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Giants at Eagles Week 18: What to expect when the Giants have the ball

Can the Giants get their offense going this time around?

Philadelphia Eagles v New York Giants Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

The New York Giants are going to the postseason for the first time since 2016, but first they need to wrap up their season series against the Philadelphia Eagles.

The 9-6-1 Giants will travel to Philadelphia to take on their division rivals to end the 2022 regular season. The last time these two teams played,

New York clinched its playoff berth last week, while the Eagles lost to their second game in a row. Thanks to that loss, Philly was unable to lock up the top seed in the NFC playoffs, which means they still have a lot to play for.

The last time these two teams met, it was an embarrassing and utterly uncompetitive mess of a game for the Giants. It was so bad that Fox switched to another game and both teams pulled their starters in the fourth quarter.

Will this game be different? Maybe, and the Eagles’ injury situation could factor heavily into the outcome. As of this writing, we don’t know the status of QB Jalen Hurts, edge defender Robert Quinn, safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson, or Josh Sweat.

The Josh Sweat situation

Week 17 featured a number of scary injury situations, most notably the Damar Hamlin situation. The Eagles had a frightening injury of their own on Sunday as Sweat was taken off the field on a backboard with fears of a neck injury.

Sweat was quickly taken to the hospital, where it was quickly reported that he had feeling in all of his extremities and he was released later that night.

Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni said recently that Sweat is “day-to-day” after the injury scare and that he would need to clear some “protocols” before returning. It’s unclear (at least as of this writing) if Sweat is in the NFL’s concussion protocol, but the pass rusher is confident he’ll be back on the field this season.

Despite the good news regarding Sweat’s health, he seems unlikely to play in this game.

The loss of Sweat could be be a big blow to the Eagles’ defense. The 25-year-old pass rusher is in the midst of a break-out season in which he’s racked up 11.0 sacks, 23 quarterback hits, 15 tackles for a loss, a forced fumble, and an interception returned for a touchdown.

Sirianni also noted that veteran edge defender Robert Quinn is getting healthier. Quinn was placed on the IR earlier this year when he needed to have his knee scoped, and this is his first week of eligibility to be activated.

Brandon Graham is a capable defender who has 11.0 sacks in his reserve role, but the question is who the Eagles have to spell him and Haason Reddick. The Eagles have invested heavily in their defensive line and have built up some good depth throughout their defense. However, being forced to dip into that depth could be good news for a Giants’ offensive line.

And good news for the offensive line could translate into good news for the Giants’ receivers.

Finding success downfield

The Giants are going to want to run the ball in this game. We know they’ll lean into running the ball and try to stick with the run for as long as they’re able. The Giants have a varied run game that’s incorporated a variety of different concepts and alignments, as well as misdirection.

That said, we could see try to get their passing game going early.

The Giants struggled to get much of anything going on offense until the Eagles pulled their starters in the first game. However, what was lost in the general uncompetitive mess of that game was the opportunities the Giants had for explosive plays down the field.

The first one came at the end of the Giants’ first drive of the game.

This is the third-and-17 with 13:04 to go in the first quarter. The Giants are in their 11-personnel set while the Eagles are showing six-man pressure under a Cover 4 shell.

The Giants initially keep Matt Brieda and Daniel Bellinger back to pass protect, however they release into shallow check-down routes. They’re able to do so because the extra rushers drop out into shallow zone coverages.

The play ends in Haason Reddick taking advantage of an ugly rep by Evan Neal for the sack. But instead, I want to keep an eye on the matchup between Isaiah Hodgins and James Bradberry at the top of the screen.

The Eagles are likely running “MEG” (man everywhere he goes) pattern matching rules on their Cover 4, while the near-side safety comes down to pick up the slot receiver. Taken as a whole, the Eagles’ Cover 4 resolves into a Cover 1 defense after the snap — and Hodgins absolutely puts Bradberry in the spin cycle with his double-move.

Because the defense was effectively a Cover 1, there was nothing between Hodgins and the endzone but open field.

Unfortunately, the protection broke down just a little too quickly as Neal turned the wrong way and opened up the inside route and Bellinger released into his route without delivering a chip block. I also can’t say with certainty that the Hodgins route was even in the progression, as the end zone view shows Jones only ever looking at Richie James’ route to the middle of the field.

But none of that effects that the opportunity was there, and I’m sure the Giants saw it on tape after the game.

Likewise, a similar opportunity presented itself later in the game.

The Giants are once again backed up, with 16 yards to go for the first down. They come out in their 11-personnel package, but with an interesting alignment that sees Bellinger and Brieda up on the line of scrimmage.

This time the Giants’ pass protection holds up better, and they’re able to move the ball close to the first down as Richie James hauls in a pass over the middle of the field. But I once again want to focus on the match-up between Hodgins and Bradberry on the top of the screen.

The Eagles once again show zone coverage before the snap, but their pattern matching effectively resolves it into a Cover 1, with one-on-one matchups on the outside.

Bradberry gives Hodgins a 12- or 13-yard cushion on this play, and continues to drop after the snap to cover the first down. Hodgins takes advantage of Bradberry’s expectations with another double-move and fakes the curl route right at the sticks. Bradberry obligingly triggers downhill to break up the potential pass at the first down marker... Only to get turned around again as Hodgins breaks off his curl and turns it into a deep corner route. As we saw at the beginning of the game, Hodgins burns Bradberry badly on the double-move and could have had a walk-in touchdown.

Much of the Giants’ offense is read shallow to deep, so the ball doesn’t go Hodgins’ way. However, him beating Bradberry so badly is no mean feat. Bradberry is having a career year in Philly, with opposing passers completing just 44.3 percent of passes in his direction and giving up 4.3 yards per target (despite his average depth of target being over 10 yards downfield).

Given how much success Hodgins had against one of the best corners in the NFL, it would be a massive surprise if the Giants didn’t try to test the matchup early in this week’s game.