In both the real NFL and its imaginary-league counterpart, the Eagles best be aware that winter is coming.
The second-to-last episode of Game of Thrones’ first season might go down as one of the greatest moments in TV history; all assumptions and expectations regarding the show’s plot and characters went down as soon as Ned Stark’s head did. (No, don’t cry “spoiler”—that was three years ago. Catch up.) After Ned died it became clear that no character, no matter how likable or essential to the story, would be guaranteed to make it. It was practically unprecedented for a TV show to so casually and deliberately kill off its lead character, pointing out the quickness with which the world moves on after a tragedy and, in the process, encouraging the audience to consider the futility of life.
That’s a lot like life as an Eagles fan.
Remember that Week 1 game against Washington? Yeah, that seems like ages ago. As it stands now, the Birds are 1-2, and a bad 1-2 at that. They got thoroughly outclassed by the Chiefs, who showed what a steady, efficient football team looks like. The Eagles, by contrast, looked out-of-sync the whole game; they looked about as smooth as Theon Greyjoy. Outside of a 61-yard run, Mike Vick didn’t play particularly well, completing only 43 percent of his passes. Even more concerning were his struggles against standard pass pressure, when the Chiefs sent four or fewer rushers to attack the quarterback. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Vick was 10-23 for 158 yards and an interception against standard pass pressure. Whether it was due to the offensive line’s ineffectiveness, Kansas City cornerback’s Brandon Flowers’ mostly successful blanketing of DeSean Jackson, or his own jitters, Vick had a tough time finding his receivers. Now, a single game is a small sample size, so fantasy owners shouldn’t get too nervous. Still, Vick’s ability to perform against the pass rush is certainly something worth monitoring.
Despite leading the league in rushing yards-per-game with 209 and coming in a respectable 13th for passing yards-per-game with 252.7, the Eagles’ defensive deficiencies continue to doom them. Couple the fact that this Birds defense allows 438.3 yards-per-game with their inability to generate turnovers—they haven’t intercepted a pass since that first half against Washington—and this looks like a team, if it wants to taste victory this season, that will have to rely on its offense like Jaime Lannister relies on his sword hand.
I don’t think anyone is expecting much from Sunday’s game against the Denver Broncos. Peyton Manning has been too good, the Broncos defense has been too opportunistic, and wide receiver Eric Decker is too handsome. If Philly’s offense should stumble at all, the team will be looking at a 1-3 record. When Peyton does this against a decent Baltimore Ravens defense—well, Sunday might not be a pretty sight.
With that in mind, here are the fantasy picks I’m sticking by, and here’s who I’ll be avoiding like the White Walkers:
Who’s Khaleesi? The guy who I’m betting will come out of this Week 4 war on top: LeSean McCoy. With 395 rushing yards through three games, McCoy is on pace for 2,107 yards, breaking Eric Dickerson’s long-standing record by two yards. I’m not about to start my Countdown to the Record just yet, but I am expecting McCoy to run wild against a Broncos D that has actually been pretty generous to running backs for fantasy purposes. Really though, were you ever considering benching the no. 1 ranked running back in fantasy? If so, you should be banished beyond the wall.
Who’s Ned Stark? The guy who’s just plain doomed in Week 4: Brent Celek. That 12.6-point Week 1 performance already seems as long ago as the beheading of Ned Stark, doesn’t it? After being held without a catch in Week 2, Celek had 18 yards on two receptions last week. As predicted before the season started, Chip Kelly’s offense isn’t featuring the tight end much. Plus, he’s got Zach Ertz James Casey around to steal targets. Avoid this guy like someone on King Joffrey’s shit list.
Who’s Jaime Lannister? The guy who will either save your fantasy team or kill it in Week 4: DeSean Jackson. Jackson is having a monster year. Even though he only managed three grabs against the Chiefs, one of them went for 40 yards, salvaging his day. And he is facing a Broncos secondary that has allowed 665 yards to two touchdowns to opposing wide receivers this season. But cornerback/demigod Champ Bailey should be returning this week, which could cap Jackson’s production. Jackson is too talented to sit on your bench, but temper your expectations this week.