GIANTS // TEXANS OVERVIEW
This game has quiet eruption potential, with a bad Giants pass defense taking on an explosive Texans offense, and with an aggressive Texans defense taking on the speedy Giants offense. There is a reason this game is sitting at an Over/Under of only 42.0 as I write this (and in fact, the Giants’ Vegas-implied total has already been bet down from 19.5 to 18.0), as each team has plenty of question marks and holes. But there are also a few things to like in this spot, and we’ll make sure to focus on those as well.
GIANTS PASS OFFENSE
The Giants opened the season against the best pass defense in the NFL in the Jaguars, and then they took on a Dallas defense that is designed to eliminate exactly what the Giants like to do — playing tight zone close to the line of scrimmage to make teams fight for short yards. This week, the Giants will be facing a weak Houston secondary that ranks 23rd in early-season DVOA against the pass. There was a bit of optimism on this passing attack in some dim corners of the world coming into the season; let’s not put that light out altogether until we’ve given them a couple good matchups.
The Giants have leaned on the pass early in the season, throwing the ball at the third-highest rate in the league; with a bad offensive line taking on a Houston defense that has started the season ranked fifth in yards allowed per carry and third in DVOA against the run, it makes sense for the Giants to stick with that approach — especially as we can expect Houston to put up points on the other side.
So far this season, Odell Beckham has seen 24 of Eli Manning’s 81 pass attempts, good for an awesome 29.6% rate. He’ll have plenty of opportunities in this one to make a dent in this defense, as the Texans will play a lot of tight man coverage that Beckham can beat underneath.
Behind Beckham, Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram have each seen 14.8% of the Giants’ targets (exactly half of what Beckham has seen) — an average of six looks per game, concerning volume from a forward-looking perspective with Eli Manning averaging 40.5 pass attempts per game so far.
After the targets that Saquon Barkley accounts for, there are only scraps remaining for the other pieces. Beyond “hoping for an unpredictable big play or a touchdown,” this passing attack ends at Beckham.
GIANTS RUN OFFENSE
Saquon Barkley has 22 targets of his own, and while this total is skewed by the 16 looks he saw last week against a Cowboys defense that took away all the short passes the Giants like to throw, he is still locked into a major slice of this offense. Through two games, Barkley is averaging 22.5 touches per game, and he should land in that range once again. This game sets up as a ball-out-quick, pass-heavy spot for the Giants, with their poor offensive line taking on the ruthless Houston front, so expect a lot of those touches to come through receptions for Barkley once again. Something like 14 or 15 carries and seven to nine targets is a reasonable expectation here.
TEXANS PASS OFFENSE
In all honesty, Deshaun Watson has not looked sharp just yet. He’s been making mental and physical mistakes, and while this matchup is non-threatening, I will be holding those worries in the back of my mind if my fingers hover over his name while building rosters.
The Giants rank third-best in the NFL right now in yards allowed per pass attempt, though they rank 14th in DVOA. So far, they have faced Blake Bortles and the Cowboys’ no-name pass attack, so we’ll see what they can do against Watson.
The Texans run a fairly straightforward offense, with simple reads and a simple plan most of the time: fire the ball to DeAndre Hopkins or Will Fuller and let them make the catch. The Giants’ corners are beatable (Janoris Jenkins got absolutely embarrassed last week by Tavon Austin on a simple go route), so the matchup doesn’t concern me. This is a neutral spot for Hopkins — which is more than enough for his talent to win out. He has seen exactly 11 targets through each of the first two games of the season.
Will Fuller also has more than enough talent to win in this spot, and his role in this offense looks very secure after he saw nine targets in Week 2 on only 32 Deshaun Watson passes (28.1%). It’s dangerous to overreact to one game, and last year Fuller’s share of the targets was not nearly as hefty; but if Fuller and Hopkins are indeed set to see a combined 62.5% target share this season, they will be capable of producing big games together. This is a risk/reward spot, but the risk appears low after Fuller’s Week 2 usage, and the reward has week-winning upside. Here’s a look at Fuller’s route tree from Week 2, which is quite a bit more nuanced than anything we saw from him last season.
The Giants rank dead last in Football Outsiders’ adjusted sack rate this year. Watson should have plenty of time to find both Hopkins and Fuller deep.
TEXANS RUN OFFENSE
Lamar Miller has a healthy lead in this backfield so far this season, with an average of 17 carries per game to six per game for Alfred Blue. On paper, this matchup also looks good against a Giants run defense that ranks 29th in yards allowed per carry and 30th in DVOA against the run.
The Giants’ run defense really got bothered last week by some of the misdirection on the Cowboys’ zone blocking scheme, with their aggressiveness allowing too many clear cut-back lanes for Zeke and allowing Dak Prescott to find some open running lanes as well. With the Texans running a man blocking scheme, some of the problems the Giants had last week will be eliminated, and the Texans’ offensive line (ranked 32nd in the NFL by PFF coming into the season) will have to win their battles against the Giants directly. This is a good spot for Miller, but it’s by no means a slam dunk. Miller has only four targets on the year with Watson always looking downfield, and his touchdown opportunities are thin with Watson and Alfred Blue having taken the team’s only two carries inside the five-yard-line so far this year.
I want to like more in this game than I do, as I see this as a great spot for points; but while I expect this game to top its Over/Under of 42.0, it might be aggressive to expect an actual shootout. I’d say the chances of a true shootout in this spot are under 10%, as each offense just does too many things wrong right now. Still, “under 10%” is a good enough number for game stacks in large-field tourneys, if this spot projects to be low-owned.
I do like Beckham as a target monster with big upside in his first easier matchup of the year. I’m fine with Saquon Barkley, but at his price, I worry about efficiency against a team that allowed the second-fewest running back receptions in the NFL last year.
On the Texans’ side, Watson will be in consideration for me, but I imagine I’ll roster a quarterback from a more guaranteed shootout — at least on my main roster. I really like the idea of playing Hopkins and Fuller together, as that 62.5% share of targets from last week is eye-popping. It takes a bit of faith to assume Fuller will continue to see such a large share of targets himself, but at the very least in tourneys, it could be worth betting on this week.
I like other elements of this game, but not enough to really want them on a main roster. There are simply better options on the slate for me than guys like Shepard, Engram, and Miller.