The growing sense of gloom by New York Giants fans is understandable given 1-3-1 record over the course of the last five games. It has diminished the surprise and excitement of the 6-1 start. However, fans should not lose sight of the fact that this team has far surpassed preseason expectations, and had the Giants started off 1-3-1 and followed that up with a 6-1 surge, attitudes would be much different right now.
I keep saying the same thing, but the same thing needs to be keep being said: this is a rebuilding ball club. When the Giants hit the restart button again in January 2022 with the hiring of Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll, previous rebuilding efforts under different general managers and head coaches meant jack squat. Starting over means starting over. And if you really believe that Daniel Jones is not part of the answer moving forward, the current rebuilding effort is going to take a lot longer.
Exacerbating all of this is the competition in the NFC East. The two best teams in the conference are the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys. One of these two teams is likely to be the NFC representative in the Super Bowl, and if they both meet in the playoffs, it is likely to be the game of the year in the conference. The Giants may have a winning record, a good coaching staff, and talented players, but the talent gap between the Giants and Eagles/Cowboys is huge. We’re not just talking about front-line starters here but overall depth as well.
Barring some unforeseen weirdness, the Eagles are going to easily defeat the Giants on Sunday. That’s not me being a pessimist or defeatist. The Eagles are simply a better team across the board on offense, defense, and special teams. There is a good chance they will be Super Bowl champions in a couple of months. The best the Giants can hope for this year is to limp into a Wild Card berth in a poor conference. On the flip side, there is also a good chance the Giants finish in last place in their own division again.
The main immediate competition for the Giants is the Washington Commanders, who the Giants play after the Eagles. That will be the game of the year for New York. Stealing a win against the Eagles would be fantastic, but due to tie-breakers, the second game against the Commanders is essentially a playoff game. The last thing the Giants need to happen is come out of the Eagles game with a loss and being more beat up. For psychological reasons, Daboll doesn’t want his team to be blown out by Philadelphia, but there has to be a great temptation to preserve his team’s strength and play it safe for the following week, when Washington will be coming off of a 2-week bye.
I get it. The frustration is growing that the Giants-Eagles and Giants-Cowboys are no longer real rivalries because these series are so one-sided. But the Giants are not at the same level as the Eagles. It is what it is.
THE INJURY REPORT:
- RB Saquon Barkley (neck – questionable)
- WR Richie James (knee – probable)
- WR Kenny Golladay (illness – probable)
- WR Marcus Johnson (illness – probable)
- OG Josh Ezeudu (neck – out)
- OG Shane Lemieux (toe – out)
- DL Leonard Williams (neck – doubtful)
- DL Henry Mondeaux (knee – probable)
- CB Adoree’ Jackson (knee – out)
- CB Darnay Holmes (shoulder – probable)
- CB Nick McCloud (hamstring – probable)
NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
This side of the ball is a mismatch. The Giants are 22nd in offense in the NFL. The Eagles are 2nd in defense. They also have the #1 pass defense in the NFL and will be facing a New York passing attack that scares no one.
The strength of the Eagles defensively, as it has been for years, is their defensive front. Again, it’s not just their front-line starters but their back-ups. They come at you in waves, just like the Dallas Cowboys do. The Eagles are second in the NFL in sacks with 42, averaging 3.5 sacks per game. Five players on the team have five sacks or more, led by LB Haason Reddick (9), DT Javon Hargrave (8), DE Josh Sweat (6.5), DE Brandon Graham (5.5), and DT Fletcher Cox (5). As we saw last week against the Commanders and their two fine defensive tackles, the interior of the New York offensive line is likely to mightily struggle against Hargrave and Cox in particular. RT Evan Neal will also have his hands full with Reddick.
Making matters worse is the Eagles have reached a new level defensively because of the play of their cornerbacks. The Giants wide receivers simply will not be able to get open against Darius Slay and ex-Giant James Bradberry, both of whom are playing at a top-notch level. The Eagles don’t give up big plays and the Giants don’t have the personnel to make big plays in the passing game. And the Eagles lead the NFL with a +13 turnover differential, having taken the ball away 23 times (15 interceptions and eight fumble recoveries).
The Commanders shocked everyone by beating the Eagles in Week 10. They did so because the Commanders ran the ball for 152 yards, limited wide receiver A.J. Brown to one catch, and won the turnover battle 4-to-2. The problem for the Giants is their interior offensive line is not as strong as the Commanders. It’s been one of the main reasons why the Giants’ offense has taken a step backwards in recent weeks. Worse, the Eagles have tightened up their run defense in recent weeks, controlling the likes of Derrick Henry as just one example. The Eagles are also not likely to turn the football over four times again.
The Eagles know their secondary can easily handle the Giants’ pass receivers. Defensively, they will dedicate their game plan to stopping Saquon Barkley and Daniel Jones as runners.
NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
Partly due to injuries, this side of the ball is also a mismatch. The Giants are 23rd in defense (18th against the pass, 26th against the run). The Eagles are 3rd in offense (12th in passing, 5th in rushing).
The Giants have two big problems. First, they have never been able to get their key defensive starters together on the field all year. Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale said on Thursday, “It’s just one of those years where you just walk around shaking our head like I can’t believe this because you’re playing so many different guys at different spots with the injuries that we’ve had.” So while the Giants get Azeez Ojulari back, Leonard Williams is now dealing with a neck injury. And the secondary is currently a mess with Xavier McKinney and Adoree’ Jackson out, and Darnay Holmes and Nick McCloud dealing with issues. The lack of depth is apparent. Again, it is what it is.
The second issue is the talent on the Philadelphia Eagles. Jalen Hurts has reached MVP-level performance as his passing game has evolved. He’s no longer just a running quarterback. “Jalen is getting into that level, that top-tier quarterback, because you can just see the jump,” said Martindale. “He’s really worked on his throwing mechanics, his footwork, and it’s paying off for him.” Despite being a downfield thrower (not dink-and-dunk), Hurts is completing 68 percent of his passes. He has thrown 20 touchdowns to just three interceptions with a quarterback rating over 108. Want to be more depressed? He’s still his team’s second leading rusher with 609 yards rushing and nine rushing touchdowns.
And with the NYG secondary ailing, guess who Hurts has to throw to? WR A.J. Brown (61 catches, 950 yards, 9 touchdowns) and DeVonta Smith (61 catches, 711 yards, 4 touchdowns). Both of these guys are game-breakers and will be matched up on New York’s no-name corners.
So you say the Giants have to win up front by stopping the run and getting after Hurts? Problem. The Eagles have no real weaknesses up front on their offensive line (RT Lane Johnson hasn’t given up a QB hit or sack all year). This group makes big holes for the Eagles’ 5th-ranked running game and gives Hurts tons of time to throw the ball. In fact, if you want answers to why the Eagles have owned the Giants for years, look no further than their dominance on the offensive and defensive lines. The Eagles win because they are strong up front. There is a lesson here for the Giants.
Mile Sanders is the team’s leading rusher with 924 yards and nine touchdowns, averaging almost 5 yards per carry. But be prepared for little used Boston Scott to continue his odd dominance against the Giants. Scott has eight career touchdowns against New York.
NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
If the Giants are to pull off the upset, they have to dominate on special teams, something they have yet to do this year.
FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Defensive Coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale on the Eagles’ offense: “I was telling the defensive staff, I know they’re not going to play the Pro Bowl this year, but they’re playing it in Philly because they’re talented across the board.”
THE FINAL WORD:
Brian Daboll has to play a delicate balancing act here. He needs to preserve his strength for the Commanders game. At the same time, if his team gets destroyed by the Eagles, that could have a bad psychological affect that impacts the following week. The Giants really don’t have the firepower (and the Eagles do) to play a go-for-broke, up-tempo game. They are likely once again limited to runs and short passes, trying to slow the game down and eat up clock in a desperate attempt to keep the score close. It’s hard to see the Giants keeping the game close unless they win the turnover battle and something strange happens on offense, defense, or special teams.
How much better are the Eagles? They’ve scored nearly 100 points more than the Giants this year in just 12 games.