This game was totally unnecessary (no playoff implications…Eagles resting players), but it had to be played. Dallas went with all their starters because I think we all discuss what happened in Week 17 of the season before non-stop?!? Wanting to end on a positive note? For what? 1/3rd of these players are going to get churned over as will several coaches…Dallas dumped like 3-4 positional coaches after this game – what did ‘winning’ have to do with anything for them? All this game does is put stars at risk of major injury in meaningless games, but what do I know…
Dallas played the starters all game and Philly went 3-4 series of nothing, sleepwalking through the game before they started pulling their starting QB, etc., and just muddled through the game until it was finally over.
I have no idea who this game helped or impressed…no one cares about Dallas, once they were eliminated from the playoffs. All it did for Philly was make their fans more nervous about this #1 seed getting away from them with a feared playoff loss right off the bat. Vegas must agree…they went into their divisional playoff game as home underdogs.
Despite this nothing of a game, I’ve got a few notes to take away.
Fantasy Player Notes…
-- Dak Prescott (17-30 for 179 yards, 1 TD/0 INT) ended his season with a whimper. He had the magical 2016 and then he was a top 1-2-3 fantasy QB for about the first half of the season…and then the Ezekiel Elliott suspension hit at the same time LT Tyron Smith went down, and then Sean Lee got hurt as well. The backbone of the Cowboys ripped away…three straight losses, and basically an end to their promising season (I predicted the Super Bowl, and they didn’t make the playoffs).
Prescott accounted for 20 TDs in his first 8 games of 2017…and just 8 TDs over his last 8 games.
Once Elliott returned, Dak put up a 0 TD/2 INTs game Week 16…so, Elliott’s return didn’t fire up the magic like there was before the Elliott suspension. I am looking at Dak’s season more in terms of with/without Tyron Smith…
In 4 games with Smith out or playing part (leaving with injury) of a game injured…Dak threw for 0 TDs/7 INTs this season. With Smith a full-go, 21 TDs/6 INTs (11 games, ignoring Week 17).
It’s great that we can identify such a cause-effect relationship…but it leaves us with the obvious – what if Smith gets hurt again?
I think you pursue Dak Prescott as your QB2 this offseason in dynasty, for those in need of upgrade…a QB2 who is an obvious QB1, but who will trade like a QB2…like a #10-15 QB for fantasy 2018 type of asset valuation. He’s more of a threat for top 5 fantasy scoring ahead than falling out of the top 10.
In two seasons, with bouts of turmoil from the Ezekiel suspension…to losing Tyron Smith and Smith replaced with a cardboard cutout/useless backup OL who almost got Dak killed…to the whole Tony Romo thing from 2016…through it all Dak is 22-10 as a starter with a 65.2% Comp. Pct. and 45 TDs/17 INTs passing with 12 rushing TDs. That’s a crazy start for a young QB who was never even supposed to be starting for Dallas for another year, maybe.
I’m pro-Prescott. In dynasty, I mostly have the Goff-Garoppolo-Trubisky group on their own or with Russell Wilson-Aaron Rodgers-Dak, but if I were in a deeper league or taking over an orphan team or I didn’t like my current fantasy starting QB…I’m making a play for Dak this offseason because he is always undervalued and remembered for his bad spots and high spots totally ignored…or downplayed. Dak’s a bargain this offseason if you’re rebuilding your QB depth chart.
-- Ezekiel Elliott (27-103-0) tried to get to 1,000+ rushing yards for the season but fell 17 yards short…because 1,000+ yards rushing is SOOO important these days. C.J. Anderson hit 1,000+ yards this season. Alex Collins almost did. Who cares?
Now, it’s definitely impressive that Elliott almost hit the mark in 10 games played. That’s impressive. If you take Elliott’s 2017 and extrapolate it out to a 15-game season (to match his 2016 game count), his totals would project for 2017 to:
313 carries, 1,475 rushing yards, 10.5 rushing TDs, 39 catches, 405 rec. yards, 3 rec. TDs
Compared to 2016…
322 carries, 1,631 rushing yards, 15.0 rushing TDs, 32 catches, 363 rec. yards, 1 rec. TDs
Only one RB hit 300+ carries in 2017 – Le’Veon Bell. In 2016 – it was only Elliott doing so. Had Elliott played a full 2017…he was on a pace to go back-to-back for 300+ totes.
I can make all the pithy comments about “if David Johnson or Jordan Howard or Leonard Fournette were in Dallas with that O-Line and touch count…what numbers they’d produce!” That’s great…but it’s Elliott that’s there and the only thing that will stop him from getting 1,500+ total yards and 10+ TDs in 2018 is injury or suspension…or I guess ‘out of shape’/added weight is on the table too. Injury could hit any RB. Suspension…that’s more an Elliott thing.
I think, eventually, sooner-rather-than-later, Elliott is going to drive his current owners crazy with some off-field issue that gets him lost for another chunk or all season…he’s a mild mess off the field. You can’t really plan for it unless you trade him laterally for a top RB plus things…or you just have to go along for the ride as far as it will take you and when it hits the wall, so be it.
-- The Eagles took a different path at RB…I think the perfect one for the NFL, but terrible for fantasy. It’s been true for two years – Doug Pederson is not enslaved to any one RB. He has a random backfield of various talents and you have no idea from one week to the next who will see the most touches or be featured at the goal line or in the passing game, etc.
It’s why I warned everyone to sell/stay away from Jay Ajayi on the ‘traded to Philly’ news…that and the fact that Ajayi is a below-average RB. What happened when Ajayi got to Philly – random usage every week. Not even an RB3.
What will they do next season?
Darren Sproles and LeGarrette Blount are free agents and the Eagles have no reason to try to keep either.
Ajayi has a year left, and they’ll keep him as a power runner option. Corey Clement and Wendell Smallwood will be the other two randoms hopping in and out. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Eagles took a flyer on another RB late in the draft and added him to the fight for playing time.
Long story short…stay away from the Eagles backfield.
But if you had to choose one flyer…I’d roll the dice on Corey Clement. He has the size to get more work, and he was the preferred option over Smallwood-Barner this season.
-- Speaking of a confusing mess for fantasy…and maybe for the NFL – who’s going to play WR for the Cowboys in 2018?
Dez is all but gone. Pay him $17M in 2018 to be a terrible WR…or outright cut in the offseason for $8M hit. Unless he takes a much-reduced deal, he’s done in Dallas…he should be gone. He killed this offense all year.
Cole Beasley…keep for $4M+ or cut for $1M…umm, he’s gone.
If read the contract terms properly, Terrance Williams can be cut for $2.25M or if kept he has different things that kick in that will cost Dallas now and later way more than that…so, he should be gone as well.
Ryan Switzer (4-32-0/5) will take over for Beasley…and be Beasley-like and better-than-Beasley down the road. WR range with upside. I’m a fan of what COULD happen here, but it may take past 2018.
Dallas would need to get a #1 WR via draft or free agency.
Allen Robinson is the only free agent that fits a #1 mold…but there will be a lot of action after him. It may be through the draft that Dallas works magic. I could also see them adding Jordan Matthews at a very discounted price as a great #2 WR.
Imagine Allen Robinson-Jordan Matthews-Ryan Switzer at WR in 2018 for Dak?
Noah Brown (0-0-0/1)? I still think he’s best converted to a Jordan Reed type TE, which makes him one of the great deep sleepers of the offseason if it happens.
Rico Gathers is slated to be back as well.
-- Nate Sudfeld (19-23 for 134 yards, 0 TD/0 INT) completed 82.6% of his pass attempts in quick relief of Nick Foles in this game. Sudfeld looked solid. He wasn’t necessarily pressing the offense and ‘wowing’ the crowd, but he was efficient and made decent throws. He gets progressively better each time I see him…from 2016 6th-round pick of Washington to now emergency backup to Foles.
Sudfeld is competent-ish, not a game-changer.
-- If Tyron Smith isn’t the most valuable Dallas Cowboy, as we learned this season, besides Dak…then we all realized that Sean Lee (8 tackles, 1 TFL) might be the most valuable player on the team. This defense was borderline emerging/great with Lee and a total mess without him. Sadly, Lee has a history of getting hurt so his health and availability are super precious to Dallas.
And you guessed it…the soon to be 32-year old Lee played 95% of the snaps in this meaningless game. But I’m sure the momentum of defeating the Eagles led by Nate Sudfeld by a score of 6-0 will leave an indelible mark on this unit. When they win the Super Bowl next year, they’ll be like…it all changed when we pitched a shutout in Week 17 of the 2017 season, and really showed Nate Sudfeld and whatever RBs and OLs weren’t de-activated for the game by Philly who’s boss.
Looking ahead to the 2018 schedule…
Of Philly’s 10 non-division games, seven of them are against playoff teams next season. If you consider a healthy Dallas and Washington from 2017 legit playoff-level teams – then the Eagles could have 11 playoff-level opponents on the schedule next season. Just saying…not easy.
Dallas got the nice break on the schedule by finishing 2nd in the division and thus drawing Detroit and Seattle in the rotation and they also get Jacksonville and Tennessee at home on the AFC South rotation…where the Eagles have the Jags and Titans as road games.
All things equal next year…Philly is going to have a very tough path to 10+ wins…tougher path than Dallas will.
Where I was right/wrong on these teams in 2017…
RIGHT: I thought Zach Ertz would be a sneaky top 3-5 fantasy TE in the preseason…the guy you should plan on as the Gronk-Reed alternative if you feared the injury-risk on them. Ertz had his best season and finished top 3 in PPG…riding #1 for most of the season and then running into concussion issues and missing a game, leaving one early hurting his averages.
WRONG: Just about everything…I did not think Carson Wentz would progress into a top NFL QB. I’m still a bit of a skeptic. I thought Philly would struggle to 8+ wins and Wentz would be a frustration point…the exact opposite happened. I’ll likely be back for some more in 2018…because I’m skeptical on it all. I’m not defiantly sure…I’m just not ready to fully buy in yet. I still see something that does not strike me ‘right’. Hey, everyone swore the Raiders were untouchable after 2016…that Derek Carr was elite and the Raiders were next-stop Super Bowl. What do you think a year later? One good season doesn’t lock in eternal reality.
RIGHT: When I predicted the Cowboys would go to the Super Bowl, part of the rationale was my belief that Dallas had an emerging great D-Line and young defense that would rise as the season went on…whereas the football analysts all thought those were the reasons to hate the Cowboys. Dallas’s D-Line was awesome at times, and the defense was playing wonderfully when Sean Lee was there. This is going to be one of the five best defenses of 2018.
WRONG: The opposite of Philly in 2017…I thought the Cowboys would win the Super Bowl this season – that they would be that kind of team. They weren’t. I think the injuries midseason/later season to Tyron Smith, Dan Bailey, and Sean Lee are real excuses…but it doesn’t matter. I was wrong in the end. Just like I’m skeptical of the Eagles ahead (not that they are bad, just not ‘great’), I’m likely to go right back after Dallas as a top team in 2018. Dallas is building a juggernaut, and the world will soon realize…
Snap Counts of Interest…
40 = Sudfeld
19 = Foles
22 = Smallwood
19 = Blount
11 = Clement
07 = Barner
54 = Dez Bryant
34 = Terr. Williams
26 = Switzer
22 = Noah Brown
19 = Butler