What’s more fun than playing the team with the best record in football twice in one year? Playing the team with the best record in football THREE times in one year.
The New York Giants hope to make it past the divisional round by pulling off the upset against the Philadelphia Eagles. So let's rewind the tape and look at some of the trends and notables the Eagles defense showed in the first two meetings.
Perhaps the biggest advantage of having a bye week for the Wild Card round is having players get healthy. Josh Sweat, who played in the week 14 game between the Giants and Eagles but missed the week 18 matchup after a neck injury in week 17 against the Saints, is set to make his return following the bye.
Cornerback Avonte Maddox, who also played week 14 but not week 18, is more of a question mark heading into Saturday’s matchup. When asked about Maddox’s availability for the week, Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said, “We’ll see,” which is about as vague as possible.
The most fear-inducing players should still be Hasson Reddick and Brandon Graham, who generated a combined 15 pressures and five sacks in Week 14, with another nine pressures in the Week 18 rematch. Week 18 saw the Giants handle pressure better, but allowing two players to generate 24 pressures and five sacks in two games doesn’t instill confidence for a third matchup.
The biggest difference personnel-wise from week 14 to week 18 was the return of Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, who missed weeks 13 through 17 before returning for the rematch. In that game, Gardner-Johnson played a team-high 63 snaps allowing just two catches for five yards with seven yards after the catch, playing stifling defense, and returning to elite form.
There were a few changes made in the Eagles game plan from Week 14 to Week 18, and for a good reason, they didn’t need to make changes. It’s incredibly difficult to beat the Eagles while scoring 16 or 22 points, granted the Giants played backups in the week 18 game when they scored 16.
The biggest difference gameplan-wise was probably using Kyzir White as a pass-rusher on 11.5% of his pass-defense snaps in Week 14, compared to his usual 5.1% rate, but not using him as a pass-rusher at all in week 18. The usage as a pass-rusher will likely change again this week, as White should be used as a pass-rusher at least a little bit this time.
An interesting statistic of note is around rookie safety Reed Blankenship, who played 134 snaps against the pass in 2022, excluding the two games against the Giants. In the other six games he played in, Blankenship didn’t rush the passer a single time. In the two games (46 snaps against the pass) against the Giants, Blankenship was used as a blitzer on two snaps, which doesn’t sound like much, but it does indicate the Eagles’ aggression shifting to attack the backfield more against the Giants.
The Eagles have remained consistent in their game-planning in 2022 by using a four-man defensive front, playing press coverage for most of the game, and playing quarters coverage.
What This Means for the Giants
The Eagles are a difficult team to gameplan for offensively because their scheme leaves few areas to attack. When throwing the ball, the game plan should be to throw the ball underneath because of the usage of quarters coverage, but the Eagles do a good job of minimizing yards after the catch.
The biggest difference here is likely that Daniel Jones no longer needs to worry about limiting himself as a runner. The playoffs are here, and all gloves are off. Jones should have the green light to tuck and run if the space is there - which it should be.
Quarterback runs have succeeded against this Eagles defense in all of the losses they took this year. Jones shouldn’t be expected to have another 70-yard performance, but crucial short-yardage situations warrant a Jones run.
Getting the ball to Richie James throwing the ball and Saquon Barkley any way possible should be a priority for this offense to create opportunities to get the ball to your playmakers in space. Barkley
If the Giants want to win, they must get the ball to Saquon Barkley. The Giants gave up on the run too early against the Eagles in week 14 and never let themselves get into a rhythm.
Barkley didn’t see many touches against the Vikings but was explosive in his limited opportunities. The expectation should be to give Barkley the ball more this time and rely on him to consistently move the ball downfield.
For the third time this season, the Giants are taking on the team with the best record in the NFL, and hope is slim, but one thing we know is that this Giants team will not quit. Hopes aren’t high, but this is a Giants offense that is mostly healthy and is strong where the Eagles are at their weakest.
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