On Tuesday evening, I was sorting through game totals to see which ones looked just blatantly too high or blatantly too low — and one that stood out to me right away was Cardinals at Giants, at 49.0; and it shouldn’t be surprising that this total has climbed up to 50.5 as of this writeup. (Perhaps most interesting is that this total opened at 50.0 before being bet down to 48.5 early in the week and then rising again.)
There are a number of moving parts in this matchup (likely the cause of the uncertainty regarding where the line should be), as Patrick Peterson will return this week for the Cardinals, and the status of Saquon Barkley, Sterling Shepard, and Evan Engram are all up in the air. As of Wednesday night, it looks like Shepard will miss while Saquon and Engram will play. We’ll approach this writeup with those thoughts in mind, and will adjust accordingly in the Angles Pod and Player Grid if news changes later in the week.
One of the elements that made the Giants so valuable early in the year was the narrow distribution of touches on this team, with only Shep, Engram, and Saquon heavily involved in the offense (and with any two of these pieces becoming extremely valuable if one of the three was facing a tough matchup). From a macro sense, this has disappeared a bit with Golden Tate returning from suspension and Darius Slayton emerging as a legitimate piece on the perimeter — though this week, the expected absence of Shepard and the return of Patrick Peterson somewhat tightens things up again. In his first couple games with the Giants, Tate has played 90% of his snaps in the slot, and last season Peterson traveled into the slot on only 16 plays all year (1.4% of his defensive snaps). Before Wilks arrived in the desert, Peterson was pushing closer to 10% of his snaps in the slot, and it won’t be a surprise if he ends up around that mark this year — though that was largely due to shadowing top perimeter receivers and following these guys at times when they played from the slot. Tate should largely avoid Peterson in this spot, while there is a solid chance the Cardinals choose to use Peterson in shadow coverage on Slayton — by far the Giants’ biggest threat on the perimeter.
While you can obviously bet on outliers, this tightens up “likeliest scenarios” to usage flowing primarily through Tate, Engram, and Saquon in this game.
Six players have topped 100 yards receiving against the Cardinals this year. One of those players was the untouchable Julio Jones. Three of the remaining players were tight ends, and the other two (Boyd // Amendola) were slot receivers.
Tyler Eifert is the only tight end who has not topped 75 yards and/or scored a touchdown in a matchup against the Cardinals this year (and as noted in the Angles email this week: we finally figured out why, with Tyler Boyd having been used on “tight end” routes in that game), and it’s not sneaky or surprising to state that Engram sets up well in this spot. He has target counts on the season of 14 // 8 // 8 // 7 // 11, and with the Cardinals ranked top 10 in opponent plays allowed per game (and sure to put up enough points in this spot to keep the Giants aggressive), we should enter this game expecting Engram to push toward double-digit looks once again.
It’s reasonable to expect Daniel Jones to throw the ball around 35 times in this spot (with upside for more), and with Peterson likely on Slayton (and the Giants loath to throw the ball to Cody Latimer), it’s also fair to expect a large chunk of the remaining targets after Engram to flow to Tate and Saquon.
If not for his 64-yard touchdown last week, Tate’s production would have looked quite a bit different (five catches for 38 yards), and that touchdown was the only true “upside” route he was targeted on (his other five catches all came within eight yards of the line of scrimmage), so you still need some things to break your way in order to capture upside from Tate — but the targets should be there, and a broken play or a score would get the job done.
Because NFL coaches are old-school (and want to spend 50 hours watching film but won’t complement that with one hour looking at analytics), teams have been attacking the Cardinals up the gut relentlessly this year, as this is where the alignment of the Cardinals defense invites teams to test them. But if we take away the game from Christian McCaffrey, the Cardinals are allowing only 3.7 yards per carry on these runs. With that said: matchup is always less of a concern for Saquon than usage (as much as the Cardinals are selling out to stop the run, they’ve still been mediocre in this regard). Consider this an “average” matchup for Saquon — in a good game environment, with one of the highest ceilings on the slate if Pat Shurmur is smart enough this week to let his star back touch the ball more than 20 times.
Both of these teams have ranked near the bottom of the league in opponent drive success rate (22nd for the Giants; 28th for the Cardinals), though both defense has also been above-average at preventing touchdowns in the red zone (the Giants rank 13th; the Cardinals rank 14th), while the Cardinals in particular (31st) have struggled to convert red zone trips into end zone visits. This is the major “risk factor” in this game, as each defense ranks bottom five in yards allowed per game, the Cardinals rank top 10 in yards gained per game, and the Giants have the ability to move the ball in softer matchups (something the field may forget after this team struggled without Saquon Barkley against the Vikings and Patriots). This is a good spot for yards to pile up, and with a narrow distribution of touches on each team, this provides solid floor to go with whatever touchdown-driven ceiling shows up.
In two games without Christian Kirk, Larry Fitzgerald has seen target counts of 8 // 8 while going 6-58-0 and 6-69-0. In that same stretch, Pharoh Cooper and KeeSean Johnson have combined for 18 targets but have totaled only 10 catches for 85 yards, while Damiere Byrd returned last week to snag both of his targets for 60 yards — though this production is undercut somewhat by his disappointing 8.0 yards per catch on 12 receptions across his other three healthy games. If Kirk misses again (as currently projects to be the case), Fitz is the guy from this group likeliest to take advantage of the matchup, with his chances boosted by having the “downfield” role in this short-area offense (four targets across the last two weeks that have come 15+ yards downfield). Ultimately, Fitz is more of a “volume play for floor, and hope for a broken play or a touchdown for ceiling” than he is a lock-and-load option, but the matchup sets up in his favor this week. (If Kirk plays — and is deemed healthy — he should soak up most of the looks that have been given to Cooper and Johnson, with a target projection of seven to 10, and with a floor/ceiling projection similar to Fitz.)
Last week, David Johnson played 52 out of 69 snaps (75.4%), and given how well Chase Edmonds has played when spelling DJ, it’s reasonable to expect this to continue in order for the Cardinals to keep their star back as healthy and productive as possible. While DJ is priced on DK and FantasyDraft like a guy seeing 90%+ of the work, his pass-catching role (recent reception totals of 6 // 8 // 3 // 6) continue to make him a solid piece to rely on for locked-in points. As explored the last few weeks: the Cardinals continue to (frustratingly) deploy DJ almost exclusively on shotgun runs up the middle (where he’s not as well-suited to explode, and where the Giants are a bit above-average), so DJ is more valuable for his pass game role than for his rushing opportunities. Nevertheless, his price is low enough on FanDuel (and his touchdown share is high enough — with five total touchdowns, and the 10th most carries inside the five yard line on the year) that he’s in play on all sites.
JM’s Interpretation ::
These teams are young enough (and uncertain enough in the red zone) that there are paths to this game failing to produce the scoreboard fireworks we would optimally like to target — but with a narrow distribution of touches on both sides of the ball and yardage likely to pile up, the floor is fairly high across the board here, and there are certainly enough paths to touchdowns for “ceiling” to be part of the equation.
On the Giants’ side, I like Tate for the floor and the “viable paths to upside” (though he’s more valuable in full-PPR, and his price on DraftKings and — to a lesser extent — FantasyDraft is a bit high for his actual range of outcomes in this spot, with a 10- to 12-point game very much in the mix, and with most “upside” games from him landing more in the 22- to 25-point range than in the 30+ we would love any player we roster to have), while Engram and Saquon are obviously two of the stronger raw-projection plays on the slate. There are better quarterbacks than Daniel Jones this week, but he’s also in the mix in large-field play, as there are a few non-murky paths to him putting up the highest quarterback score on the slate.
One of the quarterbacks with a higher raw projection than Jones is, of course, Kyler Murray, who has passed for 300+ or rushed for 69+ in five of six games this year. Because Murray is such a “do it all” engine for this offense, he can be considered naked this week as well, in a spot where he’s likely to find a way to put up points one way or another.
Like Tate, Fitz is a bit overpriced for his role and “likeliest range” on the sites where his PPR skill set fits best — though his role is providing him with a high enough floor that he really just needs a touchdown in order to pay off as a nice piece, creating some justification for dipping into this play this week. A multi-touchdown game in this offense is obviously not likely, but it’s not outside the range of viable possibilities for Fitz in this matchup, either. The Giants have allowed the seventh most catches, the most yards, and the fifth most touchdowns to wideouts this year.
The Giants have also allowed the sixth most rushing yards and the third most receiving yards to running backs — and while Arizona isn’t exactly giving DJ his best shot at rushing yards, there’s enough to like here for DJ to be very much in the “floor/ceiling” mix. If DJ misses with his newest injury (ankle), Edmonds would obviously shoot to the top of the slate.
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