Philadelphia Eagles: Fantasy pick-up of the week

Philadelphia Eagles outside linebacker Connor Barwin sacked Cam Newton 3.5 times last year, and the Eagles defense hopes to feast on the Panthers again this week.
Bill Striecher/USA TODAY Sports

By Anthony Fabrikant

Need to make a waiver claim that could help a playoff push? The Philadelphia Eagles have just the selection for you in the form of their defense/special teams. Don’t scoff, this is a facet of fantasy football that can make or break a pivotal match-up. The Eagles defense and special teams is a prime fantasy choice because they currently rank 2nd in forced fumbles (10), 10th in sacks (14.0), tied for 3rd in interceptions (8), and 2nd for takeaways (16). This unit is especially valuable in fantasy football because on top of the points they accumulate because of the statistics already listed, they are a threat to score on every kickoff/punt return with studs like Josh Huff and Darren Sproles making plays. Sproles already has a punt return for a touchdown this season and averages an astonishing 15.7 yards per return. What makes this unit an even more enticing start for this week is that although they face the undefeated Carolina Panthers (5-0), the Eagles had tremendous success against Cam Newton and company in their 2014 contest, that the Eagles won 45-21.

In last year’s game, the Eagles picked Newton off three times, bringing one back for a touchdown, and Darren Sproles brought a punt return back 65-yards for a touchdown. Furthermore, the Eagles hounded Newton into making errant throws and sacked him 9 times. Connor Barwin was responsible for 3.5 of those sacks as the Eagles never allowed Newton to get his offense going until it was too late to make an impact on the outcome of the game. The Eagles also had 10 TFLs (Tackle For a Loss) against the Panthers in that game. Based on history, this year offers a similar match-up, if not better for the Eagles being the Panthers are without their stellar number one receiver Kelvin Benjamin, who scored two touchdowns against the Eagles in 2014.

In 2014, the Eagles defense and special teams, according to ESPN’s standard fantasy scoring, was the number one unit in all of the NFL. The Eagles D/ST scored 31 more points than the second-place unit (Buffalo Bills D/ST) and averaged 12.3 points per game. They also scored on two kickoff and two punt returns as well, which no other team accomplished in 2014, and they scored four defensive touchdowns in total.

The Eagles D/ST is only owned in 59.7% of ESPN fantasy football leagues. They are primed for another showcase on Sunday when they head to Carolina. The defense has been spectacular of late as they dominated the New York Giants and New Orleans Saints in consecutive weeks. The unit is a match-up nightmare for the Panthers. I’m not suggesting that the result of the game will be a blowout, but the Eagles should be able to get pressure on Cam Newton, and Sproles and Huff could offer some highlight reel material when given the opportunity.

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