Let’s deal with the Philly run game first ::
As expected last week, Austin Ekeler struggled against the Lions when running up the gut, but he was able to produce more efficient results when running to the edge. This week, the Philadelphia run matchup will set up far better for Miles Sanders than for Jordan Howard; while Sanders can be used both up the middle and to the edge, Howard has been used almost exclusively between the tackles so far this season. It is fair to assume that this ultra-adaptable Philadelphia coaching staff will feature Sanders a little more heavily this week — to a point where, if not for the presence of Darren Sproles, Sanders would even shape up as a sneaky Tier 1 play, especially with all the injuries to the Philadelphia receivers. With Sproles still in the mix, however, we should still see Sanders limited to around 13 to 16 touches in a “likeliest scenario.” Typically, a DraftKings running back with a Sanders-level pass catching role should be expected to register at least one point per touch, so Sanders’ early-season scores of 3.7 and 6.7 should be considered low (Sanders is less attractive on FanDuel), but keep in mind that the matchup against Detroit is no cakewalk even to the edge, leaving this as more of a speculative, large-field tournament play then as a roster staple.
Now, onto the passing attack ::
We could effectively say that the Eagles’ base offense features Dallas Goedert, Zach Ertz, Alshon Jeffery, and DeSean Jackson, and as of right now, it appears that three of these four players will be missing in action. Given that Vegas still has the Eagles projected for nearly four touchdowns (perhaps a bit aggressive, but no one should be surprised if Philly pushes for 24 or 27 points, and they could easily fall in for an extra touchdown from there), we are left with an interesting spot to consider. Last week when the Lions were facing a Chargers team in a similar situation, Matt Patricia chose to allow Darius Slay to follow Keenan Allen and match up with him in man coverage for a huge chunk of the game – electing to stick to something akin to his standard approach, rather than adjusting to account for the fact that Rivers and the Chargers would want to lean heavily on Allen. The first thought this brings up is that Ertz – a target that Carson Wentz likes so much, the Eagles had to basically force him to spread the ball around to his other weapons – is likely to see a nice spike in work, especially as the Lions have thus far shown that they are willing to allow a matchup to play out, rather than adjusting preemptively with exotic locks designed to take away one option.
The number two option in the passing attack is likely to be Nelson Agholor once again, after he pulled in eight of 11 targets for 107 yards and a touchdown last week. Agholor has an extensive route tree and can be used all over the field; and while he is not in the same class of route-runners as Keenan Allen, he can do many of the same things that Allen can do. With the secondary weapons likely to be more involved this week (more on this in a moment), likeliest-scenario target projections for Agholor should land in the “six to nine” range; but this still makes him an attractive target at only 8% of the salary cap on FanDuel and 7.2% on DraftKings.
In spite of the disparity in targets (eight to four) and production (5-50-0 vs 1-4-0) between Mack Hollins and JJ Arcega-Whiteside, JJAW should be considered the number two option here, as Hollins seemed to be pushing toward “roster bubble” status at points in training camp, while JJAW was talked up late in the summer by Doug Pederson as having a legitimate role in the offense (something we didn’t see in Week 1, but this is enough of a game-plan-specific team, it’s not crazy to think the Eagles have plans to use him in some spots).
This will all be updated if we get news later in the week that one of Alshon // DJax // Goedert plays; but with all three expected to miss, Hollins will also have a legitimate every-down role (he played 69 snaps last week, while JJAW played 75). Week 2 should be thrown out of the window a little bit (keep in mind that Mecole Hardman and Demarcus Robinson were entirely uninvolved in Week 1 against the Jaguars after Tyreek Hill left early, and were heavily involved in Week 2; a week to game-plan around the pieces you’ll have on the field can make a big difference in schemed usage), but anywhere from four to nine targets would not be a surprise for Hollins. (This same target range applies to JJAW, who is only about 60/40 to outscore Hollins in spite of being the “number two.”)
Finally, we should note that Wentz + Philly pass catchers have combined for 90.73 DraftKings points per game so far, and a full five-man stack of Wentz // Ertz // Agholor // JJAW // Hollins costs only $21.6k in salary on DraftKings, and should expose you to somewhere in the range of 30 total targets. (It’s less +EV to play a block this large on FanDuel.) While 86.4 points from this group would technically be enough for them to keep you on pace for 200 points from a salary-based perspective (and while they’ll likely get there), you would realistically need these guys to combine for more like 110 to 120 points for them to be tourney-winners in large-field play while taking up five spots on your roster (this is primarily because it’s tougher to get 4x from more expensive players; so you often need a 5x pace from your cheaper guys in order to really reach the top of the leaderboard). But by cutting this down to a three- or four-man block in larger-field play, or by taking the savings and hammering upside in other spots with a four- or even five-man block in smaller-field play, you could have a unique roster construction that picks up some really nice leverage on the field.
On the other side ::
>> Kenny Golladay :: Golladay doesn’t have the speed of Terry McLaurin or Julio Jones, who hit the Eagles downfield with very little nuance required for those deep shots to work; but while Golladay’s dominance is built more on contested catch brilliance than on big plays and yards after the catch, this is still a plus matchup for him, and he’s an especially interesting piece if you wanted to build a tourney roster that grabs three or four pass game pieces from the Eagles and hopes that A) they are forced by the Lions’ run defense to take to the air, and B) they have success in this area and force the Lions to try to catch up. With the Eagles also one of the strongest teams in the NFL vs the run (consistently ranking top three in fewest rushing attempts faced), it’s not crazy to see this game turning into a back-and-forth affair.
>> Marvin Jones :: Jones has seen 10 targets this year to Golladay’s 19, and this is about what we should expect on the whole this year. But in the small sample size of a single game, there are scenarios in which Jones could out-target Golladay — which makes him a worthy “small percentage of large field” dart if you are targeting this game. Jones is less likely to hit a big game, but if he does pop off, no one will be on him.
>> T.J. Hockenson :: Hock has the worst matchup of the bunch in dealing with Malcolm Jenkins, but the upside is still there, and the ownership is sure to be low after his dud in Week 2. As noted last week: the Lions are willing to attack downfield to Hock, so it only takes one or two plays for him to post a big day. He’s not an off-the-wall play in large-field contests this week.
>> The Lions backfield :: This is the least attractive spot, as a blanket “don’t play running backs against the Eagles” approach has been a solid path for years. (It’s not that it’s impossible for a running back to put up a week-winning score against them; it’s just far less likely than the field has realized throughout these years.) You would need a broken play or a couple touchdowns to really get you there, but if you wanted to chase, you could envision Kerryon Johnson or even Ty Johnson grabbing some points through the air. Ty played 12 snaps last week, as did C.J. Anderson; and with Anderson sent packing, there’s a chance Ty picks up a few breather carries to go with his pass game role.
JM’s Interpretation ::
At the mid-point in the week, I don’t imagine I’ll have a ton of exposure to the Eagles’ backfield (there are some fun things that Miles Sanders allows you to do if you want to bet on his efficiency catching up with his touches, and in large-field tourneys you could play around with game environment approaches that say, “The Eagles will be passing, and that means Sproles will be on the field; and that means he’ll have a shot at a big game”), but the Eagles’ passing attack remains attractive for the fact that Wentz is still the quarterback, Pederson is still the play-caller, and the prices are just unbelievably low. Agholor and Ertz are firmly viable in cash and tourneys of all sizes, while Wentz is viable in tourneys of all sizes, and JJAW // Hollins are extremely viable upside pieces in large-field tourneys, with a clear case that can be made for them as upside pieces in smaller-field play
I like Golladay this week as well, and though I’ll be primarily leaning on him as a piece to play on the other side of the Eagles’ passing attack — playing this game in a bundle — I’ll also have some exposure to him on other rosters where I am focusing my action around other games.
I won’t have much Jones outside of mixing a few shots onto bundles from this game, as his floor is not attractive; but I do like his ceiling enough in this spot to have some exposure.
I’ll likely play the matchup percentages against Jenkins and avoid Hock for the most part, but he’s obviously full of upside if you want to chase. I’ll also likely leave the backfield of the Lions alone, and there are quarterbacks with a much better shot at hitting upside than Matthew Stafford, but I wouldn’t necessarily argue if you were wanting to play this game a few other ways yourself.