The Eagles are back in action on Thursday night following a quick turnaround. Despite the short week, the Birds should be getting a few players back from injury in this one as they look to climb back into first place in the lowly NFC East.
Currently, the Eagles are 4.5-point favorites, according to the consensus spread from TheLines.com, and that number could climb between now and kickoff. After opening at 6.5 points, it dipped down to 3.5 once Zach Ertz and Miles Sanders being ruled out before starting to move back in the other direction following news that Lane Johnson and DeSean Jackson are expected to return to the lineup.
We’ve already offered up some matchups to watch, provided our own predictions on the outcome, and broke down the final injury report for this mid-week matchup. Now, as we do every week, let’s take a look at some key numbers this week in the form of our five over/unders…
[A quick reminder for those new to our over/unders: Unless it’s explicitly stated, these are my own over/unders based on how I think the players/teams will perform on Sunday — and the advice that follows is where I would put my money if I had to. They are not all actual numbers you can bet on, but we’ll let you know when they are.]
Total points: 44.5
The current consensus total being offered over at TheLines.com is 45 points, up from 44.5 earlier in the day, but since we like nice half numbers here, we’re going to stick with the latter number, which seems about right for these two teams. While they have struggled on the offensive side of the ball and have plenty of injuries to overcome in that department, both have also allowed their fair share of scoring against them this season. Both teams are in the bottom half the league in both points scored (Eagles 22nd, Giants 31st) and point differential (25th and 29th), much like the rest of their awful division.
The Eagles have the eight worst point differential (-34) in the NFL and fifth worst in the NFC.
The Eagles have the best point differential in the NFC East.
Both of these statements are true.
— Matt Mullin (@matt_mullin) October 21, 2020
But hey, someone has to win the division and the Eagles can jump back into first place with a win over the Giants on Thursday night. The Giants have scored the second fewest points in the NFL this season, averaging just 16.8 points per game, while the Eagles have been about a touchdown better (23.5 PPG). So while the Eagles have allowed a ton of points this season (29.2), they’re facing the worst offense they’ve played this season, a week after facing the NFL’s highest-scoring offense. Look for a bounce-back game from the defense.
Whether or not this hits the over will likely come down to how many points the Eagles offense scores, and I’m leaning toward the under here. My final prediction for the game was a 27-13 win for the Eagles, so I’m going to take the under here. I think that’s the safer bet, given there’s no reason to believe the Eagles offense is suddenly going to become ultra-explosive (even with the return of DeSean Jackson) and you can’t entirely rule out the defense having a big game and holding New York to single digits. That scenario seems much more likely than this game becoming a shootout.
DeSean Jackson receptions: 4.5
As we just alluded to, the Eagles deep-threat wide receiver is expected to return from a hamstring injury that’s keep him sidelined the last few weeks. But even before the injury, Jackson appeared to be on somewhat of a pitch count, with the team hoping to limit his playing time and therefore limiting his exposure to potential injury risks. Unfortunately, destiny arrived all the same.
Now that Jackson is back, it’s likely that he remains a limited participant in the game even though the team could use him now even more with Jalen Reagor still on IR. However, it’s unlikely you’ll see him playing the bulk of the snaps — and that’s going to be the biggest factor here. His mere presence could serve to open up the offense, but banking on a monster game from Jackson seems sill at this point. Would you be happy with, say, four catches for 95 yards and a touchdown? This writer certainly would. But it would still hit the under here.
It really depends on how they use Jackson. Early last season before he was hurt, Jackson saw a high volume of targets in what has been his best game since returning to Philly. This season, he was used much more sporadically before the injury and never really connected with Wentz on a deep ball. After seeing how crucial those throws proved to be in recent weeks, it would make sense for Doug Pederson to take a few more shots down the field against the Giants — and to do so with Jackson instead of Rookie John Hightower. But, coming off a hamstring injury, they’ll likely have to pick their spots carefully, and ultimately, that lands him under.
Carson Wentz sacks: 2.5
In addition to getting DeSean back, Carson Wentz will be getting an even more important player back as Lane Johnson will give his ankle a go on Thursday night. With his return, the Birds are now back to two regular starters on the offensive line (the other is Jason Kelce). But the question remains whether or not Johnson will be able to go the full sixty. Prior to missing last week’s loss to Baltimore, Johnson started each of the previous two games but was unable to finish. That’s arguably worse than him being ruled out during the week before the game. At least in that scenario, his replacement gets time to practice with the starters before being thrown into action — and that’s even more important given the current state of the Eagles’ line, with so little depth that the drop-off between starter and replacement is quite steep.
All that being said, Wentz has been getting sacked at a historic rate this season and is on pace for 66 of them. Only Randall Cunningham and David Carr have been dropped more times in a single season. And the last two games have been especially brutal for Wentz, as 11 of his NFL leading 25 sacks have come in those two starts. He’s been sacked at least three times every week, with the only exception being the inexplicable zero the offensive turned in against the Rams in Week 2.
This Giants team is averaging 2.5 sacks per game, and the Eagles offensive line is well below average, even with Johnson back. Furthermore, Wentz’s propensity for holding on to the ball too long only adds to this season-long issue. It will be an improvement over recent weeks, but I’m still thinking New York gets at least three in this game.
Boston Scott rushing yards: 59.5
Scott was the hero in last season’s division-clinching win over the Giants, but he’s done very little in limited action this season. With 21 carries through six games, Scott has just 67 yards (3.2 YPC) on the ground and seven catches for 48 yards. He’s yet to find the end zone this season but could be in store for his biggest performance of the year with Miles Sanders out and Corey Clement looking even worse in even more limited action (30 yards on 11 carries).
Still, Scott has a history of killing the Giants. Just look at his numbers against New York compared to his numbers against every other team.
If Scott is the guy the Eagles turn to in this one, like they did after Sanders left last week’s game, he should get more opportunities to break off a big one and up his average for the season. That being said, there just might not be enough opportunities to go around.
Even with Sanders healthy, Eagles running backs were only carrying the ball an average of 17.7 times per game, and there’s no reason to think that number is going to increase (at least not by much) with their starter out. Even if Scott were to get 15 carries in this one — I think it’s more of a 12-6 split with Clement — he’d need to average four yards per carry to hit this over. Instead, I think we’ll see a lot of running from Carson Wentz and perhaps even Jalen Hurts, as Doug Pederson and Co. look for creative ways to get their rushing attack going against the Giants.
Daniel Jones turnovers: 1.5
Believe it or not, but Wentz has turned the ball over more than Daniel Jones this season (11-9), but Jones is still among the league leaders in coughing the ball up. With six interceptions and three fumbles lost, Jones is averaging 1.5 turnovers per game. Moreover, it’s not like they’re coming in bunches, as Jones has had at least one turnover in each game this season, but never more than two in a game.
The Eagles defense, meanwhile, only have four takeaways* on the season and have had four games in which Jim Schwartz’s unit failed to record a single turnover, including in last week’s loss to the Ravens. The only other game in which the defense got a takeaway was against the 49ers, when they got three. Additionally, that’s the only time they’ve won the turnover battle this season. No so coincidentally, that’s also the only game they won.
*They have five as a team, but one came on special teams.
Needless to say, forcing multiple turnovers against New York — or at least winning the turnover battle — will go along way toward securing a win and (at least for a few days) first place in the NFC East.
BONUS — Reminders that Joe Judge is from Philly: 3.5
Once in the intro. Once during the first half. And again when they show a shot of his family in crowd. The question is whether or not it will be more than that. If this was a Sunday game, I’d say no, since both fanbases likely already know about the first-year coach’s roots. But since it’s a national game, I think they milk this for all its worth.
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