Kickoff: Sunday, September 12th at 1:00 PM ET
Location: Mercedes Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Georgia
Betting Odds: ATL -3.5, 46.5 Total on Oddshark
Jalen Hurts (Start)
Last time we saw Jalen Hurts, he was running for his life behind an offensive line that featured only one player who was a projected starter at the start of the season (Jason Kelce). An unhappy and unhealthy Zach Ertz missed five games while enduring the worst season of his career, and Hurts’ wide receiving corps was among the league’s worst. Some in the Eagles’ locker room seemed to have given up on the season, and the addition of Hurts to the starting lineup was a welcome shot in the arm.
This year, the offensive line is fully healthy as Week 1 approaches and Hurts radiates a quiet confidence that bodes well for his fortunes, as well as those mentioned below in a promising young wide receiving corps. Hurts offers a very solid rushing floor every week, and we have every reason to believe he’ll put up a Top 10 fantasy finish this week against an Atlanta Falcons defense riddled with question marks.
Miles Sanders (Start, RB2), Boston Scott (Sit), Kenny Gainwell (Sit)
Miles Sanders has seen his stock slip to unthinkable levels this season. A borderline first-round pick this time last season, Sanders is lasting deep into the fourth or fifth rounds of most drafts this year. Many are fading him because they believe he’ll be sharing a workload, but hyping Jonathan Taylor while fading Sanders is just poor practice.
Head coach Nick Sirianni brings the Colts backfield blueprint with him to Philly, one in which defined roles are carved out for a team that wants to run the football more than most teams. Sanders will star in the lead (Taylor) role while Kenny Gainwell appears as Nyheim Hines. Boston Scott will make frequent cameos as the jack-of-all-trades, someone who’ll play a larger role at the start of the season while Gainwell continues to learn the playbook.
This may sound like a crowded backfield, but the electric Sanders is a true playmaker who’s nowhere near the pass-catching liability some make him out to be. He’ll see plenty of volume coupled with a return to elite efficiency behind a much-improved line, starting this week in Atlanta.
We can’t trust Gainwell in our lineups just yet, but he’s an interesting bench stash who offers upside. Scott won’t offer value in 12 team PPR leagues unless Sanders suffers an unfortunate injury.
WIDE RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS
DeVonta Smith (Start, WR3), Jalen Reagor (Sit), Quez Watkins (Sit), Zach Ertz (Sit), Dallas Goedert (Sit)
Rookie wide receiver DeVonta Smith brings an impressive resume to Philadelphia; the reigning Heisman Trophy winner is also quite familiar with Hurts from their Alabama days. The shifty, skilled route runner should draw former Atlanta Falcons first-round pick A.J. Terrell, who proved to be a solid boundary defender against the run, but a mediocre cover corner in his rookie season. We expect solid WR3 production from Smith on Sunday as a floor, with a potential for much more.
Eagles fans will forever compare Jalen Reagor to Justin Jefferson, the phenomenal LSU product who the Eagles infamously passed on in favor of Reagor during the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Reagor, who was a disappointment as a rookie, showed signs of growth in camp. However, he was actually outshined by fellow second-year wide receiver Quez Watkins, a sixth-round selection from Southern Mississippi.
We expect Reagor to make a splash play or two from time to time, but until further notice, we can’t count on him to provide the sound, stable floor that we require of a WR3 or Flex option. We actually prefer the speedy Watkins this week and don’t hate the idea of starting him as a desperation flex on a team strapped with early-season injury challenges.
Watkins, a favorite bestball late-round target of ours, displayed incredible deep ball tracking skills during the preseason. He’s poised to take a big step forward in his second year, starting this week. We don’t anticipate he’ll be fed a ton of targets, but we like his odds of taking slot corner Isaiah Oliver to the house for a long touchdown on Sunday.
As of Tuesday night, Ertz and Dallas Goedert were listed as co-starters on the team’s official depth chart. This flies in the face of the prevailing wisdom in the fantasy football community, which anoints Dallas Goedert as the clear TE1 in spite of the very real fact that he’ll share snaps, targets, and red zone looks with Ertz, who recently earned high praise from Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez.
Ertz is not only healthy, but he’s made amends with an organization that unsuccessfully tried to trade him this offseason. He’s as focused as he’s been since coming off his last Pro Bowl season in 2019, and went so far as to say that he wants to finish his career as a Philadelphia Eagle. The Eagles should run plenty of two tight end sets, and the matchups for both Ertz and Goedert are favorable: the Falcons ranked 27th against opposing tight ends last season. However, the two find themselves just outside of the cusp of our criteria for being reliable Week 1 fantasy starters.
Matt Ryan (Sit)
If you waited on a quarterback during your draft and chose to load your roster full of dependable running backs and wide receivers, you could do much worse than Matt Ryan as your Week 1 starter. However, we don’t see a Top 12 finish in the cards for the 14-year veteran, who hails from the Greater Philadelphia area (Exton, PA). Thanks to the additions of Steven Nelson and Anthony Harris, not to mention the return of Rodney McLeod, the Eagles feature a much stronger and deeper secondary this season, so yards and touchdowns will be harder to come by than they were last season.
While we can’t categorically rule out the idea of starting Ryan depending on roster construction, odds are high that most fantasy football managers will have a stronger option in Week 1. Look elsewhere if you can, but don’t panic if you have to start Ryan.
Mike Davis (Start, RB2), Wayne Gallman (Sit)
Sure, Mike Davis is the en-vogue whipping boy on Fantasy Twitter, but he’ll actually be a very solid RB2 option more often than not, and this week is no exception. Despite not being the primary ballcarrier for the Carolina Panthers for a quarter of their games last season, Davis caught nearly 60 passes, so his PPR ceiling and floor are both higher than most believe. He should serve as a reliable check-down option for Ryan whenever Ridley and/or Pitts garner too much defensive attention, which will be often.
Wayne Gallman was an astute late pickup, but he has a new offense to learn, and ideally won’t play more than a series or two. He offers little to no appeal in 12 team PPR leagues this week, and should only be rostered as a handcuff to Davis in deep leagues.
WIDE RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS
Calvin Ridley (WR1), Russell Gage (Sit), Olamide Zaccheaus (Sit), Kyle Pitts (Start), Hayden Hurst (Sit)
Calvin Ridley won’t have a career day against Pro Bowl-caliber cornerback Darius Slay, but he still ranks as a Top Five option at wide receiver this week, and is a must-start in every format. Russell Gage is an interesting thought, but he should have his hands full with cornerback Steven Nelson, who’ll make his Philadelphia Eagles debut after spending the last two seasons in Pittsburgh. After a subpar year by his standards, Nelson is looking to regain his 2019 form, in which he finished just outside the Top Ten in coverage rankings among defensive backs, according to PFF. Olamide Zaccheaus simply can’t be counted on in 12 team PPR leagues unless an unfortunate injury befalls Ridley or Gage. After all, we expect to see rookie tight end Kyle Pitts lining up as a WR3 rather frequently while Hayden Hurst lines up as the single tight end.
In case you’ve been hibernating since the Super Bowl, allow us to inform you that Pitts is a stud, and the hype is very real. Furthermore, the Eagles were historically bad against tight ends last year; while they got rid of the main problem by releasing much-maligned linebacker/safety hybrid Nate Gerry, we don’t have a whole lot of faith in Genard Avery or Eric Wilson. Needless to say, we expect Pitts to have his coming-out party very early in Week 1.
Hurst will see plenty of snaps, but he should be ignored unless Arthur Smith shows a desire to feed a steady diet of targets to his second-best tight end. We just don’t see it happening for a guy who’ll be the fourth or fifth option at best in an offense that wants to run the football a ton.