Could a Shrek-worthy comeback be on the Birds’ horizon?
My nephew Leo turned four last week. Now that I’m out of college and officially part of the adult working class, I decided that it was high time I buy the kid a birthday present. But—what? A new toy? He has enough of those. Clothes? I doubt he’s worried about how fashionable his plaid shorts are. A bike? His mom and dad already have that covered. Then I realized: movies. His cinematic taste is ready to be molded! I looked at Leo’s current, Pixar-heavy library, and quickly realized what was missing: Shrek, one of my personal all-time favorites in the animation department. It’s action-packed, funny, full of fairy-tale subversions and even a little poignant; it can simultaneously hold a kid’s attention span and offer some sound life advice about true beauty residing within. Also, damn it, I love Donkey.
Shrek actually got me thinking about this column—specifically, about my ongoing premise that the fantasy football stats can provide a welcome distraction from a team’s real-world ineptitude. After the Eagles’ massacre at the hands of the Denver Broncos, a brightly colored fantasy perspective was more necessary than ever; at 1-3, the Eagles’ season was looking as muddy as Shrek’s bathing routine. Then came Sunday’s Giants game, and we finally got cause for weird celebration. Somehow, despite their 31st-ranked defense, the Eagles are tied for first in the division. That’s right, folks: This division is so bad that a team with a 2-3 record is tied for first place.
Keep in mind it was no surprise the Eagles couldn’t beat the Broncos; Peyton Manning is on pace for 64 touchdown passes. Similarly, this past weekend’s win over the Giants shouldn’t be read into too much, because the Giants are awful. Yes, the same New York team that won Super Bowls in 2007 and 2011 is now 0-5. How can a team drop off so suddenly? As it turns out, the recipe is easy: Field the league’s 26th-best defense, rush for 56.8 total yards-per-game, and allow Eli Manning to throw 12interceptions in five games. Hey Eagles fans, it could always be worse.
The same sense of temperance needs to be applied to backup quarterback Nick Foles. Yeah, he looked really good—against the Giants. And yeah, he threw two touchdowns, but largely thanks to great field position a la two Eli Manning interceptions. More impressive, though, was his drive to end the first half; although it only ended it a field goal, Foles drove his team the length of the field with quick, precise throws. What he lacks in Vick’s speed and arm strength he makes up for in pocket presence and care with the football. Vick is more electrifying; Foles may just be steadier.
Vick has played well this season, but I won’t be surprised if the team rests him another week when they travel to play the offensively-deficient Tampa Bay Buccaneers. While the Bucs have one of the league’s premier running backs in Doug Martin, as well as underrated wide receiver Vincent Jackson, their quarterback situation is a mess. They cut the once-promising Josh Freeman just four games into the season after a dismal start and are now relying on rookie Mike Glennon, whose unrefined mechanics should give the Eagles defense another solid week of fantasy output.
In fact—I wouldn’t start booking your Super Bowl tickets, but this season may not be such a nightmare after all. The Eagles’ next four opponents are: Buccaneers, Cowboys, Giants, Raiders. Aside from Dallas, those are all very achievable victories. Call me Shrek, but I’m turning into a believer.
Who’s Shrek? The guy I want saving Princess Fiona in Week 6: LeSean McCoy. He’s the No. 2 ranked running back in fantasy, so this is something of a no-brainer. But I’m picking him over DeSean Jackson as the must-start Eagles player this week. The Bucs are pretty good on defense, and they’ll have Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis shadowing Jackson throughout the game. That should leave plenty of passing opportunities for McCoy. Expect big things.
Who’s Lord Farquaad? The guy who everyone hates in Week 6: Nick Foles. The Bucs actually field the league’s 13-ranked defense. Their 0-4 record is a result of a terrible offense, not a porous defense. Fantasy-wise, the Bucs D even managed 14 points going up against the New Orleans Saints. And while Foles was great last week, one half of a football game is an awfully small sample size to justify starting this second-year quarterback. If the passing game falters, Foles lacks mobility—something that gives Vick value as an every-week starter.
Who’s the Dragon? The guy who will either devour or rescue your fantasy team in Week 6: Eagles defense. Normally I would always advise against using this D. But as they showed against the Giants last week and the Redskins in Week 1, they can be very opportunistic against mistake-prone quarterbacks. Facing a Bucs offense that averages 11 points-per-game—you read that right—if there’s ever a week to take a shot on this Birds defense, this is it.