I say this knowing full well that there are far more important ongoing issues that we should be revolting against, but can we seriously band together and make the NFL aware that no one wants to watch the NFC East? The Eagles at the Giants. Really? I mean, I live on the East Coast. Generally speaking, I’m down for the bias. I’d even go so far as to say I love the bias. However, this division is awful, and – with Dallas playing on Sunday Night Football and Washington suiting up for Monday night – we’ll now have been forced to watch every team from this terrible quartet across the past five days in primetime. Thankfully, DraftKings is here to make things tolerable. Nothing says “I have to watch Eli Manning ($9,800) play again” like getting together a few Showdown lineups.
In this article, I will outline the potential game script for the two possible outcomes of this matchup (we’re like Donovan McNabb here -— we don’t believe in ties). Based on these narratives, I’ll highlight the players who would stand to benefit from the events of the night going down in such a manner. After the hypothetical exercise, I’ll crown a winner, name a Captain’s Pick, and give some locks for the slate.
So, let’s dive in.
Note: All salaries will be Flex prices unless noted as Captain’s Pick prices
PAT MAYO’S ‘HOT PICKS’
ADAM LEVITAN’S TARGET PROJECTION
Sterling Shepard, NYG, $11,700 Captain’s Pick, $7,800 Flex — The Eagles are one of the NFL’s biggest funnel defenses as they couple an elite rush defense with a very shaky pass defense. So opponents utilize pass-centric game plans and have success doing it. That’s good news for Shepard, who continues to benefit from Evan Engram’s (knee) absence.
Projection — 9 Targets
If the Giants Win…
In a positive New York game script there are two things that will definitely be taking place: Odell Beckham ($10,800) will have received double-digit targets and Saquon Barkley ($10,400) will have totaled more than 100 yards from scrimmage. It seems simple because it is. Really, those two scenarios will likely occur regardless of what’s taking place around them. In the case of Barkley specifically, the rookie has just clearly emerged as the focal point of this offense. Despite the Giants having trailed for an NFL-high 73.2 percent of their snaps, Barkley manages to get his. Heck, he’s only even gained more than 50 yards on the ground once his past four games, yet, through the virtue of being second on the team in targets (39) and receptions (31), he’s been able to reach that 100-yard plateau in every start of his career. Sure, Philadelphia has a stout run defense. Even before shutting down a meager Minnesota attack this past Sunday, the Eagles ranked first in the league allowing 2.95 adjusted line yards per carry, while also surrendering a single touchdown to the position through five games. Still, volume tends to win out. I wouldn’t make Barkley a Captain’s Pick, but don’t shy away from him based on the matchup.
With Beckham, the sky is truly the limit in this spot. If not for a crazy-high implied total in Cincinnati this week with Antonio Brown, I’d consider having Beckham as the best WR on the entire 15-game slate. The LSU product is coming off his best showing of the 2018 season, hauling in eight passes for 131 yards and a touchdown against the Panthers. Well, that line is pretty much par for the course versus Philadelphia for top-option wideouts. The Eagles have long revealed their defensive tendencies with WRs; they are more than willing to leave their corners on an island. This imbalance has created a funnel effect to wide receivers overall – with WRs accounting for 65.7 percent of the fantasy points scored against Philly – the highest rate in the NFL so far this year. Much of that success has come directly at the expense of Jalen Mills, who is giving up 2.51 yards per route entering Week 6 – the most of any CB who has been in coverage for at least 180 routes in 2018. Julio Jones burned the Eagles. As did Mike Evans, Corey Davis, and Adam Thielen. Why would Thursday be any different? Plus, it makes Cody Latimer ($1,000) super viable on the other side of the field. The former Broncos’ draft pick had played 60 percent of the offensive snaps in each game prior to his injury and his price attributes him with virtually zero risk.
Speaking of ailments, Evan Engram will not be playing in this contest. Attempting to make his way back from a sprained knee, the sophomore was able to log a limited practice session on Tuesday, but, as of Wednesday, he’s been ruled out. Really, I was lukewarm at best about his fantasy prospects, anyway. As mentioned with Beckham, the Eagles’ philosophies tend to vault WRs, not TEs, allowing just 3.6 receptions per game to the position. Also, at that tier of pricing, there are options I like more on the other side of the football. I guess if Rhett Ellison ($2,800) is unavailable too, you could take a shot with Scott Simonson ($200) in a complete “Stars & Scrubs” construction, yet, that’s a total GPP flyer. Still, Engram’s absence locks in Sterling Shepard ($7,800), who has seen 22.4 percent of the target share across the past three weeks with Engram sidelined. That’s all on top of the fact that’s he’s recorded a touchdown in every game he’s played versus Philadelphia in his career. If you’re into that sort of stuff.
So, I guess that just leaves Manning. For as much as it makes me queasy, you can’t really have good vibes about all three of Eli’s receiving options and state that his RB will contribute best in the passing game without mustering up the courage to like the man distributing the football. Manning’s been a Top-12 QB three of the last four games he’s faced the Eagles. I’d have no issues playing Beckham on an island on a full-slate, but, in Showdown, including Manning is necessary to increase your lineup’s ceiling.
If the Eagles Win…
Much like Beckham for the Giants, the Eagles have a constant on their roster that is essentially matchup-proof at this point. His name is Zach Ertz ($9,600). While New York has actually surrendered a league-low 15 catches to TEs so far this season — a far cry from year’s past — Ertz has been targeted 14 more times than any other tight end through five weeks, also leading the league in receptions (41) and yards (437) for the position. It’s not like his volume share has fluctuated week-to-week, either. Though Philadelphia has utilized two starting quarterbacks in 2018, Ertz has received double-digit opportunities in every single game this season. Short of tattooing “MASTER” across his chest, the 27-year-old is as close to a lock as we have on this slate.
After Ertz is where things get a little dicey for the Eagles’ offense – at least in perception. It might not feel like Carson Wentz ($11,600) has played all that well since returning from injury, especially with Philadelphia having registered points on just a third of their drives this season, but he’s averaged 24.8 DKFP over the past two weeks, with 300-plus yards and a pair of touchdowns in each game. Plus, while the Giants have kept four of the five QBs they’ve faced this season below 250 yards passing, that success feels tenuous with their inability to generate any pressure with their front four. New York’s lone sack of Cam Newton in Week 5 was only their sixth of the campaign, as they entered that contest against Carolina with the NFL’s lowest adjusted sack rate at a measly 3.6 percent. The likely return of Olivier Vernon should help in that regard, but Wentz should have all the time he needs to throw Thursday night.
To that point, it’s been the Giants’ secondary that has made the difference in their pass defense this year. Janoris Jenkins has taken to a shadowing role in 2018 and, across the past three weeks, has done a superb job limiting the efforts of DeAndre Hopkins, Michael Thomas, and Devin Funchess. Where Alshon Jeffery ($8,000) finds himself closer to the Funchess end of that particular spectrum, I find little reason to play him in this spot. Following a hyper-efficient return to the lineup in Week 4 – a game in which the veteran caught eight of his nine targets – Jeffery regressed rapidly against in Vikings this past Sunday. It’s unwise to assume he’ll only bring in a quarter of his targets on a weekly basis, however, considering his sub-50 percent catch rate in 2017, I’d suggest that Week 4, not Week 5, was the outlier. Nelson Agholor ($7,200) also gives me little in terms of excitement. The USC graduate does still find himself ranked inside the Top-20 in WR targets with 39, yet, only Michael Crabtree is averaging fewer yards gained per target than Agholor among receivers with at least 30 opportunities. With Jenkins shutting down Jeffery, I could see myself using Agholor in a cash game, but he lacks the ceiling necessary for true GPP consideration.
Finally, we come to the running backs. With Jay Ajayi lost for the season after an ACL tear and Darren Sproles out once again, we’re left with Corey Clement ($4,400) and Wendell Smallwood ($3,800) – with Josh Adams ($600) sure to also see the field. That’s really the true encapsulation of the Eagles backfield: if you dress, you’re getting the ball. Doug Pederson is essentially the Bernie Sanders of NFL head coaches and we’ve got a socialist backfield on our hands. With that in mind, it’s hard to pinpoint who the lead dog will be. Smallwood will be the popular choice, as he’s the cheaper of the pair and has scored a touchdown in two of his past three games, but Clement racked up 16 carries in his lone outing without Ajayi earlier this season. It might sound like a cop-out, but I expect each to handle 12-to-15 touches. Both are viable plays at their respective price.
THE OUTCOMEThis should be a close game, with neither team’s implied total suggesting that fireworks are on the menu. Both squads have found themselves trailing for a majority of the season, with each having their own highly publicized issues scoring the ball. With that being the case – and with the Eagles’ RBs providing some crucial salary relief – I think it’s best to focus on the assured elements of each team’s offensive attack when making your Captain’s Pick. Both Odell Beckham ($16,200 CP) and Zach Ertz ($14,400 CP) are expensive, but this slate is flexible enough to handle a top-heavy lineup.
Final Score: Philadelphia 24, New York 16
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is theglt13) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is adamlevitan) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.
Pat Mayo is an award-winning video host and producer of long and short-form content, and the host of The Pat Mayo Experience daily talk show. (Subscribe for video or audio). Mayo’s (@ThePME) 14 Fantasy Sports Writing Association nominations lead all writers this decade and are third-most all-time. Mayo has been recognized across multiple sports (Football, Baseball & Golf), mediums (Video, Writing & Podcasting) and genre (humor). Beyond sports, Mayo covers everything from entertainment to pop culture to politics. If you have a fantasy question, general inquiry or snarky comment, ship it to Mayo at ThePatMayoExperience@gmail.com and the best will be addressed on the show.
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is ThePME) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.