GIANTS // REDSKINS OVERVIEW
The attention in the NFC East has shifted hard away from the Redskins, with all eyes now on the Eagles // Cowboys game taking place later in the day. Washington is still 6-6 — but much like the Bengals in the AFC, it has felt for weeks like the Redskins’ season is over. An injury to number two quarterback Colt McCoy enhances this feeling.
Neither of these teams has been good on offense this year. Both rank in the bottom half of the league in drive success rate, yards per game, points per game, and red zone touchdown percentage. Each team is unable to attack downfield in the passing game, and neither team has a quarterback who can engineer quick, fluid drives. This game should be slow-moving, with the Giants’ playmakers the only hope for this game to turn into something intriguing. Giants // Redskins carries an early-week Over/Under of only 41.0, with the Giants installed as 3.5 point favorites.
GIANTS PASS OFFENSE
Washington’s pass defense has been weak against wide receivers this year — particularly struggling since Quinton Dunbar began dealing with injuries (missing some games and playing hurt in others). The Redskins have compensated somewhat by having Josh Norman travel with top receivers from time to time, but he still plays his side over 70% of the time — and he has always been more notable for his well-timed aggressiveness than for his sticky coverage and shutdown ability. Since Odell Beckham went 8-136-0 vs the Redskins in Week 8, this secondary has allowed :: Julio Jones to go 7-121-1 // Chris Godwin to go 7-103-0 // Amari Cooper to go 8-180-2 // Golden Tate to go 7-85-1. These four receivers have combined to catch 29 of 33 targets (87.9%). (Mixed in there was a low-volume pass game from the Texans, in which DeAndre Hopkins went only 5-56-1, but saw only six targets.)
Playing to the Giants’ favor is the style of the Redskins’ defense, which has forced the third shallowest average depth of target in the league, but has allowed an above-average catch rate and the third worst YAC per reception rate in the NFL. Washington has allowed the eighth most receptions to wide receivers, the 10th most touchdowns, and the third most yards.
Working against the Giants is Eli Manning, who has attempted only 12 total passes in his last four games that have traveled 20+ yards downfield. Eli has completed only four of these passes, with one interception.
The focal point of this passing attack has been Beckham, who trails only Julio in percentage share of team air yards. In spite of his recent lackluster stat lines (four straight games of 85 or fewer yards), OBJ has seen recent target counts of 11 // 11 // 11 // 4 // 9 // 9. He has nine or more targets in all but one game this year, and he should see similar usage in this spot. Beckham’s floor is being lowered by his attachment to Eli, but his ceiling is supported by his role and by his explosive after-catch ability. Betting on YAC introduces some variance, as it essentially requires a broken play in order to really pay off — but betting on YAC along with a big guaranteed workload is never a poor idea.
Behind Beckham (and Barkley), this offense has been unable to support any ancillary options, with Sterling Shepard failing to top even 40 yards in five straight games, and with the tight end position rarely yielding upside. A bet on Shepard is a bet on a broken play or an unexpected spike in usage. A bet on the tight end is a bet on four to seven targets in a middling matchup. There are definitely worse plays than Evan Engram or Rhett Ellison, but either guy would need a touchdown in order to prove worthwhile as the third or fourth option in this passing attack most plays.
GIANTS RUN OFFENSE
Washington continues to play non-elite, but slightly above-average run defense this year, allowing 4.37 yards per carry to running backs while allowing the ninth most receptions and the 14th most receiving yards to the position. Ultimately, this is about as middle-of-the-road as a matchup can get, which opens the door for a strong game from a player in Saquon Barkley who has recent touch counts of 22 // 24 // 29 // 20 // 27. In spite of being held back by an offense that ranks bottom 10 in touchdowns and an offensive line that ranks bottom 10 in adjusted line yards, Barkley has 12 touchdowns on the season and has gone for 140 or more all-purpose yards in three consecutive games. His floor is theoretically lowered by the bad offense he is attached to, but 12 games into the season this has only shown up in the box score once (in Week 10 against San Francisco). That game (20-67-0 on the ground, 4-33-0 through the air) should be held in consideration — but Saquon’s ceiling is unaffected, and his chances of reaching his ceiling in this spot are higher than his chances of falling to his floor.
REDSKINS PASS OFFENSE
The Giants’ pass defense has been one of the most middling units in the league — ranking 17th in yards allowed per pass attempt, while neither raising nor lowering expectations on any position through the air. As noted throughout the last month: this team is good in the red zone (eighth lowest opponent red zone touchdown rate // third fewest passing touchdowns allowed), but they are otherwise perfectly attackable. Any difficulties in the pass game for Washington are less likely to arise from the Giants than they are to arise from within. The Redskins are down to third-string signal-caller Mark Sanchez, who barely belongs on an NFL sideline, let alone on an NFL field. The last time Sanchez saw any significant time was in 2015 with the Eagles, when he notched only 6.77 yards per pass attempt across three games. In relief of Colt McCoy on Monday night, Sanchez managed only 100 yards on 21 pass attempts — looking visibly terrified of attacking downfield, and settling for short passes and checkdowns at a rate that would make even Alex Smith embarrassed. Sanchez will need a shift in play style to support any viable pass catchers moving forward (in an offense that has not produced viable pass catchers all year).
If you are set on going here: Jamison Crowder saw four targets (4-36-0) in his first game since Week 5 and is likely to become one of Sanchez’ favorite targets, given his underneath role in this offense. Jordan Reed saw his “upside” looks disappear once Sanchez took the field last week, gaining only 21 yards on four receptions, but he should find himself in the five to eight target range if the Redskins are forced to pass the ball this week. Josh Doctson or Vernon Davis would need a big play or a multi-touchdown game in order to become viable on the Main Slate.
REDSKINS RUN OFFENSE
Washington is going to continue trying to win games on the ground — and while the matchup is middling against a Giants run defense that has allowed 4.38 yards per carry and the sixth most running back touchdowns in the NFL, there will be concern moving forward that Adrian Peterson will face primarily eight-man boxes with Sanchez under center. Peterson’s lack of pass game involvement (and poor pass protection) further telegraphs to defenses that Washington is likely to run when he is on the field — and the Giants will surely feel comfortable betting on their ability to stop Sanchez with one-on-one coverage throughout most of this game in order to ensure the Redskins’ ageless back does not beat them. Peterson profiles as a yardage-and-touchdown back who may struggle for per-play efficiency. He’ll likely need one of his long touchdown runs in order to achieve relevance on this slate.
If New York takes a big lead in this one, Chris Thompson (five targets last week) could see a spike to six to eight targets, giving him an outside chance at hitting — though there are obviously far less speculative plays on the slate.
The Giants’ offense is inherently risky — but this team does boast two elite players (OBJ and Saquon) who see elite usage, and who are able to make things happen on their own. Each of these guys stands out to me this week for upside, and while the price-considered floor is a bit iffy in this offense, the usage, talent, and middling-at-worst matchup make it likely that each guy blows past his floor. I’m less likely to pay up for OBJ, simply because explosive, multi-use backs are so much more consistently valuable than wide receivers, but each guy will definitely be in consideration for me this week.
On a 13-game slate, the only real justification for picking and choosing pieces on a Mark Sanchez offense (an offense that was not even viable with Alex Smith under center) would be something like this :: “It’s the NFL, crazy things can happen, and no one will be looking here.” These are all bad plays on paper, but perhaps one out of every 10 games in this spot, a player on Washington would post a big enough score to be useful on this Main Slate. There is no telling who that player might be.