Monday Night Football
Carolina @ Philadelphia
As of Saturday, LeSean McCoy (concussion) was still experiencing dizziness, headaches, fatigue, and sensitivity to sounds. Down the stretch of a lost season, it's fair to wonder if the Eagles might consider shutting McCoy down, setting up seventh-round steal Bryce Brown for multiple late-year starts. A Matchups column-recommended stash the past several weeks, at the very least Brown will draw the nod Monday night against the Panthers' No. 20 run defense. Although Brown had a tumultuous, largely unproductive college career, he ran a 4.37 forty time at 6-foot, 223 during his March Pro Day and has picked up the pro game quickly. Lapping incumbent Dion Lewis and fellow rookie Chris Polk to be Philadelphia's No. 2 back, Brown has rushed 32 times for 141 yards (4.41 YPC) this season and will also play on passing downs versus Carolina. He's a high-upside RB2 play. ... The Philadelphia Inquirer expects Lewis to "see a few carries" tonight as a shiftier change-up back behind Brown. Lewis isn't a fantasy option. ... Michael Vick (concussion) has progressed enough that he seems likely to be available for Week 13, but Nick Foles will get another start despite last week's two-pick, three-fumble debacle. Foles' target distribution on the season: DeSean Jackson 16, Jeremy Maclin 14, Riley Cooper 12, McCoy and Brent Celek 10, Clay Harbor 9, Stanley Havili 5, Damaris Johnson 4.
The strength of Carolina's defense is pass rush. The Panthers entered Week 12 ranked among the top-11 teams in sacks, and they bring heat both off the edge (LE Charles Johnson 8.5 sacks, RE Greg Hardy 7 sacks) and up the middle (DT Dwan Edwards 5 sacks). This team generates far more pressure than the Redskins club Foles faced in his first start, which could be a major problem for the rookie quarteback behind a porous offensive line. A matchup with Carolina's No. 17 pass defense doesn't appear daunting on paper, but Foles ranks low among Week 12 QB2s. ... Foles couldn't get the ball to the perimeter against Washington, targeting Jackson and Maclin 12 times combined and completing just two of them for five yards. Jackson remains difficult to bench because he offers so much big-play potential, but starting Maclin would require a leap of faith following his Week 11 goose egg. ... The Panthers have allowed the tenth most fantasy points to tight ends, but Celek may spend much of this game helping Philly's inept offensive tackles block Hardy and Johnson. At surface level, Celek does not appear to be an attractive fantasy play. ... Cooper stood in as the Eagles' third receiver against the Redskins and emerged from the game with knee inflammation. He's not on the Week 12 fantasy radar. ... Usual slot man Jason Avant missed Week 11 with a hamstring injury and has been targeted once by Foles this season. Avant didn't even have fantasy value when Vick was healthy.
Is the Eagles' defense still playing hard? It sure didn't look like it in last Sunday's embarrassing, 31-6 loss to Washington. Philadelphia surrendered four passing touchdowns, each in a different manner, and got gashed on the ground for 169 yards on 34 carries (4.97 YPC). No. 12 overall fantasy quarterback Cam Newton's season has been disappointing after last year's top-five finish, but this is an inviting matchup. Defenses must tackle well to stop Newton on the run, and Philadelphia is one of the league's worst tackling teams. ... The Eagles sometimes play matchups at corner, using usual LCB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie against smaller deep threats and RCB Nnamdi Asomugha versus bigger possession receivers. If they don't on Monday night, Steve Smith will give Asomugha matchup fits all game. Asomugha's recovery speed has evaporated at age 31, and he hasn't been pressing at the line with any hint of confidence. When receivers get by Asomugha's jam, they're into the open field and gone. Start Smith in Week 12 and hope Eagles DC Todd Bowles leaves Asomugha on him. ... If Philadelphia "plays sides" at cornerback, which is realistically what they most frequently do, Brandon LaFell will deal with top cover guy Rodgers-Cromartie. DRC is hardly a shutdown cornerback, but it wouldn't be a great matchup for LaFell.
Philadelphia has allowed an average of 5.2 receptions for 57 yards to tight ends over the past five weeks, including two touchdowns. While this is a middling matchup for Greg Olsen on paper, the Eagles are weak at safety and hardly have a juggernaut linebacker corps. Olsen is a low-end TE1 option. ... Carolina's backfield distribution has been maddeningly unpredictable, but Jonathan Stewart put himself back on the flex-play radar in Week 11 by gaining 73 yards on 17 touches versus Tampa Bay, and scoring a second-quarter touchdown on a goal-line run. Pro Football Focus charted Stewart with 46 snaps compared to DeAngelo Williams' 16 and Mike Tolbert's 21 (14 as a blocker). As to whether the Panthers will stick with Stewart as a feature back, your guess is as good as mine. The Eagles rank 19th against the run, so the matchup is there for the taking. ... Williams has received double-digit touches in one of his last six games. He'd need a Stewart injury to be even remotely start-able in fantasy leagues. And as Williams showed when Stewart was hurt early in the season, even then there would be no guarantees for quality box-score stats.
Score Projection: Panthers 27, Eagles 17
Start or Sit: Monday Night
What should you expect from Cam Newton and Steve Smith in Philly? And what about Bryce Brown starting at RB? Kay Adams (@heykayadams) breaks down every key fantasy player in tonight's Panthers - Eagles matchup.
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