The goal for the Eagles this week is very simple: beat the New York Giants, and clinch the number one seed in the NFC and win the NFC East.
Clinching the one seed is important not only for the home field advantage it grants you throughout the NFC playoffs, it gives the Eagles a first round bye and automatic trip to the divisional round.
The Eagles have had their chances these last two weeks to clinch the one seed, but have instead suffered two straight defeats to the Cowboys and Saints to force the Eagles into a situation where they absolutely must win to ensure the division and bye.
This matchup will look significantly different from the last time these two teams met, where the Eagles routed the New York Giants in a murder at the Meadowlands.
Here are the three main storylines for Sunday.
Hurts Shoulder? No more!
QB Jalen Hurts has been sidelined with a sprained throwing shoulder these past two weeks and watched as Gardner Minshew was unable to do what was needed to clinch against the Cowboys and Saints.
The much-anticipated return of MVP candidate Jalen Hurts is coming.
He will be the starting quarterback once again, and he looks to finish business and lock up the division and bye.
His status and throwing ability will be closely monitored by all, but he will be giving it everything Sunday to ensure the Eagles don’t experience a massive late-season collapse.
Defense Getting Reinforcements
Along with Hurts’ return, the defense will be getting desperately needed help returning from the IR. Defensive End Robert Quinn and Safety C.J. Gardner Johnson will be returning at just the right time to aid the defensive core.
Trade deadline acquisition Robert Quinn will be helping a defensive front needing depth, and fans are eager to see a high profile acquisition like Quinn finally make an impact.
NFL interception leader C.J. Gardner Johnson will finally make his long awaited return to get back into shape before playoffs roll around.
Another reason clinching the first round bye is so crucial is to make sure key players OT Lane Johnson, DE Josh Sweat, and CB Avonte Maddox will be healthy when the Eagles play their first playoff game. A first round bye will provide much needed extra rest time for these key players to get into game shape and be fully healthy for the most important games.
Resting Of Key Players Expected From Giants
On the other side, the New York Giants have nothing to play for given they’ve already locked up the sixth seed in the NFL playoffs and will not gain anything from playing their starters and trying to win. It is very much expected that the Giants will be resting key players on all sides of the ball in preparation for the playoffs. Saquon Barkley, Daniel Jones, and other key Giants players are expected to be rested for the game. There is always thought about the “integrity of the game” with situations like this, but the Giants would be remiss if they didn’t ensure the health of their best players for the playoffs.
The Giants resting their starters would help the Eagles in a massive way, making the addition of Jalen Hurts and other starters even scarier for the reserves the Giants are likely to put on the field. The Eagles may really want to get the jump on the Giants so they can put the game away quickly and possibly rest some of their own starters. If they can run up the score on the G-Men quickly it would be smart to rest their own starters and avoid risking injury.
Nothing is a given in the NFL, and the Eagles need to put their heads down and finish business on Sunday and do so without risking more injury. For the Eagles, it is now or never. They must cash in on this golden opportunity, they must win Sunday, and preserve the health of their core. It all comes down to this, and it should be incredibly entertaining to watch it unfold.