Giants - Eagles 2023 Divisional Round preview and prediction

Kayvon Thibodeaux, Saquon Barkley, Daniel Jones, Jalen Hurts, DeVonta Smith, and Haason Reddick
Kayvon Thibodeaux, Saquon Barkley, Daniel Jones, Jalen Hurts, DeVonta Smith, and Haason Reddick / USA TODAY Sports/SNY Treated Image

This magically-improbable season for the Giants continues on Saturday night against the Philadelphia Eagles.

What’s to come?

Here’s the breakdown.

Third time’s the charm

No Giant took the bait in the visiting locker room of U.S. Bank Stadium regarding the upcoming third matchup with the Eagles. There wasn’t any juicy quote about wanting to avenge their previous two losses. No talk of this being when they finally take down their bitter division rival. Nothing. All preferred to stay in the moment — enjoy the victory over the Minnesota Vikings. They’d deal with the future in the future.

This will be New York’s third battle with the Eagles this year. Philadelphia won the first, 48-22, in a game that was close only at the coin flip. The Eagles also won the regular season finale, 22-16, although the Giants rested the bulk of their starters.

So, can the Giants finally get it done this time around and advance to the NFC Championship Game for the first time since 2011?

There’s a football cliché out there that it’s awfully hard to beat a team three times in one season. Statistically, though, that’s not entirely true. Since 1970, teams that swept the regular season series are 15-8 in the third matchup. That includes the San Francisco 49ers' victory over the Seattle Seahawks this past weekend. In 17 of those instances, the team that swept the season series was the home team in the third game. The home team is 13-6 in those games.

Granted, one of those most recent victories by the swept team came in 2007 when the Giants upset the Dallas Cowboys on their way to the Super Bowl.

The last time the Giants and Eagles met three times was in 2000. The Giants beat the Eagles in both regular season games, then in the playoffs.

Bruised and battered Birds

The Eagles tied the Kansas City Chiefs for the best record in the NFL (14-3). They’re likely closer to 15 or 16 wins if Jalen Hurts, who was playing at an MVP level before injuring his shoulder against the Chicago Bears, doesn’t miss a pair of games. There’s never really a good time to play a great team like that — especially when there’s a legitimate talent discrepancy between New York and Philadelphia.

With that said … the Eagles haven't exactly been their normal dominant self in recent weeks. They crushed the Tennessee Titans, 35-10, in Week 13. They then drubbed the Giants, 48-22, in Week 14. Since that, though, Philadelphia beat the Bears by just five, lost to the Cowboys (40-34) and New Orleans Saints (20-10), then barely squeaked by the Giants in Week 18 (22-16). Hurts did not play against Dallas or New Orleans.

A reason for that is that the Eagles are hurting. Cornerback Avonte Maddox (toe) likely won’t play. He hasn’t played since Christmas Eve. Hurts (shoulder) and tackle Lane Johnson (groin) will, but aren’t 100 percent. Defensive end Robert Quinn (knee) didn’t practice last week. Wideout A.J. Brown (knee/leg) and Miles Sanders (knee) were limited in practice late in the season but powered through. Rusher Josh Sweat (neck) should play against the Giants, but hasn’t since the game against the Saints.

If ever there’s a time to play the Eagles … it’s now.

It’s not one guy anymore

The Giants' offensive attack wasn’t a very complicated one earlier this season. It was Saquon Barkley left, Saquon Barkley right, or Saquon Barkley up the middle. Among the reasons the Giants were able to reach the postseason, then beat the Vikings, though, is because of other players stepping up. It’s not just Barkley anymore.

Wideouts Isaiah Hodgins (24 catches, 273 yards, three touchdowns), Darius Slayton (15 catches, 204 yards) and Richie James (23 catches, 243 yards, touchdown), along with tight end Daniel Bellinger (8 catches, 90 yards, touchdown), have all emerged in the Giants' last four games — excluding the finale against the Eagles where the Giants rested their starters.

Barkley is still as dominant as he’s ever been, but it’s huge for quarterback Daniel Jones to now have a number of weapons at his disposal.

Keeping him upright

Brian Daboll should have handed out six game balls following the victory over the Vikings. Jones got one, then every member of his offensive line.

Jones dropped back to pass 39 times. The Vikings managed just six quarterback pressures on those plays. They did sack Jones three times, but one was a play where Jones gave himself up to force the Vikings to use a timeout and another was a coverage sack. Outside of that, Jones had virtually all day back in the pocket to pick apart the Vikings defense, or run when nothing was there. He finished 24 of 35 (68.6 percent) passing for 301 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions with another 78 yards on the ground.

The Giants are going to need a similar performance this weekend against the Eagles.

The Vikings had a nice pass-rushing duo with Danielle Hunter (10.5 sacks) and Za'darius Smith (10 sacks). The Eagles have an All-Star rotation of rushers that helped them set a team record with 70 team sacks, just two off the NFL record. To put that number in perspective, the Giants pass rush of 2007, led by Michael Strahan, Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck, had 53 sacks.

An astounding four Eagles — Haason Reddick (16), Javon Hargrave (11), Brandon Graham (11), Josh Sweat (11) — had 10-plus this year. Fletcher Cox wasn’t far behind with seven. The Giants don’t stand a chance if they can’t keep Jones upright.

Prediction

The Giants need to take advantage of any possible rust the Eagles might have from players just returning to the lineup or the week off. If they can jump in front early, take the fans out of it, and get the Eagles reeling, they have a chance. The way the Giants play bodes well for them, too. They embrace ugly football. They need to bring the Eagles down to their level. They will not survive a shootout.

The game should be close. It’s a divisional battle and the third time the teams are playing each other. I just find it very hard to see the Giants making enough plays to take the Eagles out. This has been an A+ season for Daboll, Joe Schoen and every member of this team. There’s just too great of a talent discrepancy between the two.

Eagles, 23-16.