Wild Card Sunday Showdown DFS Primer (Eagles at Buccaneers)
This game is a rematch of a Thursday Night Football game back in Week 6. The Buccaneers won that game 28 to 22. However, I don’t think there is much information to glean from that game. There have been significant injuries and personnel changes that essentially render that game’s numbers meaningless. So, let’s take a fresh look at this week’s matchup with the changes since Week 6 in mind.
Game: Philadelphia Eagles at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Spread: TB -8.5 Points
Over/Under: 48.5 Points
Eagles Analysis: The Eagles are a run-first team at their core. Seriously. According to Sharp Football Stats, from Week 10 through Week 17, when the offensive scoring margin was from trailing by six points to leading by six points, the Eagles ran at a 52% clip, the third-highest mark in the NFL.
Of course, their dual-threat quarterback, Jalen Hurts, spearheads Philly’s run-heavy approach. The second-year quarterback averaged 52.3 rushing yards per game, adding ten rushing touchdowns per Pro-Football-Reference. He also averaged 209.6 passing yards per game, tossing 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Hurts’ ability to do it all makes him the most reliable option in Philadelphia’s offense.
The running game doesn’t end with Hurst, though. Miles Sanders is likely back from injury this week. Further, while I noted there isn’t much to take away from the earlier meeting with the Buccaneers, Sanders’ 56 rushing yards on only nine attempts is encouraging for a usable outing in the rematch. Additionally, Tampa Bay’s run defense wasn’t the world-beater from in 2020. According to Football Outsiders, the Bucs are 12th in rush defense Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA), worse than the 10th they rank in pass defense DVOA. I’m not optimistic about the Eagles keeping this game close. However, if you think the visitors make this a competitive contest from start to finish, then Sanders is a good selection.
Instead, I like the passing-game options. Dallas Goedert stands out like a sore thumb as underpriced on DraftKings. Goedert’s production exploded after the team traded Zach Ertz. Goedert corraled 15 of 19 targets for 234 receiving yards in his final three games.
I’m also intrigued by punt options Quez Watkins and pass-catching back Kenneth Gainwell — if he’s active. According to Player Profiler, Watkins has elite straight-line speed, evidenced by his 97th percentile 40-yard dash time. The second-year receiver is averaging 15.1 yards per reception, leading the NFL with a 91-yard long reception in 2021. Finally, from Week 15 through Week 17, according to Pro Football Focus, Watkins was fourth on the Eagles in routes (56).
Gainwell might be inactive if Sanders returns. However, if he is active, I’ll read into that as a plan to involve in the game as a pass-catching option, namely if keeping him busy comes at the expense of Jordan Howard or Boston Scott.
Buccaneers Analysis: The Buccaneers are the anti-Eagles, regarding offensive play-calling. Thankfully, if you're investing in their passing game, they don't take their foot off the accelerator, passing at the second-highest rate (61%) when leading by three points or more since Week 10. From Week 10 until the end of the regular season, in neutral game scripts, the Bucs passed at the highest rate (66%).
Tom Brady is my favorite selection from either team in this game. Even with Chris Godwin out and the Antonio Brown drama, Brady has passed for 736 yards and six touchdowns the previous two weeks. Meanwhile, the Eagles aren't a formidable foe in pass defense, ranking 25th in pass defense DVOA.
Unfortunately, the matchup is challenging for Tampa Bay's receivers. According to Pro-Football-Reference, the Eagles yield the second-fewest DraftKings and FanDuel points per game to receivers. Sure, Mike Evans is a matchup-proof stud. Nonetheless, I prefer to allocate my salary cap resources elsewhere.
The matchup is tricky for Breshad Perriman, too. However, I'm intrigued by him as a home-run threat at a reasonable salary. Cyril Grayson left last week's game early with a hamstring injury, pushing Perriman into a more prominent offensive role. Perriman's 28 routes in Week 18 were the fourth-most on the Bucs, resulting in five receptions on five targets for 44 yards.
Regardless, my favorite pass-catching option from the Bucs is Rob Gronkowski. He led the Bucs in routes (36), targets (nine), receptions (seven), and receiving yards (137) last week. It was Gronk's second straight game with 115 receiving yards or more and his third in the previous four with double-digit targets. Calling 2021 a vintage season for Gronk is overstating how good he was. Nevertheless, out of 25 tight ends targeted at least 50 times this year, Gronk's 2.09 yards per route run (Y/RR) was the fourth-highest mark. Finally, the matchup is the polar opposite for Tampa Bay's receivers. The Eagles allow the second-most DraftKings and FanDuel points per game to tight ends.
The last piece of the Bucs I love is Leonard Fournette. He's expected back from the Injured Reserve this week and was activated on Wednesday, returning to practice. Oddly, his late-season injury might be a blessing in disguise if Lombardi Lenny returns from his multi-week absence with fresh legs. The veteran back's fresh legs helped him steamroll through the postseason last year. This year, he parlayed his 2020 postseason breakout into a feature-back gig, averaging 90.4 scrimmage yards, 12.9 rush attempts, and 4.9 receptions per game, adding ten touchdowns in 14 games. Finally, the matchup is good. The Eagles are 19th in rush defense DVOA. In addition, they allow the 10th-most FanDuel and ninth-most DraftKings points per game to running backs. Armed with a likely good game script, attached to an 8.5-point favorite, Fournette is a tempting option on this single-game slate.
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