Heading into Week 1, we had no idea how the Philadelphia Eagles would deploy their running backs. It wound up being the Kenneth Gainwell show. Heading into Week 2, we had no idea how the Eagles would deploy their running backs with Gainwell out.
It wound up being the D’Andre Swift show. Heading into Week 3 — you get the point. So, should fantasy football managers start Swift or Gainwell in Week 3 lineups?
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D’Andre Swift’s Fantasy Outlook This Week
If you started Swift in Week 1, you probably had a bad time. Swift played just 29% of the snaps and had exactly one carry and one reception. He was a complete afterthought behind clear starter and lead back Kenneth Gainwell.
With Gainwell out in Week 2, if you started Swift, you had a grand ole time. He went from irrelevant to bellcow, carrying the ball a whopping 28 times for 175 yards and a touchdown.
Now, Gainwell is fully recovered from his rib injury and set to play in Week 3. We are once again left wondering how this backfield will play out.
Kenneth Gainwell’s Fantasy Outlook This Week
All of the preseason reports about the Eagles trusting Gainwell as their lead back were proven true in Week 1. Gainwell played 62% of the snaps and handled 18 touches against Swift’s two.
Heading into Week 2, there was little doubt the split would look similar — until Gainwell was forced to miss the contest due to a rib injury.
Now, Gainwell returns for Week 3, but Swift has made his presence felt. There’s simply no way that head coach Nick Sirianni can put the Swift genie back in the bottle … at least not completely.
Of course, there’s also no way Swift will see 28 carries again. That makes this backfield extremely difficult to figure out.
We were hoping to have answers by now. Instead, we only have more questions.
Which of the Eagles RBs Should You Start?
In a press conference earlier this week, Sirianni revealed his plans for his running backs.
"If he’s got the hot hand on Monday night, we’ll keep rolling with him. We feel really good about the work he puts in to make sure his body is right. …. You’re running the ball like that, give it to him 35 times. It’s hard not to do that." — Nick Sirianni on D'Andre Swift
— Dave Zangaro (@DZangaroNBCS) September 21, 2023
Clearly, Sirianni agrees that after what Swift did against the Minnesota Vikings, he can’t just keep him on the sidelines entirely.
With that said, Gainwell will not be treated like Rashaad Penny or even Boston Scott. He is going to play.
I believe Sirianni when he says this is a hot-hand situation. Unfortunately, that’s a nightmare for fantasy managers because we have no idea who the hot hand will be. We also don’t know who will get the first crack at establishing the hot hand.
Given Swift’s performance last week, my guess is it will be him. If he rips off a couple of solid gains early, we could see him roll.
However, even if Swift has the entire first drive to himself and performs well, Gainwell will likely get a shot on the second drive. Or vice versa.
Then there’s the added issue of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers having a solid run defense. They limited Alexander Mattison to 11 carries for 34 yards in Week 1. In Week 2, Khalil Herbert and Roschon Johnson had a bit more success, though, combining to turn eight carries into 67 yards.
The Eagles are clearly the better team. The threat of Jalen Hurts running, plus their prolific passing game, should create running lanes for both backs.
The better start will likely come down to two things:
- Who (if anyone) scores a touchdown?
- Who gets the passing down role?
Regarding the touchdown, that’s anyone’s guess. Swift could’ve scored three last week, but if any back gets downed at the 1-yard line, it’s the Hurts tush-push play every time.
Regarding the passing down role, my guess is that goes to Gainwell. I say that based on Week 1, plus the fact that before Scott was concussed, he was in that role ahead of Swift on Thursday night.
Swift only even caught three passes for six yards because eventually the Eagles were down to just Swift and Penny … and they are willing to do just about anything to avoid putting Penny on the field.
So, which one is the best start? We are right back at square one with this backfield. There is no clear answer.
If I had both Swift and Gainwell, I would have no problem starting both if lineup size allowed for it.
If I had to start one, as much as you’d like me to give you an answer, and as much as I’d like to be able to give you one, I simply do not know.
MORE: 2023 Dynasty RB Rankings
Fantasy managers with just one of them on their roster can probably start whichever one they have. We have Swift pretty far ahead of Gainwell in our PFN Consensus Rankings, but weekly rankings are volatile and situation-specific. Just because a player is ranked ahead of another doesn’t mean the gap is large.
This is an evolving situation. Whether you choose to start one, both, or wait and see, there’s nothing wrong with that decision.
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