Welcome to Week 15, where we have two of the worst offenses in the NFL squaring off against two of the worst defenses in the NFL.
Offensive ranks :: yards per game || points per game || drive success rate ::
>> Dolphins :: 30 || 30 || 27
>> Giants :: 26 || 25 || 24
Defensive ranks :: yards per game || points per game || drive success rate ::
>> Dolphins :: 30 || 32 || 30
>> Giants :: 27 || 28 || 24
The Giants are clearly downgraded with Eli Manning looking likely to take on one more start before Daniel Jones returns (what would be a going-away start in front of the home crowd, it should be noted — in this soft matchup against the Dolphins); and if DeVante Parker misses for the Dolphins, their offense will be significantly downgraded.
Nothing is guaranteed in a spot like this, and this should be approached as a fairly messy setup; but we can bring some semblance of form here, and can gain a better idea of how best to take advantage. As you might expect, both teams rank bottom five in time of possession (with roughly four minutes added to this game against the combined season-long averages of these two teams), and even with the Giants carrying a non-aggressive offensive identity and the Dolphins likely to tilt “non-aggressive” as well if Parker misses, both defenses are bad enough that good things can happen.
The area where the Dolphins are likeliest to have trouble is on the ground, where they have failed to get anything going all season — producing a league-worst 67.3 rushing yards per game, on a league-worst 3.3 yards per carry — and where they will be taking on a Giants team that ranks 28th in DVOA against the pass but 12th against the run. The Dolphins are the second pass-heaviest team in the NFL, and they’ll likely continue tilting in that direction.
If Parker is cleared from his concussion in time for this game, he will step right back into an alpha role that has yielded eight or more targets in six of his last seven games (with double-digit looks in five of those contests, and with 50+ yards in every one of those games), while volume behind Parker will be spread fairly evenly among Mike Gesicki (recent target counts of 6 // 6 // 7 // 7 // 5) // Allen Hurns (4 // 6 // 7 // 4 // 8) // Patrick Laird (five targets in back-to-back games as the starting running back) // Isaiah Ford (nine targets last week after Parker went down). If Parker misses, volume likely expands across this group, but Ford // Huns would carry the clearest shots at upside, with Ford particularly interesting for the way he filled Parker’s more downfield-oriented role last week.
On the other side of this game, the Giants will have their best shot of the season at success on the ground, where Saquon Barkley has seen consistent (though disappointing) volume of late :: carry counts of 13 // 17 // 19 // 17, and target totals of 5 // 3 // 7 // 4. He has looked healthier on the field lately, and this is an interesting spot against a Miami team that has allowed six running backs to top 100 yards on the ground, with five touchdowns emerging from that group.
The Giants are throwing the ball at the fourth highest rate this year, while the Dolphins are facing the second lowest opponent pass play rate as teams choose to take the easy matchup on the ground. We’ll likely see the Giants split the difference here, though with the added play volume available in this game, we may not notice any drop-off for pass catcher volume — with the bigger concern in this spot being the quickly expanding distribution range for this team, with Golden Tate (recent target counts of 6 // 8 // 7 // 5), Sterling Shepard (9 // 9 // 6 // 7), and Darius Slayton (15 // 7 // 9 // 8) all healthy, and with Evan Engram appearing set to finally return and join the party. With volume spread out, your clearest path to upside is to target big plays — with this approach further solidified by the fact that of the seven wide receivers to top 100 yards already in this matchup (with each of those seven players scoring at least one touchdown), four of those players were speed threats (Hollywood // McLaurin // John Brown // Robby), and a fifth piece (JuJu) hit in this spot through a big play. Slayton is still attached to the popgun arm of Eli Manning, but it’s not point-chasey to consider a guy who has seen the above-listed targets (15 // 7 // 9 // 8) over the last month, and who has score-from-anywhere ability against a team that gives him a near-perfect matchup.
JM’s Interpretation ::
I’ll be sure to have at least some level of respect this week for the fact that neither of these offenses are good; but given that the prices already account for this — and that the matchup boosts expectations on both sides, from all angles — I’ll also likely end up with some non-negligible level of exposure here.
On the Dolphins side, Parker is the guy I’ll be targeting if he’s healthy (with some hedge bets spread out behind him if I end up going heavy), while Hurns and Ford will be my likely targets if Parker misses (with perhaps a dash of Gesicki and/or Laird mixed in).
On the Giants side, Saquon and Slayton are the plays with the best shot of ending up on a tourney winner, and it’s a good spot for each guy. Saquon’s floor should be solid here, and the ceiling is visible. Slayton is priced really low on all sites for a guy seeing the sort of work he’s been seeing, so while a big game is obviously not a guarantee, it would be tough for him to hurt a roster too badly if he misses, and he has clear and obvious slate-breaking ceiling. I’ll likely end up with a chunk of Slayton exposure this week — and if I end up with enough of these two guys to want to hedge a bit behind them, Shepard would be my next likeliest target, with Engram also in the mix.