The New York Giants (4-11) will finish the 2019 season with an NFC East showdown against the rival Philadelphia Eagles (8-7) in Week 17.
The Giants don’t have much — if anything at all — to play for this weekend, but the Eagles are bound to come into this one incredibly motivated to win considering what’s on the line.
Thanks to a gutsy 17-9 victory over the Dallas Cowboys (7-8) in Week 16, the Eagles can clinch the NFC East with a win over New York in the regular-season finale.
A win won’t do much for the Giants from any standpoint at this point in the season, quite frankly. However, possibly crushing a hated rival’s playoff aspirations with a win would be an especially satisfying season-ending moment for New York’s fanbase.
With that in mind, here are a few things that Giants fans should keep in mind for the team’s Week 17 showdown against the Eagles.
1. The Eagles are absolutely lethal in the red zone.
The Eagles have been had an average offense for most of the year, but the main reason they’ve been competitive in nearly every game they’ve played in — and arguably should have a much better record than 8-7 — is due to their execution in the red zone.
Philadelphia sits among the league’s elite when it finds itself inside its opponent’s 20-yard line, scoring touchdowns on 66.0 percent of its red zone drives this year (No. 4 in the NFL). And its red zone efficiency has only improved in recent weeks, as Philly has found the end zone on a whopping 75 percent of its red zone drives across its last three games.
The Giants have done a pretty respectable buckling down inside their own 20-yard line, allowing touchdowns on 50.0 percent of red zone drives across their seven home games.
However, while that bodes well for this weekend, they’re still bound to have their hands full. Surprisingly, the Eagles have actually had a more efficient red zone offense on the road than at home this season, scoring touchdowns on 68 percent of their red zone drives (No. 7 in the NFL).
2. Philly's pass defense is exponentially weaker on the road.
Philadelphia has struggled at times against the pass (239.3 yards passing allowed per game, No. 19 in the NFL) throughout the year, but most — if not all — of those issues have been on full display on the road.
The Eagles yards passing against average on the year has been heavily skewed for the better by its ability to keep quarterbacks in check at home (196.4 yards passing allowed per game, No. 4 in the NFL), as they’re averaging 288.4 yards passing allowed per contest across the seven games they've played outside of Lincoln Financial Field this year (No. 28 in the NFL).
Leaning on Saquon Barkley may be New York’s go-to strategy in this one — especially since he’s finally playing like the all-world tailback that he is.
However, based on the above — and the Eagles’ stifling run defense (88.0 yards rushing allowed per game, No. 3 in the NFL) — utilizing a more passing-focused offensive game plan may be a more effective strategy.
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3. Sacking the quarterback has been a struggle on the road.
The Eagles have a talented front seven that’s consistently stifled their opponents’ running game all year. Getting to the quarterback with consistency, however, hasn’t exactly been a strength for this unit in 2019.
Philadelphia is hovering just above the middle of the pack in getting after the quarterback, having accumulated 39 sacks (T-No. 14 in the NFL) while getting pressure on opposing signal-callers on 23.8 percent (139 pressures) of their dropbacks this year (No. 14 in the NFL).
And much to the Giants’ benefit, the Eagles actually devolve into one of the league’s worst pass-rushing teams on the road, sporting a 5.22 percent sack rate away from home (No. 26 in the NFL).
Philly’s pass rush clearly lacks its usual bite outside of the City of Brotherly Love, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t specific pass-rushers that need to be accounted for this weekend.
Keeping team sack leader Brandon Graham and Pro Bowler Fletcher Cox in check will be key, as the pair have combined for 5.5 of the 14 sacks the Eagles have recorded on the road this year.
4. Philadelphia’s discipline slips on the road.
Philadelphia has been one of the least penalized teams in the league this season, averaging just 6.2 penalties (T-No. 8 in the NFL) and 52.1 penalty yards (No. 8 in the NFL). Yet, the team’s discipline tends to slip when playing in front of a hostile crowd.
The Eagles haven’t deviated too far from their season average when it comes to committing penalties on the road (7.0 penalties per game, T-No. 15 in the NFL), but the nature of said penalties has done some serious self-inflicted damage. In seven road games, Philly is averaging 61.6 penalty yards allowed per contest (No. 20 in the NFL) and 8.8 yards per penalty (T-No. 23 in the NFL).
Situational discipline, however, has been one of the Eagles’ biggest downfalls away from home. Through Week 16, Philadelphia is averaging an eye-popping 3.1 first downs allowed via penalty per road game (No. 30 in the NFL). It goes without saying that relying on the Eagles to shoot themselves in the foot is completely unreasonable, but if trends hold true, New York’s odds of winning should greatly improve.
5. Converting on third down will arguably New York’s toughest test.
The Eagles have had their fair share of defensive struggles on the road this season, but oddly enough, the one thing their stop unit has been able to do at a consistently elite level is stifle opponents in third-down situations.
Philadelphia has been, by far, one of the best teams in the league at forcing opposing offenses to punt or settle for field goals, allowing just 4.3 third-down conversions (T-No. 3 in the NFL) per game and an incredible 34.39 percent third-down conversion rate (No. 4 in the NFL) this season.
The one “silver lining” here is that the Eagles’ third-down conversion allowed rate dips to 41.46 percent when playing on the road (No. 21 in the NFL).
However, Philly’s proven that they can keep their opponents in check regardless of the venue they play in. The Eagles are allowing a league-best 25.0 percent third-down conversion rate in their last three contests — which includes a road contest against the Washington Redskins and their Week 14 win over New York (held to 2-of-12 on third down).