Joe Dolan is the managing editor of FantasyGuru.com and a host for SiriusXM Radio. A former writer for PhiladelphiaEagles.com, Joe still contributes to the site with on-camera segments and written columns. He can be heard hosting "SiriusXM Fantasy Football Gameday" every NFL Sunday from 1-7 PM on Sirius 210, XM 87.
Will Nick Foles continue to be an elite fantasy quarterback?
There's no reason to believe things won't be status quo for Foles in 2014. By nature, the quarterback in this offense will put up fantasy numbers. Foles won't be high volume each and every week, but I'd expect him to continue be efficient. The Eagles have great weapons on the perimeter and down the seam, in addition to backs who can catch the ball well. Combine that with the opportunities for Foles to run on zone reads, and there should be plenty of fantasy production here.
This week, I think Jaguars coach Gus Bradley will mix coverages, playing some Cover 3, Cover 2 and more zone than the Eagles saw last year, in an attempt to get the Eagles out of rhythm. That may do enough to prevent the explosive plays teams fear so much from the Eagles, but at the sacrifice of giving up volume of plays. This week, Foles should be a good start against an improved defense that remains a work in progress, and it will kick off another successful year for him in fantasy, and as a whole. Because the Eagles are such a run-heavy team, I wouldn't anticipate Foles putting up the consistent numbers of guys like Drew Brees or Peyton Manning, but he should make up for it with the occasional goal-line rush attempt and big plays.
What can fantasy owners expect from Zach Ertz?
Ertz is a particularly tricky one for me this year, because I absolutely love the talent and think he has the upside to be a really good fantasy tight end. But I'm wondering just how consistent his role will be in this offense, because there are so many weapons. Think about it: Ertz, Jordan Matthews, Darren Sproles, and Brent Celek all play similar positions in some form or fashion, whether tight to the formation or lined up in the slot? Will Ertz's shot at volume be simply a game plan thing that Chip Kelly re-evaluates on a week-to-week basis? This is the same kind of problems fantasy players have run into in the past with the Saints, when every offensive weapon can have a huge game, but typically only Drew Brees and Jimmy Graham are consistent. Make no mistake, Chip Kelly is a lot smarter than I am, but I don't think even he has figured out how to play with more than one football yet. So to me, Ertz is a matchup type of fantasy player until further notice.
That said, I love the matchup this week. He's a perfect "Jaguar beater" for the Eagles because he's explosive and a great route runner – if coach Gus Bradley slips into the familiar Cover 3 scheme he ran in Seattle, expect the Eagles to attack with four verticals with Ertz out of the slot or down the seam. If Bradley runs a more conventional Cover 2, as he did against Peyton Manning last year, Ertz will be deadly down the middle on vertical routes or deep post patterns. The Jags gave up the second-most fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends last year, and I expect the Eagles will try to exploit their weakness in that department.
Will LeSean McCoy repeat as the NFL's rushing champion?
I don't see why not. In fact, I said all summer long that Shady was my No. 1 overall fantasy player, and I would draft him with the top pick if I had the opportunity (I also spent big bucks for him in an auction league). I just like his situation more than that of Jamaal Charles, and I like his receiving skills more than Adrian Peterson's. While volume will be in Charles' corner because the Chiefs don't have a whole lot else on paper, I think McCoy will benefit from big plays and the lack of focus opposing defenses can pay him.
The Eagles' deeper receiving corps (and deeper offensive skill positions in general) will allow Chip Kelly to create excellent opportunities for McCoy to succeed, because defenses won't be able to play man and load the box the way they did last year. While I think Darren Sproles is going to be an absolutely fascinating player to watch this year, I don't think he takes production from McCoy as much as he complements that production.
McCoy is playing in an excellent offense, and choosing a better football team is always a pretty solid tiebreaker in fantasy. There was a logjam at the top of fantasy drafts this year, but in this offense and behind this offensive line, I felt comfortable pushing Shady to the peak of his position.
AROUND THE LEAGUE
How does the Wes Welker four-game suspension affect Peyton Manning's fantasy value, and how will the Broncos replace Welker?
To be honest, I don't think it hurts Manning all that much. The Broncos are still absolutely loaded at receiver, with Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas returning to the fold. They added Emmanuel Sanders to replace Eric Decker, and Sanders is sort of a Decker/Welker hybrid in that he isn't as good as either player, but is comfortable playing both outside and in the slot. That versatility will help the Broncos quite a bit.
For fantasy purposes, I wasn't counting on Welker as is. I thought his concussion history was way too scary to invest anything in him, and quite frankly, I bet the Broncos were well prepared to play without him. I doubt they expected an amphetamine suspension, but if they were counting on Welker to play all 16 games this year, they were delusional (heck, we were already wondering if he'd play in Week 1 given that he suffered a concussion during the preseason). I wouldn't be surprised if the Broncos signed Sanders just for a situation like this.
Behind Welker, the Broncos have a few options. First is veteran Andre Caldwell, who has played with Peyton for the last two years, which can go a long way. He has the chemistry and the trust factor with him, and that could make him the immediate beneficiary. But the wild card is second-round rookie Cody Latimer, a super-talented but raw athlete who can play on the perimeter and contribute in the red zone. If not for Caldwell's presence (and yet another wrench in tight end Jacob Tamme), I'd be pushing Latimer hard.
So here's my recommendation: Caldwell may be the more immediate help and may be more useful now, but Latimer's talent is too much to ignore. If I had a free bench spot, I'd probably choose to pick up Latimer, because he feels like the kind of guy who could win savvy players fantasy leagues. I'm not saying to blow your entire free-agent budget on him, but he's a really appealing stash on the end of your bench.
Once that's done, I'm not freaking out when Welker comes back. His injury history is still way too big a concern to ignore, and I'd be willing to stash any potential contributor playing with Peyton on my bench.
Should I panic about the Green Bay Packers?
No! Absolutely not. As a matter of fact, this would be the ideal time to go out and steal some of the Packers' skill players from your opponent if he or she is truly worried about a night game on the road against the defending champs and the best defense in the NFL.
Yes, the Eddie Lacy concussion is a concern because it's his second in a year. That's a situation that I'm going to be watching very closely over the next week, but Lacy does have 10 days to get ready for the Packers' next game. But it would also be an ideal time to buy low, if the Lacy owner in your league is concerned about his pedestrian stat line against the Seahawks or the involvement of James Starks, go get him (you could also wait until after next week's game against the Jets, another tough defense).
I doubt any Jordy Nelson or Randall Cobb owners will be selling, because both of them were pretty productive (especially in PPR leagues), but Aaron Rodgers didn't look good and it wouldn't hurt to lowball an offer for him.
Also look to your league and see if Jarrett Boykin gets dropped. He wasn't even targeted against the Seahawks, as coach Mike McCarthy made him the sacrificial lamb to Richard Sherman. Boykin's a good receiver who can put up some nice flex value in a good matchup, which this obviously was not. He's worth a bench stash if he's out there.
What's the deal with Cardinals' running back Andre Ellington?
If you haven't heard, sorry to break the news to you, but Mike Jurecki of 910AM Phoenix is reporting that Ellington could be out an "extended period of time" after aggravating a foot injury in practice on Thursday. Ian Rapoport of NFL Network and Jay Glazer of FOX Sports have followed up with reports that it's a muscle injury and that he could still play in Week 1. The only issue is that Ellington plays in the second half of the Monday night doubleheader.
If Ellington is out, obviously this stinks. Ellington looked like a true breakout candidate as the Cardinals' lead back this year, and the Cards don't have a whole lot of depth behind him – plodders Jonathan Dwyer and Stepfan Taylor are the next men up. Both are OK pickups, with Dwyer getting more touchdown opportunities and Taylor perhaps getting the third-down work, but neither even comes close to Ellington's upside and I wouldn't anticipate either guy being a league-changer.
What I think the Cardinals will do is throw it more. That's obviously big news for receivers Michael Floyd and Larry Fitzgerald, plus Carson Palmer. One guy fantasy players in deeper leagues may want to check out is rookie receiver John Brown from Pittsburg State. Brown had a strong preseason and is a vertical burner, and could fill the Mike Wallace/T.Y. Hilton role in Bruce Arians' offense.
QB: Colin Kaepernick, 49ers – Let's just get this one out of the way because it's going to become a trend here. The Cowboys have the worst on-paper defense I can recall seeing. Kaepernick looked pretty darn bad this summer, but I think he'll turn it on with a beautiful matchup this week.
RB: Fred Jackson, Bills – The Bills could be a disaster this year because EJ Manuel has shown about zero signs of progress, but it will benefit Jackson this week, who has a really nice matchup against the Bears and should get some checkdowns from the shaky Manuel.
WR: Mike Evans, Buccaneers – It may be an up-and-down game given the nastiness of the Panthers' front seven, but I'll predict a big play from the rookie Evans in his first NFL game, because this is a beatable secondary in the event Josh McCown gets time to throw.
TE: Zach Ertz, Eagles – I have to recommend starting an Eagle in Week 1, right? I like that matchup against the Jags and I think Nick Foles will be looking for Ertz down the seam on more than one occasion in this game, as I detailed above.
QB: Cam Newton, Panthers – The vibes aren't great here for Newton, who is dealing with some sore ribs, missed practice time this week, and has a mediocre receiving corps, at best. The Bucs also have one of the NFL's most underrated defenses.
RB: Bishop Sankey, Titans – He was being drafted higher than any rookie running back this summer, but I still haven't seen a reason to trust him in a fantasy lineup. He ran with the third team for most of the preseason, so it's best to wait a week or two to see what the Titans' plans actually are for him.
WR: DeSean Jackson, Redskins – I think we'll see a far more inconsistent Jackson in 2014 than we did under Chip Kelly in 2013. With Robert Griffin III's struggles, I'd prefer to sit Jackson in a matchup with the Texans that looks pretty tough on paper.
TE: Tim Wright, Patriots – I've received a ton of questions about Wright, who fits in as a "move" TE in the Patriots' offense. But even with Gronk still questionable, I can't endorse a play of Wright until I see him in action. He's merely a bench stash for now.