The long two-week wait is finally over, it’s playoff time!
In their first home playoff game since January 2020 the Eagles will be taking on a familiar opponent in their division rival New York Giants.
The Giants will be riding high off of a 31-24 win last week against the Vikings. Their playoff win was their first since beating the Patriots in Super Bowl 46. The Eagles and Giants have played two times in a little over a calendar month with the Eagles coming out victorious in both of those games. But this game will be no “cakewalk” for the Birds.
Danny Dimes Heating Up
One of the biggest reasons for the Giants being in this position has been the emergence of Daniel Jones. In last week’s win, Jones was 24/35 for 301 yards and 2 touchdowns passing. He also rushed 17 times for 78 yards. Jones has always been a great athlete but his progression this season has been through the air. In this regular season, he had his best year throwing the ball with 3,205 yards at a 67.2 % completion percentage. While those numbers will not blow you away, they are a step up from his average of 2,799 passing yards in his three previous seasons in the NFL.
Part of the reason his numbers are up is that he only missed one game, where he sat out, while in other years he failed to play a full season. But most people nationally are crediting Head Coach Brian Daboll with Jones’ progression. Daboll was the Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach of a Jalen Hurts lead Alabama squad in 2017. After making the National Championship with Hurts, and then winning it with Tua Tagovalloa, Daboll was hired to become the Offensive Coordinator of the Buffalo Bills. Daboll has been credited with turning Josh Allen into the player he is, and Jones has played better under Daboll so far.
If the Eagles want to stop Jones it starts with stopping his legs. When naming the best “dual threat” Qb’s in the league Jones is hardly mentioned, but when he wants to he can be one of the most efficient running Qb’s in the NFL. The Eagles’ pass rushers will have to be mindful to keep contain and force Jones to step up into the Eagles’ big tackles instead of moving the pocket and picking up first downs on the ground. The Vikings played all-zone defense last week and Jones was able to carve it up. The Vikings’ defensive coordinator was subsequently fired after the loss. Normally against a running Quarterback you want to play more zone-than-man defense but the Eagles defense has been bad in the zone the last few games. The Eagles have the number one-rated pass defense so no matter what defense they play, it will be tougher for Jones this week.
Slowing Down Saquon
The Giants’ biggest weapon is their former top 5 pick, Saquon Barkley. Barkley finished 4th in the NFL in rushing with 1,312 yards while also racking up 10 touchdowns. In last week’s win, Saquon rushed for only 53 yards but he did score two touchdowns. Barkley is one of the scariest players in the NFL to go up against because of his home run ability. Any time he touches the ball he can take it to the house and he showed that last week with a 28-yard touchdown run.
Barkley had some success last week in the passing game as well. He caught 5 balls for 56 yards. The Giants are very deficient in the wide receiver room so they will look to Barkley to make up for some of that. The Giants will probably use Barkley more in the passing game Saturday because they will probably not be able to move the ball deep down the field very often.
The Eagles had success containing Barkley so far this season. He sat out the week 18 matchup but in their first matchup he rushed for only 28 yards. After a early season injury to first round pick Jordan Davis the Eagles had a small stretch where they struggled to stop the run. After bringing in Linval Joseph and Ndamukongn Suh though, that has not been the case. If the Eagles stop Saquon and force the Giants other skill position players to beat them, I like our chances.
Off the Injured List
The final injury reports are out for Saturday nights game and they are extremely light for both teams. The Giants have been battling injuries all season and will have some key defensive players this week that missed some time this season including Leanord Williams, Xavier Mckinney, and Adoree’ Jackson.
The Giants did have one player on the injury report and that is Azeez Ojulari with a Quad injury. Ojulari is listed as questionable but many Giants writers believe he will be good to go.
The Eagles got some great news on the latest injured list and that is Jalen Hurts was a full participant in practice all week and has no designation for the game. This is huge news as in week 18 Hurts was questionable before the game and was practicing in limited form some of the days. The expectation should be that Jalen has no restrictions and we should expect pre injury Jalen to take the field Saturday night.
The Eagles got more good news from Friday’s injury report as All-Pro Tackle Lane Johnson was a full participant in practice and will play. Jack Driscoll struggled in the games he started for Lane, so it will be huge for the offense to have Johnson back.
The one negative from the injury report was that Cornerback Avonte Maddox was ruled out for the game. Many people believe that Maddox could be healthy for a potential NFC Championship game or Super Bowl as he has not been put on IR. The Eagles activated Safety Anthony Harris for Saturday’s game. This most likely means that the Eagles will start CJ Gardner-Johnson in the slot corner position. He has played this position in the past so Eagles fans should have confidence he can step in and do well.