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5 storylines to follow in season finale vs. Eagles

TYROD-HURTS-STORYLINES

The Giants will wrap up their 2023 campaign with a rematch against the Philadelphia Eagles at MetLife Stadium this Sunday.

Despite a late-game comeback, the Giants lost their third consecutive game this past Sunday as they were defeated by the Rams, 26-25. On the other side of things, the Eagles picked up their fourth loss in the last five games when they hosted the Arizona Cardinals, 35-31, at Lincoln Financial Field.

The two NFC East rivals met less than two weeks ago when the Giants traveled down to Philly for a Christmas Day matchup, which the Eagles won, 33-25.

Here are five storylines to follow in the Week 18 season finale.

1. Ending on a high note

The Giants' playoff chances took a significant hit when they lost to the New Orleans Saints in Week 15. The following week, the team was officially eliminated from playoff contention with their Christmas Day loss against the Eagles. However, that did not stop the Giants from putting together a strong effort against the Rams this past week. All three phases came up with big plays as the Giants fell just short of pulling off the upset victory.

Heading into the regular-season finale, head coach Brian Daboll did not express any concern about his team failing to put their best foot forward this Sunday.

"You have to understand, they're professionals," Daboll told reporters Monday. "So, everybody has a job to do in this league. You try to do it as good as you can do it, try to prepare, take a lot of pride in your work, put a lot of time into it. They put a lot of time into their body, into their studying, they study in groups.

"This is a group of guys that have worked really hard. We haven't got the results that we want, but the competitive stamina, we certainly talk about competing and finishing and being good teammates. Those are all important characteristics for our program. Again, not the results that we've wanted this season, but try to finish strong on a good note against a good team that we just played last week. But certainly, you talk about competition and resiliency and toughness and finish, accountability, all those types of things."

View rare photos of the historic rivalry between the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles.

2. Young players developing

The Giants saw numerous players step up in Sunday's game against the Rams, including several young pros. The biggest contribution came from Dane Belton, as the second-year safety registered three turnovers after filling in for injured starter Jason Pinnock. Belton played a significant part in the team slowing down Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford, who entered this matchup as the hottest quarterback in the NFL. Stafford had a 14-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio in his five games prior to Week 17. But Belton picked him off twice, while also adding a fumble recovery, to become the first Giant since Stevie Brown in 2012 to finish a game with two interceptions and a fumble recovery.

The 23-year-old did not allow a single reception on 26 coverage snaps as he helped contain Stafford to an 85.0 passer rating, his lowest since Week 11. Not only that, but Belton also showed tremendous effort when he chased down Puka Nacua on the rookie receiver's 80-yard reception. While Daboll praised Belton for the takeaways, it was the safety's hustle on this pass play that the head coach was most excited about.

"I know he had the turnovers, but the one play that I was really impressed with is the play that they broke out for the long gain on the hitch route and his chase, to run down there and to finish, he showed some good long speed," Daboll told reporters Monday. "Again, running to the ball when you think a guy might score, I just thought the effort he had on that play was indicative of what the young man is about."

On the offensive side of the ball, wide receiver Wan'Dale Robinson made a few impressive catches against the Rams defense. The second-year wideout caught six passes for 55 yards and added a 24-yard touchdown run on an end-around to open up the scoring for the Giants.

Robinson wasn't the only young playmaker to contribute in the team's performance last Sunday. Second-year tight end caught all four passes thrown his way and finished with 39 receiving yards. Meanwhile, rookie wide receiver Jalin Hyatt added three receptions for 25 yards.

3. Injury updates

Belton got an opportunity to play more this past Sunday due to a foot injury suffered by Pinnock. The 24-year-old went down in the first quarter, and after originally being listed as questionable to return, Pinnock was eventually ruled out for the remainder of the game. The starting safety did not participate in Wednesday's walkthrough practice, which puts his status for the season finale in doubt.

In 16 games this season, Pinnock set new career-highs in just about every category, including total tackles (85), sacks (two), tackles for loss (six), passes defensed (six), and interceptions (two). He also scored the first defensive touchdown of his NFL career on a 102-yard interception return against the Dolphins in Week 5.

The other big injury to come out of Sunday's game was along the offensive line, as right tackle Tyre Phillips suffered a torn quad in the fourth quarter. Daboll told the media that Phillips would have surgery soon, and on Tuesday, the team placed him on injured reserve. With Phillips out, Matt Peart will get the start at right tackle in Week 18.

The only other player that did not participate in Wednesday's walkthrough was John Michael Schmitz, as the rookie center is dealing with a shin injury. Schmitz injured his shoulder in the first quarter of the Week 4 matchup against the Seahawks, which forced him to miss the next three games. The rookie has played 100 percent of the team's offensive snaps in the team's other 12 games.

Rookie cornerback Deonte Banks missed his first game of the season last week against the Rams because of a shoulder injury. Daboll told the media Wednesday he's "hopeful" Banks will be able to suit up this weekend, but the decision will likely go down to the wire.

4. Week 18 implications

As mentioned above, the Giants were officially eliminated from playoff contention with their Week 16 loss to the Eagles. However, this weekend's regular season finale still has some implications for the franchise. At 5-11, the Giants currently hold the No. 5 pick in the NFL Draft. A win would likely cause them to drop in the draft order, but no lower than No. 8. On the other hand, the Giants could move all the way up to the No. 2 pick with a loss and some outside factors. The Commanders, Patriots and Cardinals are all 4-12, and a win for any of them in Week 18 could mean the Giants move up.

On the other sideline, Sunday's game still has significant meaning for the Eagles. Philadelphia currently holds the No. 5 seed in the NFC. However, a win paired with a Dallas Cowboys loss against the Washington Commanders would result in Philadelphia winning the NFC East. This would lead to the Eagles earning the No. 2 in the conference, as they hold the tiebreaker over the Detroit Lions. But if the Giants emerge with the victory, or if the Cowboys win their game, then the Eagles are locked in to the No. 5 seed, where they will take on the winner of the NFC South on Wild Card Weekend.

5. Scouting the Eagles

In the first meeting between the two teams, Jalen Hurts completed 24 of 38 passes for 301 yards, one touchdown and one interception, earning him a passer rating of 85.5. Hurts also added eight rush attempts for 34 yards (4.3 avg.) and an additional score. However, the 25-year-old quarterback also fumbled the ball once, which was recovered by the Eagles, while his one interception resulted in a 76-yard return for a touchdown by cornerback Adoree' Jackson. Hurts was better against the Cardinals, as he completed 78.3 percent of his passes for three touchdowns, one interception and a 118.4 passer rating, but it wasn't enough to pick up the win.

The Eagles ran for 170 yards against the Giants in Week 16, led by running back D'Andre Swift's 92 yards on 20 carries (4.6 avg.). Swift also found the end zone on Christmas, his only touchdown since Week 11, while fellow running back Kenneth Gainwell took six carries for 41 yards (6.8 avg.) and caught three passes for 38 yards. Philadelphia gained just 91 yards on the ground in last week's loss to Arizona.

After putting together six consecutive games with at least 125 receiving yards from Weeks 3 through 8, wide receiver A.J. Brown has had just one game with over 100 receiving yards since (Week 13 vs. 49ers). Brought caught six of 11 targets for 80 yards in the first game against the Giants, but followed that up with just four receptions for 53 yards on five targets last week. Fellow wide receiver DeVonta Smith, who had 79 yards and a touchdown in Week 16, injured his ankle against the Cardinals, putting his status for Sunday in doubt. Smith's injury this past weekend paved the way for Julio Jones to see more action, and the veteran responded with two touchdowns. Meanwhile, tight end Dallas Goedert, who finished with seven receptions for 71 yards on Christmas, followed that up with five receptions for 47 yards and a score against the Cardinals.

The Philadelphia defense struggled to slow down Arizona in the second half of last week's game. After the Eagles took a 21-6 lead into halftime, the Cardinals offense could not be stopped in the final two quarters. Arizona got the ball four times in the second half and scored four touchdowns, all of which were on drives of at least 70 yards. In the second half alone, the Cardinals gained 299 total yards of offense, most of which came on early downs as Arizona faced just a total of two third downs in the second half.

The Eagles did get a couple of solid performances from a few defenders in last week's loss. Rookie safety Sydney Brown intercepted a pass and returned in 99 yards for a touchdown, while fellow rookie defensive lineman Jalen Carter notched his sixth sack of the season. Meanwhile, Philadelphia had three players record 10+ total tackles – linebacker Nicholas Morrow and safeties Reed Blankenship and Kevin Byard.

The Giants allowed just one sack in the first meeting against the Eagles, as veteran linebacker Shaquille Leonard got to Tommy DeVito in the first half of the Christmas Day matchup. Philadelphia also had one takeaway in the game, as rookie cornerback Kelee Ringo intercepted Tyrod Taylor in the end zone on the final play of the game.

It remains to be seen if the Philly defense will receive a boost this week in the form of cornerback Darius Slay. The veteran corner has missed the last three games with a knee injury, but the team did not place him on injured reserve, thus indicating they believe he could make a return this week. When asked about Slay's possible return, Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni told reporters "We'll see where he is this week."

View photos of every move made by the Giants during the 2023 cycle.