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Sunday, April 18, 2021

Fantasy Football: Defense and LeSean McCoy

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PHILADELPHIA — No matter what happened Thursday night, the Philadelphia Eagles would be 1-2-1 entering this Sunday’s game at the New York Giants. That will change. And there are several reasons for that:

1. The Eagles’ defense has been dominant, thanks in large part to the imposing presence of defensive end Derek Barnett, who might be the best player on the roster. Barnett has five sacks, and he has turned in elite performances against Atlanta (two sacks, one forced fumble) and Kansas City (two sacks, one forced fumble). That makes an impact like this, when the Eagles defense has given up 70 points in three games.

2. Related to the dominance of the defense is the rush-to-contact ratio, which is on pace to be the best of the LeSean McCoy era. In 2016, the Eagles finished second in rushing yards per game but 30th in rush attempts per game. They face a tougher opponent, Carolina, on Monday night. But this team is better than that, and now leads the N.F.C. in yards per carry, at 6.3. There’s no doubt that this offense will improve, but the Eagles have made the kind of big-picture improvements that their opponent has not. They came through against the Chiefs in the dying minutes Thursday night, too. They got their defense in position to win, and had the offense done the same, the Eagles would be, along with New England, atop the N.F.C. East.

3. When there is no pressure on the quarterback, he is dangerous. If the Eagles can get pressure from the linebackers and safeties on third down, it would help Steve Sarkisian get a more conservative approach to offense.

For the Giants, the loss on Thursday night was another example of losing with Josh Brown remaining at quarterback. He hit a receiver all alone at midfield. That play saved a touchdown that would have given the Eagles a 10-point lead with just less than 10 minutes to play. Brown gave up multiple big plays in the first half, and the Giants at least looked better on offense than they had the previous two weeks. But they still will be a team with multiple problems.

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