If you're looking for a reason to believe that the New York Giants, currently a 3.5 point underdog this weekend against the Philadelphia Eagles, have a chance at an upset victory, I'll give you two.
First, the Giants have won their last two games played at MetLife Stadium by a combined score of 48-19. And while there is a concern that the stadium will be mostly filled with Eagles fans who make the trip up the Turnpike to watch their red hot team hopefully spoil Michel Strahan's jersey retirement ceremony.
The Eagles have more to play for this week as a win would move them closer to the Cowboys in the NFC East. But if you're a Giants fan looking for any shred of hope beyond the fact that Jason Garrett will no longer be calling plays, look no further than quarterback Daniel Jones. Jones has completed 66 percent of his pass attempts and has averaged 11.4 rushing yards per carry against the Eagles.
Given the ongoing injury issues on the Giants offense, Jones might very well have to carry his teammates from here on in, proving once and for all if he's indeed the long-term answer at quarterback.
What else do the Giants need to do to give themselves a chance at winning?
Stop the Eagles' Running Game
Since Week 8, the Eagles have averaged 43.5 carries and 217.5 yards rushing per game. They have also scored 17 rushing touchdowns, which ties them with the Browns and Cardinals for most in the NFL entering Week 12.
Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts just so happens to be second in the NFL in rushing yards gained by a quarterback this season. Hurts has 618 yards on 114 carries This is a big reason why the Eagles run game has become such a dangerous weapon.
And let's not forget Boston Scott, who has scored five of his nine rushing touchdowns and one receiving touchdown against the Giants.
Overall, that's not an ideal matchup for a Giants run defense that's currently ranked 22nd in the league, allowing 119.7 rushing yards per game to opponents. But defensive coordinator Patrick Graham thinks the answer to limiting the impact of the Eagles run game and, in particular, Hurts is to keep things simple.
"The thing you’ve got to be careful of with a team like this, you don’t want to do too much," said Graham. "I think we’ve got to put our best run defenders out there, and that’s where it has to start, stopping the run. Put our best run defenders out there and react to the pass game.
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"In terms of the personnel groupings, it’ll change. We’ll mix it up a little bit, but you can’t do too much. You don’t want to have this guy doing a different job on every other play when the plays can vary from series to series."
Score Touchdowns in the Red Zone
Yes, this is an obvious key, but it's also one that the Giants have struggled to do all season. New York remains dead last in red-zone scoring, having converted 44.4 percent of their red-zone trips into touchdowns.
That kind of "success" rate hasn't gotten much done for the Giants, but the good news is this week, they're facing an Eagles red-zone defense that's ranked 21st (41.5 percent). If the new play-caller can take advantage of more scoring opportunities by finishing drives with seven instead of three or no points, the Giants should be able to keep pace with the Eagles.
One way to have better success in the red zone is to get receiver Kenny Golladay more involved. With Kadarius Toney and Kyle Rudolph unlikely to play due to injury, there should be no reason for the Giants not to deploy Golladay, who in the games he's played for the Giants this season has only been targeted once in the red zone, more often.
Golladay has a 60 percent contested catch rate, so certainly, his size could give him an advantage over smaller Eagles defenders, who, by the way, have allowed 19 touchdown passes this season, seventh-most in the NFL.
Play a Clean Game
The Eagles enter this week's game +3 in giveaways/takeaways and have at least one takeaway in eight of their last nine games. And not only have the Eagles been successful in recording takeaways, but they're also converting those opportunities into points.
Philadelphia, who last week had three takeaways against the Saints, has 12 on the season. Of those 12, they have scored eight times for a total of 44 points.
That's not good news for a Giants offense that has seen quarterback Daniel Jones throw six interceptions over the past five games, the Giants posting 14 turnovers thus far, which opponents have converted into 50 points.
And here's a stat that should come as no surprise. This season when the Giants have finished -2 or worse in the turnover differential, they've suffered their worst losses, specifically a 38-11 blowout by the Los Angeles Rams and last Monday's 30-10 beatdown by the Bucs.
Simply put, the Giants can't beat themselves by being sloppy with ball security, not if they hope to keep this game close.
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