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Three keys to a Giants upset over the Eagles: Dominate on the ground, blitz, and block

The 14-3 Philadelphia Eagles, the NFC’s top seed are a juggernaut, tying their franchise single-season wins record and becoming the first team since the 2010 season to finish in the NFL‘s top three in both total offense — 389.1 total yards per game, the third-most in the league – and total defense — 301.5 total yards per game allowed, the second-most in the NFL behind only the San Francisco 49ers‘ wrecking crew.

Thanks to their bye week, quarterback Jalen Hurts, a second-team All-Pro, is off of the injury report after missing two of Philadelphia’s final three games in the regular season with a shoulder injury. That’s a humongous boost for the  Eagles, who are 14-1 with Hurts as the starting quarterback and 0-2 without him. 

The sixth-seeded New York Giants, now 10-7-1 this season after their 31-24 win at the NFC North champion Minnesota Vikings in the wild-card round, have outperformed all expectations under first-year coach Brian Daboll in reaching the divisional round for the first time since the 2011 season — when they won Super Bowl XLVI. Incredible considering the franchise hadn’t made the playoffs at all since the 2016 season, the year of the infamous boat photo

The key to the G-Men’s revival has been that of quarterback Daniel Jones. The 25-year-old went from being the third-most turnover-prone passer from 2019-2021 with 49 giveaways, to only having eight this season, tied for the second-fewest in the league. Jones made more history in last weekend, becoming the first player in NFL playoff history to have over 300 passing yards (301), two passing touchdowns, and more than 70 rushing yards (78) and prompting Pro Bowl Giants running back Saquon Barkley to label him “elite“.

One of the most notable subplots about this game is that these two teams have already played twice this season with the Giants getting outscored 70-38 across two losses to the Eagles. Speaking of 0-2, New York at Philadelphia will mark the 25th time in NFL history that a team has swept its division rival in the regular season and then faced them again in the playoffs since the 1970 AFL/NFL merger. The team that went 2-0 during the regular season has pulled off the three-game sweep 15 out of 24 times — nearly two-thirds of the time. 

With a win on Saturday, the Eagles can become the first team to defeat the Giants three times in a single season. In order for New York to avoid that streak being snapped, it will have to end a different one: the Giants have lost nine consecutive road games against the Eagles. The last time the Giants won at Lincoln Financial Field was in Week 8 of the 2013 season when Chip Kelly was the Eagles head coach and quarterback Michael Vick left the game early with a leg injury, leading to Matt Barkley playing most of the game in relief. 

Here are three things the Giants have to do in order to secure that road win and advance to the NFC Championship Game. 

1. Establish Saquon Barkley and the ground game, dominate time-of-possession battle

With Hurts off this week’s injury report, Giants defensive coordinator Wink Martindale is “expecting the MVP candidate” to show up. Hurts’ first game since his shoulder injury occurred in Week 15 was against the Giants in the final week of the season, a game in which New York rested most of its starters. The Eagles have only one loss with Hurts at quarterback: a 32-21 home setback against the Washington Commanders on “Monday Night Football.” The largest reasons for that loss are glaring: Philadelphia’s inability to stop the run — it allowed 152 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns — leading to the Commanders winning the time-of-possession battle: 40:24-19:36. 

The easiest way to stop Hurts, Pro Bowl running back Miles Sanders, and Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Brown is to keep them off the field, exactly what the Commanders did. While Philadelphia sports the league’s best pass defense, allowing 179.8 passing yards per game, the unit is average against the run, allowing 121.6 rushing yards per game, which is tied for 16th out of 32 teams. Upon closer examination, the Eagles defense is one of the league’s 10 worst run defenses on a per-carry basis, allowing 4.64 yards per rush, ranking 24th in the NFL. 

That plays right into the Giants’ strengths since they are a top-five rushing attack, going for 148.2 yards per game, the fourth-most in the entire league. They also have a number of notable rushing trends that stand out as the best in NFL history, franchise history and in the league this season.

Giants rushing streaks

  • Rush TD in 16 straight games (t-longest single-season streak in NFL history)
  • 120+ rushing yards in six straight games (t-longest single-season streak in Giants history and t-longest active streak in NFL with 49ers)

One area of run defense where the Eagles struggle mightily is against mobile quarterbacks since they allow 6.5 yards per rush to quarterbacks, the second-most in the entire NFL ahead of only the Detroit Lions. That should have Jones licking his chops as he averaged 4.6 yards per carry with 78 rushing yards on 17 carries in New York’s wild-card win. Those 17 rushing attempts are the third-most by a quarterback in NFL playoff history. He’ll need to run the ball at a similar clip in order for the Giants to be victorious. 

Most rush attempts by QB in playoff game
NFL history 

Season QB Rush Att Round

2019

Lamar Jackson

20

 Div Rd vs. TEN

1934

Ed Danowski

20

NFL Champ vs. CHI

2022

Daniel Jones

17*

Wild Card at MIN 

* 78 rush yards, seven rushing first downs

New York also needs more from Barkley, who had 28 rushing yards on a season-low nine carries in the 48-22 Week 14 loss. That had more to do with the game getting out of hand early. The 25-year-old did have plenty of production at the Vikings last week despite also having a season-low nine carries as he went for 109 scrimmage yards, 53 on the ground and 56 through the air, with two rushing scores. That put him in elite company, joining Hall of Famer Marcus Allen as the only players in NFL history with over 50 rushing yards, 50 receiving yards and multiple rushing touchdowns in their playoff debut. 

If Jones and Barkley can replicate their wild-card round efforts, they’ll have a shot at knocking off the NFC’s No. 1 seed. 

2. Blitz Jalen Hurts

Hurts had a phenomenal year, ranking third in the entire NFL in passing yards per attempt (8.0) and fourth in passer rating (101.5) while rushing for the second-most touchdowns (13) by a quarterback in a single season in NFL history. However, he has a clear weakness in his game: passing against the blitz. Hurts faced the blitz at the fifth-highest rate in the league — 32.4% of his dropbacks — for a clear reason. He’s a top-three passer in the league when not blitzed, whereas he’s in the bottom half in passing when blitzed. Only Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith had a higher passer rating (108.5) when not blitzed in 2022. 

That bodes well for the Giants, who blitzed at the highest rate (44%) in the NFL this season. 

Jalen Hurts this season
NFL ranks

Blitz No Blitz

Comp Pct

58% (25th)

71% (3rd)

Passer Rating

93.1 (20th)

105.6 (2nd)

* Giants: highest blitz rate in NFL (44%) during regular season

With that mind, one of the deciding matchups in this game will be in the trenches. Just because the Giants blitz a bunch doesn’t mean they’re guaranteed to get home against Hurts. Eagles center Jason Kelce, a First-Team All-Pro and Pro Bowl selection this season, allowed a pressure 1.3% of the time, the second-lowest among centers in the entire league behind only ChargersCorey Linsley

On the outside of the line at right tackle, Lane Johnson was similarly stout, allowing a pressure on 1.5% of pass-blocking snaps, the second-lowest among offensive tackles in the NFL behind only Pro Bowl Buccaneer Tristan Wirfs

On the other side, Giants defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence piled up 70 pressures this season, the second-most at the position behind only Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones, a 2022 First-Team All-Pro at the position. A Giants blitz involves much more than just Lawrence, and if he can get through on the inside of the line, Hurts could be in trouble should he decide to roll outside the pocket. 

3. Protect Daniel Jones

It’s a toss-up between the offensive and defensive line units as to which is the best position group on the top-seeded Eagles. Philadelphia led the NFL with 70 sacks in 2022, which is tied for the third-most in a season since sacks began tracked as an official stat in 1982. That’s only two shy of the NFL record of 84, set by the 1984 Chicago Bears

However, the Eagles pass rush did set an NFL record this season, becoming the first team with four players totaling double-digit sacks since at least 1982: linebacker Haason Reddick (16.0), defensive end Brandon Graham (11.0), defensive tackle Javon Hargrave (11.0) and defensive end Josh Sweat (11.0). This group wrecked the game for the Giants in Week 14, their only matchup this season when New York played the starters, totaling seven sacks and pressuring Jones on a whopping 54% of his dropbacks. Graham tied his career-high for sacks in a game with three that Sunday. 

Eagles pass rush Week 14 vs. Giants

Dropbacks 

43

Pressures

23

Pressure Rate

54%

Sacks

7*

* Brandon Graham: 3.0 sacks (tied career-high)

The Giants offensive line is a weak spot in pass protection, which should keep Daboll, offensive coordinator Mike Kafka, and Jones sleepless at night, trying to come up with a way to neutralize the pass rush. It won’t be easy as New York’s offensive line allows pressure on 43% of dropbacks, the highest rate in the entire league while Philadelphia’s defense generates pressure on 38% of opponent dropbacks, the second-most in the league.  

Giants O-line and Eagles pass rush
NFL ranks this season

Giants Offense Eagles Defense

Pressure Rate

43%

38%

NFL Rank

Worst

2nd-best

The most likely way to diffuse the Eagles pass rush will be for Jones to do what he did against the Vikings and run the ball himself, whether it’s on designed runs or scrambles. A few read-option concepts with him and Barkley could cause the Eagles pass rush to start hesitating before sprinting, which could potentially swing the game. 

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