Can the Birds turn a delicious fantasy real—or will they succumb to their foes' Xerxes-like hunger?
Watching 300 is a lot like watching this Eagles season unfold. The 2007 fantasy/action film, better known as the film that once allowed otherwise-heterosexual men to quiver at the sight of a very ripped Gerard Butler, offers a dramatic account of the famous Battle of Thermopylae. For those who forget their obscure, ancient world history, this battled pitched King Leonidas’ Spartan citizen army against the Persian military, slaves of the fabulously bedazzled Xerxes: Purposefully cartoonish, 300 gave us an over-the-top and, depending on who you ask, schlock-filled history lesson.
When I saw a 300 poster in a friend’s bedroom the other day, I thought: (1) That’s weird, because you’re an adult; and (2) 300 reminds me of this surprisingly good Eagles season (mea culpa on that one). Thanks to history, we know that Leonidas and his pal are going to die in 300 just as we know that this season’s Eagles team isn’t winning the Super Bowl. (Sorry if I seem overly pessimistic, but I’m a Jewish Philly sports fan.) Even so, the fun this season rests in watching the fierce but doomed army of the Eagles put up a fight.
And what a fight by Nick Foles and co. against the Bucs last week! (OK, so I was wrong about Foles. He looks really, really good.) While LeSean McCoy was his usual productive self, Foles carved up the Bucs secondary to the tune of 296 passing yards and three touchdowns along with another score on a QB draw. He also averaged an astounding 9.5 yards-per-attempt—indicating Foles isn’t throwing short dump off-style passes for easy completions—although, in fairness, Mike Vick averages an impressive 8.9 yards-per-attempt this season. But, the biggest statistic separating Foles from Vick in what has inevitably become another (exciting) Eagles quarterback competition is completion percentage: Foles completes 67.2 percent of his throws while Vick completes a below-average 53.8 percent. Of course, Vick provides mobility Foles simply cannot or, as of yet, does not; the question, logically, surrounds whether or not Foles’ accuracy and smart decision gives the Birds a better chance to win.
Since Vick is unlikely to play this Sunday when the Eagles host the Dallas Cowboys, he gives Foles another week to prove his own place as the team’s starting quarterback. No matter who winds up starting the rest of the season, though, both players deserve commendation for helping lead just the third team in NFL history to amass at least 400 yards of offense during the first six games, joining the likes of the 1983 Chargers and the 2007 Patriots. (For the record, the Chargers finished 6-10 that year while the Patriots went undefeated until this happened.)
I’m keeping my fantasy of this season alive and well by predicting the Birds’ third-ranked offense feasts upon this laughably non-Spartan, 30th-ranked Cowboys D. That being said, here are my picks for this week:
Who’s King Leonidas? The guy who’ll be kicking everyone’s ass in Week 7: LeSean McCoy/Nick Foles. It’s seemingly impossible to not list McCoy here every week; the guy is on pace for a record-shattering 2,323 total yard season. Obviously you’re going to have to start him.
I’m not just putting Nick Foles in this category to make amends for last week, either. After about a game and half of playing time, the 24-year-old has an average completion percentage of 67 percent, along with 8.9 yards-per-attempt, and a 6-to-0 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Going up against an injury-ravaged Dallas Cowboys defense, I anticipate another productive day from the University of Arizona product.
Who’s Xerxes? The guy who could spell doom for your fantasy team in Week 7: DeSean Jackson. I know, I know, DJax has been incredible this year. But hear me out: The Cowboys’ top cornerback, Brandon Carr, has done a good job containing the opposing team’s No. 1 wideouts. Over the two weeks, he’s held the Broncos’ Demaryius Thomas to 57 yards and the Redskins’ Pierre Garcon to 69 yards. True, he—along with the rest of the Cowboys defense—was obliterated by the Chargers a few weeks prior. But this secondary is shoring up to be decent, if not great. I would expect to see a lot of attention paid to Jackson, which could lead to opportunities for the other Eagles wideouts. Speaking of...
Who’s Ephialtes (the 300 character reminiscent of Sloth from the Goonies)? The guy I’m both intrigued by and scared of in Week 7: Jason Avant. Avant’s numbers the past two weeks haven’t exactly been eye-popping, with a combined seven receptions for 54 yards. But, if you look more closely, you’ll note that he’s seen 13 targets over that span—a sign that he’s not being phased out of this offense. With Jackson sure to command defensive attention, I’m betting that Avant is able to exploit this 14th-ranked Cowboys defense and surprise everyone, though not necessarily in the best way just like Ephialtes.
And no, I wouldn’t take a risk on Riley Cooper. It’s tempting to say that last week’s 120-yard outburst was a sign of things to come. But again, look at the overall numbers and you’ll find a player who had seen 12 targets over the previous four games combined. Don’t bet on a repeat performance.