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2022 NFL season: Five things to watch for in Giants-Eagles in NFC Divisional Round

New York Giants
2022 · 10-7-1
Philadelphia Eagles
2022 · 14-3-0

A stunning New York Giants season will carry on Saturday, while the Philadelphia Eagles’ anticipated playoff run will commence.

The underdog and the frontrunner will clash as New York and Philly face off for the third time this season with the stakes as large as they’ve ever been in the age-old rivalry.

Buoyed by a sensational performance from quarterback Daniel Jones in his playoff debut, the sixth-seeded Giants are the lowest remaining seed in the postseason as they head to Lincoln Financial Field for a showdown with the top-seeded Eagles.

This will be the fifth time the franchises have toed the line in the playoffs, having split each of the previous four with two wild-card matchups and two other Divisional Round bouts.

For the Big Blue contingent of Jones, running back Saquon Barkley and many others, this is the first taste of the postseason. Still, history is on the Giants’ side. Since 1990, New York is 6-0 against No. 1 seeds in the playoffs.

It’s a rare statistic favoring the Giants, as the Eagles have won three straight in the rivalry and 11 of 13. This past regular season, Philadelphia trounced New York, 48-22, in Week 14, and collected a 22-16 Week 18 victory in what amounted to the Eagles defeating the Giants’ reserves.

Philadelphia is coming off a much-needed bye week that’s allowed quarterback Jalen Hurts to rest (and possibly heal) up, as he and wide receivers A.J. Brown and Devonta Smith, along with a tenacious defense, aim to get their second win over the Giants in as many games to notch the club’s first playoff win since 2018.

Neither the Giants or Eagles have advanced to an NFC Championship Game since they last won a Super Bowl, but a berth in the title game is what’s on the line as the winner will await the Dallas Cowboys-San Francisco 49ers winner.

A rivalry reconvenes on Saturday night with the season on the line.

Here are five things to watch for when the Giants visit the Eagles on Saturday in the Divisional Round:

  1. Will the best version of Hurts take the field? For so much of a sterling season, Jalen Hurts was at the forefront of the most-valuable-player conversation. Then he sustained a shoulder injury, missed two games and, along with head coach Nick Sirianni, offered up shockingly honest accounts of just how pained he truly was. Having exited the injury report this week, Hurts has optimism at a high. Still, when he played in Week 18 against an aforementioned reserve-laden Giants squad, Hurts appeared a bit rusty and hardly looked like the dynamo who’d destroyed defenses throughout the season through the air and on the ground. Hurts is 3-1 as a starter versus the G-Men, but he’s been hot and cold. In two games without a touchdown pass against the Giants, he’s thrown four interceptions. In two games without an INT, he’s tossed four TDs. Hurts missed two games in total this season, but it doesn’t remove the fact that he had an absolutely outstanding third NFL campaign (4,461 yards of offense, 35 total TDs). The question for Saturday as Hurts vies for his first playoff triumph is whether his shoulder will hinder the Eagles’ chances at advancing.
  2. The days of Dimes. Daniel Jones’ evolution in one season with head coach Brian Daboll and offensive coordinator Mike Kaftka has been remarkable. It likely reached its crescendo in Jones’ 60 minutes of magnificence during the Giants’ upset of the Vikings on Super Wild Card Weekend. In his first playoff game, Jones very likely played his best game, throwing for 301 yards and two touchdowns along with running for 78 yards. It’s a stat line never seen before in a playoff game. When his fifth-year option wasn’t picked up this past offseason, Jones’ future fell into limbo beyond this season. Now he has more playoff wins than Kyler Murray, Justin Herbert and his counterpart Saturday. He’s got just as many postseason victories as Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson and Kirk Cousins. But things can change in the NFL and for Jones in a New York minute. His best game is behind him and his next game is his biggest yet. There’s a solid chance Jones has already locked up an extension or a franchise-tag season with the G-Men, but what he does Saturday will loom larger than any improvement made. Will these days of Danny Dimes carry on with an upset of the rival Eagles? Or will Jones’ finest season conclude and his most pivotal offseason begin?
  3. Can Giants hold down Brown-Smith tandem as they did Jefferson? This one’s gotta sting for Tennessee Titans fans. When last A.J. Brown suited up for the Titans, they were the AFC’s No. 1 seed and he was their lone highlight in a bitter loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. Now, he’s back in the playoffs with the top-seeded Eagles while Tennessee is home for the winter. Brown will look to avoid being part of another upset while aiming to continue his and Devonta Smith’s good fortune against the Giants. The two -- who teamed up to be the only teammate duo with 85-plus receptions and 1,000-plus receiving yards in 2022 -- combined for 20 catches, 296 yards and two touchdowns this season against New York. The Giants’ pass rush -- keyed by Dexter Lawrence and Kayvon Thibodeaux -- and secondary -- led by Adoree' Jackson and Xavier McKinney -- did its due diligence in a defensive effort that put the clamps down on Justin Jefferson in the wild-card win. The All-Pro wideout was held to 47 yards, seven catches and no scores on nine targets. It was a stupendous effort that was vital to the Giants snagging an upset. Containing Brown and Smith will be crucial.
  4. What becomes of the running games? Minnesota was held to 61 yards rushing in its loss to New York, but it largely abandoned the ground game with just 16 rushing attempts. Philadelphia isn’t likely to settle for the same approach, having rumbled to 253 yards against the Giants in Week 14 and another 135 in Week 18. The Eagles led the NFL in rushing scores, were fifth in rushing yards and third in rushing attempts. These Eagles can fly, but they will always run. For a Giants defense that was 27th in rushing yards allowed, holding its ground against Miles Sanders, who had a career-high 144 yards against them in Week 14, and Boston Scott, who has 10 of his 18 career TDs versus Big Blue, is paramount. It could be just as important for the Giants to get their own running game going. Saquon Barkley hasn’t hit 100 yards rushing against the Eagles since doing it twice in his resounding rookie campaign of 2018. Facing an Eagles defense ranked No. 1 against the pass and boasting the league’s most daunting pass rush, it’s imperative for the Giants to keep the Philly D honest. With Jones and Hurts on the field, this will be the initial playoff game in NFL history in which each starting QB had 600-plus rushing yards in the regular season. Establishing and slowing the running game will be prominent storylines in this one.
  5. Who’s hot? Who’s not? A quick glance at the schedule shows the Eagles defeated the Giants just two weeks ago. However, it was a game in which the Eagles hardly looked impressive in beating a team with most of its starters sitting. New York is riding high off an upset over the No. 3 seed for the franchise’s first postseason win since it won a Super Bowl in the 2011 season. There is buzz in Gotham, and there is concern in Philly. The Eagles ran roughshod in an 8-0 start to the season and rebounded from their first loss with five consecutive wins. However, Philadelphia limped into the playoffs thanks in large part to Hurts’ injury. The Eagles lost two in a row before the aforementioned Week 18 win over the Giants that finally clinched the No. 1 seed. Each conference’s top seed lost in last year’s playoffs, so it’s hardly a novel concept for a top dog to fall. As the Giants look to continue their good fortune, the Eagles are looking to get going coming off a bye. Did they get rest or rust?

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