Welcome to Vantage Points, a column I will be writing weekly during the NFL season as a window into every game of the week. With access limited more than ever this year and with no preseason games for us to put our own eyes on, I have the utmost respect for sportswriters covering the NFL on a daily basis, giving us a window into what these teams might look like and where their strengths and weaknesses — beyond the obvious — lie.
The purpose of this column is to highlight the work of those writers, but to also turn some of their observations into actionable fantasy advice. The goal isn’t just to highlight obvious angles, but perhaps some of the lower-end ones that could lead to fantasy advantages. I’m also taking advantage of watching press conferences and reading transcripts from coaches and players, as well as using the NFL’s Next Gen Stats info to look for fantasy-relevant angles. I’ll also cover notable injuries.
I will publish this column twice weekly — on Wednesdays to preview the Thursday night game, and on Fridays to preview the Sunday slate.
All times are Eastern.
New York Giants at Philadelphia (Thu, 8:20 PM)
What They’re Saying About the Giants…
This Thursday night tilt will feature one of the all-time great CB/WR matchups… because WR Darius Slayton is likely to catch a shadow from CB Darius Slay. That is presuming Slayton (foot) is able to go on the short week, but he scored last week against Washington and didn’t appear to suffer any setbacks (though he clearly wasn’t 100%).
Philadelphia is taking a step back and a step forward defensively — the Eagles are expected to get LB Duke Riley (ribs) and CB Avonte Maddox (ankle) back this week, but their run defense takes a huge hit with DT Malik Jackson (quad) out. Jackson was especially disruptive against the Ravens’ run game last week, so that’s good news for RB Devonta Freeman.
The Giants are also getting healthier — they plan on activating WR Sterling Shepard (toe) for the game. Shepard will play in two-WR sets alongside Slayton, with Golden Tate remaining the primary slot receiver. Despite Shepard being out, Tate’s snaps were mostly limited to the slot — the Giants used CJ Board (who will be out this week after suffering a frightening concussion last week) as the outside receiver opposite Slayton. So clearly, this is a boost for QB Daniel Jones, who has struggled to put up numbers all season.
It’s a tough matchup for a Giant offensive line that has struggled this year — Philly’s pass rush has been very good, and DE Josh Sweat has been a breakout star for the Eagles. We’ll see what kind of performance the Giants get out of rookie LT Andrew Thomas, who was benched at the start of last week’s game for being late to a team meeting. Coach Joe Judge insisted it wasn’t a performance-based benching, but it well could have been — according to SIS, Thomas has blown 21 blocks this year, 6 more than the #2 player (Minnesota’s Dru Samia). Thomas has blown 18 blocks in pass protection alone, 6 more than Samia and Tampa’s Donovan Smith.
What They’re Saying About the Eagles…
Of course, Philadelphia is coming into Week 7 unbelievably shorthanded, now with RB Miles Sanders (knee) and TE Zach Ertz (ankle) out this week and — at least for Ertz — likely beyond. We all know how injured Philly is, but ESPN’s Bill Barnwell really illustrated it well here — of their projected top 22 players on offense, only eight are currently available. Only two starters — QB Carson Wentz and C Jason Kelce — are healthy. Five of the 11 positions are beyond even the projected two-deep depth chart. It’s incredible how this happens to Philly every single year.
Of course, a couple of those starters could be back this week — it appears that RT Lane Johnson (ankle) and WR DeSean Jackson (hamstring) are going to try to play, while WR Alshon Jeffery (foot) and TE Dallas Goedert (ankle) are getting closer (Goedert is on IR and the Eagles haven’t activated his 21-day return window yet). With Jackson, anything he gives the Eagles at this point is a bonus. They’ve finally found a receiver Wentz can trust in breakout Travis Fulgham — Fulgham is the second Eagle to score a touchdown in his first three games in a Philly uniform. The other was some guy named Terrell Owens. Fulgham has probably earned the respect of opposing defenses, so expect him to catch a shadow from top CB James Bradberry. One of the game’s most underrated CBs, Bradberry has allowed a QB rating of just 56.7 when targeted this year, 11th-lowest among players targeted 20 times or more (SIS).
Wentz is battling. He was absolutely part of the problem for Philly in Weeks 1-3. That’s no longer the case, after he hung 28.5 PPG on the NFL’s top two scoring defenses, Pittsburgh and Baltimore, with practice squad receivers at his disposal. Of course, that hasn’t stopped the criticism in Philly, a notoriously tough place to play QB (or any position). I got a chuckle out of this line from the Philadelphia Inquirer’s David Murphy, while simultaneously feeling bad for Wentz: “Philadelphia might be the only place in the world where a guy who has spent the past month getting his kidneys tenderized can step up in a collapsing pocket, spot a receiver clearing a defender deep down the field, hit that receiver in the hands with a pass, and spend the next week listening to people complain he threw the ball over the wrong shoulder.”
As good as Wentz has been, though, there have been calls not to bench him, but to use more of the Jalen Hurts package. As my friend Bo Wulf of The Athletic writes here, the Eagles are averaging 10.0 yards per play with Hurts on the field (all snaps also with Wentz). They average 4.9 overall. Fantasy players have PTSD from Taysom Hill useless snaps in New Orleans, but it’s obvious the Hurts package is helping this offense and Wentz… at least for the small sample so far (18 plays).
With Sanders out, expect the Eagles to use a lot of RB Boston Scott, but Scott has struggled this season behind the decimated offensive line — he’s averaging just 3.2 YPC this year, in large part because his yards before contact — 1.2 — is down a full yard from last season. Scott had a breakout game against the Giants with Sanders out last year, however — in Week 17, he scored 3 rushing TD, posted 138 yards from scrimmage, and did one of the coolest touchdown dances in recent memory. The Giants’ run defense has been an underrated asset this year, though — they’ve allowed a positive result on just 34% of runs, tied for 4th-lowest in the NFL (SIS).
The Eagles got such a bad performance from RG Jamon Brown last week that they released him on Wednesday.
Those who follow me on Twitter know I’m a uniform nut, so I had to get this tidbit in here. The Eagles are wearing their little-used black uniforms on Thursday night in an attempt to get of the schneid. It’s typically worked out for them against the Giants — they are 5-0 in all black against New York since 2014.
For New York, I’m really not thrilled with any options. Freeman is a low-end RB2, Slayton a mediocre WR3 given the matchup with Slay, and Shepard is a prayer WR4/FLEX. Jones is a low-end QB streamer.
For Philly, I’m not playing Jackson until he shows me something. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me 465 times, shame on me. But he can help Wentz (a low-end QB1 this week) and Fulgham (a WR2 this week).
Scott is a RB2. With Ertz and Goedert out, Richard Rodgers is a prayer TE streamer.