EAGLES // REDSKINS OVERVIEW
The Eagles have remained alive in the playoff hunt with back-to-back wins over the Rams and the Texans with Nick Foles under center — an awesome accomplishment, but perhaps an instance of “too little too late,” as this team still needs the Bears to knock off the Vikings in Minneapolis in order to return to the dance. The Eagles also have to take care of business themselves — though barring a complete meltdown, they should be able to do their part against a Washington Redskins team that has been sinking for weeks. As with many of the games on this slate, we have a low Over/Under in this spot (42.0). Philly has been installed as healthy 6.5 point favorites on the road.
EAGLES PASS OFFENSE
Washington’s pass defense ranks 23rd in yards allowed per pass attempt, but it is important to pay attention to how this team has arrived at this point, as there are only two teams in football forcing a shallower average depth of target than Washington, and this team ranks middle of the pack in catch rate allowed. The big issue for this defense has been yards after the catch, where they are allowing a 17.4% boost on the league-average rate — the second worst mark in the league.
Since Foles took over for the Eagles, they have hammered the short areas of the field, with 63 of Foles’ 80 passes across the last two weeks traveling 12 or fewer yards downfield — and with a stunning 44 of these passes coming within five yards of the line of scrimmage (including 12 behind the line of scrimmage). Zach Ertz saw 16 targets last week, and 10 of them came within five yards of the line of scrimmage. Nelson Agholor (target counts of 2 // 7 with Foles), Alshon Jeffery (target counts of 8 // 5), and Golden Tate (target counts of 5 // 3) are also being used heavily on short-area routes, with just a few downfield shots mixed in each game.
Washington has struggled against wide receivers during the second half of the season, allowing the seventh most yards and the fourth most touchdowns to the position since the start of Week 9, while especially struggling to contain after-catch production on short-area throws, with only one team in football allowing more yards on short passes to wide receivers than the Redskins have allowed in this stretch. This sets up well for all three of Agholor, Tate, and Jeffrey, with the spread-out volume on this attack creating the biggest cause for concern.
The Redskins have been much tougher on tight ends in this stretch, with the eighth fewest receptions allowed to the position, though Ertz functions enough like a wide receiver in this offense that this should not create much cause for concern.
Volume will be the best path for any of these pass catchers to succeed, as two of the three best games to come from this offense across the last two weeks (Alshon’s 8-160-0 line in Week 15 // Agholor’s 5-116-1 line last week) came from Foles connecting on a deep shot — which is the one area where Washington has continued to excel. Only four teams have allowed fewer downfield completions than the Redskins throughout the second half of the season, while no team has allowed fewer touchdowns on downfield throws. With this offense spreading the ball around to wideouts, Ertz ultimately becomes the safest, highest-upside play, while Alshon, Agholor, and Tate will need a spike in volume or a high-efficiency game in order to truly come through this week.
EAGLES RUN OFFENSE
The Eagles’ run offense has been difficult to target this year (what else is new?), with this team taking an opponent-specific approach and mixing and matching backs to fit the matchup. Last week was the rare instance in which we were able to pick up some confident tourney exposure to this backfield, with the matchup against Houston (as discussed last week in this space and in the Player Grid) setting up perfectly for a Sproles-heavy game; but this week, it’s Josh Adams who theoretically sets up best, and he is unlikely to be a true focal point for this offense, while his limited role in the pass game (zero catches across his last five games) makes him completely yardage-and-touchdown dependent. Adams has been used primarily on first downs this year (58.7% of his carries have come on first down) in an effort to set up second-and-manageable, which is beneficial for the Eagles’ offense, but it holds little value for DFS beyond hoping for a couple long runs or a touchdown. Behind Adams, Wendell Smallwood continues to mix in for some work on the ground (10 carries two weeks ago) and some work through the air (four catches last week), but his role is not concrete enough to be comfortably targeted. Sproles’ 12-touch game (and strong production) last week will surely lead to a small spike in ownership (above the 0.5% rate at which he was rostered last week), but while his effectiveness on these touches may drive the Eagles to lean on him once again, there is nothing in this matchup that points to this as a game in which Sproles should be featured, making this simply a “hope to guess right” spot.
REDSKINS PASS OFFENSE
Since Josh Johnson took over at quarterback for the Redskins, this passing attack has been entirely nonexistent, with yardage totals across the last three weeks of 195 // 151 // 153, and with completion totals of 11 // 16 // 13. It is very much worth noting that these low yardage/completion totals have come with Washington absolutely controlling the clock — averaging 32:00 in time of possession across Johnson’s three starts. (Baltimore leads the NFL in time of possession on the season at 32:03.) Even in losses of 24 points and nine points, Johnson threw the ball only 16 and 23 times, respectively, and barring a completely new and unforeseeable offensive approach, there is really no room for the passing volume on this attack to grow much, as there is not much room for time of possession to grow for Washington, and they have made it clear at this point that they are going to run the ball and close out the season and quietly as they can.
If you feel compelled to roster pass catchers on Washington, target counts with Johnson under center have looked like this:
:: Jamison Crowder — 7 // 4 // 7
:: Josh Doctson — 5 // 2 // 6
:: Michael Floyd — 2 // 3 // 3
:: Maurice Harris — 1 // 2 // DNP
:: Vernon Davis — 4 // 3 // DNP
:: Jeremy Sprinkle — 0 // 3 // 3
:: Chris Thompson — 5 // 2 // 1
Targeting players in this passing attack is simply “hoping to guess right on a miracle,” with all of these guys carrying extremely thin paths to slate-winning scores.
REDSKINS RUN OFFENSE
The general concern against the Eagles is that their defensive alignments tend to force opponents to attack through the air, with this team facing the lowest opponent rush play rate in the NFL once again this year. But from a purely “matchups” perspective, the Eagles have been non-threatening on the ground — ranking 25th in yards allowed per carry. As such, this spot sets up fairly well for a Washington offense that prefers to lean on the run regardless of opponent, with the 10th highest rush play rate on the year (and with the fifth highest rush play rate across the last three weeks). For as long as the Redskins are able to keep this game close, Adrian Peterson will continue to see his touches — giving him a shot at another 18+ carry game. With only 20 catches all season, Peterson is almost fully dependent on yardage and touchdowns for his production (making it notable that the Eagles have allowed the 12th fewest running back rushing touchdowns on the year), but he once again carries some low-floor upside in tourneys this week.
I won’t have much interest in this game, as both backfields are unattractive to me this week — with Peterson relying on yardage and touchdowns in order to pay off, and with Philly dividing the work with no clear leader emerging from the research in this spot — and I also won’t have interest in the Washington passing attack. The one place that makes sense in this spot to me is the Philly passing attack, which has been borderline-dominant across the last two weeks, and which will have a shot to produce once again in this spot. The only pass catcher who really stands out as decent-floor, high-ceiling option is Ertz, with Alshon, Agholor, and (to a lesser extent) Tate all “hope for high efficiency” plays — but with this offense focused on the short areas of the field through the air, and with the Redskins so attackable in this area, there is a chance one of these guys hits again, and there is a strong chance that Foles himself puts up another solid score in Week 17.