This week and each week of this NFL season, we’re heading behind enemy lines to discuss the Fantasy Football implications of each weekly matchup.
This week we’re talking with Philadelphia Eagles fan (and a quite reasonable one at that) and Fantasy Football Analyst, Zack Marmer. Zack is a senior writer for The Fantasy Authority. Follow Zack Marmer on Twitter @L for Philadelphia Eagles and other Fantasy Football insights.
John (Inside The Star): Zack, thanks for taking the time to join us here at Inside The Star to offer some insight into the Fantasy Football world surrounding the Philadelphia Eagles. From your perspective as a Fantasy Football Analyst and Eagles fan, what has allowed rookie quarterback Carson Wentz to have the success he’s had over the first seven weeks of the season?
Zack Marmer (The Fantasy Authority): The Eagles have done a particularly good job setting up Carson Wentz for success. This is not dissimilar from the way the Cowboys have set up Dak Prescott for success.
Through 6 games, Philly ranks 3rd in points allowed per game. This has kept Wentz from feeling a great deal of pressure to shoulder a load that may be too heavy for him at this point in his young career.
Philadelphia has also done an outstanding job of controlling the football and limiting the amount of plays Wentz has to run. The Eagles trail only the Cowboys and Cardinals in time of possession per game. Philadelphia ranks 9th in rushing attempts per game, (averaging a respectable 4.1 yards per carry) which assures that the rookie doesn’t have to run a high-volume passing offense right out of the gate.
Wentz only committed a single turnover through his first 5 starts. The lone interception came on a throw he had to make to try and pull the Eagles back with little time against the Detroit Lions. In fairness, it wasn’t an awful throw and well-paid cornerback Darius Slay made a stellar play on the football to take it away from Nelson Agholor.
Against the Vikings in week 7, Wentz threw 2 more picks. It’s not like Wentz is the only QB to struggle against Minnesota’s defense, however. They have at least one interception in every single game this year. Coming from a non-FBS school, it has been impressive to watch the kid be smart with the football and make some big-time throws.
John (Inside The Star): Certainly Carson Wentz has been good for much of the season. It’s made Dallas Cowboys fans wonder what would have happened had Wentz fallen to number four. Interesting hypothetical for another day. Turning our attention to Wentz’s backfield mates, it seems like they don’t commit to one running back. With Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles, and Wendell Smallwood, what can we make of the Philadelphia backfield?
Zack Marmer (The Fantasy Authority): When healthy, Ryan Mathews is the unquestioned starter, and there shouldn’t be much question as to why. He is easily the most talented between-the-tackles rusher the Eagles have, and he is underrated as a receiver. The problem is that Mathews is rarely healthy.
In a very small sample size, Wendell Smallwood has looked decent as the primary replacement for Mathews. I didn’t love Smallwood coming out of college and don’t think he is much better than a change-of-pace back in this league.
Darren Sproles, despite his age, is still a dangerous threat who can still take it the distance from anywhere on the field. He is the primary 3rd down back and does a pretty darn good job with this role. He won’t catch as many passes as say a Theo Riddick, but that is more due to the conservative nature of the offense that he plays in.
The loss of Lane Johnson could have a big impact on the offense as a whole. If Halapoulivaati Vaitai (Johnson’s replacement) can’t move defenders in the run game, the Eagles may get predictable with their runs to the left side. On top of that, on plays where backs may go out for a screen they may need to provide extra protection on passing plays.
While capable, the Eagles backs are limited by the offense that they play in, and aren’t anything particularly extraordinary. The best case scenario for them would be for Mathews to stay healthy and get 15-18 touches per game.
John (Inside The Star): Halapoulivaati Vaitai is an alumnus of my high school alma mater, Haltom High School in Haltom City, Texas (along with Lance Dunbar). Sunday will be a great day to be a Buffalo. Just a little fun fact there. Back to your regularly scheduled programming. In Fantasy Football circles, people know about Jordan Matthews, but between Nelson Agholor and Dorial Green-Beckham, who do you think will have the better second half of the season?
Zack Marmer (The Fantasy Authority): Personally, I haven’t been overly impressed with either Agholor or Green-Beckham. If I had to choose one player to have the bigger 2nd half, I would pick Agholor.
Success at the receiver position (especially early in a career) is most correlated to route running. Coming out of school, the 2 receivers were on opposite ends of the spectrum in this category. DGB was a headcase who ran a limited route tree, while Agholor was highly touted for his quickness and route running prowess.
Ultimately, Agholor has the better opportunity to succeed. Through 6 games, Agholor played 80% of the offensive snaps whereas Dorial Green-Beckham only played 49.9%. To me, this is enough of a difference to tip the opportunity scale in favor of Agholor.
While I wouldn’t put much money on either to break out, I will take the player with the better opportunity over the lazy, less-used player.
John (Inside The Star): It’s interesting that Dorial Green-Beckham was drafted as high as he was and then given up on as quickly as he was by the Tennessee Titans. I, too, like Agholor more of the two. He look to be the more fluid wide receiver. Now let’s take a look at your opponent for week 8, the Dallas Cowboys. Which Dallas Cowboy do you expect to have the biggest impact for fantasy teams in the second half of the season?
Zack Marmer (The Fantasy Authority): This one is easy for me: Ezekiel Elliott.
I don’t see any reason why Elliott shouldn’t be one of the top-3 fantasy backs for the 2nd half of the season. If he gets even more involved in the passing game, watch out.
The only other option may be Dez Bryant, but I think his situation depends on whether Tony Romo is his quarterback or not as well.
John (Inside The Star): I agree completely. I agree that Ezekiel Elliott and the offensive line are the answers to every question surrounding the Dallas Cowboys. As they go, so will the team in all three phases. What is your impression of the week 8 matchup between the two teams? Who’s going to pull out the victory?
Zack Marmer (The Fantasy Authority): These two teams both have rookie quarterbacks who are exceeding expectations. They also play similar styles of football. I see Dallas winning this game, and here is why:
Both teams have the goal of running the ball to control the clock, and playing good defense. Now that Ezekiel Elliott seems to have properly acclimated to the NFL, I don’t think there is a whole lot that teams can do to slow him down. If Dez Bryant can come back from his injury and establish any kind of rapport with Dak Prescott, the rest of the league will have to be put on notice.
On the flip side, Philadelphia hasn’t been able to establish a steady rhythm with the run game. The Cowboys may be top-10 against the run from a yards-per-game perspective, however, this is due to their clock-control style of play. Dallas ranks 21st in yards per carry against. Simply, people run well against Dallas but are limited in opportunities to do so. Despite this, I can’t bet on Philly’s run game to play at a level where they can just jam the ball down the Cowboy’s throats. You can bet that the Cowboys will make it their goal to stop the run and let Wentz and his lackluster supporting cast beat them.
The big X-factor is Philadelphia’s defense. If they can hold Dallas to under 16 points, I would say they have a decent shot to win this football game. If Dallas can break 20 points, I think it significantly decreases their chances. After coming off a game where they made Sam Bradford’s day absolutely miserable, they will meet a Cowboys offensive line that is light-years better. I don’t believe they will have the disruptive capabilities they showed against the Vikings, and this is why I see Dallas exceeding that 16-point threshold.
Score prediction: Dallas 20, Philadelphia 16