NFC East is Back: Eagles Host Giants for Ultimate Bragging Rights
Just two weeks after their Week 18 matchup in which the Eagles locked up the first seed in the NFC, the New York Giants travel to Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia to face the Birds on Saturday night. The Eagles narrowly escaped with a 22-16 win on January 8, but they seemed to be pulling their punches. The squad led by head coach Nick Sirianni were limping to the finish line after losing two straight, and starting quarterback Jalen Hurts was just returning from a shoulder injury.
Doing just enough to win and get the first seed was all they cared about it, and now all signs point to them also getting starting right tackle Lane Johnson back for the divisional round matchup. Johnson is dealing with a groin injury that will require surgery once the Eagles' season ends, but he is operating well enough to play through it in the playoffs. It will important for Philly to have the 10-year veteran on the field on Saturday, as they are 13-22 all-time with him on the sideline. Without further ado, let's take a closer look at this matchup.
Date: Saturday, January 21
Start Time: 8:15 EST
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Stadium: Lincoln Financial Field
TV Info: FOX (Joe Davis and Daryl Johnston on the call)
Eagles Offensive Line vs. Giants Defensive Line
The Giants, although they gave the Eagles their all in Week 18 (with backups might I add), have a daunting task against the Eagles offense. That will especially be the case with Johnson back protecting Hurts. At full strength, the Philadelphia offensive line is almost unstoppable, but the Giants' defensive line is the team's strength and it is very dominant. All-pro defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence posted the fourth-best pass-rush win rate among interior linemen at 17 percent, while Leonard Williams had a 40 percent run-stop win rate (the 10th ranked mark). Another huge threat on the defensive line is rookie edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux, who really got going after a slow start to the season. Since Week 12, the product of Oregon recorded 21 pressures and 10 quarterback hits.
This is a defensive line that will have their hands full with Johnson and future Hall of Fame center Jason Kelce. Johnson didn't allow a single quarterback hit in the regular season, and in fact hasn't allowed one since Week 7 of the 2021 season or a sack since Week 11 of the 2020 season. According to Pro Football Focus, Kelce also hasn't allowed a QB hit since Week 12 of the 2020 season and has allowed one sack the last two years. This game is going to come down to the battle of the trenches, and this side of the ball is where the Giants give themselves the best chance to win. Combining the best offensive line in football with the dual-threat abilities of Hurts is a daunting task for any defensive line. If anyone could do it, though, it's the Giants who are familiar with the Eagles.
Eagles Weapons/Hurts vs. Giants Pass Defense
But then you get to the G-Men secondary against the Eagles receivers and it gets very messy. Not only that, but as strong as the New York defensive line is, they have to deal with Hurts' running ability on top of trying to get through the brick wall of an offensive line. Despite getting pressure on the former second round pick (15 pressures, 4 sacks), the Giants still lost 48-22 in Week 14. Hurts made plays happen with both his legs and his arm, and trusted in his top two receivers, in A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith. The dominant duo combined for nine catches for 134 yards and a touchdown each. Another wrinkle in this matchup is tight end Dallas Goedert, who was out with an injury during the December 11 meeting. Now healthy, he is another weapon that Hurts has a lot of trust in. One that can exploit a defense that allowed over 1,000 yards to tight ends this season.
The Giants have weaknesses all over their secondary and with all the guys that must be accounted for, there are bound to be guys left wide open. Important to note, though, is that Giants were also without Xavier McKinney, Adoree Jackson, and Williams. New York ranked 31st in PFF’s coverage grade at 52.1 during the regular season, with Fabian Moreau the worst of them allowing five touchdowns in coverage and a 101.2 QB rating. It'll be interesting to see if defensive coordinator Wink Martindale makes any in-game adjustments, which he's usually not known for. But in a game of this magnitude, it may be needed if the secondary continue to allow too many chunk plays. Martindale is known for being aggressive and blitz-happy, which puts a lot of pressure on the secondary.
Eagles Rushing Attack vs. Giants Linebackers
You can't talk about an Eagles and Giants matchup without talking about the run game. Two words: Boston Scott. The Eagles' five-year running back has 16 career touchdowns in 60 career games; 10 have been against the Giants (nine rushing). On top of that he also has 414 rushing yards on 86 carries (4.8 yards per carry) and 17 receptions for 222 yards. And Scott's the least of their worries. The Eagles' rushed for their second-highest mark in Week 14, 253 yards on the ground. Like mentioned earlier, the rushing ability of Hurts also has to be accounted for. The third-year quarterback wasn't even at 100 percent with his shoulder in Week 18, which is why he wasn't on his A-game. He wasn't a factor in the run game, with just 13 yards on nine carries. That should change in the playoffs as he now is much more healthy following the bye week. Miles Sanders had a Pro Bowl season and will be a factor in the run and pass game as well.
The Eagles haven't always had a balanced attack; some games they will dominant on the ground and struggle in the air, or vice versa. But if anything, they have just the thought of Hurts using his legs to scare the Giants, even to keep them honest. Run-pass options, run-pass-run options and the QB sneak are a big part of the Eagles game, putting a lot on the Giants plates for game-planning. Plus, Philadelphia not giving them their all in Week 18 means they could have some more tricks up their sleeves.
Eagles Pass Rush vs. Daniel Jones
While being doubted by nearly everyone, Daniel Jones had a breakout campaign this season. He turned into "Vanilla Vick", running and passing the ball all over the field. But the thing is, Jones hardly throws the ball down field, as he had the second-fewest downfield throws (4.9%) during the regular season and 50 percent of his passes from Weeks 10-18 were short throws of 0-9 yards. On top of that, the Eagles pass rush can get home and make things difficult for him. Against pressure, Jones has a 83.8 QB rating, 55.6 percent completion percentage, and a 6-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. On the contrary, in a clean pocket, the Duke product has a 97.4 QB rating, 73.6 percent completion percentage, and a 9-to-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio. The Eagles secondary should be able to lock down the receivers, while the pass rush gets home.
Points Spread: NYG +7.5| PHI -7.5
Moneyline: NYG (+290) | PHI (-360)
Over/Under: O 48.5 (-105) | U 48.5 (-115)
You might think that this is easy, given that the Eagles have a much more complete team, but the Giants are coming in hot. That's all that matters and in a playoff game between two division foes playing each other for the third time, things can get messy. This is the first postseason game at The Linc since the 2019 season, when they lost to the Seattle Seahawks. Philly fans will be going crazy, and don't surprise if some Giants fans make the trip from East Rutherford, NJ. I can't see the game getting too much out of hand, especially when the Giants are closer to full strength than in Week 14 and of course kept it close with back ups in the regular season finale. Take the Giants to cover as this could easily be within at least a touchdown.
The Giants, with Jackson and McKinney back on the field, were able to limit Justin Jefferson to just 47 yards. While they put the clamps on the Vikings' receiving core, tight end T.J. Hockenson went off for 10 catches and 129 yards. So even if the Giants can slow Smith and Brown, they now also have Goedert to worry about. Then you add in the Birds' run game and the dual-threat Hurts, the Giants won't be able to contain everything. What will keep the Giants in the game is their pass rush, Jones' ability to make plays with his legs as well as Saquon Barkley. The Eagles did contain the former Penn State running back in Week 14 as he had just 28 yards on nine carries, but against Minnesota last week, he ran for 53 yards and two touchdowns on nine carries. He can make or break the Giants ability to win the game, as he is the x-factor. If he can go off for his first 100-yard rushing performance against the Eagles since his rookie season, the Giants can win. That won't happen, though, as the Eagles should be able to limit the damage. The Eagles begin to pull away in the second half, before a late push by the Giants in the fourth quarter gives them the backdoor cover
Philadelphia Eagles 34, New York Giants 27