Thursday Night Football betting preview. Giants vs Eagles

New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles (-4.5): Total 45

Last week we had the Thursday night game taken away from us thanks to COVID concerns. This week we don’t get the most exciting matchup in the world, which features two NFC (L)East teams. The NFC East has combined for a whopping 5-18-1 record to start the 2020 season and it is simply the worst division in the league. However, when the teams within the division face off against one another, someone has to win. It is laughable to think that one of the four teams in this division will host a playoff game this year, but that is a topic for another day.

Editors Note: A HUGE congratulations to Matt for taking 2nd in the $500k Power Sweep on DraftKings this past weekend!

The matchup

Giants offense vs Eagles defense

The New York Giants have one of the worst offenses in the league. Jason Garrett has taken his talents, or lack thereof, to New York and has ruined any potential upside that Daniel Jones had from last year. The Giants refuse to throw the ball down the field, especially when talking about one of the most athletic tight ends in the league in Evan Engram. Engram recently noted to reporters that his seam routes down the field have really been dialed back this year under Garrett and he is running a lot more curl routes. This route type does not allow Engram to take advantage of his athletic advantage on linebackers attempting to cover him down the field.

The other big issue for the Giants is they lost Saquon Barkley for the year and had to replace him with Devonta Freeman. Barkley likely wasn’t going to have a ton of success running the ball behind the poor offensive line that the Giants have, but he is lethal in the pass game. Freeman is a big downgrade in that regard.

In terms of the actual rushing matchup, it couldn’t get any worse for the Giants. Per Football Outsiders, on offense, the Giants rank dead last in adjusted line yards, dead last in 2nd level yards, and 29th in open field yards. The run game is essentially nonexistent. Meanwhile, on the defensive side of the ball, the Eagles rank 4th in adjusted line yards allowed, 4th in 2nd level yards, and 15th in open field yards. The Eagles can occasionally give up some big runs on the ground to explosive running backs, but explosive running backs do not exist on the Giants’ roster.

In the passing game in 2019, Daniel Jones 8 intended air yards per pass attempt, per Pro Football Reference. In 2019, that number has dropped to 6.6 per attempt. Per Sharp Football Stats, the Eagles have allowed pass plays of more than 20 yards on only 7% of attempts they have faced, which is 8th best in the league. The Giants are going to want to dink and dunk the ball down the field in order to score against Philly’s 27th DVOA pass defense which fits into what the Giants want to do. This will lead to us betting on reception props as we should see a ton of underneath throws by Jones.

In terms of specific matchups, Darius Slayton is projected to match up with Darius Slay on the outside who has been good this year. Slay has allowed 27 completions on 39 targets to go for 306 yards, and a 92 passer rating. Slayton leads the team in air yard market share at 45% as well as target share at 23%, but his matchup is not ideal and I don’t expect him to have a big game.

The good matchup for the Giants offense comes at the tight end position. Even though the Giants have not properly maximized Engram’s skill sets, the volume is still there. He is second on the team in target share at 18% despite his abysmal air yard market share of 13%. Meanwhile, the Eagles have allowed the 3rd most receptions, 5th most yards, and 2nd most touchdowns to opposing tight ends this year. Engram and Slayton will once again be the Giants’ focus on offense and they might have some limited success when targeting them.

Line Movement NFL: Tilt Space

Eagles offense vs Giants defense

The Eagles are full of backups right now on offense as almost every week 1 projected starter is hurt in some way. They are without both starting tight ends in Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert, they are without starting running back Miles Sanders and are without highly praised rookie wideout Jalen Reagor. They do get a deep ball threat in DeSean Jackson back, however we all know that he could run one route and aggravate a hamstring and miss the rest of the game. The Giants don’t allow a ton of 20-plus yard completions either as they have allowed them on only 7% of attempts they have faced which ranks 7th best in the league. So even though Jackson is activated, temper expectations for him here.

The receiver who has taken over the lead role for Philly is Travis Fulgham. Fulgham leads the team in both air yards market share and target share at 30% and 25%, respectively. Unfortunately he will be matched up on James Bradberry who is having a good season for the Giants. Bradberry has allowed only 22 completions on 39 targets to go for 244 yards, 2 TDs and a passer rating of 70.

The Eagles receiver who could have the most production in this matchup is Greg Ward. He will line up in the slot most of the time (83% this year) and will face off with Darnay Holmes. Holmes has allowed 14 completions on 21 targets to go for 156 yards and a passer rating of 89. When opposing QBs have targeted Holmes, they have had success. Ward ranks 2nd on the team among active regular players with a 16% target share. Without Ertz’ 20% target share available this week though, I expect Ward to operate more as Wentz’ safety blanket. We will have some action on Ward props below.

As far as running the ball without Miles Sanders, the Eagles had a rough go trying that in week 1 the last time Sanders was out. They rushed for an abysmal 54 yards on 15 carries between Boston Scott and Corey Clement. The Giants defense has been no slouch in the run department either. They rank 15th in adjusted line yards allowed, 10th in 2nd level yards, and 10th in open field yards. They have also allowed runs of 15-plus yards on only 10% of runs, which is 9th best in the league. If the Eagles have success this week, it should be because of Wentz.

Pace of play

I see this game going one of two ways. Either 1) the Eagles handle the Giants pretty easily due to the Giants lack of success moving the ball on offense or 2) this is an overall low scoring duel that stays within one possession most of the way. I don’t see a path for the Giants to put up a bunch of points.

This means we need to consider the pace of play in 1) the Eagles leading by 7+ and the Giants trailing by 7+ and 2) pace in neutral situations.

In the first scenario, the Eagles rank 23rd in seconds per play when up by 2 or more scores. The Giants on the other side rank 21st when trailing by 2 or more scores. This outcome would be a slow-paced game.

In the second scenario, the Eagles rank 7th in seconds per play in neutral situations while the Giants rank 29th in seconds per play in neutral situations. The Eagles will want to play fast until they have a lead, and then slow things down, while the Giants just want to play slow all of the time. I lean towards the side of this game being played with the Eagles having a lead, especially after their comeback effort against a good Baltimore Ravens defense last week which could spark some momentum on offense.

Game picks

I just don’t see a way the Giants score a bunch of points here. They have only one game with over 20 points scored and that was against the Dallas Cowboys who have allowed 30-plus points to everyone except the Rams. The Giants point totals in every other game are 16, 13, 9, 9 and 20. Facing a respectable Eagles defense should keep them off the scoreboard.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball, the Eagles have scored at least 23 points in each of their last four games, including games against the Steelers and Ravens who are arguably two of the better defenses in the league. The Giants have been respectable on defense this year, but I think we are looking at another 23-plus point effort from the Eagles.

For the picks, I like taking both the Eagles -4.5 and the under 45 points. One of these two should hit as long as the Giants don’t score points (they won’t), but there is a good chance both bets hit. I think we are looking at a 24-17 type game here, which would be only 41 points scored and the Eagles covering the spread.

Player props

If the Eagles score multiple touchdowns like I think they do, I think there is a good chance they come through the air due to the Giants being a respectable run defense and the Eagles not having Miles Sanders. The Eagles have also shown a slight favor to throwing the ball in the red zone having 25 pass attempts compared to 21 rush attempts. For these reasons, I like Carson Wentz over 1.5 TD passes (-105).

I hate betting unders, but the Giants running backs have struggled to do anything on the ground this year and the strength of the Eagles defense is the run defense. Devonta Freeman should go under 54.5 rush yards in this matchup.

If Greg Ward’s role as a safety blanket for Wentz does increase as I expect it to with Ertz out, then his reception prop is too low. He leads the team in routes run this year at 173 and should get a target boost. Take the over 3.5 receptions (+115) for Greg Ward in a good matchup in the slot. I also like taking a small stab at Greg Ward to score a TD (+285) as he is second on the team in red-zone targets behind only Fulgham and Ertz, and Ertz is not available in this game.