Nick Sirianni is rightfully taking a lot of grief for how the Eagles played against Dallas on Monday night, but he’s also being heavily criticized for admitting that the game plan going into that contest was to turn it into a high-scoring shootout.
At some level the latter criticism may be justified given the Eagles’ offensive limitations, but before throwing Sirianni under the proverbial bus for that approach, consider three reasons why that type of game plan might have made sense.
First, history shows that even the greatest offensive firepower can be relatively nullified in shootout games.
There have been 26 NFL teams that scored 500 or more points. Those clubs won 80.6% of their overall games and averaged 35.6 points per game, but their winning percentage dropped to 59.4% when their opponents scored 24 points.
Second, the Cowboys came into that contest with some huge coverage liabilities. According to Pro Football Reference, cornerback Anthony Brown allowed 11 completions in 15 targets for 163 yards and two touchdowns over the course of Weeks 1 and 2. In addition, starting safety Damontae Kazee has subpar coverage metrics this year and Dallas was also going to be without starting safety Donovan Wilson. Sirianni showed in Week 2 that he will build game plans to target coverage weaknesses, and this looked like a prime matchup to do so.
Third, the Eagles’ pass defense held Matt Ryan, Calvin Ridley, and Kyle Pitts in check in Week 1 and did the same to Jimmy Garoppolo, Deebo Samuel, and George Kittle in Week 2. With that kind of track record, it wouldn’t be a stretch to think the Eagles secondary could slow down the Dallas aerial attack to a much greater extent than it actually did.
The failure of this approach should not preclude Sirianni from using it again in the near future, as matchups against Kansas City in Week 4, Tampa Bay in Week 6, and Las Vegas in Week 7 all may require a shootout mindset in order to keep up with these powerhouse offenses.
Here is this week’s fantasy and gambling 10-pack, a section that will provide 10 quick-hit notes and tips for fantasy managers and gamblers looking to get an edge in Week 4.
1. Let’s start with a Thursday night player prop. The Bengals’ Ja’Marr Chase has an over/under of 4.5 receptions (-115, both per BetMGM). He’s due to face the Jaguars’ Shaquill Griffin in coverage, which is a major plus since Griffin has allowed a 70% completion rate and 10.4 yards per target on the 20 passes thrown his way this season (per Pro Football Reference). Chase will be the centerpiece of the Bengals passing attack and should hit the over on this one.
2. For more action on the Thursday night game, go for the Bengals -7.5. Griffin isn’t the only weak spot on the Jaguars defense, as Jacksonville ranks tied for 25th in yards allowed per play and 28th in passing yards allowed. Trevor Lawrence is tied for the league high in interceptions and will face a quickly improving Cincinnati defense in a short week road game. Add these elements together, and it should be enough to vault Cincinnati to cover in this one.
3. Chicago’s offense has the most favorable pass defense schedule in Week 4, as it gets a 100 total in my passing matchup points metric (1-100 scale, with 100 being most favorable). Allen Robinson has been a huge disappointment so far this year, but Detroit is already missing two of its top cornerbacks and had a talent-challenged secondary even when healthy. Add this to Nick Foles likely getting the start at quarterback, and it should make Robinson a good start candidate.
4. The Jets offense is beyond atrocious. Through three games they have a minus-50.24 total in offensive expected points added, a pace that is nearly 20 points lower than the next-to-last-place team in that category. Zach Wilson is also a turnover machine, as he has seven interceptions and one fumble on his ledger. This is a week to get Tennessee’s D/ST into the lineup, but you can also do some advanced planning and acquire and stash the Atlanta defense for a great Week 5 start against the Jets.
5. Given how badly Wilson and the Jets offense is playing, it is amazing that the Jets are underdogs by only 7.5 points against a Titans club that has found its way on offense and defense over the last couple of weeks. It will not be a shock if Tennessee wins that contest by a double-digit point total.
6. One of the biggest surprises of the 2021 season is the collapse of the Washington defense. Its secondary is the biggest factor in this decline, as WFT ranks 29th in defensive passing expected points added and has a player to target in Kendall Fuller, who is allowing a 72% completion rate and 8.2 yards per target this year. This weakness does not seem to be accounted for in the spread, as Atlanta is only a 1.5-point favorite despite playing at home. Fantasy managers should see this as an opportunity to finally get a big day from Kyle Pitts, as the Falcons will move Pitts around to take full advantage of this opportunity.
7. The Rams have an incredibly favorable rush defense schedule for the rest of the season. According to my rankings, Los Angeles has six green-rated rush defense matchups for the rest of the season (green being highly favorable), eight yellow-rated matchups (neutral in value), and zero red-rated matchups (unfavorable). This incredibly friendly slate makes Sony Michel a tremendous buy-low candidate and could make this a great time to trade for Darrell Henderson Jr.
8. Patrick Mahomes’ penchant for throwing risky passes is getting much of the blame for the Chiefs 1-2 record, but the reality is the Chiefs have had all manner of coverage issues so far this year. Prime among these is the play of cornerbacks L’Jarius Sneed and Charvarius Ward, who have posted 11.6 and 9.9-yard marks in yards per target, respectively. Add that to subpar vertical pass coverage and only 23 quarterback pressures (ranked tied for 27th), and it makes this platoon one that Sirianni may be able to successfully target with one of his aggressive passing game plans. It’s the type of thing that offers upside to any Eagles DFS play.
9. Need a long-shot upside option at tight end? The Bills’ Dawson Knox could fit that bill. He has scored 8+ PPR points in every game this year and has the highest matchup points total among tight ends in Week 4.
10. As noted previously, Anthony Brown has been awful in coverage this year. That could be just what is needed for the Panthers’ Robby Anderson to finally have a breakout day, as he should be facing Brown quite often this Sunday. Anderson has scored only 21.3 PPR fantasy points this entire season, but the Brown matchup is so favorable that Anderson may top that total in a single contest if all goes well.