Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire
Each week, our writers will take a look at the fantasy-relevant things to watch for in every upcoming game. Today, it’s the Thursday night Week 6 matchup between the Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Giants.
It’s a quick turnaround for a team that looks more like a flock of pigeons than a convocation of Eagles. Last week saw the birdies suffer their second straight loss as a 2nd half turnaround could not overcome the two-touchdown lead the Eagles gifted the Minnesota Vikings. Despite this, this past Sunday saw another magnificent performance from Carson Wentz, while Zach Ertz continued his usual dominance. What, then, does a Thursday night matchup with the luckless New York Giants hold for the Eagles and their fantasy studs? Let’s find out…
The Wild Wild Wentz
Anyone that watched this past Sunday’s game could tell you that Carson Wentz looked extremely poised despite his team’s woes in both facets of the game. Wentz looked strong as he avoided what pressure he could, went through his progressions, and delivered dime after dime to his TE’s and WR’s. That being said, an issue for him in these past three games has been strip sacks. An obvious byproduct of below-average O-line play, Wentz must avoid coughing the ball up, even when hit hard by 300+ lb linemen (which is A LOT easier said than done). Regardless of this minor concern, Wentz appears to be back at the level of play that catapulted him into the MVP discussion last year, and while the Giants passing defense somehow ranks 10th in yards allowed, I would expect a healthy line from the Eagles’ golden, or I guess fire red, boy.
It certainly has been a rough couple of weeks for the Eagles’ receivers in particular. Between Agholor’s deficiencies in the 7-drop game against Tennessee, and Alshon’s key drop at the tail end of the Vikings game on Sunday, the receivers for this team have a lot to make up for. Luckily, their QB seems to be back in full swing and the offense sans Jay Ajayi and Darren Sproles appear poised to pass, rather than run, more than ever. Lead receiver Alshon Jeffery led the team in targets last week and should continue to do so for the rest of the season. Look for Jeffery to have a big game against suspect #1 corner Janoris Jenkins. Of course, Zach Ertz will have a solid day for his owners, but what about Nelson Agholor? Tallying only 4 targets last week, Agholor will have to capitalize on whatever targets he can get, but it shouldn’t be too hard to do so against struggling slot corner B.W. Webb. Look for a solid day, and maybe even a breakout, for the talented former USC product. Unfortunately, our discussion stops here, as Jordan Matthews is good for no more than the occasional 3rd down conversion, Dallas Goedert MIGHT get 3-4 targets, and despite a fantastic catch in last week’s game, Shelton Gibson remains an afterthought in this offense.
That’s all you’ve got when you’re talking about the Eagles’ running back corps. Although Corey Clement is returning this Thursday from a quad injury, this comes with Jay Ajayi newly lost for the season with a torn ACL, and Darren Sproles still sidelined with a hamstring injury. With only Clement, Wendell Smallwood, and Josh Adams left to take snaps, we should see about a 50:40:10 split of carries in this one. You obviously shouldn’t expect anything of note from the molasses impersonator Josh Adams, but a Giants defense surprisingly ranked 25th in yards per rushing attempt allowed despite the monstrous Snacks Harrison should yield a great day for Clement and a decent output for Smallwood. Lock Clement in at RB2 with confidence and throw Smallwood into consideration for your flex play this week.
On the Defensive
It’s the same narrative this week as the Birds will accost the Giants with ferocious rushes while the secondary tries not to blow the game. Not blowing the game, however, might be hard task this week as the Giants boast two of the league’s best true playmakers in Saquon Barkley and OBJ, as well as a stellar #2 WR in Sterling Shepard. If the Eagles can bust open the Giants’ suspect O-line and hurry old-man Manning, they’ll rack up plenty of points in this one. I’d consider the Eagles D a top 5 offense in this one.
Despite getting badly burnt on my past two predictions of the game outcome, I did get quite close to Wentz’s final line, as well as Alshon and Ertz. I’m going to stick to my gut on this one and predict an Eagles win here. Rumblings throughout the week have the team rallying internally as frustrations have bubbled to the surface and I don’t see anyone on the Giants sideline stopping Wentz with the “luxury” of more than 3 seconds to scan his reads. Look for the Eagles offense to blossom as the offensive line rounds into form and the defense stymies the Giants passing attack through quick and efficient pressure on Eli. There will no doubt be several big plays sustained by the Eagles D, be they quick screens with poor tackling or monstrous OBJ catch and runs, but they won’t amount to nearly enough to keep this one close.
Carson Wentz: 28/36, 385 yards, 3 TD’s
Alshon Jeffery: 8 rec, 110 yards, 1 TD
Nelson Agholor: 6 rec, 90 yards, 1 TD
Jordan Matthews: 1 rec, 18 yards
Shelton Gibson: 1 rec, 25 yards
Zach Ertz: 8 rec, 85 yards
Dallas Goedert: 3 rec, 45 yards, 1 TD
Corey Clement: 10 car, 55 yards, 1 rush TD, 4 rec, 42 yards
Wendell Smallwood: 8 car, 50 yards, 1 rec, 15 yards
Josh Adams: 3 car, 12 yards
Throughout this preview, you’ll notice some quotes from various NY sports radio shows. For easier readability, and because I don’t remember exactly who said what, I have not cited the source for all of them.
“How Come We Can’t Throw the Ball for Over 20 Yards?”
WR Odell Beckham Jr. did have a point in his interview with Josina Anderson, as QB Eli Manning is averaging 7.2 intended air yards per pass attempt (for reference, that’s the bottom 25% of starting NFL QBs). On the other hand, Manning ranks third highest in completion percentage. In the typical NY media market fashion, talking heads have been calling Eli “washed” and claiming that the only reason Pat Shurmur and Dave Gettleman have jobs is because their predecessors made the right call at the wrong time by benching their franchise quarterback. The narrative would be different had the Giants won their game on Sunday, but regardless, we’ll see if the reiterations of Beckham’s words impacts the game plan against the league’s 15th best passing defense.
SaQUAKE or Saquompwomp?
RB Saquon Barkley has posted 20+ fantasy points going up against 4 of the top 10 run defenses in the first 5 weeks of the season (Carolina is currently ranked 11th), so don’t let the formidability of Philly’s run defense scare you off. As a counterpoint, Barkley has only rushed for over 50 yards twice thus far, and he was only efficient in one of those two. A counter to the counter: while the Eagles rank as the 6th best run defense, they’re middle of the pack in allowing running back receptions. There will be one game where Barkley underperforms for your fantasy team, and short rest against a divisional opponent increases the odds of that happening compared to a normal Sunday-Sunday, but I’ll predict you still get 22 points from Barkley.
“The guys in that locker room gravitate towards #13. They all want to be Odell.”
From a talent and work ethic standpoint, Odell Beckham Jr. is the guy to emulate. Whether you agree or disagree with how he went about his comments about play calling and the team’s quarterback situation, it helps his branding, and at the end of the day that’s the only thing he has control over. As far as his production goes, Beckham has seen 44.82% of the team’s total air yards and 59 targets, which are both the third highest in the NFL. His expected yards after the catch are higher than what his actual yards have been, so there is room for some positive regression.
“WR Sterling Shepard really wants to be Odell Beckham.” Last week was the third straight where Shepard finished with at least 75 receiving yards, and with TE Evan Engram ruled out again his production should continue. There’s not much value in TE Rhett Ellison, and with his status as questionable it’s not even worth the risk if you’re streaming a tight end. Maybe there’s a chance at getting value from WR Cody Latimer with WR Russell Shepard ruled out, but I wouldn’t invest heavily in that considering his season point total is less than Sterling Shepard’s average points per game.
“There’s a lot of ‘me’ guys in that locker room and not nearly enough ‘we’ guys.”
Former NY Giant Chris Canty said that there’s too much defending of personal play to divert the blame elsewhere in losses, particularly from Beckham and S Landon Collins. Luckily for the defense, LB Olivier Vernon will make his season debut tonight, which will help plug up the gaps and in their 25th ranked run defense. It’s short rest for a unit that was on the field for 35 minutes this past Sunday, but the situation is dire if they’re still trying to be relevant this season. As Beckham said, “we can go on a streak at any moment,” but that can only catalyze if they play with more controlled ferocity than they’ve showed for most of this season.