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.*
The run game got back in the saddle against the Giants. Will that continue against the Cards?
I think the Eagles will focus on the ground game in this one, whether Darren Sproles is active or not. It's a potential big game for LeSean McCoy, because I think the matchups bode well for the Eagles. Think about it – the Cardinals have had a ton of injuries up front and at linebacker, and not coincidentally are playing a ton of nickel and dime snaps this season. I would think Chip Kelly would use that to his advantage by getting the ball in McCoy's hands early and often. The Eagles' offensive line started to jell against the Giants two weeks ago, and a good way to keep it going would be to have the five guys up front block players who are smaller than them. McCoy had a solid 115 yards from scrimmage on 24 touches against the Cardinals last year and Arizona's linebackers are in a much more woeful state since that game. McCoy could also be a key receiver in this game as a blitz-beater for Nick Foles, since I expect defensive coordinator Todd Bowles to bring a lot of pressure.
Chip Kelly is a lot smarter than I am, so I may look like a fool trying to predict what he's going to do in this game, but I would expect the Eagles to go heavy on the multiple tight end packages in this game. Which brings us to the next question…
Will this be a big game for Zach Ertz?
I think Ertz will be a huge part of the initial game plan, let's put it that way. Remember, he had five catches for 68 yards and a couple of touchdowns against the Cardinals last year and the Cards have had similar struggles against tight ends this year. This is why the run game is so important for the Eagles. If the Eagles run the ball like crazy in this one, the Cardinals may have to try to slide away from the heavy dime packages that have populated their defensive sets in recent weeks, but that would open them up to Ertz, who is a serious mismatch on linebackers and safeties.
But assuming the Cardinals stick with dime, that doesn't mean Ertz will be shut down. Remember, he beat Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie for a touchdown two weeks ago and very few tight ends have the movement ability that Ertz has. I could see him winning a one-on-one matchup with Cardinals slot corner Jerraud Powers in the red zone. The Cardinals still haven't solved their problems covering tight ends, as they've given up a sixth-most 15.7 fantasy points per game in a PPR league to the position this year. If I held onto Ertz over his bye, I'd be starting him this week.
Now that he's close to 100 percent healthy, is Carson Palmer a QB1 for fantasy?
If you want me to put it simply, yes. If you want to elaborate a little bit more, he's a very good week-to-week matchup play. The Cardinals have a ton of talent and the more I watch Palmer play, the more I'm convinced that he's just a totally underappreciated and underrated player. That's not to say he's in the Manning/Brady class, but he's a very good quarterback who has been very good for a while and at one point was elite prior to several injuries. With Michael Floyd, Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Ellington catching passes, he can approach that elite level of play, at least for fantasy (both Floyd and Fitzgerald scored touchdowns against the Eagles last season, while Ellington didn't play).
That said, he does have tendencies which I believe defensive coordinator Bill Davis will try to take advantage. Davis loves to send relentless, complicated pressure schemes at the quarterback, as he did against Eli Manning two weeks ago. And while Palmer is willing to stand in there and deliver the ball against all comers, it also makes him prone to turnovers, whether they be interceptions or fumbles. So he's a high-reward fantasy option this week, as long as you can withstand a couple of sacks and turnovers – the Eagles are giving up a fourth-most 24.7 FPG to opposing quarterbacks this year, and Palmer did get 'em for 302 yards and three touchdowns (and two picks) last December.
One matchup I'm really interested to see in this one: Larry Fitzgerald on Brandon Boykin, when Fitzgerald lines up in the slot. I'm of the opinion that Michael Floyd, not Fitz, is the Cardinals' best receiver right now, and the numbers back that up. But Fitz is still a really dangerous and physical chain-mover, especially across the middle and he's bigger than Boykin. But pound-for-pound, Boykin's one of the best slot cover corners in the league, and this will be a fascinating matchup to watch.
AROUND THE LEAGUE
What are your flex rankings (RB/WR/TE from #31-60 overall) this week?
|FantasyGuru.com's Week 8 Flex Rankings: 31-60|
|31||RB Jerick McKinnon, Vikings||46||WR DeAndre Hopkins, Texans|
|32||WR Sammy Watkins, Bills||47||WR Kelvin Benjamin, Panthers|
|33||RB Ben Tate, Browns||48||RB Chris Ivory, Jets|
|34||WR Mike Wallace, Dolphins||49||WR Mike Evans, Buccaneers|
|35||WR Andre Johnson, Texans||50||RB Anthony Dixon, Bills|
|36||WR Jeremy Maclin, Eagles||51||TE Zach Ertz, Eagles|
|37||RB Mark Ingram, Saints||52||WR Davante Adams, Packers|
|38||WR T.Y. Hilton, Colts||53||WR Eric Decker, Jets|
|39||RB Darren Sproles, Eagles||54||WR Mohamed Sanu, Bengals|
|40||RB Darren McFadden, Raiders||55||TE Jordan Cameron, Browns|
|41||WR Torrey Smith, Ravens||56||RB Jonathan Stewart, Panthers|
|42||WR DeSean Jackson, Washington||57||RB Isaiah Crowell, Browns|
|43||WR Cordarrelle Patterson, Vikings||58||WR Kendall Wright, Titans|
|44||RB Tre Mason, Rams||59||WR Marques Colston, Saints|
|45||WR Steve Smith, Ravens||60||WR Roddy White, Falcons|
Who are the key buy low/sell high players of the week?
BUY LOW ON ...
RB Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks – Perhaps it's not a surprise that the Seahawks have lost two straight games when looking at Lynch's production. He's had fewer than 10 fantasy points in a PPR league in two straight games, in the losses to Dallas and St. Louis. But note that last week against the Rams, he did have a touchdown called back by penalty, a touchdown that tight end Cooper Helfet ended up scoring. But here's why buying low on Lynch seems like a good idea – this was the first time all year that you might say Lynch actually struggled to pick up yardage, as it was his first game under 3.0 yards per carry and only the second under 4.0 YPC on the year. Assuming the Seahawks get back on track (which is what we'll continue to assume), Lynch shouldn't have trouble rebounding against the Panthers next week and then he has the Raiders and Giants after that. It's a good schedule coming up, and the Seahawks need to lean on him.
BONUS BUY-LOW GUY ...
TE Julius Thomas, Broncos – I won't go into a ton of detail here because I don't need to if you've watched the Broncos' last two games, including their Thursday night win over the Chargers. With Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas putting up huge numbers in each game, Julius has been the forgotten man. Take advantage of that if you can, because he remains a stud tight end, and a true league-winning asset.
SELL HIGH ON ...
QB Tom Brady, Patriots – Brady has made me eat crow this year, since I basically buried his fantasy relevance after his bad 2013 and slow start to 2014. Of course, he's rebounded since, with tight end Rob Gronkowski looking healthy. But I still get a sense watching Brady that he's not the most comfortable guy in the pocket, at least in relation to where he's been in the past. And after this week, Brady has a brutal four-game stretch looming – bye week, Denver, at Indy, Detroit. Sell him on name value before then.
Who are the notable most added and dropped fantasy players of the week?
RB Tre Mason, Rams (added in over 32,000 NFL.com leagues) – If you thought the Rams last week against Seattle looked a lot like the late-season Rams of 2013, when they were beating some pretty good teams, you'd be right – they finally got pressure on the quarterback, they allowed their own quarterback to play a controlled game and they ran the heck out of the football. The big difference was the rookie Mason in the backfield, instead of last year's bell cow, Zac Stacy. The Rams simply have decided to replace Stacy with a more talented back. Mason has what scouts call "phone booth" explosion, meaning he doesn't need to pick up a head of steam to reach full burst, and he can make tacklers miss in a confined area, which Stacy simply cannot do. There's little doubt in my mind that if the Rams want to win games this year, Mason is by far their best back to do so. Stacy is droppable, in my opinion, because he doesn't have the running ability of Mason or the versatility of Benny Cunningham.
RB Andre Williams, Giants (dropped in over 14,000 NFL.com leagues) – The Week 8 bye certainly contributed to this, but Williams didn't help his case by putting up two mediocre games with his shot to start, against the Eagles and the Cowboys. A two-down bruiser who can't catch and struggles in pass protection, Williams lost key snaps to Peyton Hillis, and will certainly lose his starting job when Rashad Jennings returns from a knee injury, expected in Week 9 after the Giants' bye.
INJURIES TO WATCH
Robert Griffin III, Redskins – RGIII (ankle) is not expected to start until he's 100 percent. That's unlikely this week, and Kirk Cousins has been benched, so it'll be Colt McCoy.
Jake Locker, Titans – Locker (thumb) said he was ready to play last week, but the Titans held him out. Now, he's been benched for rookie Zach Mettenberger, who will be Tennessee's starter the rest of the season.
Reggie Bush, Lions – SPECIAL ALERT! Reggie (ankle) didn't practice on Thursday after getting in limited work on Wednesday in London. Bush may not be able to play against the Falcons – if he doesn't and you are expecting him to contribute to your fantasy team, you had better be up early to change your lineup. Sunday's game across the pond starts at 9:30 AM Eastern.
Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller, Bills – Jackson (groin) is expected to miss about a month, while C.J. Spiller (collarbone) was placed on Injured Reserve - Designated for Return and can't return until Week 16. Spiller, obviously, is droppable, and until Jackson returns, it'll be Anthony Dixon and ol' friend Bryce Brown handling the workload for Buffalo.
Giovani Bernard, Bengals – Gio (ribs) took a couple rough shots against the Colts last week, but should be good to go against Baltimore this week.
Trent Richardson, Colts – Richardson (hamstring) has played pretty well this year, at least in comparison to last year, but his best game as a Colt last week was cut short by injury, and he may not be able to play this week.
Pierre Thomas, Saints – Thomas (shoulder/ribs) is expected to miss a few weeks, so Travaris Cadet is a viable reach in PPR leagues.
Toby Gerhart, Jaguars – Gerhart (ankle/foot) is expected back this week, but coach Gus Bradley has essentially named Denard Robinson the starting running back.
DeAngelo Williams, Panthers – DeAngelo (ankle) is out again, so it'll be Jonathan Stewart in the backfield carrying the load.
Calvin Johnson, Lions – SPECIAL ALERT! Calvin (ankle) looks like a true game-time decision on Sunday. The problem is just like Reggie Bush's, though – GET UP EARLY because the Lions' tilt with the Falcons in London starts at 9:30 AM Eastern.
Julio Jones, Falcons – Julio (foot) is practicing in full and should be ready to go in London.
A.J. Green, Bengals – Green (toe) hasn't been practicing much this week and may have to miss another game.
Reggie Wayne, Colts – Wayne (elbow) is expected to miss a game or two.
Jimmy Graham, Saints – Graham (shoulder) has gotten more work in practice in this week, but remember, he put up a goose egg last week in limited snaps. Use him at your own risk.
Owen Daniels, Ravens – This one is a bummer for tight end streamers. Daniels (knee) may be a game-time decision for a great matchup with the Bengals on Sunday. Keep an eye on him but have a backup plan ready.
Martellus Bennett, Bears – Bennett (hamstring) should be good to go for Sunday.
Eric Ebron, Lions – Ebron (hamstring) joins the list of injured Lions skill players, and is not expected to play in this one.
Kyle Rudolph, Vikings – This is more of an update. Rudolph (sports hernia) doesn't look ready to return yet.
QB: Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins – Tannehill has been rolling in Bill Lazor's offense, and while he has his inconsistent moments, it's an offense that is consistently taking advantage of his athleticism. He has a solid matchup at Jacksonville this week.
RB: Jerick McKinnon, Vikings – I'm in. The super-talented rookie had over 100 yards rushing against the stout Bills defense last week and now gets the reeling Buccaneers.
WR: Michael Floyd, Cardinals – Sorry, Eagles fans, but I'm anticipating points in this one, and Floyd has now scored in back-to-back games with Carson Palmer back at quarterback. Floyd's the Cardinals' downfield and red zone threat.
TE: Zach Ertz, Eagles – O.K., I'll redeem myself. If you have Ertz this week, there's really no reason to be sitting him with this juicy matchup, unless you have Rob Gronkowski. But even then, it's something to think about.
QB: Matt Ryan, Falcons – Ryan's hard to sit, but his offensive line suffered yet another loss last week and is down to its third-string center. That's not good news going up against a Lions team that has perhaps the NFL's best interior pass rush.
RB: Bishop Sankey, Titans – I'm sick of this. The Titans have been struggling to get Sankey in space, where he's really dangerous, and now they're starting a rookie quarterback against a Texans defense that definitely has J.J. Watt and may have Jadeveon Clowney.
WR: Percy Harvin, Jets – Yeeeeeaaaaahh… I'm going to give this a week to sort out before I roll with Harvin. The trade may actually help his fantasy value, but I'd rather be a distant observer in the first week.
TE: Jimmy Graham, Saints – This isn't an outright "SIT GRAHAM" warning, but more of a reminder. Graham's Saints play on Sunday night against the Packers, and it's possible his role won't be known until close to game time, if he's even active. If you have any doubts about Graham and have a good Sunday afternoon option (like Zach Ertz, for example), I'd sit him and play the safe bet. If you plan on rolling with him, make sure you have some waiver options like Ben Watson, Andrew Quarless, Gavin Escobar, Jordan Reed or Niles Paul ready to go in the event that he's a surprise inactive.