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Fact or Fiction: Divisional Round Playoff Edition


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

There will be at least 20 combined quarterback runs on Saturday night

John Schmeelk: Fact – Jalen Hurts averaged 11 rushing attempts per game in the regular season, while Daniel Jones averaged seven. That total number fall shorts of 20, but that doesn't tell the entire story. If you take into consideration what the Bills did last postseason with Josh Allen and combine it with what Jones did last week against Minnesota, it would appear Brian Daboll is more willing to lean into the quarterback run in the playoffs. The Eagles' dominant pass rush is also more likely to force Jones into more scrambling opportunities. Philadelphia has had some issues against running quarterbacks this season. A big variable is if the Eagles are not ready to fully activate Jalen Hurts in the running game. If his shoulder still can't take full contact the answer here will be under. At this point, it's doubt that will be the case.

Dan Salomone: Fact – Jalen Hurts might have 20 alone. The bubble wrap comes off everyone this time of year. This will be the first playoff matchup in NFL history in which both starting quarterbacks had 600+ rush yards in that regular season.

Lance Medow: Fiction – In the first meeting between these teams, Jalen Hurts and Daniel Jones combined for 11 run plays. Although Hurts is known for that facet of his game and Jones is capable of double digit runs, 20 seems to be on the high side. Keep in mind, 17 carries against the Vikings was a season high for Jones and a bit of an outlier considering he only had double-digit attempts in six of his 16 regular-season appearances. Hurts has reached double digits in carries more often this season, nearly half of his games, but you have to wonder - with him coming off a sprained shoulder - whether they'll give him a high volume. He's going to run more than Week 18, but they may keep an eye on the total and that could impact the chances of getting to 20 so the high teens seem much more feasible.

Matt Citak: Fact – Daniel Jones has registered a combined 28 rush attempts in his last two starts, with 17 against the Vikings last weekend and 11 against the Colts on New Year's Day. It is no coincidence that those two games also happened to be the season's best offensive performances. The unit topped the 30-point mark in both outings with Jones registering a combined 169 yards on the ground in the two games. Jones is going to run the ball on Saturday, and it's likely Jalen Hurts does the same. The last time we saw Hurts, he was playing at less than 100 percent in the regular-season finale. He still recorded nine rush attempts. Hurts is not listed on the injury report, meaning he is likely at or close to fully healthy. The Eagles won't hesitate to unleash him in the running game, meaning the two QBs are likely to easily top 20 combined runs on Saturday night.

Xavier McKinney is the X factor for the Giants in the Divisional Round

John Schmeelk: Fiction – It is going to be Evan Neal. If he can hold his own against Haason Reddick and Brandon Graham, the Giants might be able to score some downfield opportunities on longer-developing plays down the field. You can assume Mike Kafka will make sure he has some help, but Neal will still have to hold up. On defense, the X-factor is always Dexter Lawrence. He is the team's best player and will match up against future Hall of Famer Jason Kelce. Can he win that matchup against the run and pass? If he does, the Giants' chances to win go way up.

Dan Salomone: Fact – People haven't connected the dots enough between McKinney's absence and the Giants' post-bye week lull, which is when he was injured. Including the Wild Card victory, the Giants are 8-2 with McKinney this season. They are 2-5-1 without him.

Lance Medow: Fiction – Xavier McKinney didn't play in the Week 14 meeting against the Eagles so he makes more for an attractive candidate but neither did Leonard Williams, who has more of a chance to put his stamp on the game. With Azeez Ojulari nursing a quad injury and Dexter Lawrence likely seeing plenty of double teams, Leonard could have some favorable one-on-one match ups. His ability to win those battles could go a long way in determining whether the Giants will be able to solve the Eagles' offensive line.

Matt Citak: Fiction – Having Xavier McKinney back in the fold has provided a boost to the defense and secondary, in particular. But in last weekend's win in Minnesota, it was the return of Adoree' Jackson that really proved to be the difference. Jackson helped shut down three-time All-Pro Justin Jefferson as the star wideout finished with only seven receptions for 47 yards. Jackson will have another challenge this weekend as he lines up opposite former Titans teammate A.J. Brown. The veteran receiver led the Eagles with 1,496 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns this season, resulting in him being named second-team All-Pro for the first time in his career. If Jackson can limit Brown like he did Jefferson, the defense will be in great shape.

View rare photos of the Giants' Divisional Round playoff games through the years.

The Eagles are the toughest matchup for the Giants in the NFC

John Schmeelk: Fiction – This is "fiction" with a caveat. We have not seen the Eagles play their best football since they beat the Giants at MetLife Stadium on Dec. 11. If the Eagles' team of the past four weeks shows up, then the 49ers and maybe even the Cowboys would be a tougher opponent based on how they are playing right now. If the Eagles' team that played football the first 13 games of the season shows up then this will be a "fact". Which one shows up Saturday night? Nobody knows, which is why the answer is fiction.

Dan Salomone: Fact – Add in the location, and there's no question. The Giants have not won at Lincoln Financial Field since 2013 and lost those nine games by an average of 10.6 points, including three losses of 20 points or more.

Lance Medow: Fact – One could easily make strong arguments for the Cowboys and Niners, as well. Philadelphia, Dallas and San Francisco are all very well-balanced teams and separated themselves from the rest of NFC pack; but Jalen Hurts' running ability makes the Eagles very challenging. Dak Prescott and Brock Purdy are mobile but Hurts takes it to another level as he can operate like a running back. On top of that, the depth of the Eagles' defensive front is unmatched. They have four players with 11+ sacks - Haason Reddick, Josh Sweat, Brandon Graham and Javon Hargrave have combined for more sacks than most teams in the league. Philly showcases several playmakers on both sides of the ball.

Matt Citak: Fiction – The Eagles finished as the top team in the NFC this season, and with Hurts likely at or close to 100 percent, their offense will probably look more like it did in Week 14 rather than the regular-season finale. Despite this fact, the toughest matchup for the Giants in the NFC would be a potential showdown against the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship. The 49ers boast a Top-5 offense, featuring talented playmakers such as Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle. As if that wasn't enough, San Francisco also has the NFL's top defense in points and yards allowed. The 49ers are incredibly well-rounded, and Kyle Shanahan is one of the top head coaches in the league. A matchup against San Francisco would be a very difficult challenge for the Giants or any of the remaining NFC teams.

It is difficult to beat the same team three times in a season

John Schmeelk: Fact: You can't feel strongly about this. The numbers say a team like the Eagles win games about two-thirds of the time in this situation, which clouds your view. But the more two teams see each other, the bigger the advantage goes to the team with the more overall talent, since it becomes increasingly difficult to fool the opponent with scheme and other tricks. Players are more familiar with each other and the cream rises to the top.

Dan Salomone: Fact – The numbers are against me on this, but as we all know, it's not always about which team you play. It's often about when you play them. The Giants are operating near full strength, which wasn't the case in their previous two meetings.

Lance Medow: Fiction – This is a worn-out narrative that doesn't hold much weight. Let's simply look at the facts. Since the 1970 merger, there have been 24 instances where a team swept the regular season series & then met that division rival in the playoffs again. The team that swept is 15-9. Of those 24 scenarios, in 19 of them, the team that swept the regular season series hosted the playoff game. The home teams have gone an impressive 13-6 in those contests. It's a fun statement to make but the more and more you review the evidence, it's not as difficult as it seems. Case in point, the Niners already beat the Seahawks three times this season.

Matt Citak: Fiction – Let's go fiction with a caveat. The statistics since the 1970 merger show that, in general, the notion is more of a myth than reality. However - and here is the caveat - it will be difficult to beat THIS Giants' coaching staff three times in one season. The 2022 Giants have had four rematches: with their three division opponents and the Minnesota Vikings. In all four instances, the Giants played significantly better the second time around. The coaches made the necessary adjustments from the first game to the second, and the Giants either won or kept it a lot closer the second time around. Now faced with an opportunity to face the Eagles for a third time, and Big Blue close to full health, the Giants are going to make it very difficult for Philadelphia to advance to the NFC Championship.

View photos from the Giants' 31-24 Wild Card victory over the Minnesota Vikings.


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