Didn’t think the Eagles’ home-field chances would come down to this, did we? If the Eagles beat the Giants, they win the NFC East and clinch home-field for the playoffs.
Sounds like plenty of motivation, but they had the same jewels on the table last week against the Saints.
All the numbers say the Eagles will win and win easily, especially in the likelihood the Giants don’t play their starters. But nothing comes easy in the NFL, even when it should.
THREE PREDICTIONS YOU’LL LIKE
1. THE QUARTERBACKS
Jalen Hurts has missed the last two games with an SC joint sprain in his right shoulder. He practiced this week, perhaps tracking toward a start. He was listed as “questionable” after his limited participation in practice on Friday. Coach Nick Sirianni said Hurts was “trending in the right direction.”
Offensive coordinator Shane Steichen said the team will cut back on the offense if Hurts plays. He didn’t address specifics but we can presume that means curtailing Hurts’ designated runs.
- “I mean if he is playing, yeah,” Steichen said. “We always will have a plan for that, yep.”
If Hurts doesn’t play, it will be inconsistent back-up Gardner Minshew. Can the Eagles beat the Giants with Minshew? Can they beat the Giants if Hurts isn’t 100 percent?
Yes and yes. If Hurts isn’t 100 percent, the Eagles shouldn’t play him. Figure you can beat the Giants with Minshew and get Hurts two more weeks off to better heal the shoulder.
2. SACK MACHINES
Last offseason, the Eagles made rushing the passer a priority, coming off a 29-sack season in 2021, when they were ranked 31st in the NFL. Their signing of free agent linebacker Haason Reddick in March took a big step toward improving that important part of the game.
The turnaround has been remarkable.
The Eagles lead the league in sacks with a team-record 67. Only four teams have had more sacks in a single season — the 1984 Bears (72), the 1989 Vikings (71), the 1987 Bears (70) and 1985 Giants (68).
The Eagles became the first team since 1982 (when sacks became an official statistic) to have four players in double digits — Reddick (16), Javon Hargrave, Josh Sweat and Brandon Graham (11 each).
Graham is the fourth Eagle to record 70 career sacks, joining Reggie White (124, 1985-92), Trent Cole (85.5, 2005-14) and Clyde Simmons (76, 1986-93).
The Eagles want to make it a long day for whomever the Giants play at quarterback — either Daniel Jones or Tyrod Taylor.
3. EAGLES WIN
All of the motivation for this game belongs to the Eagles. Now, they have to play like it.
Pat Leonard, a Giants writer for the New York Daily News, tweeted this Thursday afternoon: What I just saw at practice confirms for me that Giants will likely rest several starters vs. Eagles.
The Eagles were flat against the Saints last week. Can that happen two weeks in a row? Don’t think so, no matter who is the quarterback. No matter how many starters the Giants play.
THREE PREDICTIONS YOU WON’T LIKE
1. TYROD TAYLOR
Amazingly, Taylor is in his 12th year. Did realize he had been in the league that long. He has made 53 starts, but none this year, his first with the Giants.
His career record is 26-25-1. Tell me you’re a journeyman quarterback without telling me you’re a true journeyman quarterback.
Taylor, at age 33, still can move and throw the ball. Can he do it enough to defeat the NFL’s top-ranked defense? Probably not, but he’s the Giants’ best hope.
2. ANOTHER SQUEAKER
The Giants are 9-6-1. They have scored 349 points. They have allowed 349 points.
They have won exactly one game by more than eight points — a 38-10 drubbing of the Colts on New Year’s Day. They lost to the Eagles, 48-22, on Dec. 11 at the Meadowlands,
The Giants have been a good team this year, but eight victories in one-possession games is a team living right. I’d worry about that, if I’m the Eagles. The Giants are going to be loose and not really worrying about their Philly friends.
All of the pressure will be on the Eagles, the pressure building all day with a 4:25 kickoff.
3. GIANTS WIN
The Giants’ strength is their running game, ranked fourth in the NFL. If Saquon Barkley doesn’t play, that stat is irrelevant. Barkley has gained 1,312 yards this season.
Matt Breida and Gary Brightwell are Barkley’s back-ups. Breida has gained 192 yards on 50 carries. Brightwell has gained 81 yards on 20 carries.
The New York Post is reporting that the Giants are planning to sit “key starters.”
One cautionary tale: If the Giants don’t play starters they still have to play someone. Those someones have a wonderful opportunity to impress their coaches and get some good play on tape for a future job.
That’s pretty strong motivation for back-up players. You never know — the Eagles are reeling and the Giants are sitting pretty, unexpectedly in the playoffs. Giants, 17-16.