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Fact or Fiction: Another big game for Darius Slayton, Dane Belton?

FACT-OR-FICTION-DARIUS-SLAYTON

The Giants.com crew is presented with four statements and must decide whether they are Fact or Fiction.

Darius Slayton will have a reception of at least 35 yards on Sunday.

John Schmeelk: Fact – Tyrod Taylor throws one of the best deep balls in the league and has consistently shown it off in his starts this year. The Eagles' defense has been struggling, giving up 19 catches of 30 or more yards this year, which is tied for the 14th-most in the NFL. Darius Slay is still out. It's possible Jalin Hyatt is the target of Taylor's deep throws, but Slayton should get one of his own.

Dan Salomone: Fiction – Not that they can't both do it, but maybe it's Jalin Hyatt's turn for a big one or two. It would certainly set the stage nicely heading into his sophomore season.

Lance Medow: Fact – Darius Slayton has accomplished this feat in each of the last two games, including a 69-yard touchdown against the Eagles in Week 16. Not much has changed with the Philadelphia defense since these teams last played on Christmas. Nick Sirianni's group is coming off a 35-31 loss to the Cardinals last Sunday in which Arizona posted 449 total yards of offense, scored four second-half touchdowns and wide receiver Greg Dortch had a catch and run for 36 yards. Based on those developments, I'd say it's an attractive matchup for Slayton to record at least one reception for 35 yards.

Matt Citak: Fact – Thirty-five yards is a big number, but let's go with the hot hand on this one. Slayton has three receptions of 40+ yards this season, two of which have come in the last two games. He also has a reception of 34 yards (vs. Raiders) while taking another catch for 33 yards (vs. Saints) this season. When the two teams faced off on Christmas, Slayton got behind Reed Blankenship for a 69-yard touchdown. The Giants won't hesitate to take some shots down field. Tyrod Taylor and Slayton will connect on at least one deep shot on Sunday.

Dane Belton will force and/or notch another turnover this week.

John Schmeelk: Fiction – Dane Belton was involved in three last week, and his role will expand with Jason Pinnock missing the game. Belton deserves credit for taking advantage of his opportunities, but he was the beneficiary of two overthrows by Matt Stafford to secure his two interceptions and a punch-out by Adoree' Jackson to get his fumble recovery.

Dan Salomone: Fact – With Jason Pinnock ruled out again, Dane Belton will get another opportunity to show what he can do. Last week, that was a lot. As Brian Daboll said this week, the ball finds him, and he finds the ball.

Lance Medow: Fiction – Prior to Sunday's game against the Rams, Dane Belton didn't receive a high volume of defensive snaps because he was playing behind Xavier McKinney and Jason Pinnock. When the latter left with a foot injury, the opportunity presented itself for Belton to contribute on defense and he wound up having a career performance with three takeaways. Pinnock's availability this week is the first big part of the equation and then it's about capitalizing/being in position to take away the ball, which is impossible to predict. The Giants had two takeaways against the Eagles on Christmas. Adoree' Jackson had a pick-six and Philadelphia lost a fumble on the second half opening kickoff when Boston Scott ran into his teammate Olamide Zaccheaus, allowing Isaiah Simmons to grab the ball. Belton noticeably hustles and that even caught the attention of Brian Daboll but given the unknown of playing time and the fact that the former had no takeaways prior to Sunday, I'll lean toward fiction.

Matt Citak: Fiction – What Belton did against the Rams was incredible. But his three takeaways on Sunday nearly matched the four turnovers he totaled through the first 30 games of his NFL career. Regardless of Jason Pinnock's status for the season finale, it will be tough for Belton to make it two consecutive games with a turnover. However, if Belton does end up playing most of the snaps at free safety on Sunday, I believe he will do a good job of limiting Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert's impact. Belton did not give up a reception on 26 coverage snaps last week.

View photos of the all-time history of New York Giants in the Pro Bowl.

Dexter Lawrence is underrated around the NFL.

John Schmeelk: Fact – I don't think he is underrated by people in the league, whether that is players, coaches or scouts. They understand his dominance, even though it might not translate into stats because of the position he plays. That's probably why fans can't quite appreciate the number of times he completely overwhelms other offensive linemen every week. But for anyone that watches the tape every week, his ability is clear as day.

Dan Salomone: Fiction – Defensive coordinator Wink Martindale said it best this week: "It's hard as heck to get in your first Pro Bowl and then after that it becomes easier. And you look at it, where we want to be is, look at the top seed in the NFC and the top seed in the AFC – the top two seeds actually, they have a lot of Pro Bowlers and that's because they're winning and that's the hardest thing to do is make the Pro Bowl your first time when you don't have a winning record." Evidenced by his back-to-back Pro Bowl nods, Lawrence clearly has the respect of players, coaches, and fans around the league.

Lance Medow: Fiction – Dexter Lawrence is coming off a 2022 season in which he made the Pro Bowl for the first time in his career and earned a Second-Team All-Pro nod. If you listen to any opposing head coaches and offensive coordinators throughout this season, at some point, they all bring up having to keep Lawerence in check.  The rest of the league is well aware of what Dexter can do and how much he can create havoc by stopping the run and putting pressure on the quarterback. 

Matt Citak: Fact – This one depends on how you look at it. Among NFL fans, look no further than the final fan vote for the 2024 Pro Bowl Games, where Lawrence did not even finish in the top 10 among defensive tackles. While he still ended up making the Pro Bowl, the fact that Lawrence did not make the top 10 at his position in the fan vote is ludicrous. However, if you look at this within the actual members of the NFL, then it would be a little bit harder to classify him as underrated. Lawrence landed at No. 28 on the Top 100 Players of 2023, a list that is voted on by the players themselves, after earning a selection as Second-Team All-Pro last year, and he seems well on his way to earning another All-Pro nod this year. But Lawrence deserves to be higher on the list, and until that happens, along with earning some more recognition from national media members, I will continue to consider him underrated.   

Saquon Barkley will reach 100 yards from scrimmage for the sixth time of his sixth season.

John Schmeelk: Fact – The Eagles have allowed at least 100 rushing yards seven straight weeks, with the opponent gaining more than 135 yards on the ground in five of them. Barkley might get 100 yards on the ground, not even counting what he will do as a receiver.

Dan Salomone: Fact – He is 84 rushing yards away from his fourth 1,000-yard season, which is a major checkpoint for any running back. So, I wouldn't be surprised either if he gets that on the ground alone.

Lance Medow: Fiction – Two weeks ago, Saquon Barkley recorded 84 scrimmage yards against the Eagles, and he's only surpassed 100 once in the last six games.  While the Philadelphia run defense has been a problem area the last few weeks and the Cardinals racked up 221 yards on the ground in Week 17, the Eagles' defensive front is still a tough matchup for New York and there's snow in the forecast for this weekend.  When you take all those factors into consideration, I'll lean more toward under 100 for Saquon.

Matt Citak: Fact –While the Eagles have been pretty good against the run this season, they are coming off their worst performance of the year. Cardinals running back James Conner ran for 128 yards while averaging nearly five yards per carry, and backup Michael Carter added another 61 yards on seven carries (8.7 avg.). In the last seven games following their Week 10 bye, the Eagles are allowing an average of 150.2 rushing yards per game. Look for Barkley to close the season out with a strong outing against the division rival.

View photos of the Giants on the practice field ahead of the Week 18 matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles.

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