Thursday Night Football
Philadelphia @ NY Giants
Team Totals: Eagles 23.5, Giants 20.5
Desperate for a win after losing last week’s back-and-forth thriller in Carolina on Graham Gano’s 63-yard field goal, the 1-4 Giants catch an injury-ravaged Eagles team on a short week in The Meadowlands after DC Jim Schwartz’s defense lost FS Rodney McLeod (MCL) in Week 3, and his replacement Corey Graham (hamstring) last week. Eli Manning lit up healthier versions of Schwartz’s secondary twice last season on yardage/TD/INT totals of 366/3/2 and 434/3/1 in 27-24 and 34-29 shootouts. A top-13 fantasy passer in two of his last three starts, Manning warrants serious streamer consideration in a game where Philly will likely struggle to contain the Giants’ passing-game weapons. Although Eli’s on-field play has been up and down at best, he ranks seventh in the NFL in completions (134) and remains capable of getting the ball in his playmakers’ hands. … Philly’s stout front has limited enemy backs to 76/211/1 (2.78 YPC) rushing, although Schwartz’s unit is conceding six receptions per game to Saquon Barkley’s position. Barkley’s usage keeps him matchup proof with over 100 total yards in 5-of-5 games and 31 catches, third most among running backs. Only James Conner, Todd Gurley, and Ezekiel Elliott have played more snaps.
Eli’s Weeks 1-5 target distribution: Odell Beckham 59; Barkley 39; Sterling Shepard 36; Rhett Ellison 14; Evan Engram 13; Russell Shepard 8. … Julio Jones (10/169/0), Corey Davis (9/161/1), DeSean Jackson (4/129/1), Adam Thielen (7/116/1), Stefon Diggs (10/91/0), Mike Evans (10/83/1), Taywan Taylor (7/77/0), Chris Godwin (5/56/1), and Ryan Grant (3/35/1) have all exploited Philly’s weak cornerback unit, setting up Beckham for another monster game. OBJ ranks No. 3 in the NFL in targets, No. 5 in Air Yards (627), and No. 5 in receptions (39) after catching the positive end of touchdown regression in last week’s loss with a 33-yard TD grab and 57-yard TD pass to Barkley. Beckham came within inches of a third score, only for James Bradberry to knock Eli’s end-zone pass out of Odell’s hands. … Shepard has earned every-week WR2 treatment in Engram’s (MCL) absence with 75-plus yards in three straight games. Shepard flamed Schwartz’s secondary in each of last year’s two meetings (7/133/1 > 11/139/1). He is tied with OBJ for the team lead in red-zone targets (6) and leads the Giants in targets inside the ten (3). … With Engram and Russell Shepard (neck) ruled out and Ellison (foot) questionable, the Giants are all but bereft of passing-game options beyond Barkley, OBJ, and Sterling Shepard, which is a plus for the latter three because it narrows the usage tree. If Ellison can’t play, New York would be left with only blocker Scott Simonson and UDFA rookie Garrett Dickerson at tight end. Dickerson has never played an NFL offensive snap. Cody Latimer and UDFA rookie Jawill Davis are the top-two options at third receiver.
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As pass-protection woes stalled their offense against Tennessee and Minnesota the last two weeks, it’s convenient the Eagles now draw a Giants team that ranks dead last in sacks (6) and 27th in QB hits (22) and has allowed an NFL-high 179 quarterback rushing yards. Carson Wentz set season highs in scrambles (5) and rushing yards (26) in Week 5, growing more comfortable on his surgically-repaired knee. Giants top pass rusher Olivier Vernon is slated to make his 2018 debut, but beat writers expect him to play limited snaps after missing five-plus weeks with a severe high ankle sprain. Back in the every-week QB1 crosshairs, Wentz has turned in back-to-back top-13 fantasy results. The Giants’ defense got flamed for 33 points in Weeks 4-5 by the Saints and Panthers, even as those teams settled for eight combined field goals. … Week 3 against the Colts provides a template for Philadelphia’s post-Jay Ajayi (ACL) backfield with Darren Sproles (hamstring) also on the shelf. As Ajayi sat out with a back injury, Corey Clement led the unit in snaps (55%) and touches (19) with Wendell Smallwood (35%, 13) in the No. 2 role and Josh Adams (10%, 6) third. Smallwood outgained Clement 91 to 75, however, and has outplayed him all year. As Clement missed the last two games with a quad injury, we can’t be surprised if Week 6 brings a closer split, or even Smallwood in the lead tailback role. The Eagles’ offensive staff manufactured touches for Smallwood in last week’s defeat, including a 12-yard wheel-route touchdown and ensuing two-point conversion. The Giants have allowed seven all-purpose TDs to enemy backs and over 115 rushing yards in 4-of-5 games, so this is not an imposing matchup. Clement and Smallwood are both viable flex plays.
Wentz’s Weeks 3-5 target distribution: Zach Ertz 35; Nelson Agholor 21; Alshon Jeffery 17; Smallwood 14; Dallas Goedert 11; Jordan Matthews 6; Ajayi 5; Clement and Josh Perkins 4; Shelton Gibson 1. … Ertz is a true usage hog with double-digit targets in 5-of-5 games. Opponents efficiently completed 12-of-17 passes (71%) for 239 yards (14.1 YPA) when targeting tight ends against the Giants over the last three weeks. … Janoris Jenkins has given Jeffery fits in the past, although PFF charged Jenkins with allowing 21-of-28 (75%) targets to be completed for 303 yards (10.8 YPA) and three TDs in the last month. The Eagles made a Week 5 effort to keep Jeffery away from Xavier Rhodes by using Alshon at slot receiver on nearly half of his routes, and they could take a similar approach here. Jenkins guards the slot on just 5% of his plays. Jeffery ranks top 15 in the NFL in Air Yards (210) since returning from his shoulder injury two games ago. … Agholor’s targets have been a roller coaster (5 > 12 > 4) in Wentz’s three starts, rendering him an unreliable if still-attractive WR3/flex in this potentially high-scoring affair. Running over half of his routes inside, Agholor will do frequent battle with Giants slot CB B.W. Webb, who is on his seventh NFL team. Agholor also popped in Josh Hermsmeyer’s predictive Air Yards model as Week 6’s No. 12 buy-low receiver. … Goedert’s number of routes run have declined in three straight weeks (28 > 22 > 18) with corresponding target totals of 7 > 2 > 2. … Matthews played a season-low 37% of the Eagles’ Week 5 snaps, while deep threat Gibson gave the offense a jolt on a diving 48-yard catch. Goedert, Matthews, and Gibson will continue to fight for weekly passing-game scraps behind Ertz, Jeffery, and Agholor.
Score Prediction: Giants 27, Eagles 24
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