The Philadelphia Backfield Versus The San Francisco 49ers

A Close Look at The Eagles Backfield versus the 49ers

BJ VanderWoude: Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliot are both coming off monster weeks against the 49ers, and this week that advantageous matchup goes to the muddled Philadelphia backfield. LeGarrette Blount and Wendell Smallwood are the top two backs in Philadelphia and could be great value this week. How do you see this game playing out, and will you have exposure to either Blount or Smallwood in GPP's? 

Jason Wood: Jason Peters tore his ACL and MCL and will miss the remainder of the season. Words cannot describe how problematic that is for the Eagles ever-increasing Super Bowl hopes. Vaitai is the swing tackle and played reasonably well in Peters' stead on Monday Night, but he's struggled in other games particularly when starting in place of Lane Johnson. I suspect the Eagles are a good enough team that beating San Francisco without Peters won't be a problem, but I'm less clear on whether the team can maintain the same run/pass balance we've seen thus far through seven weeks. With Smallwood, Blount and Clement all playing their parts, there's no blueprint to success for DFS purposes. If you're the kind of DSF player who fields multiple GPP lineups, I can see having some exposure to both Blount and Smallwood; just in case. But as a definitive asset at the core of your lineups? No chance. 

James Brimacombe: I am not trusting an individual Eagles running back this week. Just like Jason mentioned the O-Line has some adjusting to do with Jason Peters out for the season and with Blount, Smallwood and Clement all eyeing carries it is hard to know who to trust for DFS purposes. To me the Eagles offense is also one that doesn’t care about the rushing attempts and would be content throwing smart short passes to pick up yards that way instead of on the ground. The Eagles are very much in the business of getting wins as a team right now, so the production is being spread around in both the passing and running game. 

Phil Alexander: This tweet from PFF's Scott Barrett says it all when it comes to running backs playing against the 49ers: 

It would be foolish not to grab some Blount and Smallwood shares based on Barrett's list, but I'd be careful not to overexpose myself to either player. Last week, Blount and Smallwood split snaps evenly, with each back appearing on about 38% of the team's offensive plays. Rookie Corey Clement also mixed in for 18% of the snaps and poached a nine-yard touchdown catch. The limited workloads combined with Philadelphia's 81% passing touchdown rate make Blount and Smallwood far from GPP mainstays.

John Mamula: The Eagles are ranked third in the NFL in red zone touchdown scoring percentage (65.2%). This is impressive as LeGarrette Blount and Wendell Smallwood have only accounted for three combined touchdowns through the first seven games. It is evident that the team has handed the keys to the offense to Carson Wentz. I will also be avoiding their running backs this week as I envision the Eagles once again scoring the majority of their points through the air. 

Justin Howe:  Frankly, working Blount into one’s GPP portfolio is only common sense. This is the type of game script – a fast-paced matchup with tons of implied volume – to chase, and the hefty spread (Eagles -13) suggests an Eagles-dominated game that features Blount running downhill the entire second half against a tired, underachieving defense. And the Eagles’ projected Vegas total itself (a week-high 30.25) points to plenty of goal line opportunities, where Blount tends to make his hay. The real question is how much Blount we want. I wish he came just a little cheaper – he’s priced close to his ceiling on DraftKings and a little beyond it on FanDuel. But he works as a strong salary pivot from, say, Joe Mixon.

I still don’t like Smallwood as a GPP play. I just don’t see where the upside comes from. He’s only notched more than 13 attempts once across 17 career appearances (with various backfield injuries in play throughout), he’s averaged more than 4.00 yards per carry in just 6 of those games, he receives virtually no short-yardage attention, he doesn’t catch passes well or often. The odds of him breaking out, even in such a cherry matchup, seem slim.
Dan Hindery: I think you have to have at least some exposure in GPPs if you are multi-entering just because there is a realistic chance Blount could score multiple times. The likely game script is obviously a great one on paper for a power back like Blount. The Eagles are 13-point home favorites against a team that has given up some big games to opposing backs. I am likely to be underweight compared to the field, however. While elite backs like Gurley and Elliott gashed San Francisco, the run defense has held up fairly well against less accomplished running backs. In Week 6, the 49ers went on the road as big underdogs and held Washington to 58 yards on 27 carries.

Plus, much of the damage done by opposing running backs has come in the passing game. San Francisco is 31st in pass defense DVOA against running backs and has given up more receiving yardage (67.5 yards per game) than any other team. Blount has just three targets all season. Smallwood and Corey Clement are going to be used as the primary pass catchers, which really limits Blount’s upside. It also makes him a risky play because he will be so touchdown-dependent. 

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