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updated: 9/29/2011 11:16 AM

Fantasy football: Don't fear Eagles' defense

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  • New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruzscores a touchdown with Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Asante Samuel in pursuit Sunday in Philadelphia. Over two games, Matt Ryan and Eli Manning have burned the Eagles defense for 4 touchdowns apiece.

      New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruzscores a touchdown with Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Asante Samuel in pursuit Sunday in Philadelphia. Over two games, Matt Ryan and Eli Manning have burned the Eagles defense for 4 touchdowns apiece.
    Associated Press

  • New York Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw leaps into the end zone for a touchdown as Philadelphia cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha arrives to late Sunday in Philadelphia.

      New York Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw leaps into the end zone for a touchdown as Philadelphia cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha arrives to late Sunday in Philadelphia.
    Associated Press

 
 

Two weeks ago I toyed with starting Eli Manning at home against St. Louis instead of Matt Ryan at home against the supposedly vaunted Eagles defense.

The rationale was simple enough: Ryan was going up against not one but two shutdown corners in Asante Samuel and Nnamdi Asomugha, while Manning had the hapless Rams.

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Fortunately, I went with Ryan, who threw 4 TD passes in a 35-31 Falcons win.

Last week, Ryan went to Tampa Bay and Manning went up against those not one but two shutdown corners as his undermanned Giants (no Mario Manningham) played the Eagles.

Surely, Ryan was the right play at Tampa Bay and not Manning against Samuel and Asomugha, right?

Wrong. Manning -- even without Manningham -- duplicated Ryan's feat a week earlier and also threw 4 TD passes.

So, what in the name of Buddy Ryan is going on in Philadelphia?

This was supposed to be a defense NFL teams couldn't move the ball on, especially through the air, yet a washed-up tight end (Tony Gonzalez) and an awful receiver (Victor Cruz) have posterized Philadelphia in back-to-back weeks.

My theory on this has more to do with the Eagles' offense than their defense. In the Falcons game, Ryan needed just 24 and 49 yards to drive Atlanta to its first two scores thanks to turnovers. Then, Vick got a concussion and Philly's offense had problems staying on the field.

In the Giants game, Manning did throw 2 first-quarter TDs, but he was quiet after that until a huge fourth quarter in which he led his team on 54- and 56-yard drives. The first one began because the Eagles, who were leading 16-14 at the time, went for a first down on fourth-and-1 from the Giants' 43 and failed miserably as LeSean McCoy lost 3 yards.

Eight plays later, Cruz won a jump ball between two Eagles defenders, one of which was Asomugha.

"(Manning) threw it into the zone where we both were, and (Cruz) came back to the ball and was able to make the play," said Asomugha, Philly's prize free-agent signing in the off-season. "That type of stuff shouldn't happen."

At least two NFL analysts said Asomugha can't simply go from being a shut-down corner to being asked to play zone. He is clearly struggling with his new team.

And how about what opponents' RBs have done to the Eagles? Ahmad Bradshaw (86 yards), Michael Turner (114) and the Rams duo of Steven Jackson (2 carries, 56 yards) and Carnell Williams (91 yards) all found huge success.

I expect the Eagles to iron out some of these kinks as the season goes on, but complete fear of playing our fantasy players against them should be gone.

The Jets too?

And how about that other "top-notch" defense we were all shaking in our boots about, Rex Ryan's Jets? They have been brutal in two of their three games, allowing 24 points to Dallas and 34 to Oakland.

Tony Romo (342 yards, 2 TDs) and Darren McFadden (171 yards, 2 TDs) showed that this team can easily be exposed.

My teams: It's a tale of two worlds. My regular-league team may be one of the best I've ever put together: Drew Brees (35 points), Darren McFadden (35), Calvin Johnson (26) and Rob Gronkowski (25) paved the way to a 163-84 victory. That team is 1-2 with the most points in the league ... and I had Dez Bryant and Jermichael Finley on the bench. ... The unit-league team is a mess. Matt Ryan, LeGarrette Blount, Mike Tolbert, Roddy White and Lance Moore couldn't muster enough points in a 95-63 loss as that team fell to 1-2.

Good bets

Redskins RB Tim Hightower at St. Louis. This is the worst run defense in the league (174.3 ypg allowed), one that just allowed Ray Rice to run for 81 yards on just 9 carries. Hightower is almost a lock for 100 yards and a score.

Titans RB Chris Johnson at Cleveland. Putting Johnson in the good bets would have been unheard of the last two years, but his dismal start (46 carries, 98 yards, no TDs) probably has some of you thinking the bench would be a nice place to affix his butt. Don't do it. The Browns gave up 121 yards to Cedric Benson in Week 1 and 95 to Dolphins rookie Daniel Thomas last week.

Saints WR Lance Moore at Jacksonville. Finally healthy, Moore makes for a nice WR3 the rest of the way.

Rams RB Steven Jackson vs. Washington. Let's hope Jackson triples his season total for carries (6) in this game alone.

Giants QB Eli Manning at Arizona. Many pundits bashed Eli all during the preseason, but do you know where he ranks among quarterbacks in fantasy points? Try ninth. And this week he gets a putrid Cardinals pass defense.

Packers RB James Starks vs. Denver. With Ryan Grant almost certain to miss this game with bruised kidney, I love Starks this week as RB2. He should get 90-110 yards from scrimmage and score on the ground.

Bucs RB LeGarrette Blount vs. Indianapolis. It looks like Blount won't be the top-12 tailback I predicted he would be in preseason (he currently sits 21st). But he should rumble for 1 -- and maybe 2 -- TDs against the hapless Colts.

Bears QB Jay Cutler vs. Carolina. Hear me now: Cutler will outscore Matt Schaub, Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco this week.

Bad bets

Broncos RB Willis McGahee at Green Bay. After a 101-yard effort in Week 2, McGahee managed just 52 yards on 22 attempts (2.4 average) in Tennessee. Now he gets the top-rated Packers run D that just stuffed Matt Forte to the tune of 2 yards on 9 carries.

Panthers QB Cam Newton at Bears. Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs & Co. will not allow the Carolina rookie to eclipse 250 passing yards.

Falcons QB Matt Ryan and WR Julio Jones at Seattle. Regular readers of this column know Ryan is taking up permanent residence in the bad bets until he shows some sort of competence in road games.

Ravens QB Joe Flacco and WR Anquan Boldin vs. New York Jets. Flacco owners need to figure out which weeks to play him -- and this is not one of them.

Cowboys RB Felix Jones vs. Detroit. Looking shifty and dynamic in the open field, Jones zigged and zagged all over the Redskins on Monday night. But he's still a bit banged up and a risky play against a solid Lions defense.

Jets WR Plaxico Burress at Baltimore. The good news: Burress has 2 TD catches in three games. The bad news: He has just 7 total catches. He'll be worth taking a risk on at times, but not against the Ravens.

jdietz@dailyherald.com

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