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.
How can I expect Nick Foles and the offense to perform against the Cardinals?
This is going to be one of the most fascinating chess matches of the season so far because both the Eagles offense and the Cardinals defense are absolutely cooking right now. Foles is fresh off being named the NFC's Offensive Player of the Month for November, while the Cardinals have steadily improved from "very good" to "deadly" in a pretty short amount of time. Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles has done an unbelievable job mashing his team's elite talent with some very unique and complicated pressures to drive opposing offenses absolutely nuts.
But that's what makes this matchup one of my most anticipated of the entire week. Eagles coach Chip Kelly has had a ton of success translating his high-octane offense to the NFL this year, and he's had perhaps most of his success against coordinators who like to scheme a lot: Jim Haslett (twice), Dom Capers, Jason Tarver, etc. Kelly's entire philosophy is to try to simplify the defense for his offense, to try to make opposing defenses uncomfortable, and to prevent them from "attacking" the way they would like. Ideally for Kelly, the Cardinals fall right in line with the kind of success he's had against similar defenses this year.
But the Cardinals are more individually talented than perhaps any defense the Eagles have faced this season, including the Chiefs (when the Chiefs were at near full strength back in Week 3). The Cardinals have high-end players on all three levels of their defense: linemen Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett, linebacker Daryl Washington, and cornerback Patrick Peterson. No amount of scheming can make these players magically lose their abilities. So not only will it be up to Kelly to get his players in a position to succeed, but the offensive line, Foles, LeSean McCoy, and DeSean Jackson are going to have to win battles for themselves as well.
Will Larry Fitzgerald continue his dominance of the Eagles? What about the rest of this offense?
It's not just your perception, it's reality: Fitz has destroyed the Eagles in his NFL career thus far, in particular the last two years, as Fitz has 16/260/3 against Philly on 22 targets, a ridiculous average of 30.0 fantasy points per game in a PPR league. Now, it's a different defense and Fitz is facing off against a defensive coordinator who knows him well, former Cardinals coordinator Bill Davis, and Davis is among the more creative schemers in the NFL this season. But that doesn't mean that the Eagles secondary won't have problems.
Those problems are exacerbated by the presence of wide receiver Michael Floyd, who is in the midst of a breakout season. Floyd's hot streak continued in Week 12 against the Colts, as he caught seven passes for 104 yards on seven targets, giving him a ridiculous 13/297/1 on 18 targets over the last two weeks. Floyd has now put up double-digit PPR points in seven of his last eight games, a span over which he ranks 21st among WRs with 14.9 FPG, ahead of even Fitzgerald (14.3 FPG). The fact of the matter is defenses don't have enough resources to shut down Fitz and Floyd, and if Carson Palmer gets time to throw, it's hard to shut down either of them.
The Eagles could get a break this week if Cardinal rookie running back Andre Ellington can't play with a knee injury that popped up this week in practice. Cards coach Bruce Arians has been actively rotating the dynamic Ellington and the plodding Rashard Mendenhall, but Ellington has been the better back all season (6.81 yards per touch in comparison to Mendenhall's 3.47). The Eagles' dominant defensive line will not have problems shutting down Mendenhall, but Ellington is much more versatile.
AROUND THE LEAGUE
Who are some quarterbacks who have some tougher cold-weather matchups down the stretch?
Peyton Manning, Broncos – Normally, I wouldn't include a quarterback who plays his home games in cold weather, but after Peyton's struggles last week in New England, it's worth pointing out that his next three games are going to be in cold-weather conditions. Let's hope for a warm front through Denver before the holidays.
Carson Palmer, Cardinals – Palmer played most of his career in Cincinnati, so he should be conditioned to some cold-weather conditions, but it's worth noting that three of his next four matchups are at Philly, at Tennessee, and at Seattle.
Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins – The Dolphins offense isn't exactly potent anyway, and Tannehill is going to have to deal with adverse conditions at the Jets, Steelers, and Bills in three of his next four games.
Matt Ryan, Falcons – Atlanta's offense is struggling anyway, so it may be best to avoid Ryan at Buffalo and Green Bay the next two weeks.
Outside of cold weather, are they any big-name players I should be cautious about down the stretch?
Drew Brees, Saints – I don't want to send anyone into a panic about Brees, but note that his next four matchups (at Seattle, at St. Louis, and two with the Panthers) are not the easiest in the world.
Andrew Luck, Colts – I wrote about Luck in last week's column and discussed him in this week's video segment. All my points remain, and they're probably amplified given the Colts' awful performance against the Cardinals last week. Luck is a one-man show trying to keep the Colts afloat, but it's perhaps the awful AFC South that's been the Colts' biggest advantage this year.
Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks – I've had multiple people ask me on my Twitter account if I'm selling high on Lynch before his fantasy playoff run against the Saints, Niners, Giants, and Cardinals. I'm not, given how totally money Lynch has been the last two years, but it is important to know that you may have to lower expectations a bit down the stretch.
Any Washington player – The Washington offense has totally collapsed, and I wonder if Robert Griffin III is going to get to a point over the next few weeks where he's benched to help secure his future.
I got a huge performance from from players on Thanksgiving. Does that adjust your strategy for Sunday? Do you play safer guys without as much "home-run upside?"
If I am a beneficiary of a huge game on Thursday nights, I don't think my strategy really changes. I'm still looking at my roster and trying to find the best matchups and the players who are going to give me the best chance of scoring points with those matchups. Sometimes, fantasy football is cruel, and I never want to assume a win is in the bag if I got just one big performance. I'm an aggressive fantasy player as is, and I'm always looking to put up the biggest score in the league, because it's the only way to guarantee a win every week.
However, if I was on the receiving end of a huge performance, I take a serious look at my roster and may well bench a low-upside player for someone with a great matchup who may not be as consistent. Am I worried about a typical starter, Cecil Shorts, against Joe Haden and the Browns? In other words, maybe I'll take a gamble on Marvin Jones in a matchup this week against the Chargers.
INJURIES TO WATCH
Knowshon Moreno, Broncos – Moreno (bruised ankle) is listed as probable for this week.
Matt Forte, Bears – Forte (hyperextended knee) is probable this week.
Adrian Peterson, Vikings – Peterson (groin) is probable, and has an amazing matchup this week.
Zac Stacy, Rams – Stacy is probable after being cleared to play (concussion) this week.
Ryan Mathews, Chargers – Mathews (hamstring) is expected to play after practicing on two consecutive days this week.
Andre Ellington, Cardinals – Ellington (knee) is questionable after hurting his knee in practice this week.
Julius Thomas, Broncos – Thomas (knee) is listed as questionable this week and may be a game-time decision for the second straight game. But if I had to guess, it looks like he's going to go.
Jordan Reed, Redskins – Reed (concussion) is listed as questionable but is expected to be able to play. He's participated in practice this week.
Antonio Gates, Chargers – Gates (hamstring) is expected to play this week, as it appears he was just given some extra rest in practice.
Hakeem Nicks, Giants – Nicks (abdomen) swears he was able to play last week but coach Tom Coughlin decided to hold him out. It's a situation to monitor, but he is listed as probable.
Jason Campbell, Browns – Campbell (concussion) won't start this week. Brandon Weeden will.
Mike Tolbert, Panthers – Tolbert (knee) was limited in practice this week.
QB: Andy Dalton, Bengals – I'm still not confident in Dalton as a long-term solution for the Bengals, but the Chargers have been a positive matchup for opposing passing games all year, and he has great weapons.
RB: Frank Gore, 49ers – Gore was sort of rested last week in the Niners' easy win over Washington, but I think he'll be ready and raring to go against St. Louis, whom he crushed for 153 yards and a TD earlier this year.
WR: Mike Wallace, Dolphins – Maybe it's time to ride the potential Wallace hot streak. If the Jets have one weakness defensively, it's against the deep ball.
TE: Coby Fleener, Colts – Fleener, although not perfect, has sort of emerged as the Colts' top possession option in the absence of Reggie Wayne. He posted 8/107 receiving against Tennessee two weeks ago.
QB: Robert Griffin III, Redskins – Last week was as bad as I've ever seen it for Griffin. His struggles affected the entire offense, and the Giants will be smelling blood in the water.
RB: Ryan Mathews, Chargers – Mathews has been great this year, but a hamstring issue is plenty enough to scare me away from a guy who has never been able to stay healthy.
WR: Cecil Shorts, Jaguars – Even if the Jags get garbage-time chances, the matchup with top corner Joe Haden is enough to scare me away from Shorts.
TE: Jared Cook, Rams – If you used him for his big game last week, congratulations. I'd go back to benching him this week against the Niners defense.