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10 things to watch in Giants vs. Eagles

SAQUON-BROWN-10THINGS

GETTING BACK ON TRACK

The Giants opened the season with six wins in their first seven games. However, as coach Brian Daboll has said at numerous points throughout the year, the season is like a roller coaster. You can't get too high with the highs, and you can't get too low with the lows. Since starting 6-1, the Giants have won just one of their last five games, with the offense topping 20 points only once and the defense allowing three opponents to reach 27. Despite the recent stretch, Daboll is making sure his team remains focused on the task at hand.

"Well, adversity and criticism come with the territory," the head coach told reporters on Monday. "I've been in, not this seat as a head coach, but a coordinator for a long time, and it's a popular game followed by a lot of people. And I appreciate the support. You also appreciate the negativity or criticism. If you want to be mentally tough and strong, this is the sport to be in, whether you're a coach, whether you're a player. And really, you can't focus too much on that. You appreciate it. I think we're all thankful for the support you get, but you just get back to work. There's adversity after every loss, sometimes there's adversity after a win. We've talked about that since probably April. There's going to be ups and downs, and to stay mentally strong and focused on the task at hand, that's not an easy thing to do all the time. But you need to do it.

"It's a week-to-week league, so have we got the results we wanted? Absolutely not. Have we prepared, worked and done the right things to give ourselves a chance? We have. We just haven't finished; we haven't done enough to win those games. I was proud of the team yesterday for the way they competed, losing two in a row and you're down 10-0 right away. So, the focus for us will always be on us and improving the things we need to improve from each individual, starting with me, all the way down to the team. That's, to me, the only way you know how to coach and work in this business."

ALL-TIME SERIES

Sunday's game will be the 181st all-time meeting between the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles, with the Eagles holding a slight 90-88-2 lead. Philadelphia won the final game between the two teams last season, which snapped the Giants' two-game winning streak against their division rival, both of which occurred at MetLife Stadium. The two teams will meet again in the final week of the season at Lincoln Financial Field.

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INJURY REPORT

Giants

Out: OL Josh Ezeudu (neck), CB Adoree' Jackson (knee), G Shane Lemieux (toe)

Doubtful: DL Leonard Williams (neck)

Questionable: RB Saquon Barkley (neck)

Eagles

Out: LB Shaun Bradley (hamstring)

DJ'S EFFICIENCY

Despite last week's contest finishing in the franchise's first tie in 25 years, Daniel Jones put together one of his most efficient outings of the season. Jones became just the second quarterback in the NFC this season to have two games with a completion percentage of 80+ percent when he converted on 25 of 31 passes for 200 yards and a touchdown. He earned a 104.3 passer rating, marking the third time in his last four games at MetLife Stadium he finished with at least a 100. Jones also ran the ball a career-high 12 times for 71 yards (5.9 avg.).

Through the first 12 games of the season, Jones is completing a career-high 66 percent of his passes. His 11 touchdown passes match the most he's had in the past three seasons, while his four interceptions and three fumbles lost have him on pace for a career-low in turnovers. Jones has also set new career-highs on the ground in several categories, including attempts (91), yards (522), touchdowns (four) and yards per game (43.5). He's fifth among NFL quarterbacks in rushing yards.

Jones has perhaps his toughest matchup of the season. Philadelphia boasts the league's top passing defense as they're surrendering just 178.5 yards in the air per game. On top of that, their opponents' 60.3 completion percentage ranks fourth with an NFL-high 15 interceptions. On Sunday, their secondary will be led by their star cornerback duo of Darius Slay and James Bradberry, who have registered three interceptions apiece and have a combined 24 pass breakups.

"Both those guys Bradberry and Slay are really good corners," Daboll said Wednesday. "They can play zone, they can play man, they're experienced. I think they read routes well. They're two hard guys outside to throw the ball against."

KAYVON & AZEEZ BACK TOGETHER

As we enter Week 14, the Giants have not had their starting defensive line play an entire game together yet this season due to injuries. Between Dexter Lawrence, Leonard Williams, Azeez Ojulari and Kayvon Thibodeaux, Lawrence is the only one that's started every game. The group went into last week's contest healthy before Williams departed early with a neck injury, as Ojulari played in his first game since Week 4.

Despite Williams missing part of the game against the Commanders, the defense had one of their most productive days getting after the quarterback. Five different players registered a sack as the unit added a combined 10 quarterback hits. Although it was just his first game back, Ojulari was on the field for an impressive 49 defensive snaps (58 percent).

"It was obviously a big day getting after the quarterback, but we really haven't the initial starting lineup together since we started, if you want to really reflect on it," defensive coordinator Wink Martindale said. "So, when you get the entire starting lineup together that's when it's going to be even more fun than what it was Sunday, but you can see the difference. You guys can see it, you can feel the difference or however you want to say it and just watching the both of them out there."

Ojulari notched a sack and a forced fumble along with two quarterback hits. Despite missing two months, Ojulari has back-to-back games with a sack and forced fumble. On the other side, Thibodeaux recorded a sack and two quarterback hits, and giving him 13 pressures over the past two weeks (six QB hits, six hurries and one sack).

In only their second full game together, Thibodeaux and Ojulari combined for two sacks, four quarterback hits and 11 total pressures.

"I think Kayvon continues to grow and get better every game. There's something new that stands out, and same thing with Azeez," said Martindale.

BELLINGER 'PLAYS WITH CONFIDENCE'

The offense received a boost this past weekend with the return of Daniel Bellinger. The rookie tight end suffered a serious eye injury in Week 7 that led to surgery and him missing four games. Wearing a new visor in his helmet, Bellinger was back on the field against the Commanders, where he caught all five targets for 24 yards. Perhaps more importantly, he played a season-high 97 percent of the team's offensive snaps, missing only two plays.

"I knew going in I was going to play a lot and I was comfortable with it," Bellinger said Monday. "I felt good physically. I know I did a good job with the training staff keeping in shape, so I don't feel bad about missing the two snaps, but I wish I could be in there every play."

"It was good to have him back," Daboll added. "Hopefully, we just keep improving with him. But it definitely was good to have him out there."

Despite missing time, Bellinger is still tied for the team-lead with two receiving touchdowns this season. The Eagles have surrendered an average of 4.3 receptions and 42.2 yards per game to opposing tight ends. Titans rookie tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo led the team with four receptions for 68 yards last week, while fellow tight end Austin Hooper added three receptions for 22 yards.

"He did a great job. It was great," offensive coordinator Mike Kafka said. "He's a guy that plays with confidence. I think he gives the offense a lot of confidence and does what we ask him to do. It was great to see Bellinger back out there."

LOVE 'HAS BLOSSOMED THIS YEAR'

Although injuries have led to a good amount of turnover on the defensive side of the ball from week to week, one consistent force has been safety Julian Love. Voted a team captain for the first time in his career this season, Love has barely left the field. The fourth-year safety has played every single defensive snap in 11 of 12 games, with the lone exception coming in Week 4 when he suffered a concussion.

Not only has he seen more playing time, but Love has also been one of the top performers for Wink Martindale's unit. The 24-year-old leads the team with 96 combined tackles, 42 more than any other player, to go along with two interceptions, four pass breakups, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

Love has also continued his role from previous seasons on special teams. He has been on the field for more than 50 percent of the team's special teams snaps in 10 of 12 games this season, as special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey referred to him as the "quarterback of the punt team." McGaughey noted how Love has developed into one of the leaders of the team this year, which has led to better results on the field.

"Julian has really blossomed this year and taken off…" said the special teams coordinator. "He's always been a very mature young man, but you see him more now as a leader. I think that's really helped his game. He's playing with more confidence because he knows that people are looking to him, and he's always done a great job of preparing. He's always done a great job of being a really good teammate. As a man, he's starting to grow up. As a leader, he's starting to take control of the locker room."

SLOWING DOWN THE RUN GAME

The Eagles rank in the top 5 in most offensive categories, including points (second) and yards (third). The unit has also done an amazing job of converting in clutch situations. Through 12 games, Philadelphia ranks fourth in third-down conversions (45.8 percent) and second in fourth-down success (75.0 percent), in addition to scoring a touchdown on 73.8 percent of their trips inside the red zone, the second-best mark in the league.

Although the offense has done a great job of staying balanced throughout the season, their run game has been their biggest strength. The Eagles have registered the second-most rush attempts in the league, which has helped them average 154.6 yards (fifth) while their 23 rushing touchdowns is four more than any other team. Miles Sanders is the team's leading rusher with 924 yards and nine touchdowns. The veteran back has been an efficient runner, averaging 4.9 yards per carry and 77.0 yards per game.

You also can't overlook the abilities of quarterback Jalen Hurts as a runner. The third-year QB has matched Sanders with nine rushing touchdowns in addition to 609 yards on the ground (4.6 avg.). He has found the end zone as a rusher in seven of 12 games this year.

"I think it's the power and balance he has coming out of his cuts," Martindale said about what makes Hurts so successful as a runner. "So, he can get you running and when he sits down and makes a cut, he comes out of it with power, compared to a lot of guys. The thing that makes him so tough to go against, he's still looking to get the ball downfield until that last second where he says, 'no I'm going to go'. It's going to be a tough challenge for us."

LIMITING JALEN HURTS

Hurts has also been tremendous throwing the ball. The 24-year-old has taken a significant jump in his development this season. After completing 61.3 percent of his passes in 2021, Hurts has his completion percentage up to 68.1 percent, tied for the third-highest in the NFL. He has totaled 2,940 yards in the air, just 204 yards less than he had all of last season, to go with his 20 touchdowns and three interceptions. The three picks are tied with Tom Brady for the fewest among starting quarterbacks this season.

Hurts has gained 3,379 yards of total offense this season, the fourth-highest in the NFL behind Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen and Joe Burrow. His outstanding play throughout the first three months, which includes nearly 300 yards of total offense per game and a passer rating of 108.3, has led to Hurts being firmly in the discussion for the league's Most Valuable Player award.

"I've got a lot of respect for Jalen," said Daboll, who won a national championship with Hurts while serving as offensive coordinator at Alabama in 2017. "Tremendous person first and foremost. Highly competitive, extremely smart, great leader, (it's) the reason why he's probably at the top of the list for MVP right now. Playing with a great team, you can go on and on about Jalen. He means a lot to me."

"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," Martindale added. "Jalen is getting into that level, that top-tier quarterback, because you can just see the jump. We went against him his rookie year when he was playing sparingly, and then last year to this past year, he's really worked on his throwing mechanics, his footwork, and it's paying off for him. The same way it did for Patrick Mahomes. If you go back and look at those comparisons, it's very similar. He is a triple threat."

Hurts has done a good job of spreading the ball around, but receiver A.J. Brown has been dominant. The former Pro Bowler has been targeted 96 times, catching 61 for a team-high 950 yards and nine touchdowns.

"It's like they've got (wide receiver Terrell Owens) T.O. back there playing again," said Martindale. "He's a problem. We went against him when he was in Tennessee and he's a big physical receiver that you'd have to fight every play. I told (defensive backs coach) Jerome Henderson if he was a defensive player, he'd be an outside backer that's how physical he plays at wide receiver."

DeVonta Smith has matched Brown with 61 receptions, although he has totaled 711 yards and four touchdowns. Quez Watkins has also pulled in 22 passes for 296 yards and three touchdowns.

FACING 'AGGRESSIVE' EAGLES DEFENSE

The Eagles' defense has been nothing short of dominant this season. The unit enters this weekend's matchup ranking seventh in points and second in yards allowed. Philadelphia has the NFL's top passing defense, allowing an average of 178.5 yards per game, while their opponents' 14 passing touchdowns is tied for sixth. The Eagles have also forced the most turnovers in the NFL, including a league-high 15 interceptions.

"They're really talented, they're aggressive, they play with confidence, and they play fast," said Mike Kafka. "You see a lot of things that show up on tape. They're creating turnovers, interceptions. They have a ton of production in the pass game, in the run game and they're the best team in the league."

The unit has talent at all three levels, but they seem to be overloaded with dominant players up front. The Eagles have five players with five or more sacks, including eight from Javon Hargrave and 5 1/2 from Brandon Graham. The two of them, along with Haason Reddick (nine sacks), Josh Sweat (6 1/2) and Fletcher Cox (five), have contributed to the Eagles' 42 sacks on the season, the second-most in the NFL. Each of these five tallied a sack against the Titans, including two from Sweat.

"We're well aware of where he's at, and really that whole d-line does a really phenomenal job," the offensive coordinator told the media about Hargrave and the Philly defensive front. "I was there with – Brandon Graham was in my draft class. I got a lot of respect for Brandon and he's still playing at a really high level. It's great to see him playing. That whole front seven, they do a phenomenal job."

View photos from practice as the Giants prepare for their Week 14 matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles.

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