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Giants-Eagles: When New York has the football, Week 18

New York Giants v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Dustin Satloff/Getty Images

We’re less than two weeks removed from the New York Giants 33-25 Christmas night loss in Philadelphia against the Eagles. The game was more competitive than many expected - I thought it would be the Battle of Little Bighorn 2.0 with the Giants acting as General Custer.

However, that wasn’t the case, albeit the Eagles’ offense outgained the Giants 465-292. The Eagles' offense had catastrophic mistakes against the Giants’ defense, including a 76-yard pick-six by Adoree’ Jackson, and the Giants’ offense received a spark from Tyrod Taylor, who connected with Darius Slayton for a then-season-high 69-yard touchdown reception. Taylor played the second half after an uninspiring first-half from Tommy DeVito.

The Eagles’ season-long numbers up Week 16, as well as the preview from that game, can be found here. A lot has transpired for the Eagles' defense since their win over the Giants on Christmas.

In an important game at home, the Eagles were defeated 35-31 by the 3-12 Arizona Cardinals. Former Eagles’ defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon - who many blamed for the Eagles’ Super Bowl loss against the Chiefs in February - returned to Philadelphia as Arizona head coach and held the Eagles offense to just 275 total yards, with only 91 yards on the ground.

Conversely, the Cardinals rushed for 221 total yards, with veteran running back James Conner accounting for 128 of those yards with two total touchdowns. As Jonny Page of our sister-site Bleeding Green Nation phrased it:

“The worst game on defense I’ve ever studied.”

I guess it’s not Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and newly-appointed defensive play-caller Matt Patricia is seemingly having issues with scheme and personnel. I encourage Giants fans to read through Page’s thread about the Eagles’ defensive woes vs. Arizona:

What was even more puzzling was the usage of star edge defender Haason Reddick, who only played 78% of the defensive snaps in the pivotal matchup; unless there was an unreported issue during the game, that is odd usage of such a talented player. In the previous week against the Giants, Reddick had six pressures.

Week 16 vs. Giants

The Eagles defense had 62 snaps against the Giants. Safeties Reed Blankenship, Kevin Byard, as well as CB James Bradberry, played every snap for the Eagles. Philadelphia featured former All-Pro linebacker Shaquille Leonard, who played 54 snaps with five tackles (two STOPs), as Nicholas Marrow and Zach Cunningham missed the game.

Leonard looked exceptional against the Giants and followed that performance up with four tackles in 39 snaps against Arizona. Marrow returned against the Cardinals as well, relegating undrafted rookie Ben VanSumeren to only 14 snaps in Week 17, when he played 36 against the Giants.

In the last three games, the Eagles' defense has surrendered the fifth-most rushing yards in the league against the Cardinals, Giants, and the Seahawks. New York did the worst of the three teams, only earning 106 yards on the ground.

As previously stated, Reddick continued the painful tradition of tormenting the Giants with six pressures in Week 16. This becomes more of an issue for New York, who will be on their third-string tackle with Evan Neal and Tyre Phillips out with injury. Matt Peart will earn the honor of facing Reddick if the Eagles choose to play the pass rusher.

Both Josh Sweat and Brandon Graham earned three pressures against the Giants, and Fletcher Cox had two, as the Eagles recorded 18 total pressures and one sack by linebacker Shaq Leonard.

Despite doing virtually nothing in the first half, the Giants showed resilience on the opening second-half kick-off, as notorious Giants’ slayer Boston Scott fumbled the ball, which led to a Saquon Barkley touchdown.

Taylor wasn’t perfect and left some plays on the field, but his ability to stretch the field added a level of spice to the Giants’ typically bland offense that allows defenses to play top-down.

Taylor completed the 69-yard touchdown to Slayton against Philadelphia and then had an 80-yard strike last week to Slayton. Whether it’s rookie Kelee Ringo (who had his first career interception to end the game) or James Bradberry starting, the Giants can attack down the field with success.

I expect the Giants to continue to attack deep if the protection can hold up, and if the weather permits.

Giants gameplan

Regardless of the weather situation - which may be conducive to running the football in the snow and winds - the Giants should try and get Saquon Barkley going against an Eagles team that made James Connor look like Gale Sayers. However, the Giants must allow Taylor to challenge with deep shots.

The rushing attack should remain varied. Counter - both GH and GT - power concepts, DUO, inside zone - the works. Also, attacking the flats with Saquon Barkley and Wan’Dale Robinson. Cardinals’ quarterback Kyler Murray took what the defense gave him in the flat and went eight of nine with two touchdowns to that area of the field.

The Giants don’t need to change much from their approach against the Eagles in Week 16 now that they’ll roll with Taylor for the entire game. Have Taylor take advantage of the Eagles’ soft defensive leverage on third down (if that remains their strategy like it was against the Cardinals).

Philadelphia struggled to pass the Cardinals’ motion off, which is something the Giants have used a lot with Robinson in recent weeks. Mike Kafka and Brian Daboll must continue to confuse the opposition presnap with motion to set up both the run and the pass.

Final thoughts

The weather and the Eagles’ decision whether or not to sit starters, which doesn’t make sense to me (more on that later), will have an impact on the Giants’ approach. Nevertheless, the Giants enter this game with the chance at the number two overall pick - an outside chance, but a chance. Will that factor into Brian Daboll’s decision-making? No, it won’t, but we on the outside can observe and opine on the reality and consequences of the situation.

Last season was a wildly different situation, but the Giants rested their starters as they were sealed as the sixth seed. The Eagles received Jalen Hurts back from injury, and, with a win, looked to secure the number one seed over the San Francisco 49ers. Now, in the season of 2023, the Eagles have the narrowest of chances to earn the NFC East title, with the inept officiating against the Detroit Lions that helped propel the Dallas Cowboys to victory.

What’s beautifully poetic (to Giants’ fans) about the Cowboys’ victory over the Lions on Saturday night was it gave the Eagles a direct path to the two seed with a victory over the Cardinals on Sunday, since the Lions dropped to 11-5. But in the great words of a sleazy record label representative in South Park - “YOU BLEW IT, YOU HAD IT ALL, AND YOU BLEW IT!”

The Eagles had a strong grasp on the NFC East crown until their loss against Arizona. The Cowboys and the Eagles both are 11-5, and have the same divisional record (4-1). However, Dallas has a better conference record, which is the third tiebreaker when deciding seeding. The Cowboys conference record is 8-3, and the Eagles are 7-4.

For the Eagles to win the NFC East and secure the two seed, they must defeat the Giants, and have Dallas lose to Washington. The Eagles lost four games in December - can they lose one in January and destine themselves to the five-seed? It’s possible, and that outcome could drop the Giants down to the eighth pick in the draft. They currently hold the fifth.

If New York loses to Philadephia, and the Cardinals, Commanders, and Patriots win, then the Giants would secure the second draft slot. Sure, Philadelphia would jump Dallas, but look at that Eagles’ team - they are plagued with issues and lack the luster and talent of last year’s team. Either way, Week 18 will be consequential for both teams for entirely different reasons.