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The fantasy life: Eagles vs. Falcons start and sit

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NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Philadelphia Eagles Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

This evening the Philadelphia Eagles and Atlanta Falcons christen the 2018 NFL season, giving a multitude of fans 17 weeks of hope for a championship team. Beyond the Lombardi Trophy are championships to be won at the fantasy level. This season, with the assistance of fantasy football expert Matt Phillips, I will be offering up options to start and sit.

This article will focus specifically on tonight’s players, with recommendations for Sunday and Monday games to be posted on Saturday. This is an important context, especially in looking at the quarterback position. For example, Matt Ryan and Nick Foles are projected to have similar numbers, but the evaluation to start and sit is based on which of the two from tonight’s game would be a better staring option. For running backs and wide receivers, you may decide to forego the recommendations all together based on your roster options.

Matt is a multiple fantasy football champion, and co-host of the podcast Pigskin Dynasty: Your Podcast for All Things Fantasy Football. You can find him on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, Podbean, and other podcast mediums. He also has live episodes on Facebook every Sunday morning at 9:00 am EST.

Start

TE Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles

Fun fact — Zach Ertz has over 70 catches the last three seasons. That is more receptions than Rob Gronkowski. The only knock on Ertz is that he does not get enough yards and touchdowns. I believe that changes this year. He scored eight touchdowns last year and I believe he is a shoe in to match his total from last year.

While Carson Wentz is still nursing his ACL injury from last season, therefore leaving to Nick Foles as the starter for possibly the next three weeks, Foles targeted Ertz over 40 times during the 2017 regular season. For the Super Bowl the two combined for seven catches, over 100 yards, and a touchdown. I believe he matches that stat line in a game in which I expect to be a high-scoring affair. With Alshon Jeffery still nursing an injury, and probably missing the next three weeks, this could open up more red zone targets for Ertz. I believe Ertz can easily fight for tight end one and I give him a projected stat line of 8-105-1.

RB Tevin Coleman, Atlanta Falcons

I do not put Devante Freeman‘s name here because he was most likely drafted in the second, possibly third round, rendering him a must start in virtually all leagues. It surprises me that people forget about Coleman.

I believe he has a better fantasy season then Devante Freeman. Revisiting the NFC divisional playoff game last year, Coleman carved up the Eagles defense for 79 rushing yards on just 10 carries. Additionally, he poses more of a threat through air than does Freeman. Multiple reports from Falcons camp suggest that 2018 will find being targeted more in the passing game, making him more valuable in PPR formats. I do believe Freeman and Coleman both have great games, and I do believe both of them get touchdowns, That said, on the aspects of PPR and his ability to get more catches I believe Coleman has a better game. My projected stat line is 90 total yards with five catches a touchdown.

WR Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons

I know what you’re saying, like there was any debate in starting Julio Jones. He is a stud and the unwritten rule of fantasy football is that you always start your studs. For anyone who had Amari Cooper, stud receiver fear is real. Here are some stats that will make you feel little more confident in starting Julio Jones. In the NFC divisional game last year, the Falcons seemed to force feed Jones. He got an unprecedented 16 targets. It seems one consistent thing that I hear from people who are hesitant to start Julio, particularly in daily fantasy, is how good the Eagles defense was last year.

This is partially true. The Eagles defense was but they were very, very bad against opposing wide receivers. They ranked eighth last year in giving up fantasy points per game against wide receivers. I downgraded Julio Jones on my preseason wide receiver rankings on the basis of his touchdown production in which he only scored three last year, but I believe he breaks that this year by starting hot and getting a touchdown in this game. My projected stat line for Julio Jones is 7-135-1

QB Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles

I am not worried about his poor performance this preseason. Nick Foles seems to know this Eagles offense. He is the same quarterback that won the Super Bowl MVP just seven months ago. Here is why I’m starting Nick Foles: I believe if the Eagles win this game it is via the air. I’m not a big fan of their running back situation as I will explain later in my sit section. I see Foles throwing the ball for the Eagles to keep up with the Falcons offense. In last year’s playoff game against Atlanta, Foles went 23-for-30 for 246 yards.

While not throwing a touchdown in that low scoring game (the score was 15-10) I believe he has a much better game tonight. He is a valuable stream option in daily fantasy and I project him to have 265 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception.

K Matt Bryant, Atlanta Falcons

The kicker position you can always stream, and I believe Matt Bryant is a great streamer. He’s over 40 and has proven time and time again that he still has it. To measure the Fantasy relevance of a kicker you have to base it on the team he kicks for. The Falcons offense moves the ball quite well. However, I do believe the Eagles bend but don’t break which will leave many kicking chances for Bryant. I believe is good for a minimum of two field goals. If you are in a league that scores based on field goal distance, it is worth noting of Bryant’s 34 regular season field goals made, half of those were from 40 yards or more, with a long of 57.

Sit

QB Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons

Marty Ice: I love that nickname. But for this week, a great name does not mean he is a great start. I believe he is getting drafted too high, and there are much better options especially for week one. For example, Andy Dalton against the 32 ranked pass defense of the Indianapolis Colt. I do believe Matt Ryan will have a better fantasy season than last year due to the fact that he has another year under the belt with a new offensive coordinator, but the Eagles passing defense is not a good matchup. In 2017, Philadelphia’s defense gave up the tenth fewest points per game against opposing quarterbacks. I believe Matt will get pressured by that impressive Eagles defensive line, giving him a stat line of 235 yards, one touchdown, and one interception.

All Eagles Running Backs

I despise running back by committee‘s — or RBBC. Every time I see one it makes me cringe. As a fantasy lover, I have nightmares when a team employs this tactic. The Eagles running back situation is one of them. They have so many mouths to feed, it is difficult to predict which is going to be a reliable fantasy option. Jay Ajayi is projected to start, but does he get the volume to render him a starting running back in fantasy leagues?

I don’t think so.

Ajayi has shown flashes of fantasy relevance in the past, but with his deteriorating bone on bone knee are you taking the risk in drafting him and starting him? Can he take the volume? I don’t think he can, and I believe there are better fantasy options at your disposal. Behind Ajayi are Darren Sproles, Corey Clement, and Wendell Smallwood. All running backs mentioned had pretty decent spurts last year.

I project Ajayi will get between 12 to 15 touches, but with the pass catching backs behind him I feel if this game gets high scoring. If this happens, expect him to get pushed off the field for a Sproles or Clement. I project for Ajayi to get 13 touches for 55 yards. Sproles, to me, is the more appealing flex starter especially for daily fantasy, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he finds the end zone.

WR Mohamed Sanu, Atlanta Falcons

Sunu, as a fantasy player, falls under the category of touchdown or bust. I particularly do not like to take risk which is why Sanu is a sit for me. Like I mentioned in my start section, Julio Jones was targeted 16 times last year during the playoff game against the Eagles.

To put that into perspective, an average quarterback will roughly throw the ball 30 times a game. That means half of the throws went to Julio. I do not think the opportunities will be there for Sanu, and that’s why I am pumping the brakes on him. The value of a fantasy player can be determined on his usage, therefore I the usage is not going to be there in this game. I see a lot of throws to Julio and the running backs.

I project Sanu with 4-43 stat line.

TE Austin Hooper, Atlanta Falcons

Austin Hooper has shown flashes of tight end one potential in his football career. But I believe he posts a dud tonight. As mentioned, when talking about Sanu, I do not believe the targets are there for you to start him. He is a touchdown or bust type of player. I believe there a better alternative to the position for example, Austin Stefani-Jenkins for the Jacksonville Jaguars, or even the Washington Redskins Jordan Reed who is consistently falling down into the later round of most drafts due to his durability. One thing to note, Ryan seemed to look for Hooper more when in the red zone. This could mean Hooper steals a touchdown for the stat sheet.

Nevertheless, the recommendation is to stay away from this Falcons tight end. My projected stat line for Austin Hooper is 5-42.

Both Defenses

Like kickers, defenses can be streamed. That even includes the top defenses of the Los Angeles Rams and Jacksonville Jaguars.

In the last 10 years there has never been back-to-back fantasy stud defenses. I often suggest that fantasy participants never reach for a defense early in drafts, favoring to draft them in the last round. I believe both the Falcons and Eagles defenses are a must sit because this game projects to be high scoring, and I do not see either defense forcing turnovers. A better option for week one is the Baltimore Ravens going up against the Buffalo Bills who are starting quarterback Nathan Peterman. If you recall, Peterman threw for five interceptions the last time he started.

Hold off on starting either of these Thursday night defenses, and check your waiver wire for better fantasy options.