoy is ranked No. 4 by Athlon as our standard scoring system rewards half a point per reception. Have you watched the preseason? The Eagles' offensive line doesn't look any better, and McCoy is there to reap the rewards in the form of dump-off and check-down passes.
Jamaal Charles sits at No. 5 as the news of Dexter McCluster getting some action in the backfield along with Thomas Jones, Le'Ron McClain, a below-average QB in Matt Cassel and a brutal schedule, leaves people nervous about Charles.
Then there's CJ.
Word is that he will be more involved in the passing game this season, and if we knew that to be true he would be No. 4 in our rankings as a result. But he hasn't been in camp. Johnson hasn't practiced with new offensive coordinator Chris Palmer's playbook; he hasn't played with new QBs Matt Hasslebeck and Jake Locker.
What he also has not done is anything at game speed. And this is where we come full circle from yesterday. Arian Foster and his hamstring dominated the news. Will it get worse? Is it a tweak? Is it a tear? Will Chris Johnson's hamstring be the next to dominate the news cycle?
With veteran players and holdouts, new system or not, we are not as worried about how quickly they can learn, we are more worried about how healthy can they stay. There have been a few high-profile hamstring injuries in recent seasons after holdouts — New York Jets defensive back Darrelle Revis last season and Green Bay Packers running back Ryan Grant in 2008. Both were able to play the season, but they were injured nonetheless.
This is the biggest worry about CJ right now. He seemingly always trains on his own in Orlando in the offseason, and the numbers that has produced the last three seasons aren't too shabby.
If you are drafting today, tomorrow or even right up until the season kicks off a week from now, Chris Johnson is still a top-six RB pick. And monitor the news over the next week and see if he getting a lot of action in the passing game. Even if it's just a bit, I am moving him over Charles because Johnson has a clear path to all the carries (not too worried about Javon Ringer and Jamie Harper in the long run) and an easier schedule.
Arian Foster - Houston Athlon Top 280 Rank:1 Pros: Foster was the No. 1 fantasy running back last season by a wide margin. Texans own one of the league’s top lines. Great supporting cast. Only running back in NFL last year to average more than 100 yards per game. Cons: Very limited track record. Ben Tate is healthy and could steal a few carries away. Injuries have been a concern throughout Foster’s career.
Adrian Peterson - Minnesota Athlon Top 280 Rank:2 Pros: Arguably the most talented running back in the NFL. Four straight 1,000-yard seasons. Seems to have solved fumble issues. Four seasons of at least 1,600 total yards and 10 scores. Cons: Vikings have Donovan McNabb in his twilight years, could start a rookie quarterback, and offensive line is a question mark. Despite questionable surrounding cast, Peterson remains a solid fantasy pick, but needs help to improve upon last year’s numbers.
Ray Rice - Baltimore Athlon Top 280 Rank:3 Pros: Back-to-back 1,200-yard seasons. Could see more work around the goal line this year. A top option in PPR leagues. Cons: Offensive line a question mark. Ravens added more weapons at receiver, which could reduce receptions. May be difficult to top last year’s 307 carries in 2011.
Chris Johnson - Tennessee Athlon Top 280 Rank:4 Pros: One of the safest picks at running back after three straight 1,000-yard seasons. With uncertainty at quarterback, Johnson should be the focal point of the offense and will see plenty of passes in his direction once again. Cons: Titans, like the Vikings with McNabb, have Matt Hasselbeck in his later years and could start a rookie quarterback later. Has been holding out due to contract. Yards per carry dropped from 5.6 in 2009 to 4.3 last year. Already has a lot of work on a slight frame.
Jamaal Charles - Kansas City Athlon Top 280 Rank:5 Pros: Very little wear on the tires. Increased yards per carry by at least a half a yard each of last three seasons. With Thomas Jones in decline, likely in line for more work around the goal line. Cons: Schedule among the toughest in the NFL. Chiefs could continue to limit his workload to prevent him from breaking down.
LeSean McCoy - Philadelphia Athlon Top 280 Rank:8 Pros: Led all running backs with 78 receptions. Eagles don’t run the ball a ton, but he doesn’t have any competition for carries at running back. Makes what carries he gets count — had a 5.2-yard average in 2010. Cons: May not improve much on rushing yardage totals due to Eagles offense. All of the weapons are back in Philadelphia, which means McCoy’s touchdown totals are also unlikely to increase.
Rashard Mendenhall - Pittsburgh Athlon Top 280 Rank:9 Pros: Entering the prime of his career. Has back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons and tied for second in the NFL with 13 rushing scores last year. Has very little competition for touches; should top 300 carries once again. Cons: Although the offensive line is getting better, it remains a concern. Mendenhall won’t be much of a factor in PPR leagues and could lose a few more goal line touches to Isaac Redman.
Maurice Jones-Drew - JacksonvilleAthlon Top 280 Rank:11 Pros: The Jaguars still have a questionable passing attack, which should make Jones-Drew the focal point of the offense. He has back-to-back 1,300-yard seasons and remains a significant contributor in receptions out of the backfield. Cons: Coming off of knee surgery. Touchdown totals were significantly down from 2009 season. Should be focal point of offense, but lack of consistent passing attack is a concern.
Darren McFadden - Oakland Athlon Top 280 Rank:12 Pros: Finally lived up to the hype by earning first 1,000-yard season. Raiders should boast an improved passing attack, which will ease pressure on McFadden. A factor in PPR leagues. Cons: Has never played a full 16-game slate due to injuries. Backfield mates Michael Bush and Taiwan Jones will factor into Oakland’s gameplan each week. Offensive line could be a question mark.
Frank Gore - San FranciscoAthlon Top 280 Rank:13 Pros: Before last season’s injury, was on pace to earn his fifth-straight 1,000-yard season. New head coach Jim Harbaugh was a run-first coach at Stanford and wants the same mentality in San Francisco. Cons: Injury prone — he has played 16 games only once in six seasons. Yards per carry dropped from 4.9 to 4.2 last year. 49ers passing game will be an issue once again.
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.