With the Jets playing for “morale” at this point (i.e., this 0-3 team is not going to suddenly turn things around at this point in the season and become some sort of surprise playoff contender; and Adam Gase is not at risk of losing his job a few weeks in), it seems unlikely that they push Sam Darnold onto the field sooner than they should. Between the loss of weight, the loss of strength, and the enlarged spleen (which is a danger to Darnold’s health with hard hits), it would be somewhat foolish for the Jets to rush him back, even if that means another week of Luke Falk under center. If Darnold plays, Jamison Crowder and Robby Anderson are both sneaky bets in this pristine draw with the Eagles’ beat up secondary (Crowder more of a floor play, with touchdown upside; Anderson a low-floor, big-play bet), but given that Vegas has the Jets sitting at an implied total of 15.25, we’ll approach this game assuming Falk is under center come Sunday.
Falk’s average pass has traveled 6.1 yards downfield so far this year (only Teddy Bridgewater, Mason Rudolph…and Sam Darnold have lower marks), and the name of the game for the Jets will be short passes against this Philly defense that annually ranks bottom three in running back rush attempts faced.
On a full slate of games with a bad quarterback under center, this leaves both Anderson and Crowder as thin plays with only “guess and hope” paths to upside; but before we move onto the Philly side of this game, it is worth pointing out that the Eagles (while already, unsurprisingly, having faced the sixth fewest running back rush attempts in the league) have allowed the sixth most running back receptions, one year after they allowed the second most. This slate is full of strong running back plays, and Le’Veon Bell isn’t coming at much of a discount, and the Jets are unlikely to score many points; but he has an outside shot at posting one of the stronger running back scores on the slate and at least warrants a mention.
The matchup for the Philly offense tilts toward the pass against a Jets team that ranks sixth in yards allowed per carry (with Quinnen Williams also set to return this week), but that ranks 21st in yards allowed per pass attempts with a patchwork secondary.
John Brown went 7-123-1 in this matchup in Week 1 with Buffalo primarily using him on crossing routes at all levels of the field, while Odell Beckham went 6-161-1 with a mix of out-breaking routes and go routes. (Josh Gordon also went 6-83-0 in Week 3, representing his highest catch and yardage total of the year.) With Jamaal Adams locked into coverage on Zach Ertz, the matchup sets up for a few extra looks to go to wideouts and/or Dallas Goedert, with the two drawbacks in this spot as follows:
1) The Jets are unlikely to keep this game close enough for the Eagles to stay aggressive throughout (limiting some of the paths to a big game from individual players on this side of the ball)
2) A lot of the production allowed by the Jets to the above-mentioned wide receivers has come after the catch (where Alshon Jeffery, as the Eagles’ best bet for production, is not typically a major threat)
The likeliest scenario in this spot has Philly controlling this game and the Jets stalling out on offense fairly often (the Jets rank 32nd in drive success rate on offense), with the Eagles leaning on the pass often enough through the first three quarters (in a matchup that tilts opponents toward the pass) for Carson Wentz to pick up at least 30 pass attempts. Tight end targets tend to drop against the Jets due to Jamaal Adams (last year, the Jets not only faced the fewest tight end targets, but in fact allowed 13.1% fewer targets than the 31st-ranked team), and Adams should be locked onto Zach Ertz this week (which doesn’t mean that Wentz won’t still look toward his best friend; but it does mean that a spiked-target week is far less likely in this spot, and it means Ertz is set up with a lower floor than normal). With DeSean Jackson seeming likely to miss at least one more week, this pushes some extra looks to the running backs, Nelson Agholor, Goedert, and Alshon.
Agholor is not someone the Eagles want to lean on unless they have to, and Goedert is typically featured more as a red zone piece than as a core means of moving the ball, which sets up Alshon as the player likeliest to take advantage of this matchup through the air. In this adaptable, spread-the-wealth offense, this still does not guarantee more than seven or eight targets; but Alshon sets up well on those targets, and he has upside for a few more looks from there.
In the backfield, 44.8% of running back rush attempts against the Jets so far this year have come over tackle or to the edge (an extremely high number), as teams are avoiding this defense up the gut. This would seemingly set up better for Miles Sanders than for Jordan Howard, especially as a ludicrous 77.8% of Sanders runs this year have come over tackle or to the edge; though 47.5% of Howard’s runs so far have come over tackle or to the edge as well. Sanders has touch counts of 12 // 13 // 15 // 11, and he might be able to push for the upper end of that range, but there isn’t any major reason to believe the Eagles will take Howard out of the mix this week, leaving both as more “bet on a big play or touchdown” plays than as Week 5 staples.
JM’s Interpretation ::
It won’t shock me if Robby Anderson hits for a long play in this spot regardless of who is under center for the Jets, and it also won’t be a surprise if Le’Veon Bell posts a solid PPR day, though given the matchup and what else is available on the slate, neither of these plays will be a focus for me.
The real goodness is on the Eagles’ side, where Wentz, Alshon, and (to a lesser extent — due to game flow and the adaptability of this offense) the backfield all set up well (and where a big game from Agholor or even a multi-score game from Goedert are in the viable range of possibilities). I’m likelier to target tighter games on core builds, and there are too many quality running backs this week for the Eagles’ still-split backfield to be staples. But given how adaptable the Eagles’ coaching staff is, I will have some Miles Sanders exposure in large-field play, as he has difference-making upside at his price if he tops 15 touches. I’ll also have tourney interest (in tourneys of all sizes) in Wentz and Alshon, for the quality matchup and the narrowed target distribution this week with Jackson missing and Ertz dealing with Adams. (Finally: if Jackson plays, he becomes an extremely intriguing option on this slate, with obvious boom/bust to his game, but with this setting up as a solid spot for a “boom.”)