EAGLES // GIANTS OVERVIEW
Given the state of the NFC East (Washington leads the division at only 2-2), both of these teams are still technically in the thick of the race — though the Giants are going to have a much tougher time making a move than the Eagles will have. Vegas has Philly installed as an early three-point favorite in spite of this game being played on the Giants’ home field, and even with injuries in their backfield (Jay Ajayi has been diagnosed with a torn ACL — which he may or may not have played on for part of Sunday’s game vs the Vikings), the Eagles’ offense should be able to control the flow of this game.
Each of these teams has played slowly to begin the year. Philly ranked 22nd in pace of play heading into last weekend, while the Giants ranked 31st. The slow pace for the Giants has led to them ranking 28th in plays per game. The Eagles’ defense entered last week ranked fifth in drive success rate allowed, while the Giants ranked 22nd on offense. The Eagles allow a below-average number of plays, and volume should take a slight hit on the Giants’ side of the ball. Neither team has been particularly aggressive on offense, with Carson Wentz posting an aDOT of 8.0, and with Eli Manning posting an aDOT of 7.2. The one offensive bonus in this game is that each unit ranks in the top 10 in the NFL in passing play percentage.
The Eagles should be able to sustain more drives than the Giants, but New York should be able to hit for enough big plays to keep this game competitive throughout. Expectations lean toward the Eagles in a macro sense, but each side should be able to produce a couple players who get in on the DFS fun.
EAGLES PASS OFFENSE
While the Eagles’ pass protection has been a weak spot to begin the year, the Giants have had perhaps the worst pass rush in the NFL early on, which has led to coverage breakdowns on the back end — with New York allowing an average depth of target nearly 11% deeper than the league average. With time for the secondary to get spread out, the Giants are also tackling poorly after the catch.
The Giants have been most attackable over the middle, where they entered last week ranked 32nd in Football Outsiders’ metrics for passes to the middle third of the field — with a number 27 ranking over the deep middle, and a number 32 ranking over the short middle. The Eagles’ main piece over the middle has been Zach Ertz, who has dominated looks to begin the year, with target counts of 10, 13, 10, 14, and 11. Ertz also ranks 13th in the NFL in red zone opportunities, and his eight targets in the red zone are behind only Eric Ebron and Jared Cook among tight ends. The Giants have played tough tight end defense early on, but Ertz should be viewed more as a seam/slot receiver than as a tight end, given his role in this offense.
The Eagles’ other main piece over the middle has been Nelson Agholor, who has seen bounce-around target counts on the season of 10, 12, five, 12, and four. His aDOT of 8.5 gives him healthy YAC-added upside if the looks are there again this week. Philly projects for around 35 to 38 pass attempts in this spot — which is the range Wentz was in for Agholor’s lower-target games; though the middle-filtering nature of the Giants’ defense should lead to Agholor picking up a couple extra looks, and six to nine targets is a comfortable projection. He has reverted back to some of his old mistakes lately, but he still has tremendous talent if he gets back on track.
The Eagles will still target Alshon Jeffery in this spot, but he’ll be primarily matched up with Janoris Jenkins, who held DeAndre Hopkins and Michael Thomas to season-low target counts (10 for Hopkins; four for Thomas). Even when Jenkins is not in coverage, the Giants are doing a good job on the outside, where Alshon will primarily operate. After seeing eight and nine targets the last two weeks, it’s unlikely Alshon pops off for double-digit looks this week, and efficiency will be a challenge in this matchup. Naturally, Alshon still carries tourney upside for his big-play skill set and his chops in the red zone — but he’s more boom/bust this week than high-floor/high-ceiling.
No other receiver on Philly played more than 22 snaps last week (Jordan Matthews — one target). The first four options in this passing attack are Ertz, Alshon, Agholor, and whichever running back is on the field. Shelton Gibson played nine snaps and saw one target in Week 5. Dallas Goedert played 34 snaps and saw two looks.
EAGLES RUN OFFENSE
The Giants rank 25th in yards allowed per carry on the year, and the Eagles’ line has blocked well early on — entering last week ranked 10th in Football Outsiders’ adjusted line yards. While the Eagles rank 10th in pass play rate, they have been involving the running backs in the passing attack, and they may lean a bit more run-heavy in this spot if they grab an early lead.
Earlier in the year, when Jay Ajayi missed time, Corey Clement and Wendell Smallwood split snaps and reps at a roughly 60/40 clip, and each guy should remain involved this week with Ajayi out and Clement expected back. In Week 3, these two combined for 26 carries and nine targets — and a similar total workload can be penciled in this week. Smallwood has a little more upside in the passing attack, as the Eagles have had success lately getting him lined up on linebackers and sending him downfield to try to pick up chunk plays, but Clement should see a few more touches. Each guy should have a red zone role, and “best play” will likely come down to “who scores a touchdown.” The Giants’ great strength on defense has been red zone touchdown rate (third in the NFL), but they have allowed seven touchdowns to running backs (four rushing, three receiving), compared to zero receiving touchdowns allowed to tight ends and only three allowed to wide receivers (third best in the NFL). If Philly scores three touchdowns, there is a good chance two of these come from running backs, creating a strong “Cheat Code” situation — with Smallwood and Clement having a clear shot to combine for 20 to 30 on FanDuel, or for 24 to 35 on DraftKings.
GIANTS PASS OFFENSE
Unsurprisingly, only one team has faced fewer rush attempts per game than the Eagles, and only eight teams have faced more pass attempts, as teams simply do not try to run on the Eagles. Philly has a solid four-man pass rush, and the Giants have had one of the worst pass protection units to begin the year, which should put Eli Manning in a similar situation to what Kirk Cousins had last week — when he was constantly under siege, and had to move around in the pocket or get rid of the ball quickly. The difference, of course, is that Cousins is comfortable uncorking downfield throws when throwing off-balance under pressure, while Eli Manning is no longer capable of doing this with any sort of authority. The Vikings’ offense (which retains many of Pat Shurmur’s concepts) also relied heavily on wide receiver screens last week — an approach that the Giants should carry over in an effort to get the ball into the hands of Odell Beckham. Philly tackles well after the catch, but something in the range of what Stefon Diggs did last week (10-91-0, on 11 targets) is a fair expectation for Beckham. He has a high floor and a high ceiling in this spot.
With Evan Engram returning, Sterling Shepard should see a dent in percentage of team targets — but with the Giants likely to throw the ball plenty this week, he should still manage to see around seven looks (a mark he has hit or topped in four of five games this year). He’ll have a solid floor in this spot. He’ll need a big play or a touchdown to reach ceiling. (Note: Engram is now going to miss this game. His five to seven targets should trickle over to OBJ, Shepard, and Barkley.)
This offense (25th in yards per game) is incapable of producing big stat lines on three or four players at a time, and Engram should take a backseat to Beckham, Barkley, and Shepard this week, but five to seven targets is a fair expectation. The Eagles play tough tight end defense, having allowed the fourth-fewest receptions to the position this year.
The Giants have wasted seven targets on Russell Shepard the last two weeks. These should bleed backward with Engram on the field again, but perhaps he sees another two or three desperation looks.
GIANTS RUN OFFENSE
Philly has been one of the toughest teams to run on once again this year, and the Giants have a bottom-three run blocking unit. This poor blocking has not stopped Saquon Barkley from piling up big fantasy numbers to begin the year, but he has needed touchdowns in four of five games to get there, and this is his toughest test yet. He has topped 48 rushing yards in only one of his last four games, and he’ll need a big day through the air (or a big day in the scoring department) to truly pay off his salary. Barkley has disappointingly seen six or fewer targets in three of five games this year (with eight and 16 targets in his other two). This sets up as something like a seven to nine target game, so he’ll have opportunities for big plays, but he’ll need to break through an Eagles defense that ranks sixth in red zone touchdown rate in order to keep his early-season streak of strong box scores intact.
Carson Wentz may struggle for scoring upside vs a Giants defense that has limited touchdowns so far to wide receivers and tight ends — but on the Showdown slate, he still warrants attention given his talent and the skills of those around him. Eli Manning will likely rack up yardage through volume, though he’ll have a tough time breaking through for a truly impact score, as he’ll be under siege all night.
Wendell Smallwood and Corey Clement are both interesting on this slate — and both can be considered on the Showdown slate and on the full-weekend slate. It’s a guessing game between the two if playing them separately; but they can be played together like a single high-priced running back, and they should produce roughly at that level. On the other side, Barkley is a bet-on-talent play. He’ll need to bust out one of his classic long plays in order to really make a price-considered impact in a tough spot. He’s a risk/reward play in tourneys.
The Eagles’ passing attack should go Ertz // Agholor // Jeffrey // RBs. Ertz is the safest, highest-upside play, while Agholor carries decent floor with talent-driven ceiling, and Jeffrey has floor concerns but talent-driven upside. On the Giants’ side, I would feel most comfortable backing Odell Beckham, with Shepard and then Engram following behind him in the pass game.
The Giants’ defense is not particularly interesting to me, but the Eagles should be able to pick up several sacks and at least one turnover against Eli Manning.
As is typically the case: both kickers can be considered on the showdown slate as well — with extra opportunities likely to flow their way this week, given the strong red zone defense each team boasts.