Since this two-game slate has the exhibition otherwise known as the Pro Bowl, in which no player can count on reliable playing time or production opportunity, we’ll focus on getting the mandatory one player from that contest. Meanwhile, we’ll target players from the Super Bowl, and recommendations will serve equally well for 50/50s or GPPs, given the player scarcity.
QB: Tom Brady (NE, $40)
Sure, Brady will be the chalk, but he could be in line for a huge game against the Eagles. Many will be concerned about the amazing pass rush that Philly boasts and assume Brady will be under duress all evening. However, in three games against aging veteran QBs (Philip Rivers and Eli Manning twice), the Philly defense gave up an average of 382 yards and 2.7 TDs. The bigger question is why they fared so well against the Eagles, and the answer is that they eliminated the pass rush by getting the ball out quickly, and as a result, the Philly secondary got shredded. Not only is Brady better than each of those QBs, but don’t think for a minute that the Pats haven’t figured out that blueprint with two weeks to prepare for this game.
RB: Rex Burkhead (NE, $15)
As we’ve learned over the course of the season, running against the Eagles is an exercise in futility. Simply put, they squash opposing rushing attacks. But if Brady is going to have success moving the ball, there’s a great chance that a goal line plunge or two will be awaiting Burkhead. In addition, he could find himself catching a few passes as well to add some additional yardage. Counting on scoring opportunities from him seems a better play than hoping for big yardage from Dion Lewis.
RB: Jay Ajayi (PHI, $21)
We’ve all heard the narrative that the Patriots were one of the better scoring defenses in the league down the stretch, but all they really did was face a fairly easy schedule while employing a “bend but don’t break” style of play. They’re more than willing to give up yardage while making the offense string together long drives that’ll eventually result in a mistake, killing the drive before it finds pay dirt. Ajayi, who runs behind one of the best O-lines in the league, is almost certain to get plenty of yardage, especially if the Pats jump out to a lead since they won’t want to get beat on big plays.
WR: Brandin Cooks (NE, $21)
With all the weapons in the Patriots’ passing attack, the Eagles won’t be able to commit an extra defender to taking away Cooks. Even though it’s likely that Brady will get the ball out quickly for most of the game, once the Pats have kept up a fast pace for an extended period of time, the defense will begin to wear down, further negating the pass rush. All it’ll take is one lapse for Cooks to pay off with a long TD, and he’ll also have chances to pile up yardage after the catch, giving him the potential for a big game.
WR: Danny Amendola (NE, $19)
In the games in which Manning and Rivers tore apart the Philly defense, Sterling Shepard (twice) and Keenan Allen posted at least 133 yards in each matchup. What do they have in common? They run most of their routes from the slot. Although Chris Hogan opened the season as the main slot WR, Amendola has taken the majority of snaps in the slot during the playoffs. Overall, this is not just a pick based on two big games in a row by Amendola, it’s more a case of the massive production that slot receivers have had against the Eagles when experienced veteran QBs are under center.
WR: Alshon Jeffery (PHI, $25)
Although the Pats flashed a devastating pass rush against the Titans, that’s unlikely to be the case in this contest. First off, the Eagles have one of the best offensive lines in the league, and in addition, New England lacks the dominant pass rushers to be able to consistently win at the line of scrimmage. With the potential that Nick Foles will likely to be forced to throw more than he likes, that should ensure Jeffery gets plenty of targets. Jeffery’s the most likely Philly WR to be able to win his matchups and end up with a strong stat line.
TE: Delanie Walker (AFC, $14)
The Pro Bowl is basically a crap shoot when looking for DFS production, but if there’s one position to target, it’s the TE position. The main reason is that only two of them will be rostered by each team, so their snap rate will easily outpace players at other positions. Also, with the deadly WRs on the roster, the TE will be the least of the defense’s concerns. Walker has a WR skill set and will be sharing time with checkdown artist Jack Doyle. Walker should be the preferred option as a receiver, and he has a great chance of being one of the only players to have a big day in this exhibition game.
TE: Rob Gronkowski (NE, $30)
The Eagles didn’t face a tough group of TEs this year, but they got lit up by the duo of Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis in Week 8 when they posted a combined 12/131/2 line. They also gave up a TD to Hunter Henry even when he was being underutilized by the Chargers, and Philly was stung by Evan Engram for 132 yards over two meetings. It would be a shock if Gronkowski (concussion) wasn’t active for this game, and it’s unlikely the Eagles will have an answer for him on this massive stage. As Brady’s favorite target, he’s the most likely receiver on this slate to break 100 yards while finding the end zone.
DST: New England Patriots ($15)
If we’re loading up on Patriots at the skill positions that means that the Eagles will be playing from behind. That would lead to a game script in which Foles will is forced into obvious passing situations, with play-action passes not being a threat to the defense. In that scenario, the likelihood of Foles making a number of mistakes goes way up, and that’s why the Pats are the recommended defense on this slate.