Thank you TFA followers who voted on which matchups you wanted to see analyzed. This matchup between the Lions and Eagles was by far the highest voted, and I had a lot of fun breaking down the matchups.
The Eagles are a team that made a ton of roster moves in an attempt to distance themselves as far as possible from the Chip Kelly era. In the process, their defense switched from a 3-4 base alignment that was constantly on the field due to the quickly inefficient Chip Kelly offense, to a base 4-3 team under new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. This move suits the Eagles personnel and transforms them into a team that can rush the passer and plug holes in the run game. Schwartz runs an aggressive wide-9 scheme that will generate a lot of QB sacks.
The Eagles weakness on defense is their cornerbacks. They aren’t very good, and teams with outside threats can get the ball to them without too much trouble. This makes early-season darling Marvin Jones a must-start this week. Golden Tate has been struggling to the point where Matt Stafford may have lost his trust in him. Through 4 games, 36 year old Anquan Boldin has more receptions, yards, and touchdowns. Sit Tate until further notice. If you are really desperate, this would be the last chance I would give Tate to prove he can be something in the 2016 version of the Lions offense. The matchup is good, I just don’t have faith in Tate. If he bombs this week, he is probably droppable.
Speaking of the ageless wonder, if you rely on Boldin as a weekly flex play, then you should roll him out as usual against the birds. Their slot corner, Ron Brooks, has looked pretty average in pass coverage. However, If you usually rely on Boldin, I would also suggest re-evaluating your fantasy team because Boldin shouldn’t be owned in anything but deep leagues of 14 or more teams. Hit me up on twitter @leagueedge and we can discuss some options for improving your squad if you currently roster Boldin or just need some rebuilding work. If you are in a league with 12 teams or less, ignore Anquan.
Despite their deficiencies at cornerback, the Eagles boast one of the better safety tandems in the league in Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney Mcleod. Jenkins uses his experience as a cornerback to be an outstanding slot cover-man in nickel packages. He regularly covers the tight end and running backs on receiving patterns and takes them almost out of the game plan. This makes an already banged-up Eric Ebron a bad play this week. This is if he even plays. Early reports suggest he may not suit up, but for the reasons listed above Cole Wick (Ebron’s backup) is not a suitable replacement.
Depth at the linebacker position has hurt the Eagles in the past. With one less linebacker on the field, 3 quality starting linebackers, and solid interior defensive line play the birds can flex their muscles in the ground game when healthy. They can be beat however, and they aren’t a lock to shut down the run. In week 1, the Browns ran for 5.71 yards per carry. Since then, they have held the Bears and Steelers to just 93 combined rushing yards on 27 carries (3.44 YPC average) Detroit has had very little luck establishing anything on the ground, which means you should sit all their starters in standard leagues. In PPR, Theo Riddick usually has a safe floor as a flex option due to his heavy involvement in the passing game, though as I mentioned before, the eagles do defend the pass out of the backfield well. The Eagles have only allowed a combined 85 receiving yards to opposing running backs thus far. Riddick is a better receiving back than anyone they have faced, but temper your expectations to a lower-end PPR flex play nonetheless.
Matthew Stafford was looking like a guy who you could start in good matchups until last week happened. Against a porous Bears secondary, I had Stafford penciled in for a QB1 day. Instead he gave us 213 yards, no scores, and 2 interceptions. After that performance, and the way Philly absolutely shut down Ben Roethlisberger in week 3, I would not consider Matt Stafford a very intriguing play this week. If you can find a better streaming option, that may be your best bet. If you have to start Stafford, hope that he can take advantage of outside matchups between Marvin Jones and Leodis Mckelvin/Nolan Carroll.
Players to start for the Lions:
- Marvin Jones
- Theo Riddick (low-end PPR flex)
Players to sit for the Lions:
- Eric Ebron
- Cole Wick
- Golden Tate
- Dwayne Washington
- Matt Stafford
- Can slot wide receivers consistently beat a team without an established slot corner?
- Can the Eagles shut down the running game more consistently?
The Lions have talented players at every level of their defense, but this team lacks the overall depth to be a top notch unit. They aren’t atrocious against the run, but they aren’t particularly good at it either. They currently rank 23rd in the league in yards per game, and are giving up 4.8 yards per carry. (3rd worst in the league) The Eagles running back situation is complicated due to the injuries to starter Ryan Mathews. Keep tabs on him throughout the week. If he looks like he will be healthy enough for a full workload, he is a high-end RB2. If this is a running back by committee, then rookie Wendell Smallwood may be the guy to look for as an RB3 with upside. Smallwood lead the backfield with 17 carries when Matthews was limited in week 3. (and didn’t look that bad against a tough Steelers front 7) It’s worth noting that Whether it be Matthews or Smallwood, neither will be getting much attention on 3rd down and in the passing game. Darren Sproles has played on 48% of the Eagle’s offensive snaps thus far, and his role isn’t expected to change. Despite a huge game against Pittsburgh in week 3, Sproles is no more than a low-end flex play week-to-week in PPR formats.
Wide receiver Jordan Matthews is a great WR2 option this week. The Lions only have one good corner, and that’s Darius Slay. Jordan Matthews has played 66 percent of his snaps from the slot, a position that Slay only covers on 4 percent of his snaps. The lions primary slot corner is Quandre Diggs who has earned a middling 45.1 grade on Pro Football Focus thus far in 2016. Start JMatt with confidence. No other Eagles receiver is getting enough consistent attention in the passing game to warrant a fantasy start.
The Lions have been very friendly to tight ends this season, allowing 6 scores to the position in 4 games. It looks as though Zach Ertz will play this week, and that makes him a must-start in all formats.
Here’s the real analysis you have all been waiting for. Is it time to hop on the Wentz Wagon for fantasy purposes? As of now, I think the sample size doesn’t tell us all we need to know about Wentz. None of the first 3 teams the rookie has faced have had anything resembling an NFL-caliber secondary. None of the teams he has faced boasts a very good pass rush either. All three schemes he has faced have focused on stopping the run, and letting the QB make short, accurate passes to beat them. There is nothing wrong with this strategy, but I’m not expecting him to throw for 400 yards or 4 TD’s anytime soon. The Eagles receiver group is amongst the least talented in the NFL, and they collectively have a contagious drop problem.
Despite his renowned arm strength, Wentz is just 2 for 8 on passes thrown more than 20 yards in the air. This will improve as he learns and he gets receivers that can catch, but what this tells me is that the Eagles aren’t going to convert a lot of deep scores which can really bolster a QB’s fantasy performance. (see Ben Roethlisberger week 4)
When Wentz faces a good matchup, he provides a safe floor as a streaming play, and that’s where I have him this week. He isn’t going to put up a goose egg, but he isn’t going to single-handedly carry your fantasy team to victory either. Play him accordingly.
Players to start for the Eagles:
- Ryan Matthews / Wendell Smallwood (see 1st paragraph)
- Jordan Matthews
- Carson Wentz (QB1/QB2)
- Zach Ertz
- Darren Sproles (low-end PPR Flex)
Players to sit for the Eagles:
- Nelson Agholor
- Dorial Green-Beckham
- Can Carson Wentz keep the wagon rolling or will NFL defenses catch up with the rookie?
- Can any Eagles outside receiver establish themselves on a consistent basis?