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Is Miles Sanders Playing Tonight? Is Jordan Howard Worth Picking Up?

Miles Sanders - Fantasy Football Rankings, Injury News, NFL DFS Lineup Picks

It's been a tough season for Miles Sanders and fantasy managers who drafted him. It's really been a tale of two seasons for the Eagles' rushing game. In the first seven weeks of the season, they averaged 116 rushing yards per game. From Weeks 8–14, that average shot up to 211 yards per game. Since Week 8, the lowest amount of rushing yards the Eagles have had as a team in one game is 176, which is more than anyone game they had in the first seven weeks of the season.

It's been a complete shift in offensive philosophy and it's greatly benefited the running backs. During this stretch, the Eagles have dealt with injuries to Sanders and Jordan Howard, who both missed games. However, when they've been active, they've all been productive. Howard has averaged 11.4 points per game in the four games he's played since Week 8, which ranks 23rd among running backs who have played at least four games. Sanders has averaged 10 points per game, despite losing a fumble and leaving two games early due to a nagging ankle injury. Boston Scott, the third running back on the depth chart has averaged 8.1 points per game. The overall fantasy points among the Eagles' backfield has been excellent since Week 8, but the problem has been the distribution.

Week 15 will mark just the second time all four running backs are relatively healthy, so fantasy managers will need to figure out how to value each one in this backfield. It's been a difficult riddle to figure out all season and it's unlikely to get any easier, but let's give it a shot.

 

Is Miles Sanders Playing in Week 15 Against Washington?

After leaving injured in Week 13, Miles Sanders is expected to play in Week 15 versus the Washington Football Team. Luckily for Sanders and fantasy managers alike, the Eagles had a bye week in Week 14, giving the former Penn State alumn an extra week to rest his banged-up ankle. Early reports this week are stating that the expectation is that Sanders will be ready to go come game time this weekend. Coach Nick Sirianni indicated Miles Sanders is trending in the right direction and Sanders himself weighed in on the matter.

Sanders was limited in practice to begin the week, an actual sign for his availability. There's very little doubt about his Week 15 status – he'll be active barring any sort of setback in practice this week.

 

Is Miles Sanders Hurt? Week 15 Injury Updates

The last time we saw Sanders was in Week 13 when he was repeatedly gashing the New York Jets. He finished that game with 24 carries and 120 scoreless yards. He also chipped in three catches for 22 yards. He looked healthy and dynamic.

Unfortunately, in the fourth quarter of that contest, Sanders got his right ankle rolled up on for the second week in a row. He suffered a sprained ankle in Week 7 and was put on IR. He would go on to miss three games before returning in Week 11. In Week 12, against the Giants, he re-injured the ankle, but was able to practice throughout the week and was active and dominated the Jets in Week 13, before once again having to leave the contest early due to another ankle twist of the same ankle. Following the Jets game and his second re-injury of his ankle, this is what Sanders had to say...

 

Is Jordan Howard Worth Picking Up Off The Waiver Wire?

Jordan Howard or Boston Scott - who is the better waiver wire pickup for Week 15? This is an almost impossible question to answer because there's so little data on what a backfield with all four guys – including rookie, Kenneth Gainwell – looks like. In Week 11, which was the one week where all four were healthy, Gainwell was inactive. In that contest, Sanders played 46% of the snaps, Scott played 37% and Howard played 17%. Sanders finished with 16 touches, Howard had 10 and Scott had eight. Scott (2) and Sanders (1) were the only two to receive any targets in the passing game.

During Weeks 8–10 when Sanders was on IR, Jordan Howard led the backfield in touches, although it was very close. In those three weeks, Howard averaged 13.7 touches and Scott was at 11.7. Gainwell chipped in with six, once again indicating, if all four are healthy, he's likely the odd man out. But again, this backfield has been difficult to figure out all season, so what Sirianni does in Week 15 is truly up in the air. Scott received three targets in those three games and Gainwell received one. Howard did not receive a single target. As far as a snap percentage, Scott led the way with a 40% snap percentage. Howard was at 34% and Gainwell was at 27%.

Based on what we've seen from the Eagles during Sanders' IR stint and when Sanders has been healthy, choosing between Howard and Scott is almost a 50/50 choice. They've played a similar amount of snaps and the touches have been comparable, as well. While Howard may hold the advantage in touchdowns, it's Scott who holds the advantage in terms of passing game involvement. Scott is less game-script dependent due to his role in the passing role, but Howard is likely the runner with the better touchdown chances.

During Sanders' IR stint, Howard had three touchdowns and Scott had two, so while the perception may have been that Howard was the preferred goal-line back, Scott received his fair share of touches in that area of the field too. With so little information on what to expect out of this backfield with all four guys in play, the best idea may be to stash Howard and Scott and see how this backfield plays out. With Covid and injuries running rampant that may not be possible. If fantasy managers need to pick one, Howard seems to have more upside should Sanders get hurt again. He led the team in touches and Philadelphia's offense has shifted towards being a very run-heavy unit. Howard is better suited to carry the load than Scott and he's your more prototypical goal-line back.

 

How Much Fantasy Value is in the Philadelphia Eagles' Backfield?

Fantasy managers should treat Sanders as a low-end RB2 with some upside. Howard and Scott both are nothing more than bench stashes at this point and that's because it's tough to know what the pecking order is behind Sanders. We do know Sanders is going to lead the way though. In Weeks 11–13, Sanders averaged 17.7 touches per game, which ranks 16th among running backs with at least two games played during that small sample size. If Sanders were to average 17.7 touches per game over a 16-game sample size, he'd finish with 283 touches. It's a hefty workload and it comes with RB2 value.

Sanders has been extremely productive when he's touched the ball this season. He is fourth among all qualifying running backs in yards per carry with a 5.2 average. He's also ninth among running backs with at least 100 carries in broken tackles per attempt.

That displays Sanders' home-run ability, as well. Jonathan Taylor has 245 carries, Nick Chubb has 167, Damien Harris has 164, Javonte Williams has 155 and Joe Mixon has 245. Miles Sanders, on the other hand, has only 112. Some of that is undoubtedly because of his injury concerns, but some of that is also because Sirianni only gave him 63 carries in the first seven weeks of the season or nine per game. Regardless, it shows just what kind of upside he would have with consistent volume.

The downside to Sanders is that he only averages 2.9 targets per game and his lack of scoring potential. Sanders has just 15 red zone carries this season. Jalen Hurts has 27, Howard has 17 and Scott has 13. Out of those four players, Sanders has the fewest amount of carries inside the 10-yard line with just seven. Howard is at eight, Scott at nine and Hurts at 17. Inside the 5-yard line, fantasy managers, unfortunately, see the same trend. Howard and Sanders are tied for the fewest with four, Scott is at seven and Hurts once again leads the way with nine.

Fantasy managers should feel comfortable putting Sanders into their lineups this weekend as a low-end RB2 and that's what his value should be the rest of the season. His touch totals are excellent, but without a stronger receiving profile or more scoring upside, his points will be limited by the kind of touches he receives, which are, unfortunately, not the high-value ones fantasy managers should be chasing.

Howard and Scott are nothing more than bench stashes at this point. Until fantasy managers get a better idea of how Sirianni intends to deploy his running backs with all four healthy, fantasy managers cannot comfortably put any of these guys into their starting lineup, despite the increased value this offense has put on the running game.



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