Last week’s Thursday night matchup nearly broke the record for the most punts in a game ever! The Jaguars and Titans combined for 11 punts at halftime and ended the game with 14, falling just short of the record of 16. It was one of the only exciting things in that game beyond uber-accurate QB Gardner Minshew who largely impressed for a second straight week. This week, the Eagles will travel to Green Bay and take on the Packers in a contest that figures to raise the standard of TNF. Before I break down that matchup in-depth be sure to check out Ian Hartitz' WR/CB Matchups piece.
Thursday Night Football
This week’s Thursday Night game pits the Eagles against the Packers. Green Bay opened as three-point home favorites but has moved through a key number in 3.5-points all the way to four. I’d expect that to either stay at four or move back down to 3.5 prior to game time. The total has dropped two points since opening at 48 and sits at 46 in most spots. Using the spread and total to create implied team totals, sportsbooks are projecting a 25-21 win in favor of the Packers. The Eagles have scored 32, 20, and 24 points in three games so far, making this team total seem a touch too low. The Packers have scored 10, 21, and 27 but are 3-0 heading into this one while the Eagles are just 1-2.
The visiting Eagles have passed 63 percent of the time in one score games so far, 11th-highest in the league. Carson Wentz has looked uneven but is expected to get Alshon Jeffrey back from injury. With DeSean Jackson already declared out, Jeffrey will start on the outside with Mack Hollins and Nelson Agholor lining up in the slot. The Packers Defense has been much stronger against the pass than the run so far allowing a 35 percent passing success rate (3rd), while allowing a 55 percent rushing success rate (28th). This bodes well for Miles Sanders who’s seen his workload increase each week (12, 13, 15). The Eagles have been trying to get him going even though Jordan Howard has been more efficient. Among the 37 running backs with 25 or more carries this season, Miles Sanders ranks 32nd in success rate (38 percent) and Jordan Howard ranks 15th (52 percent). Unless Sanders begins to play better, I’m not sold they fully give him the backfield. The Packers Defense could be without one of their top defensive players, LB Za'Darius Smith (knee) who’s questionable and has been very limited in practice. His absence would be a significant loss for the Packers pass-rush.
The Packers Defense has been dominant so far, allowing just three points to the Bears, 16 to the Vikings and 16 to the Broncos. None of those teams possess a passing offense as potent as the Eagles though so this should be an interesting test. The Packers Offense has looked fairly mediocre through three weeks as problems are already beginning to brew between HC Matt LaFleur and QB Aaron Rodgers. This is a fantastic spot for the Packers to get going as the Eagles secondary has allowed 901 passing yards through three games. They have been repeatedly rinsed for big gains, especially by opposing wideouts. Week 1 was Terry “F1” McLaurin (5/125/1), Week 2 was Julio Jones (5/106/2) and Calvin Ridley (8/105/1), and Week 3 was Marvin Jones Jr. (6/101/1). After allowing four 100-yard receivers in three games, Davante Adams and Marques Valdes-Scantling are up next. TE Jimmy Graham will play but hasn’t been much of a factor regardless. Despite scoring two touchdowns, Aaron Jones saw two fewer carries and one less target than Jamaal Williams. This is an especially bad matchup against the Eagles pass-funnel defense which has allowed just 167 total rushing yards on 53 carries (3.15 YPC) to opposing running backs this season. Most people are scared of starting players in Thursday night games after the first few weeks, but there should be plenty of fantasy goodness in this one.
Prediction: 27-24 Eagles
TNF prediction Record (2-1)
Melvin Gordon Holdout ending Thursday
After holding out three weeks into the season, Gordon saw enough and decided to return without a new contract. This will assuredly be his last season with the Chargers but it looks like he’ll be active after this week and finish out the season. There are probably a lot of factors that went into his decision to return but with Austin Ekeler playing so well, Gordon may not have believed he would get an extension. Through three weeks, Ekeler has a 50 percent rushing success rate, and ranks fourth in receiving success rate (55 percent) among all running backs with 10-or-more targets. He’s racked up a whopping 368 total yards from scrimmage, fourth-most among all running backs. With Gordon returning, there are lots of questions about both he and Ekeler's workload. I’m not going to pretend to know the exact answer, but my guess would be some sort of timeshare. If Gordon is on the Chargers payroll, they are going to use him. Justin Jackson has seen seven, eight, and nine touches in three games, all of which will now be split between Ekeler and Gordon. Jackson is now a non-factor and both Gordon and Ekeler should see anywhere from 10-15 touches each week. Gordon’s workload is something to keep a close eye on in the coming weeks because if he can regain his previous touch share, he’ll return to RB1 status.
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Calvin Ridley: “It was hard to get open” against Colts’ zone defense
Ridley dropped a brutally honest quote that coincides perfectly with the data. Using TheQuantEdge.com’s WR/CB matchup tool, last season he faced zone 42.4 percent of the time and only caught 25-of-39 targets (64 percent) while averaging 8.8 yards per target and contributing a 96.6 passer rating. When facing man defense, he caught 23-of-31 targets (74 percent) while averaging 12.3 yards per target and contributed a 154.8 passer rating. The Colts play zone defense at one of the highest rates in the NFL so in hindsight, his lackluster game makes perfect sense. His Week 4 opponent, the Titans, were near league average in man coverage rate last season.
NFL Media's Ian Rapoport reports Vance McDonald has a shoulder sprain and "won’t have an extended absence." He’s currently in a sling and the Steelers just traded for Nick Vannett. Coach Mike Tomlin expects him to play in Week 4 but it’s something to keep an eye on. ... Devin Singletary (hamstring) remained sidelined at Wednesday's practice. Singletary hasn’t practiced since leaving the Week 2 game with an injury. Frank Gore and TJ Yeldon will continue to soak up touches in his absence. ... T.Y. Hilton (quad) didn’t practice on Wednesday. Hilton will likely be a game-time decision against the Falcons in Week 4. … Damien Williams (knee) remained sidelined at Wednesday's practice. Darrel Williams and McCoy will likely split touches against the Lions if Damien remains out. … Chris Godwin (hip) didn’t practice on Wednesday. He is “day-to-day” according to coach Bruce Arians and is a player to keep an eye on in upcoming practices. … Broncos CB Bryce Callahan will undergo foot surgery and miss at least four more weeks. Callahan is yet to play a snap for the Broncos after signing a three-year deal this offseason. …Browns CB Denzel Ward (hamstring) missed practice Wednesday. The Browns would love to have their top cornerback return against the explosive Ravens Offense. …Rex Burkhead (foot) was limited at practice Wednesday. He also received an X-Ray which came back negative. As long as he is available for Friday’s practice, he should be fully involved come Sunday. …. Case Keenum (foot) missed practice Wednesday. Coach Jay Gruden insists Keenum is still the starter but I’m not so sure. After playing horribly against the Bears, there’s a legitimate chance the Redskins roll with rookie Dwayne Haskins against the Giants in Week 4.