GIANTS // 49ERS OVERVIEW
Ten weeks into the season, there is a very real chance we have not yet seen a single Monday Night Football matchup this year between two teams that will both reach the playoffs. Recent Monday Night Football matchups include:
Week 6 :: 49ers (currently 2-7) at the Packers
Week 7 :: Giants (currently 1-7) at the Falcons
Week 8 :: Bills (currently 2-7) hosting the Patriots
Week 9 :: Cowboys (currently 3-5) hosting the Titans
Between the truly embarrassing Monday Night Football booth (I now watch these games on mute, when I watch them at all) and the horrible slate of matchups, it’s tough to get excited right now about the game that extends the weekend. This week, it’s the Giants and 49ers, who have combined for a 3-14 record.
This game has been installed with an early-week Over/Under of 44.0, with the 49ers as three point home favorites. Without fantasy and DFS viewership, this game would draw almost no attention outside of whatever diehards remain from these two fan bases. From a “DFS viewership” perspective, this game does give us some explosive weapons to play around with, creating an interesting setup on the final Showdown slate of the week.
GIANTS PASS OFFENSE
The 49ers have been an attackable unit through the air this year — with a middling yards allowed per pass attempt of 7.3, but with 18 passing touchdowns allowed (fourth most in the league), and with only two interceptions. As fortune would have it, there are only two teams in football that have allowed a higher YAC/R rate than the 49ers this year — a great setup for a player in Odell Beckham who we roster primarily for his volume-based workload and his YAC-driven upside.
Beckham, of course, is the starting point for this passing attack, as he has at least nine targets in every game this year — and he has actually seen double-digit looks in all but one game. With only three touchdowns on the year, in a passing attack that is so broken that OBJ has three games already of 60 or fewer yards, there are slim “floor” concerns to consider; but in each of the five games in which Beckham has topped 60 receiving yards, he has topped it hard — going for 109 or more yards in each of those games. OBJ will undoubtedly be popular on this one-game slate, but for good reason, as Saquon Barkley is the only player who boasts more upside on this slate.
Behind Beckham, Sterling Shepard has continued to see heavy involvement, with only one game all year (Week 2 at Dallas) below seven targets. (Shepard also has only one game north of eight targets.) Like his more heralded teammate, Shepard has disappointed a few times (four games of 48 or fewer yards; only two touchdowns on the year), but he has made up for this with four games of 75+ yards, including a 167-yard explosion against Atlanta a few weeks back.
While we never know how effective Eli Manning will be on a given week, we have noted in this space in the past that he has notched the highest completion rate of his career this season, and now he has also passed for 300+ yards in three of his last four games. Most of this yardage has come from yards after the catch, but the DFS impact is the same. This is especially noteworthy given the fact that the Giants’ target distribution is so narrow — helping to eliminate questions of where these yards will come from. There has been only one game this year in which another wide receiver on this team topped four targets.
The one potential wrench to volume for OBJ and Shepard is Evan Engram, who has seen target totals of 5 // 7 // 4 // 9 in the games he has started and finished. The 49ers are non-threatening against tight ends, which creates opportunity for targets to be there this week, and for Engram to be considered on the Showdown.
GIANTS RUN OFFENSE
Joining Beckham in the “extreme upside” department is Saquon, who has not yet topped 18 carries this season (while falling to top even 15 carries in any of his last five games), but who has made up for this with target counts in this stretch of 8 // 4 // 12 // 10 // 10. He is a legitimate threat to score any time he touches the ball, and his seven touchdowns are only one fewer than Eli Manning has through the air (with two of Eli’s eight scores going to Saquon). Matchup has not mattered for Saquon this year, but San Fran has allowed a middling 4.03 yards per carry to running backs while ranking middle of the pack in yards allowed to the position. They have allowed the fifth most catches and the 11th most receiving yards to running backs, and only six teams have allowed more touchdowns.
49ERS PASS OFFENSE
With the Giants constantly playing from behind, they have faced the eighth lowest opponent pass play rate and the ninth fewest pass attempts, which has helped them to allow the fourth fewest passing touchdowns in the league. With only four interceptions all year (fifth fewest in the NFL), only 10 sacks on the season (second fewest in the NFL), and a middling yards allowed per pass attempt mark, this shouldn’t scare us away from Nick Mullens and the 49ers’ passing attack on the Showdown. Of bigger concern is the fact that San Francisco — even without a lead — is leaning extremely run-heavy, with the sixth lowest pass play rate in the league this year (55.04%), and with an even lower mark across their last three games (50.29%). Across their last four games, San Francisco has not topped even 28 pass attempts. As a home favorite against a bad Giants team, this sets up as another spot in which the 49ers will be able to lean on the run.
Target counts during this low-volume stretch have looked like this:
Outside of the Week 6 game in which Goodwin hit for a pair of long plays and went 4-126-2, no wide receiver on the 49ers has topped 71 yards. A bet on any wide receiver on the 49ers is a bet on either a broken play or a touchdown. From a “touchdown” perspective — Garcon and Goodwin each have three red zone targets, while Bourne has six, though Bourne played only 12 snaps last week, to 11 for Dante Pettis and 23 for Richie James. This is a difficult wide receiver group in which to hunt for upside, even on the Showdown.
Of course, the big piece of this passing attack has been Kittle, who has put on some monster YAC clinics this season on his way to bounce-around yardage totals of 90 // 22 // 79 // 125 // 83 // 30 // 98 // 57 // 108. Because Kittle’s upside requires him to break off a long play, those low-yardage games will be an occupational hazard of targeting him in DFS — but he stands out as the most attractive pass-catching option on this side of the ball, and it won’t be unexpected for him to outscore everyone on the Giants except Saquon and OBJ.
49ERS RUN OFFENSE
With Raheem Mostert disappointingly disappearing to I.R., this backfield is once again down to Matt Breida and Alfred Morris. Breida has played through an ankle injury that has slowed down his torrid early-season pace, and he has discouragingly seen only two targets across his last five games. Alf has one target and zero catches across his last four contests, and he has yet to top 67 rushing yards in a game this season. Both players need to be viewed as yardage-and-touchdown backs at the moment, in a matchup against a Giants team that has allowed a middling 731 rushing yards to running backs at 4.15 yards per carry. The Giants have allowed 11 touchdowns to backs (rushing and receiving combined), providing some hope for these two backs who have combined for only four touchdowns on the year.
Frankly, OBJ and Saquon are in the tourney discussion in any matchup, on any slate — causing them to especially stand out on the Showdown. Along with that seemingly emphatic endorsement comes the obvious disclaimer that — while each guy is always in the conversation for “most upside on the slate” — floor is lower in a dysfunctional offense than it would be in a good offense, as strange things will happen from time to time on bad offenses to hijack player box scores.
Behind these two, Shepard and Engram are both worth considering, with Eli as a Showdown Special — a guy who we would probably not even look at on the full-weekend slate, but who could pile up 300 yards and a couple touchdowns to make a dent in the Showdown.
On the 49ers’ side, Kittle is the top play, with no one else on this team who has produced anything resembling usable stat lines outside of rare, unpredictable outlier scenarios. Mullens will obviously be a fun play to target on the Showdown, but be aware of the low volume this passing attack has produced recently. Breida and Alf round out this offense, and I would probably lean toward both Shepard and Engram over them.
It will not be surprising if one of the kickers in this game finishes among the five highest-scoring players on the Showdown slate.
Neither defense is likely to post a difference-making score — though in a game like this (where floor/ceiling plays evaporate quickly behind Saquon and OBJ), layering in some multi-entry shots on one of these defenses is not a poor idea.