The “pathetic Redskins” have a more adequate defense than anyone seems to give them credit for, ranking 19th in DVOA, 18th in yards allowed per game, 21st in points allowed per game, and 18th in opponent red zone touchdown rate. And this could be a bit of a problem for the banged-up-beyond-belief Eagles, who have now lost Alshon Jeffery for the season — leaving them impossibly thin at wide receiver. The loss of Lane Johnson won’t make it any easier for the Eagles to get their stagnant run game going, and the Eagles’ Vegas-implied total of 22.25 tells the same story as the research this week :: Philly has a fairly concentrated distribution of touches right now and has some quality offensive players, which opens paths to production; but blowup games are not “likely,” and this doesn’t stand out on paper as one of the top offenses to target. On the other side of the ball, Washington (with a Vegas-implied total of only 17.75 — the second lowest mark on the slate) will take on a Philly defense that, as we know, is easier to attack through the air than on the ground; and yet, we also know that the Redskins are not going to move away from their “run first, short pass second” approach on offense unless they fall so far behind that they are forced to change tactics (and even then, this team has shown a willingness to simply kill off games they are losing rather than trying to get too aggressive in a comeback bid).
With Derrius Guice out for the rest of the season, touches on the Redskins will be primarily filtered through Adrian Peterson, Chris Thompson, and Terry McLaurin. Peterson saw 20 carries last week with Guice going down early, and he saw carry counts of 23 // 20 // 14 // 18 (with a negligible five catches mixed in during that stretch) in his last four games before Guice returned to the field. Philly ranks eighth in DVOA against the run and is allowing only 3.62 yards per carry to running backs on the season, leaving Peterson as a “bet on volume” yardage-and-touchdown back. Philly is middling against pass catching running backs, while Thompson saw eight targets last week (his sixth time in seven healthy games with five or more looks through the air), making him a usage-driven floor play with some paths to upside. Thompson should see increased usage if the Eagles jump out to a big lead, and could be considered a correlation piece to Philly pass catchers. McLaurin is a faith-based play, with the talent to bust through in a good matchup, but with Washington’s poor quarterback play and conservative mindset holding him back over the last couple months. It’s worth noting that McLaurin is a legitimately good NFL receiver, and he would be an elite piece in this spot if he were working in a better situation; so while the situation keeps the floor low, the ceiling does remain.
The Eagles offense is “the Eagles offense” in name only at the moment, with this team ranked middle of the pack in yards per game, points per game, and DVOA, while having posted recent scoring totals of 20 // 10 // 31 // 22 // 10 // 9 // 31 // 23. Since losing Jordan Howard, this offense has morphed into a pass-heavy unit, with Carson Wentz throwing the ball 40 // 45 // 46 // 50 times in his last four games.
If Howard plays in this game, he will take over the early-down role in this offense, while Miles Sanders will change the pace and gather work in the pass game. The Eagles will also likely become a more run-centric team once again. If Howard misses another game, however, the Eagles are likeliest to tilt toward the pass once again — opening volume-based bets on this concentrated, banged-up offense across the board.
The biggest “eye level adjustment” in this regard after last week, then, is the emergence of Boston Scott (which now marks two running backs — Jonathan Williams being the other — who we loved last year on the Saints before they got cut, and who have shown up with strong performances for different teams this year). Scott played 38 snaps last week to 50 for Miles Sanders and handled 16 highly effective touches (10 carries, six receptions; 128 total yards and a touchdown) while Sanders disappointed once again on his 19 looks. This is likely to remain a split backfield if Howard misses, with Scott having a good shot at another 12+ touches this week.
Through the air, Nelson Agholor will be a clear candidate for double digit targets if he’s healthy enough to play (Agholor has 32 targets in the three games he has played this year with Jeffery fully or mostly missing), while Greg Ward (another nine targets last week with Alshon going down) will likely lead the wideouts in targets if Agholor is out. Ertz has double-digit targets in four of his last five games (with the only exception being a hobbled game vs Miami), and he has gone for 90+ yards in each of those four games, with four touchdowns in that stretch. He’ll be the alpha in this spot regardless of which wideouts are healthy. Dallas Goedert has recent target counts of 6 // 8 // 7 // 6 and can be viewed as a “possession-type WR2” in this offense on that general level of looks. Joshua Perkins also stepped up out of nowhere last week to see five targets on 29 snaps, and he has a clear shot at getting involved once again as a fourth or fifth option in the pass game this week.
JM’s Interpretation ::
This “game” is not likely to be a heavy focus for me (I’ll likely leave the Washington side alone altogether, and the Eagles will be more about “betting on concentrated volume” than “expecting big things to happen for this offense”), but depending on how things look for me on Thursday after research is finished and I can see the slate and all that it offers more clearly, the volume bets on Philly could look fairly attractive.
Ertz is in play no matter who is healthy, as he has a clear shot at double-digit looks in a matchup he can win against Landon Collins. If Howard returns, I’ll still have interest in Goedert and Greg Ward for the volume, though I’ll also be a bit more cautious given the heightened chances of the Eagles returning to a more run-heavy approach. If Howard misses, however, Ward will be a viable low-cost wide receiver option if Agholor misses (and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside — who saw three targets on 79 snaps last week — will be a fringe option as well if Agholor is out), while Agholor will become an interesting “floor with upside” piece if he plays. Perkins is also a deep salary saver if Howard misses (especially if Agholor is out), while Goedert has generally held onto his typical range of expectations regardless of everything else going on around him. Howard being out would also keep Miles Sanders on the fringe of the RB mix, while Boston Scott would become a really interesting player to consider — especially if we get clarity later in the week on his expected role in this spot. None of this is anywhere close to locked-in until we see how injury news shakes out; but depending on how things break, I could end up with a few pieces from this spot in my player pool, as we could have a team set to throw the ball around 40 times with a narrow range of cheap players for that volume to flow through.