GIANTS // EAGLES OVERVIEW
If the Cowboys take down the Redskins on Thanksgiving day, the Eagles will be able to remain in the thick of the lowly NFC East with a win over the Giants, while even the 3-7 Giants can position themselves for a late miracle with a victory in this spot, as a 4-7 record wouldn’t be out of striking distance of a couple 6-5 first place teams (that may sound like a joke, but the Giants — as noted last week — have losses on the year of seven points to the Redskins, three points to the Falcons, two points to the Panthers, seven points to the Cowboys, and five points to the Jags, putting them a couple breaks away from jostling for playoff position). Each team has had a slow year on offense, with Philly quietly ranking 19th in yards per game and 24th in points per game, while the Giants rank 23rd in yards per game and 22nd in points per game. A closer look at those statistics should remind us that reputation has spearheaded the perception of these teams, as they have basically been doppelgängers on offense throughout the year.
On defense, neither team has been great at preventing yardage (the Eagles rank 23rd in yards allowed and the Giants rank 25th), and they both rank bottom 10 in drive success rate allowed — but each team boasts a top eight red zone touchdown defense, which will limit opportunities for this to turn into a true shootout.
The Eagles have been installed as six point favorites in a game with a 46.0 point Over/Under — a fair setup given their edge in the talent department and their home field advantage this week.
GIANTS PASS OFFENSE
One of the more interesting (and overlooked) turn of events in Week 11 was the Giants throwing only 18 passes and handing off to Saquon Barkley 27 times, as the Giants entered that game ranked first in the NFL in pass play rate, and Barkley had topped 15 carries only three times all year.
Another interesting (though more expected) development in Week 11 was the Saints attacking the Eagles on the ground (the second consecutive week in which a Philly opponent had done so, after the Cowboys hammered them for a 19-151-1 line with Zeke) — flipping the script on a team that faced the fewest rush attempts in the NFL last season and has still faced the second fewest in the NFL this year. While the Eagles are returning Timmy Jernigan to the defensive line this week for a much-needed boost, this team is allowing the ninth most yards per carry in the league, so we can no longer assume that opponents will simply attack them through the air — and after last week, we can no longer assume that the Giants are one of the pass-heaviest offenses in the league. The likeliest setup here has Eli Manning returning above 35 pass attempts (where he has been in seven of 10 games this year), but there is an outside chance the Giants keep him under 30 once again.
When these teams met in Week 6, the Eagles’ front steamrolled Eli for four sacks and kept him uncomfortable all day, pushing him to a season-low 55.8% completion rate, with zero touchdowns and one interception. A huge chunk of Manning’s 281 yards in that game were contributed by an otherworldly YAC performance from Saquon the Great.
The Eagles accomplished this by taking away anything downfield and forcing Manning to throw everything short — with only two completions all game more than eight yards downfield (on 10 such passes in all). As the Eagles showed against the Saints on Sunday afternoon when they went overboard to limit Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara through the air, this team is not averse to scheming away an opponent’s top weapon and forcing that team to beat them in another way. In Week 6, Philly allowed Odell Beckham to see only four targets more than four yards downfield (he caught one of these and was tackled immediately — totaling 11 yards on these looks), while forcing another four throws to come within one line of the yard of scrimmage. Beckham has a major talent edge on this banged-up secondary and last week was the first time all year he had not seen nine or more targets, so there is definitely upside for him to hit — but we should be aware of the schematic tendencies of the Eagles, and of what they will try to do with OBJ this week.
In the six games that Evan Engram has started and finished, Sterling Shepard has topped 48 yards only once, and he has not yet topped five catches with Engram out there. Outside of the Week 7 game against the Falcons in which the Giants uncharacteristically sent Shepard on a number of downfield routes, he has primarily occupied a short-yardage role — leaving him as a “hope for a broken play or a touchdown” option.
If we throw out the Giants’ low-volume game from last week, Engram has seen target counts in his healthy games of 5 // 7 // 4 // 9 // 5, which is about as good as it gets at the tight end position outside of the highest-priced guys. Forcing expectations to take a step back is a matchup against an Eagles team that has allowed the second fewest catches and the sixth fewest yards to the position, with coverage keyed by superstar safety Malcolm Jenkins.
GIANTS RUN OFFENSE
With the Eagles shutting down Beckham last time around (6-44-0) and limiting Shepard to three catches for 37 yards on seven targets, Eli was forced to lean on Saquon through the air, and he ended up feeding him 12 targets (his second most on the season — and one of four games on the year for Saquon with double-digit looks), which he turned into nine catches for 99 yards with a signature performance. Saquon also added 13-130-1 on the ground, putting together what had been, by far, his best fantasy performance on the year before last week’s similar production explosion against the Bucs. As noted above, the Eagles have been below-average on the ground. They have also allowed the sixth most receptions and the sixth most receiving yards to running backs. No matter how the Giants lean in their play-calling this week, Saquon will be heavily involved. The likeliest scenario has him seeing around 15 to 17 carries with eight or more targets mixed in.
EAGLES PASS OFFENSE
With the Giants failing to get any pass rush (31st in sacks this year), they have been totally average against the pass between the 20s, ranking 16th in yards allowed per pass attempt, while allowing the 11th most passing yards per game. But this Giants defense has been awesome in the red zone, and only three teams have allowed fewer passing touchdowns on the year. The only quarterback to top two touchdown passes against this team was Carson Wentz in Week 6, while Matt Ryan, Drew Brees, and Cam Newton have combined for three total touchdown passes in this matchup.
Entering last week’s off-the-rails performance against the Saints (156 yards, no touchdowns, three interceptions), Wentz had thrown for 278 or more yards in five straight games, with two or more touchdowns in every one of those games. A big part of Wentz’ discomfort last week seemed to be his inability to connect with favorite target Ertz against the Saints’ spectacular tight end coverage. Against a Giants team that is non-threatening against tight ends (12th most catches allowed // 12th most yards allowed), he should be able to bounce back in the yardage department, which will leave the red zone as the big question mark in this spot.
Zach Ertz saw three targets last week and six targets against the Jaguars in Week 8, but otherwise he has seen nine or more targets in every game this year. The Giants have, unsurprisingly, been awesome in the red zone against tight ends, allowing only one touchdown all season, but Ertz’ 17 red zone targets (sixth most in the NFL) and his heavy usage will still give him plenty of room to matter.
The Giants have been tough on wide receivers, allowing the sixth fewest wide receiver touchdowns while ranking middle of the pack in yards and receptions allowed. Perhaps an even bigger issue than the matchup is the spread-the-wealth nature of this passing attack behind Ertz. Since Golden Tate arrived from the Lions, he has seen target counts of four and eight; Alshon Jeffery has seen target counts of eight and five; Nelson Agholor has seen target counts of seven and two; Jordan Matthews has seen target counts of three and four; and the three-man running back committee has gotten involved with target counts of six and eight. Alshon is the only full-time player in this group right now, with Matthews playing 14 of 51 snaps last week, Tate playing 36, and Agholor playing 44. There has been talk this week that Tate has had a tough time picking up the offense, creating upside concerns in this spot. Alshon, meanwhile (as noted last week), has only topped 100 yards only once in an Eagles uniform, making him a touchdown-reliant play in one of the toughest wide receiver touchdown matchups in the league.
EAGLES RUN OFFENSE
Similar to the matchup for Wentz and the Eagles’ passing attack: the Giants rank middle of the pack in yards allowed per carry.
Unlike the matchup for Wentz and the Eagles’ passing attack: the Giants have allowed the fourth most running back touchdowns in the league.
All three of Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood, and Josh Adams saw time on the field last week for the Eagles, but Adams finally led the group by a substantial margin, playing 28 snaps, compared to 14 for Clement and four for Smallwood. In a game in which the Eagles fell behind immediately and were playing catch-up all afternoon, Adams saw only seven carries (to three combined for Clement and Smallwood), but his six targets were four more than Clement, and he ran 16 pass routes to six for Clement, while standing out in pass protection along the way.
All season we have been preaching in this space that the Eagles are unpredictable and opponent-specific in their backfield deployment — but with the 4-6 defending Super Bowl champions getting nothing out of Clement and Smallwood, and with Adams looking like a difference-maker for this squad, we should expect him to see at least 50% of the snaps, with upside for another game of 60% or more. The Eagles rank 25th in rush play rate, 24th in rush attempts, and 19th in adjusted line yards, so expectations should be capped at around 12 carries and three to five targets — but there is upside for this work to grow, and Adams has a clear shot at a touchdown in this game.
I am expecting something of a bounce-back performance from the Eagles’ defense this week — not enough for them to stifle the Giants, but enough to make me concerned about Beckham at his price. While the upside is there given the talent gap between him and the Eagles’ secondary, it is not as if the Eagles had a big edge in this matchup the last time around, when they held Beckham to a 6-44-0 day. If Jim Schwartz goes out of his way again this week to make sure Beckham doesn’t beat them, his floor will be scary low for the price.
I haven’t rostered Shepard on a Main Build since Engram returned to the field, and that probably won’t change for me this week. He’s a fine play, but not a standout play, and there are other guys priced around him with a better chance of reaching upside.
As for Engram: he has a shot at posting a respectable line, but the matchup is difficult against Jenkins, and I’ll likely prefer to either pay all the way down or all the way up this week.
Saquon’s DraftKings price (18.2% of the salary cap) will probably be a bit difficult for me to settle down with, given his attachment to the 10th lowest scoring offense in the NFL, in a matchup against a top eight red zone defense that has also allowed the 12th fewest points per game even after last week’s 48-point debacle. The Eagles have allowed only seven total touchdowns to running backs (a far cry from the league-most 17 that last week’s opponent the Bucs have allowed) — all of which creates a strong case that Saquon will land in his standard range from the year, rather than in his outlier range from Weeks 11 and 6. His Week 6 blowup against the Eagles was the result of a few monster plays with piles of missed tackles that are not guaranteed to repeat. On DraftKings and FantasyDraft, I’ll be considering him extremely safe, but overpriced, with an expectation of around 20 to 26 points. On FanDuel (15.0% of the cap), it’s a different story, as it’s so easy to get to him, and his role in this offense gives him the highest floor on the slate.
I mentioned Ertz a few times earlier in this article, but after digging into this game, his low touchdown upside in this spot may scare me off him a bit. Of course: outside of the low touchdown upside, the matchup is nonthreatening, and the usage should be there once again. He’s a strong play, but not a priority play. I’m guessing Kittle will pop off the page a bit more at the higher end of the price range.
The wide receivers on the Eagles are “guess on touchdown” plays in a poor matchup for touchdowns. It is likely that one or two usable scores sneak out of this spot, but a big score is unlikely, which will almost certainly send me to “likelier to hit” spots as I build my roster.
Wentz is always in play, given how good he is when he is on, but this is not a great matchup for quarterback production. He’ll have to beat the Giants’ stellar red zone pass defense in order to rise to the top of the slate.
The most exciting play on this side of the ball is Adams, who joins Elijah McGuire as a “cheap guy with sneaky upside who can unlock other high-priced plays on your roster.” Adams’ role is technically less guaranteed than McGuire’s, but all signs point to him getting 13 to 16 touches (a higher projection than McGuire carries), with a solid shot at a touchdown.