Attacking the Eagles: The Secret to (Fantasy) Happiness

Taking a look at the first three weeks of the NFL season, there's a clear trend as to who will produce against the Eagles.

Much ado was made regarding the recent acquisition the Eagles made from Oregon when they brought Chip Kelly in to run his signature, fast-paced, pedal-to-the-metal offense. Many were talking about the leaps the offense would take including the reemergence of Michael Vick, the resurgence of LeSean-McCoy, and the revival of DeSean Jackson's fantasy relevance - all of which seem to have come to fruition.

What many were ignoring was the offense on the other side of the ball and the extra plays afforded to them while Chip and the Eagles were running as many plays as they could fit in. Teams facing the Eagles have run an average of 74 plays per game, which is about 10 plays per game over last year's average across the league.

The extra plays result in additional opportunities for our fantasy assets to produce, and we need to take note. While there have been many players who produced while facing the Eagles and although it may only be three weeks into the season, I think I've spotted a trend.

Ground or Air?

Unsurprisingly, Philly's defense has been surrendering some serious yardage through the air despite playing some extremely unexciting signal callers. Between Robert Griffin III, Philip Rivers, and Alex Smith, the Eagles have given up an average of 316 yards a game to opposing quarterbacks. They've also allowed five touchdowns and two interceptions in those three games. On average, quarterbacks facing Philadelphia have scored 18.74 standard fantasy points per game.

Looking at rushing stats against the Eagles, we see that Alfred Morris, Ryan Mathews, and Jamaal Charles have averaged 70 yards per game, and have managed two scores in the last 3 weeks. These are good scores to be putting up from your running back slot, but you were likely starting all three of these Running Backs already, so there's not much to be gained from analyzing this much further.

To drive the point home, we can see by digging into one of numberFire's metrics, net expected points, that teams have averaged a pass-to-rush ratio of 1.91 against the Eagles. If teams are averaging 19 passes to every 10 runs, we need to take notice. Looking at the passing NEP (PNEP) and rushing NEP (RNEP) of Washington, San Diego, and Kansas City we can see strong (positive) PNEP average of 13.24 and a weak (negative) RNEP average of -3.41. These numbers help to show how much more effective passing against the Eagles was than rushing has been.

Exploiting Philadelphia

So passers have been performing well, but not in an exceedingly, light-the-world-on-fire-type level. Who can we start to exploit Philadelphia's weak secondary?

After looking at some stats from the first three weeks, I realized that there's a clear trend on who you need to be starting against the Eagles until they change up their defensive scheme: team's secondary wide receivers.

A quick review of the data shows you how secondary receivers on these teams performed, check it out:

PlayerReceptionsYardsTouchdownsRec NEP / Target
Leonard Hankerson58021.24
Malcolm Floyd510200.98
Donnie Avery714101.26

If we extrapolate these averaged over a 16 game season you get a 91/1723/10.7 stat line. In PPR leagues, secondary wide receivers have averaged a hefty 20.43 fantasy points per game. To put that into perspective, only Brandon Marshall and Calvin Johnson averaged more last year!

The Road Ahead

Knowing this information and spotting the trend before others will be a great way to gain some value on the opposition. Unfortunately the Eagles upcoming schedule has some muddied receiver depth charts, but nonetheless there's value to be had. Here are the wide receivers I'm targeting in the next few weeks, particularly in daily fantasy leagues:

-Eric Decker/Wes Welker (Week 4)
-Hakeem Nicks (Week 5)
-Mike Williams (Week 6)
-Miles Austin (Week 7)

So there you have it: the secret to fantasy happiness. These receivers are worth a speculative add or trade a week early to avoid the waiver wire rush if you can afford the extra roster spot, and especially in daily fantasy which is largely based off of last weeks performance, and not upcoming match-ups it seems.