On Monday Night Football this week, the nation is thankful for fantasy football and sports betting. Otherwise, there might not be much of a reason to tune in to the 2-10 Giants at the 5-7 Eagles. Oh wait, how could I forget that the NFC East is a dumpster fire and the Eagles are actually just a half-game out of first place.
The Giants, however, have been eliminated and motivation may play a factor in this game against a highly motivated Philadelphia Eagles team. Motivation can only go so far when handicapping an NFL game because every player has an incentive to play well in order to secure their next contract. A more significant handicapping factor in the NFL is coaching, and the Eagles have a decided edge in this area with Doug Pederson compared to Pat Shurmur.
Shurmur is a lame-duck coach having gone 7-21 in his first two years with the Giants. He almost assuredly will go to 7-22 after this game, but all we care about is whether or not the Giants will go to 4-9 against the spread or improve to 5-8 ATS.
Giants Offense vs. Eagles Defense
Monday night will feature the triumphant return of Eli Manning with Daniel Jones ruled out for this contest. When talking about motivation, there is no doubt that Eli will want to go out with a victory in potentially his final game as a member of the New York Giants. The question though, is how good can Eli possibly be, even with maximum motivation? And the real question that needs to be answered is are the Giants better off with Eli than with Jones?
It may seem like a dumb question if all you know about Jones is his way-too-early nickname, Danny Dimes. To be fair, Jones has put up an incredibly successful rookie season, passing for 18 touchdowns to 11 interceptions. His QBR of 51.3 on the year is good for 20th in the NFL which is about as effective as anyone could have expected heading into the season.
However, Jones has cobbled together an incredibly up and down season. Of his 10 starts, he's only thrown more touchdowns than interceptions in four of those games. In 2018, Eli Manning had 8 such games in his 16 starts. Obviously not very impressive, but better than Daniel Jones in 2019. Figuring out what the true adjustment should be going from Jones to Eli is essential to handicapping this game.
With Eli at QB, the Giants will likely give a larger workload to Saquon Barkley. Barkley has struggled since coming back from his injury in late October, but last week he may have turned a corner with 83 yards on 19 carries. Then again, that was against the Green Bay Packers and their sieve of a run defense. The Eagles, conversely, have one of the better run defenses in the league, ranking at #8 per DVOA.
Against the pass is where the Eagles have struggled, although they have been trending upward recently as their cornerbacks returned to the lineup. The Eagles are finally healthy in the secondary, and it showed against the Patriots and against the Seahawks when the Eagles gave up just 17 points in each game.
However, both games were losses and the Eagles followed them up with a 37-31 loss at Miami last week. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 365 yards in that game, making this Eagles pass defense incredibly difficult to decipher.
Eagles Offense vs. Giants Defense
A much easier handicap is the Eagles passing game against the Giants defense. While Carson Wentz hasn’t always passed the eye test this season, his QBR of 64.3 is good for 7th in the league, and his 20-7 TD to INT rate is equally as impressive. The problem for Wentz has been a lack of quality targets to throw to. His top target, Alshon Jeffery, missed three games before returning last week. He was welcomed back with open arms by Wentz who targeted him 16 times, resulting in nine catches for 137 yards and a TD.
Wentz spread the ball around evenly to the rest of his targets. Tight End Dallas Goedert did the most with his seven targets, catching six for 66 yards. Nelson Agholor and Zach Ertz each caught three of six targets, and Miles Sanders caught all five of his for 22 yards and a TD. Even rookie J.J. Arcega-Whiteside got in on the action with a 15-yard TD reception.
The Giants have the third-worst pass defense in the NFL, so the Eagles should continue to have success through the air. On the ground, New York is much better, ranking #11 in defensive efficiency, and the Eagles will once again be without starter Jordan Howard. In his place though is rookie Miles Sanders, who ran for 83 yards last week and is a much better receiving back than Howard.
There is no edge on special teams according to DVOA, as the Eagles rank #19 compared to the Giants at #20 overall. However, in the kicking game, the Eagles have Jake Elliot, who is 17-18 on the year, compared to the Giants Aldrick Rosas who is just 10-14.
The Spread and Total
This game opened at Eagles -8.5 after a look-ahead line of Eagles -9. That number was adjusted up to Eagles -9.5 after Eli was announced as the likely starter. The Eagles are now clearly the sharp side. Despite a ticket count that favors the Giants at 54%, 65% of the money has come in on the Eagles in a must-win spot.
The total on this game opened at 47 and has been bet down to as low as 45.5 points. This could be a reaction to Eli Manning likely starting at quarterback because it’s hard to see where the Giants will be scoring their points.
By Kyle Johansen