Thursday Night Preview: Bengals @ Eagles
The final Thursday Night game of the season pairs a playoff hopeful in the Bengals against an Eagles team that showed some signs of life in a buzzer beating victory over the Buccaneers. This game doesn’t have the expected fireworks of past weeks, but that doesn’t make these players any less valuable, as every single yard gained is crucial in the fantasy playoffs.
Philadelphia road a hot Nick Foles (this week has to be the first time those words haveever been linked together) to victory last week against a Tampa Bay defense that has given up more fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks than 30 other teams. An Andy Reid team against a porous pass defense is going to put up stats, so I encourage you to not be a prisoner of the moment.
He isn’t a good quarterback.
OK, now that we got that out of the way, what can you expect from the Eagles offense this week? Bryce Brown was a dud last week after setting the fantasy world on fire the previous two weeks as he managed only six rushing yards on 12 carries. If you were lucky enough to survive that performance, Brown figures to bounce back in a strong way. Cincinnati ranks as the seventh worst run defense from a fantasy prospective which makes the Eagles a good bet to rely on their ground game. The light workload last week could actually prove to be a blessing for Brown, who should be as fresh as anybody on this short week. I’ve got him ranked as a solid RB2 this week and the most valuable ball carrier in this game.
In my opinion, Brown is the only Eagle you are starting this week. Jeremy Maclin rewarded his loyal owners last week (9 catches on 13 targets for 104 yards and a TD) but has been unable to consistently produce following a game in which he has found paydirt. For his career, Maclin is averaging a mere 52.4 yards following a game in which he scored, a number that has dipped to 15.8 yards in such games this season.I’m not sold on Maclin stumbling into a TD (he averages less than one touchdown every two games), making his fantasy ceiling a relatively low one. The only other Eagle that is even fantasy relevant is Brett Celek, but can he really be counted on? He registered 157 receiving yards against the Ravens in week two, but has only managed 172 yards in his five home games since.
On the flip side, the Bengals offense could very much represent the Eagles offense from last week: pass first, pass second, and run only in short yardage situations or to ice the game. BenJarvus Green-Ellis isn’t a good bet to receive his standard workload (21 touches per game over his last seven games) due to the holes in the Eagles secondary. His nose for the endzone makes him a low end RB2 this week, one that will struggle to reward owners in the yardage department. I prefer backs like Matt Forte and Alfred Morris this week to The Law Firm.
Philadelphia hasn’t stopped anybody lately (30.9 points allowed per game since their week seven bye) and the Bengals passing game has a good chance to feast on this inconsistent defense. Andy Dalton has been responsible for 13 touchdowns and only two turnovers after week eight in his career, a trend that should continue tonight. Combine that knowledge with the fact that The Red Rifle has averaged a 111.9 QB Rating against the NFC East, and you’ve got yourself a top 10 signal caller this week. The Bengals are likely to attack through the air, and you know what that means: unleash AJ Green! I expect the Bengals to beat the Eagles this week, a good sign for Green’s fantasy owners. He is averaging 104.3 yards and has scored in five of seven victories this season. But he isn’t the only Dalton target that needs to be in your starting lineup for this vital week. Jermaine Gresham has scored in two of the past three weeks and has been targeted at least five times in 11 of 13 games. In a year with extreme uncertainty after the elite TE’s, the consistent targets (especially in the redzone) are as valuable as any stat you can find.
Soppe Score: Cincinnati is fighting for a playoff spot and will not take the Eagles lightly after their impressive effort last week. Road teams tend to have a hard time on Thursday nights, and while I don’t think that costs the Bengals a win, it will prevent them from blowing this game open. Expect a lot of Bryce Brown early in an effort to keep the explosive Bengals offense on the side lines, but you can only play chicken for so long with a bad defense. I like Cincy to pull away in the second half, 27-17.