Monday Night Football

Green Bay @ Philadelphia
Vegas Projected Score: Eagles 25.75, Packers 21.75

Monday night offers a compelling litmus test for the Packers’ offense, which spent the last five weeks feasting on Chicago, Atlanta, Indianapolis, Tennessee, and Washington’s defenses and now faces a legitimate challenge in Philly, where the Eagles rank No. 2 in pass-defense DVOA and No. 14 in run-defense DVOA and have held opponents to point totals of 10, 3, 10, 15 through four home games including shutting down the high-octane Steelers and Falcons. Aaron Rodgers enters Week 12 with top-three fantasy results in five straight weeks and obviously remains an elite season-long start. Facing a team that plays stout defense and seeks to dictate pace with its slow-tempo style of play, however, it would not be surprising if Green Bay’s offense hit a bump in the road in this spot. It should be noted that the Eagles’ pass defense has fallen off recently, yielding multiple touchdown passes in five of its last seven games while conceding top-ten quarterback finishes in three of the past four weeks to Russell Wilson (QB5), Eli Manning (QB9), and Dak Prescott (QB5). Matt Ryan (QB19) was the exception in that one-month span. … Since returning from his knee injury in Week 10, James Starks has logged touch totals of 10 > 14 on snap rates of 71% > 49% compared to Ty Montgomery’s 5 > 7 and 28% > 41%. Montgomery is more likely to lose snaps to Christine Michael than Starks, whom Rodgers and the coaching staff trust and is entrenched as the Packers’ lead back. The Eagles are mediocre against the run, surrendering a combined 152-728-2 (4.79 YPC) rushing line to enemy backs over their last seven games. Starks’ ceiling is likely around 17 touches, but that gives him low-end RB2/flex appeal. Starks’ passing-game usage stabilizes his floor with 16 targets over his last three games.

Jared Cook came out of hibernation to go off in last week’s loss to the Redskins, turning a team-high 11 targets into a 6-105-1 receiving line on 62% of the snaps compared to Richard Rodgers’ 31%. Cook turns around for one of the toughest possible tight end matchups against the Eagles, who have allowed the NFL’s second fewest catches (30) and yards (304) to the position while checking Jimmy Graham (3-46-1), Jason Witten (2-16-1), Kyle Rudolph (5-55-0), Jesse James (2-10-0), Zach Miller (4-33-0), Austin Hooper (1-8-0), and Gary Barnidge (0-0). Always a tease who is capable of disappearing after his sporadic big games, I’ll be fading Cook this week. … The best plays in Green Bay’s pass-catcher corps are receivers Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams, and Randall Cobb against Philly’s vulnerable cornerback unit, where RCB Nolan Carroll and LCB Leodis McKelvin are exploitable and rookie CB Jalen Mills is Pro Football Focus’ last-rated cornerback among 119 qualifiers. Mills has gotten creamed by perimeter and interior pass catchers alike, last week coughing up Doug Baldwin’s 44-yard gain and a 30-yarder to Tyler Lockett in the same game. … Adams has eight-plus targets in five of his last seven games and has frequently looked like the Packers’ best receiver this year. … Nelson is always a good bet to hit pay dirt with NFL highs in red-zone targets (20) and targets inside the ten-yard line (10). Nelson has caught eight of his league-most nine touchdowns in the red zone, including seven inside the ten. … Seahawks slot man Baldwin (4-104) had his way with the Eagles’ defense in Week 11, which bodes well for Packers slot man Cobb. Finally over his midseason hamstring injury, Cobb is back to producing consistently. Cobb has 80-plus yards and/or a touchdown in five of Green Bay’s last six games.

The Packers’ disintegrating defense has surrendered 30-plus points in five of its last six games and point totals of 33 > 31 > 47 > 42 over the past month. Green Bay has yielded 12 touchdown passes across its last four games. Unfortunately, Carson Wentz has not shown enough ceiling in Philadelphia’s ultra-conservative offense to be taken seriously outside of two-quarterback leagues and long-shot DFS dart throws. Wentz’s best weekly result over his last six games is QB18 with five finishes of QB22 or worse. … Whenever he has the opportunity, Eagles coach Doug Pederson’s preferred game plan has been to play slow-tempo, run-first football, win time of possession, and cut down on opposing offensive possessions. Philadelphia has limited enemy offenses to the league’s fourth fewest plays per game (60.3). In the absence of Ryan Mathews (MCL), Wendell Smallwood looks set up for a workload of 17-plus touches against a Green Bay run defense that has been gashed recently and will be without impressive run-stopping rookie ILB Blake Martinez (MCL). Over the past four weeks, the Packers have been pounded for combined rushing lines of 17-81-1 (Falcons), 21-70-2 (Colts), 26-154-1 (Titans), and 26-147-3 (Redskins) by enemy backs. Smallwood has reached 17 touches twice this season and has touch counts of 13 > 17 over his last two games. While he will lose some work to Darren Sproles and perhaps Kenjon Barner, Smallwood is in prime position to push for RB2 value or better in Week 12.

Wentz’s targets since the Eagles’ bye week: Jordan Matthews 59; Zach Ertz 39; Nelson Agholor 36; Sproles 35; Dorial Green-Beckham 34; Trey Burton 11; Mathews 10; Smallwood 8; Bryce Treggs 5. … Drawing bankable volume at this point, J-Matt enters Week 12 with target counts of 15 > 10 > 10 > 10 over his last four games. The Seahawks thought enough of Matthews’ ability to shadow him with Richard Sherman last week. Fellow slot men Jamison Crowder (3-102-), T.Y. Hilton (6-82), Mohamed Sanu (9-84-1), and Cole Beasley (6-58-2) have all gotten loose against the Packers. Matthews runs over 70% of his routes in the slot. … Ertz has emerged as Wentz’s clear-cut No. 2 passing-game option with target totals of 8 > 7 > 11 over the past three games and six-plus catches in all three. Now the every-week fantasy starter he always should have been, Ertz has a plum Monday night matchup against a Green Bay defense submitting the NFL’s eighth most catches (55) and second most yards (726) to tight ends. … Agholor had another dreadful game in last week’s loss to Seattle and has begun consulting a sports psychologist to address his lack of self confidence. Agholor still runs pretty routes, but he plays soft and doesn’t trust his hands. “I’m thinking too much, and I’m so worried,” Agholor admitted after last week’s game. … There was mid-week chatter that Agholor might actually be inactive for Monday’s game. In Week 11, Green-Beckham stepped forward to log 79% of the snaps and deliver 54 yards with a touchdown on eight targets, although almost all of his production came in fourth-quarter garbage time against Seattle’s prevent defense. In DGB, we have an enigmatic underachiever with zero 60-yard games on the year facing a bad defense. Green-Beckham is a classic boom-bust shot in the dark.

Score Prediction: Eagles 24, Packers 23

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