Game Previews: All Fantasy Relevant Players For Week 3
Colts vs. Eagles
The Colts are riding high after an all-around strong win on the road against the Redskins. Week Two will be a major test against the reigning champions. The bright side? Philadelphia’s defense has been prone to surrendering chunk plays and are a week removed from major value at the tight end position.
Andrew Luck is primed for big numbers if he finished the game. (Plus a look at the receivers)
Indianapolis’ returning-to-star-status quarterback Andrew Luck has posted two fairly different performances through two weeks. He looked like the prime Luck of old in his debut with 319 yards and a pair of scores. Last week was a different story against a better Redskins defense. Luck stared down his receivers and just seemed “off” with 179 yards and two interceptions.
Philadelphia delivered when it mattered against Atlanta in the season’s first game, preventing any passing touchdowns (majorly because of Steve Sarkisian). After allowing 402 yards and four touchdowns to Tampa Bay last week, things are looking up for the Indianapolis air attack. A key aspect of those numbers is that the Bucs moved the ball more effectively in the first half. Philadelphia’s depth (especially up front) means that Indianapolis’ opportunities are likely to fade as the game progresses. Luck has been sacked three times this year, a number I think will more than double after the next sixty minutes of football. Anthony Castonzo continues to nurse injuries, forcing a lot of playmaking ability to come after the catch due to an expected insurgence of quick routes.
T.Y. Hilton commanded the lion’s share of targets in Washington with both positive and negative consequences. He’s scored twice in two weeks, both coming around the goal line. Posting only a season-long of 22 yards, it seems like the Colts are willing to let the deep plays come as they will. Mismatches is the name of the game in this offense. Eric Ebron has scored twice in two weeks, both as a size-advantaged receiver on the sideline. The real question marks are with Ryan Grant and Jack Doyle. After combining for 15 receptions and 119 yards in the season opener, the duo faltered with four catches and 40 yards. Luck is likely to fall somewhere between the 53 and 31 pass attempts he’s made through both games, keeping all of the above mentioned as potential scorers.
Injury Notes: Hilton has missed two practices with a quad injury. Says he is “feeling good.” Doyle missed Thursday’s practice with a hip injury. His absence would inflate Ebron’s value.
Fun Fact: Andrew Luck’s 87.3 passer rating this season is the same as his career mark.
Has Marlon Mack already run his way into a balanced committee?
Marlon Mack has missed multiple practices as he nurses both a foot and hamstring injury (not good for a back). After missing the season opener, Mack was the least effective back on a team-low in playing time:
Week Two Snap Counts:
- Nyheim Hines (25 snaps)
- Jordan Wilkins (23 snaps)
- Marlon Mack (18 snaps)
Wilkins led the way on the ground with 61 yards on 10 carries with a long of 18 yards. A fluid runner, he remains one of my favorite mid-round picks of this year’s draft. Hines had a confusing day. He touched the ball four times for -3 yards, but his one other touch was an eight-yard spinning score. Mack ran for just 34 yards on 10 carries, catching one of two passes for a couple yards. Should he miss Sunday’s game, Hines would likely see an all-around boost in opportunity while Wilkins appears to be more of an early-down back. Philadelphia has held opposing runners to limited production through their two games. Where they’ll be most vulnerable is in the passing game on quicker routes to avoid the pass rush. All three could arguably be FLEX options, or low-level RB2s in deeper leagues, especially for team’s nursing other injuries.
The Birds of War head into week 3 coming off of a brutal, yet tale-of-two-halves loss to the red-hot Buccaneers. They’ll butt heads with a team in the Colts that few (including myself, RIP) expected to hold a bland, yet efficient, Redskins offense to a mere 9 points. How will the Eagles’ fantasy studs fare against what seems to be an improved Colts defense? Let’s find out….wait. WAIT. IT’S……..IT’S………
CARSON WENTZ! HE’S BACK BOYS!!!!!
In case you don’t live near or interact with anyone on social media who happens to be from the Philadelphia area, let me drop a little news on ya: Carson Wentz is set to return from his season ending ACL/LCL/ouch-that’s-gotta-hurt injury last season against the Rams. Am I excited? I don’t know, maybe a little. Am I banking on Wentz to light up the field with his play, as well as his radiant smile, against the Colts this Sunday? Not exactly. It has been over 9 months since the Prodigal Son has played live football, and while every pundit and their mom will be spewing this phrase or some form of it leading up to the game this Sunday, there is a reason for that. There is no real way to simulate live NFL football, and while Wentz physically should be able to do just about everything he could before, it’ll take some time for his rhythm to return. Luckily, the guy gets almost as close as one can get to a practice game (unless you’re facing the Bills D) in facing the Colts less-than-talented defense, as well as the return of his rookie year security blanket Jordan Matthews to help him along. Look for Wentz to progressively shake off the rust throughout the game, looking near polished by the 4th quarter if the coaches leave him in.
What About Those Guys Wentz Will Throw To?
Oh yea, his receivers. Despite a vague comment from Doug Pederson noting a “step up in Alshon Jeffery’s practice reps this week”, I don’t expect the stud WR to play until next week; so barring a surprise announcement I’ll operate as such in my predictions. The other major piece of news to consider is the return of Jordan Matthews, signed this morning as Mike Wallace was transferred to IR with a likely season-ending broken fibula. Matthews operates as a strong possession receiver, primarily out of the slot, and not much else. This means Doug Pederson will likely be shifting Nelson Agholor to the outside more in this game and presumably for the foreseeable future. “Ok, well what does that mean?” Well, despite Wentz’s deep ball being FAR superior to that of Nick Foles, Agholor’s relative inexperience with routes on the outside, despite toying with it throughout 2016, should limit his upside in this one. Expect a BIG day for Zach Ertz, as Wentz looks to the oft open TE throughout the day in an attempt to get in a rhythm. As for Matthews, I oddly expect a decent haul of targets for him as he’s already pretty familiar with the playbook and should easily soak up the targets that want to scrub team squad Kamar Aiken and DeAndre Carter. Oh, and Shelton Gibson is gonna catch a bomb in this one. You heard it here first folks!
But What of the Runnings Backs?
Yes, yes. The running backs. Wait, who the heck is left? Again, despite Doug Pederson’s optimism toward Jay Ajayi’s back injury, I’m VERY skeptical he will play this Sunday. The man told reporters mid game “My s–t’s f—ed up. I’ve gotta go see the trainers”, and has publically been nursing a chronic knee injury and a foot injury. Sounds like a logical time to rest the British Bopper to me. With Ajayi out, and Darren Sproles likely out again with his hamstring injury, that leaves only low-key stud Corey Clement, PSA certified backup Wendell Smallwood, and future backup goal line back Josh Adams. While Clement should see the lion’s share of opportunities in this one, the coaching staff has shown a reluctance to use him heavily given his immense value as an RB, and special teams player. Look for Smallwood to soak up about 7-9 touches with Adams maybe coming in for a short yardage situation or two.
Feast and Famine
It’s no secret that the Eagles defensive depth makes them a prime 3rd and 4th quarter team. This was evinced quite clearly by their performance in the second half versus the first half of last week’s game. However, lost in that general team strength is the visibly poor CB play of Jalen Mills, the sub-elite play of Ronald Darby, and the occasional poor tackling of the CB unit as a whole. Feel free to comment or message me if you’d like a true display of either of these shortcomings, but as they stand they leave the Eagles defense vulnerable to BIG plays and truly talented receivers. Julio Jones got his week 1 to the tune of 169 yards, albeit on 19 targets, and Mike Evans balled out as well in week 2, with a line of 10/12, 83 yards, 1 TD; all the while, two huge 75 yard plays by DeSean Jackson and O.J. Howard sucked the life out of what was previously a close game in week 2. It’s well known that the best way to pad that glaring weakness in the secondary is to get pressure up front, and although the Eagles are arguably the best at it, even they can’t pressure the QB at ALL times. In a game like this one, where the Colts O-line, while improved, still leaves Andrew Luck out to die…er, I mean dry, the Eagles should be able to feast up front with a multitude of sacks and a forced fumble or two. However, don’t forget a speedy, talented receiver by the name of T.Y. Hilton and a strong receiving TE by the name of Eric Ebron play for these Colts, and given the weaknesses noted within the Eagles secondary, don’t be surprised if the duo put up solid numbers and find their way into a couple of big plays.
I may have gotten burned last week banking on the ‘Skins to pick apart this Colts defense, but they didn’t have the energy that comes with a returning MVP caliber QB and locker room mainstay in Carson Wentz, nor did they have one of the best offensive lines in football. Look for some solid performances across the board, and yes, a 34-17 victory for my Birds:
Carson Wentz: 31/42, 362 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT
Zach Ertz: 11 Rec, 105 yards, 1 TD
Dallas Goedert: 1 rec, 12 yards
Nelson Agholor: 6 rec, 80 yards
Jordan Matthews: 5 rec, 40 yards
Shelton Gibson: 2 rec, 65 yards, 1 TD (55 yard TD catch)
Kamar Aiken: 1 rec, 8 yards
Corey Clement: 14 rushes, 70 yards, 1 TD, 4 rec, 45 yards, 1 TD
Wendell Smallwood/Josh Adams: 10 rushes, 38 yards, 1 TD, 1 rec, 7 yards
(NEW!!) Eagles Defense: 6 sacks, 13 QB hits, 2 forced fumbles, 1 INT, 17 pts allowed