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TOP 5 PASSING MATCHUPS WEEK 1
Philadelphia at Atlanta
The Eagles have begun the Jalen Hurts Era in earnest; he’ll open the year under center without much pressure off the bat. The front office did just deal for Gardner Minshew, but he came very cheaply and looks maxed out as a backup. Hurts’ leash looks much longer than it did a few months ago, when the team was sniffing around Deshaun Watson. He’ll need to prove he can find the tough downfield windows he did as a rookie fill-in. If he can, he’ll elevate a promising young pass game and serve as a fantasy QB1 himself. If he fails, he won’t be able to point to a lack of pass-catching talent, or at least a game effort by the team to acquire it. Hurts will throw to a trio of receivers in DeVonta Smith, Jalen Reagor, and Dallas Goedert that all came via first- or second-round picks over the past three years. Smith and Reagor will look to utilize their speed against a rebuilt Falcons secondary that may not have its communication down yet. On the inside, Goedert and Zach Ertz will run routes frequently when on the field. The Eagles’ stout front line should not only keep Hurts upright and clear, but also keep that tight end duo free to make plays through the air.
The Falcons enter 2021 with arguably the league’s weakest and most exploitable secondary. No team gave up more passing yardage last year (307 per game), and only 5 allowed more touchdowns (34). Typically a change is needed after such a dreadful showing, but the Falcons may have regressed even further here. They’ll trot out mostly the same rotation of shaky cornerbacks, but will have to break in new bodies at their top three safety spots on the fly. They’ve brought in journeyman types in Duron Harmon and Erik Harris to start – neither inspires confidence – and will hope for a short learning curve for rookie Richie Grant. On the outside, A.J. Terrell, last year’s No. 16 pick, will lead a cornerback group that needs to take a step forward. Terrell impressed at times as a rookie, but faded a bit down the stretch. If nothing else, he proved adept at keeping the ball in front of him for short receptions – though Mike Evans and Antonio Brown roasted this group downfield twice at the end of the year. Terrell, Isaiah Oliver, Kendall Sheffield, and the new batch of safeties have their work cut out as they look to rebuild spontaneously. They’ll open the year as the most inviting matchup in all of fantasy, boosting even the shaky Eagles passing game into must-play status.
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