- Pederson’s Eagles beat Rivera’s Panthers by 5 in 2017 and lost by 4 in 2018, their only two matchups against each other
- Pederson is 4-0 in season openers with an average margin of victory of 10.75 pts, while Rivera is 4-5 in season openers with 7/9 games ending within a one-possession margin
- Carson Wentz has won his last 5 games vs WAS, with 28 being the least amount of points the Eagles have scored
- Only two teams allowed more passing TDs in 2019 than WAS
- After being sacked 14 times in his first 4 matchups vs WAS, Wentz has been sacked just 3 times in the last 3 matchups
- PHI has already lost two starting offensive linemen for the season: LT Andre Dillard & G Brandon Brooks
- WAS’s D finished 10th in sacks in 2019 and has now added the best pass rushing prospect in PFF’s history to help make up Brandon Thorn’s #4 ranked defensive line
- Only two teams allowed more DK pts to RBs in 2019 than WAS, with the 2nd most RB rushing yards allowed and 5th most RB receiving yards allowed
- Miles Sanders usage averages in first 9 games vs last 7 games (excluding W17 early exit): 38% snaps // 8.4 attempts // 3 targets vs. 77% snaps // 14.8 attempts // 5 targets
- In 2019, WAS allowed the 4th most DK pts/g to TEs on the 7th most TE rec allowed
- In his first 9 games pre-BYE, Ertz had just 2 games of double-digit targets, and in his 6 games post-BYE as PHI injuries piled up, he had 4 games of double-digit targets
- In his first 8 games pre-BYE, Goedert averaged 4 targets/g, and in his 8 games post-BYE as PHI injuries piled up, he averaged 7.9 targets/g
- Returning to the lineup to take up some usage is Desean Jackson, who played on just 14 snaps after 2019 Week 1 (in which he received 9 targets)
- Only BAL & NOR faced fewer rush attempts in 2019 than PHI, but PHI ranked 9th in RB targets faced
- Thompson & Guice are both gone, Peterson and Barber’s best 2019 receiving game between them was 3 rec for 25 yds, and so it appears that WAS’s best receiving threat out of the backfield is rookie hybrid Antonio Gibson, who finished with 38 rec at Memphis last year
- In the 7 games Haskins started from Week 9 to Week 16, Terry McLaurin ranked 16th in market share of air yards, but just 34th in PPR pts
- However, if you split between Haskins’ first 4 starts and his last 3 (as he got more comfortable and the pass defenses got easier), McLaurin averaged 8.2 DK pts and then 19.4 DK pts
- 2019 PHI allowed the 4th-most WR DK pts/g, so they added Nickell-Robey Coleman (for the slot) and Darius Slay; while an elite shadow corner himself, he did reside on a DET D that actually gave up the 2nd-most WR DK pts/g in 2019
- In McLaurin’s first matchup against Slay, he finished with 72 yards on 5 catches (12 targets), making up nearly half of Haskins’ 156 passing yds on the day
How Washington Will Try to Win ::
Before we dive in here, we should first note that the non-name-change and the fake-culture-change in Washington were not the only changes that occurred this offseason, as this team also made the very real and tangible change of getting rid of Jay Gruden as the head coach — replacing him with Ron Rivera. And unlike Gruden (who was unbelievably willing to “play to not lose” instead of playing to win), Rivera will very much be in the business of aggressively looking for ways to win each game he’s in.
So if you’re Ron Rivera and offensive coordinator Scott Turner, here’s what you’re working with in trying to win this game ::
On the defensive side of the ball, you have a good defensive line, decent linebackers, and a suspect secondary. The Eagles have DeSean Jackson deep, and they have Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, and Miles Sanders underneath. But again: unlike Gruden, Rivera won’t be sitting back and hoping to bleed this game out in the hopes that the final score doesn’t look too bad (or that a few breaks come his way and he ends up with a win). Rivera will be trying set the tone for his team — which could mean a bit of aggressiveness from this Washington defense as they look to make things happen.
On offense, Scott Turner will want to get the ball into the hands of Terry McLaurin and Antonio Gibson (Turner likes to utilize speed — not only on the field, but also in terms of pace, where his Carolina offense last year ranked first in pace of play). And while it’s easy to go overboard with projections, a breakdown of available plays and targets begins to bring things into focus here ::
Even if Washington runs only 60 plays (Carolina ran 67.3 plays per game last year…though Carolina also had this guy named Christian McCaffrey), it’s difficult to see them giving more than 12 to 14 dead touches to Peyton Barber (especially against this Philly defense that — as we know — annually faces among the fewest running back carries in the league), and Bryce Love is going to be eased into the backfield behind him. Even adding in some sacks and Haskins throwaways (or throws so bad they may as well be throwaways), we still end up with a conservative projection of 30 remaining offensive plays — with the following players left to soak up these looks: McLaurin // Gibson || Steven Sims // Dontrelle Inman // Logan Thomas. We saw last year that Turner was very willing to lean heavily on his top players in CMC and D.J. Moore. Seven to nine targets for McLaurin and a genuine eight to 12 touches for Gibson would not be unexpected — and each player has potential for more work than that as Washington looks for ways to establish their new identity while avoiding the stout run defense of the Eagles and attacking through the air.
How Philadelphia Will Try To Win ::
We’ll start on the defensive side of the ball for Philly, where Jim Schwartz is likely to try to force Dwayne Haskins to make mistakes by throwing things at him that he isn’t used to seeing, and that he may not be expecting. The name of the game here will likely be forcing mistakes that can allow the Eagles to play from in front for the majority of this game. (After Washington allowed 4.85 yards per carry to running backs last season — while giving up the second most running back rushing yards in the league — this is a solid recipe for an Eagles win.)
Offensively, the Eagles are hoping to finally be able to shift away from the “horizontal” offense they’ve been forced to run over the last couple years (due to lack of a downfield threat), and to instead start angling these underneath guys downfield a bit in order to add a more explosive component to their identity. Below, I’m including a quick little video that shows what I’m talking about here.
If Philly is able to successfully use Jackson to stretch the defense deep, this could give a little more upside to the underneath/volume guys in Ertz and Goedert, while also giving Sanders more room to work when he has the ball in his hands; though regardless of how effective the Eagles are with this specific plan in the early going, the four names listed so far (D-Jax // Ertz // Goedert // Sanders) should ultimately be “how the Eagles try to win” — leaving only scraps for guys like John Hightower, JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Boston Scott, etc. (Though “scraps” for Scott down the stretch last season was still typically 10 to 12 touches per game — while Sanders was consistently held in the 20 to 25 touch range; just something to think about, given all the Sanders hype this offseason).
Likeliest Game Flow ::
I’ll be surprised if we see Washington show up for this game with a conservative game plan on offense. Ultimately — in spite of the fact that Rivera is actively looking to find ways to win every game he’s in — the most important thing for him to do in his first game with a new team is set the tone. This team will want to appear fearless — and that could very well mean mirroring the pace-up play that Turner and Rivera installed in Carolina last year.
Unfortunately for Washington, Haskins was abysmal last year when facing pressure (his QB rating dropped from 81.8 to 58.9!), while Philly produced pressure at the ninth highest rate in the NFL last year.
In the likeliest version for this game, Haskins hits some splash plays and Washington looks good from time to time; but in the face of the Eagles’ pass rush, enough mistakes are made that this team is not quite able to put together complete drives — leading to Philly gradually pulling away, and to only one or two useful pieces on either side of the ball emerging from this game.
There is a tributary in which Scott Turner could scheme enough successful short-area looks to various pieces to keep Washington in this game, and he could keep Philly off-balance enough to create splash plays with McLaurin and Gibson. In this scenario, we could have a surprise back-and-forth contest in which Philly is having to remain aggressive throughout, and in which this game becomes a bit higher-scoring than most will likely expect.
DFS+ Interpretation ::
This game, unsurprisingly, carries an Over/Under of only 43.0 — with Washington in particular carrying a paltry Vegas-implied team total of only 18.5. If simply shopping Vegas lines, the only player from this game who would stand out at all would be Miles Sanders as a featured running back on a fairly large favorite (6.0 points) — and the more you try to come up with ways in which Haskins will be able to consistently outmaneuver Jim Schwartz and his well-coached, selectively-aggressive defense, the more likely it seems that this game environment will not be conducive to huge fantasy scores.
If building around the tributary above (a setup in which Washington keeps pace, or even holds a lead), I would go ahead and commit to this game fully on a small percentage of rosters — essentially betting on this entire game environment becoming more exciting than most will anticipate. Otherwise: the best way to approach this spot would be to isolate individual plays that you think can post a big enough score to matter on a week like Week 1.
Because Ertz and Goedert (and all of the Washington pieces behind McLaurin and Gibson) typically require volume or touchdowns in order to hit, they end up in a tier below the guys like McLaurin, Gibson, D-Jax, and Sanders for me.
McLaurin should see seven to nine looks, and even if he sees quite a bit of Darius Slay, his quarterback play would concern me more than his matchup, while Gibson has enough electrifying upside (and there are enough available touches in this Washington backfield) that he could be used as an “embrace uncertainty in a hunt for upside” play this week.
I’ll likely wait to use D-Jax in games where I expect Philly to have to continue passing deep throughout the game, but he’s obviously just one play away from a touchdown at all times. And finally: I love Sanders as a player, and I do like this matchup; but I also don’t feel as confident as others that he’ll become a true workhorse this year. On 20 to 23 touches, he would be a solid play — but there are plenty of “solid plays” out there that come with a little more role certainty than Sanders necessarily carries himself.
In all — as a “tighter build” kind of guy — this is a game I’ll likely end up avoiding. But each team has a couple pieces that can at least be strongly considered, even without this game environment necessarily supporting a blowup.