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Giants-Eagles playoff preview: Can Giants knock off the NFC’s top seed?

Giants try to upset Eagles, advance to Conference Championship game

NFL: JAN 15 NFC Wild Card Playoffs - Giants at Vikings Photo by Bailey Hillesheim/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Will Saturday night, or perhaps the wee hours of Sunday morning, bring an end to a marvelously entertaining and promising 2022-23 New York Giants season? Or, will it bring with it the promise of a Conference Championship showdown with the Dallas Cowboys or San Francisco 49ers?

Sixty-four percent of Giants fans who voted in our poll this week think the Giants will keep on keepin’ on, that they will upset the mighty Eagles and continue their unexpected postseason run. Most of your Big Blue View staff sees the end coming in a few hours. Most prognosticators believe the Giants’ offseason begins when their Divisional Round game against the Eagles ends, with 90 percent of 360 people who have turned in a pick at Tallysight choosing the Eagles to win.

Are you a believer in the Giants, or a non-believer? Either way, you can find plenty of numbers to support your theory of the case.

For the non-believers.

  • The Giants are a 7.5-point underdog.
  • The Eagles have six All-Pro players (two first-teamers, four second-teamers); The Giants have two second-team All-Pros.
  • The Giants have lost nine straight times at Lincoln Financial Field, site of Saturday night’s game. They have not won there since the 2013 season.
  • Since the 2014 season the Giants are 3-15 against the Eagles.

For the believers.

  • Since playoffs were expanded in 1990, the Giants have faced the No. 1 seed six times. They are unbeaten in those games.
  • Before this season the Giants had been in the playoffs nine times since 1993. In those nine appearances, they went one-and-done six times. In each of the other years where they won a playoff game they went on to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, winning twice.
  • Three Giants’ defensive starters who have not played against the Eagles this season — defensive lineman Leonard Williams, cornerback Adoree’ Jackson, safety Xavier McKinney — will be in the starting lineup Saturday night.
  • The Giants and Eagles have met three times in a season on four other occasions — 1981, 2000, 2006, 2008. The Giants have never been swept by the Eagles in any of those seasons.

House of Horrors

That is what Lincoln Financial Field has been for the Giants since 2014.

  • In a 27-0 2014 loss the Giants watched Victor Cruz crumple to the ground in the end zone, screaming in pain with a torn patellar tendon that basically wrecked Cruz’s career.
  • In 2015 the Eagles embarrassed the Giants 27-7 on Monday Night Football.
  • In 2017 Jake Elliott sent the Giants to defeat with a last-second 61-yard field goal. Oh, and Odell Beckham Jr. embarrassed the franchise by pretending to pee like a dog after scoring a touchdown.
  • In 2018 the Giants blew a 19-3 lead and lost 25-22.
  • In 2019 the Eagles rallied from a 17-3 deficit to win 23-17 in overtime.
  • In 2021 Mike Glennon and Jake Fromm quarterbacked the Giants to a 34-10 loss.

It is a new day for the Giants

The Giants have a new general manager in Joe Schoen. They have a new head coach in Brian Daboll. They emerged this season from the darkness of five straight double-digit loss seasons that left them tied with the New York Jets for the worst record in the NFL over that time, and they appear to be on a good path going forward.

Daboll always downplays history that he, and nearly all of the current Giants, had no part in. He doesn’t care about the ‘tough to beat a team three times in one year’ cliche or the ‘playing with house money’ line of thinking.

“It’s how we go about our business this week, again how we prepare, how we practice and then ultimately how we play on Sunday – or Saturday in this case,” Daboll said this week. “Every game’s a new game.”

Daboll has five Super Bowl rings as an NFL assistant and was part of a national championship team as offensive coordinator at Alabama. Maybe that is the history that Giants fans should care about.

The pressure of expectations

The Giants hate the ‘playing with house money’ narrative.

“We don’t care about house money,” safety Xavier McKinney said when I asked him about that before last weekend’s Wild-Card Round game against the Minnesota Vikings. “I don’t even know what that really is, but we’re just going out there and playing and trying to get a win.”

Which is exactly what McKinney should have said, and how the Giants should feel.

There is no denying, though, that the Eagles are the team with all of the pressure on them in this matchup.

They are the No. 1 seed. They are at home with the support of their uniquely rabid fan base. They are the team with an MVP candidate at quarterback. They are the team that was 13-1 at one point and for much of the season has been considered the NFL’s best team.

Going one-and-done in the playoffs, losing to the team considered the worst one left in the playoffs would undoubtedly make the season a disappointment.

“Expectations certainly are that the Eagles will win and anytime you are a big favorite in a home playoff game as the No. 1 seed with the bye the pressure should be on that team,” said John Stolnis of Bleeding Green Nation’s ‘Eye on the Enemy’ podcast during an appearance this week on the ‘Valentine’s Views’ podcast. “There is more pressure on that team to win unless you have extenuating circumstances.”

The Giants have already had a successful season, a better one than the overwhelming majority of analysts thought they could have. Of course they want more. If they lose Saturday night, they will be disappointed. Giants fans will be disappointed. No one, though, will legitimately be able to say their season was a disappointment.

There is a fundamental difference.

The Eagles are not the Vikings

Minnesota was a 13-4 team playing at home in front of a raucous crowd when the Giants went to U.S. Bank Stadium and won last weekend. The Vikings, though, were a team that had previously gone 11-0 in tight, one-score games and had a -3 point differential in the regular season, scoring three less points than they gave up.

Minnesota was also a team with a porous defense, 28th in the NFL in points and 31st in yards allowed. After the loss to the Giants, the Vikings fired defensive coordinator Ed Donatell.

The 14-3 Eagles are not that.

Philadelphia was +133 in point differential, third in the league behind the San Francisco 49ers and Buffalo Bills.

The Eagles have a dynamic offense, third in the league in scoring. They were third in the league in scoring during the regular season. They feature a dynamic MVP candidate quarterback in Jalen Hurts who can win with his legs and his arm. They have a running back in Miles Sanders who gained more than 1,200 yards rushing this season. They have two 1,000-yard receivers in Devonta Smith (95 catches, 1,196 yards) and A.J. Brown (88 catches, 1,496 yards), and a quality tight end in Dallas Goedert (55 catches, 702 yards).

The Giants will have defensive lineman Leonard Williams, cornerback Adoree’ Jackson and safety Xavier McKinney, none of whom have played against the Eagles this season, this time around. Will that be enough to help the Giants slow the Philadelphia offense? Perhaps the most fascinating matchup to watch will be Williams and Dexter Lawrence against the interior of the Eagles’ offensive line — especially Lawrence three-time All-Pro center Jason Kelce.

Philadelphia has a ferocious defense, eighth in the league in points and second in yards allowed in 2022. The Eagles finished with 70 sacks, two shy of the single-season league record set by the Chicago Bears in 1984.

The Eagles have four players with double-digit sack totals — Haason Reddick (16.0), Josh Sweat (11.0), Javon Hargrave (11.0), Brandon Graham (11.0). They have a second-team All-Pro cornerback (James Bradberry) and a Pro Bowl cornerback (Darius Slay). Linebacker T.J Edwards had 159 tackles and was named first-team All-Pro by Pro Football Focus.

The Vikings’ crowd was loud. The Eagles’ crowd will be both loud and vicious.

Can the Giants’ offense handle the pressure from the Philadelphia pass rush? Can their receivers find holes to make some plays? Can they keep their poise? Can quarterback Daniel Jones, coming off the best game of his career, play mistake-free and continue to make plays with his arm and his legs?

Daboll described Jones as having been “consistent” in his demeanor all season.

“He’s really even-keeled, same guy every day, which you appreciate for that position. Hard worker. Good teammate. Nothing really rattles him,” Daboll said. “I think he’s been through a lot of different things in his career, and I think players look to him because he is that consistent voice, consistent messaging, consistent player (with) how he practices. I think consistent is probably the best word to use.”

The Giants have been loose all week. Ping-pong games in the locker room. Dancing at the beginning of practice. If they can stay even-keeled, can keep from getting rattled in the unfriendly Philadelphia night, and can catch a couple of breaks along the way perhaps their unforeseen season won’t come to an end.