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Players to Watch: Who steps up in Week 18?


The Giants will head to Philadelphia for the regular-season finale against the Eagles in Week 18.

Following last week's dominant win over the Indianapolis Colts, the Giants are locked into the No. 6 seed in the NFC. They will face off against either the Minnesota Vikings or San Francisco 49ers, depending on how those two teams fare on Sunday.

On the other sideline, the Eagles need a victory this weekend in order to secure the NFC East crown, the No. 1 seed in the conference and the first-round bye. Philadelphia has had the opportunity to clinch all three in their last two games, but wound up losing to the Dallas Cowboys and New Orleans Saints. If the Giants beat the Eagles and the Cowboys defeat the Washington Commanders, Dallas will take the division crown.

Here are five players to watch in the regular-season finale.

WR Isaiah Hodgins

There is no other way to put it – Isaiah Hodgins has been on fire in recent weeks. The second-year receiver joined the Giants on Nov. 2, and yet heading into the regular season finale, he is tied for the team lead with four receiving touchdowns (all of which have come over the last five games). During that stretch, Hodgins has registered 25 receptions for 250 yards. Hodgins came to the Giants with just four receptions for 41 yards in his career.

In last week's win over the Colts, Hodgins reeled in four of five targets for 42 yards and a touchdown. In his eight games (five starts) with the Giants, he has caught 33 passes for 351 yards and the four touchdowns. In the first game against the Eagles in Week 14, Hodgins finished with four receptions for 38 yards and a touchdown. He is likely to see coverage from both Darius Slay and James Bradberry on Sunday.

"They've done a tremendous job being in the right spot, executing, playing really hard in both the run and the pass game," offensive coordinator Mike Kafka said about Hodgins, Richie James and Darius Slayton. "They're detail guys, they're smart guys that you really trust that are dependable and tough. (Wide receivers) Coach (Mike) Groh does a good job, really not just with those three guys but it's been a bunch of guys that have contributed in that area, too. I'm proud of that group, they've done a nice job."

View photos from practice as the Giants get ready for their regular-season finale against the Philadelphia Eagles.

WR Richie James

Speaking of James, the fourth-year veteran has caught four touchdown passes over the past seven games, tying Hodgins for the most on the team. The veteran receiver had three touchdown catches in his first three seasons in the NFL. In addition to being tied for the team lead in touchdowns, James is also tied with Saquon Barkley for the most receptions on the Giants with 57, while his 569 receiving yards ranks second.

James is coming off one of the best two-game stretches of his career. The 27-year-old brought in eight passes for 90 yards against the Vikings on Christmas Eve, and followed with seven receptions for 76 yards and a touchdown against the Colts on New Year's Day. Eagles slot corner Avonte Maddox is dealing with a toe injury that is expected to keep him out of Sunday's game. This could lead to James seeing a lot of coverage from Josiah Scott, who according to Pro Football Focus is allowing a 121.6 passer rating when targeted in coverage.

"I think he deserves a lot of credit," Daniel Jones said about James after Sunday's game. "He's played great all year. Early on and really, I think he's been consistent throughout the whole year. Stepped up and made a ton of plays for us. He's a really good football player, knows where to be, knows how to get open, knows feel for spaces and uncovering in zones and can beat man-to-man coverage. He's played great for us. His work ethic, his demeanor every day – if you'd see that, you wouldn't be surprised by it. He's a really good football player."

TE Daniel Bellinger

Daniel Bellinger has provided the Giants with solid, consistent production as a rookie. Playing in 12 games with 11 starts, he has caught 30 passes for 268 yards and two touchdowns, adding an additional score on the ground. Bellinger has barely left the field over the last month, playing at least 89 percent of the team's offensive snaps in four of the last five games.

Bellinger has missed four games due to injury, but the Giants are 8-3-1 in games he's played in. The 22-year-old has caught every target thrown in his direction in eight of the 12 games, and registered only one game in which more than one of his targets was not completed. He boasts an impressive 85.7 percent catch rate.

OLB Kayvon Thibodeaux

After a bit of a slow start to his rookie campaign, Kayvon Thibodeaux has been on a roll over the past six weeks. The outside linebacker has racked up 10 quarterback hits, six tackles for loss and 21 total pressures over that stretch, according to Pro Football Focus. The 22-year-old has recorded a sack in three of the past five games, a pass breakup in consecutive outings while totaling 5+ tackles in four of the past five.

"I think the biggest thing in sports is consistency," Thibodeaux told the media after the win over the Colts. "You talk about being resilient, I think the hard part about the word 'resilient' is that it makes it seem as if you weren't working hard in the beginning. For us, it's been understanding that we have been working hard, but there are still things that we can get better at and not being satisfied with what we have done. It's all about what you can do."

In 14 games this season, Thibodeaux's totals include four sacks, six tackles for loss, 13 quarterback hits, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, one defensive touchdown and five pass breakups. In the first meeting between the two teams, the rookie edge rusher was held out of the box score, although he did garner a holding penalty on left tackle Jordan Mailata. Philadelphia will likely be without starting right tackle Lane Johnson, one of the top tackles in the league, for the game.

ILB Landon Collins

Although he has only played in five games for the Giants this season, Landon Collins has made his presence felt, especially over the past two games. In the Christmas Eve game in Minnesota, the veteran safety picked up his first sack and pass breakup of the season. Last week, he picked off a Nick Foles pass and returned it 52 yards for a touchdown, providing the Giants' defense with a massive spark.

"Formation wise, like I said I'm a big formation kind of guy," Collins said Sunday. "I watched this play almost six times throughout the week and I saw it number one (wide receiver Parris Campbell) breaking out and I had the flat, I just broke my underneath it and took it to the house."

Collins is the only member of the team who was a part of the last Giants' playoff appearance in 2016. According to PFF, the converted safety has allowed just four receptions on 10 targets spanning 84 coverage snaps, good for a passer rating against of just 8.3.

"This is a great opportunity," said the veteran defender. "Glad to be back like I said before. Just a blessing just to be back in the locker room with these guys, having fun and playing ball. That's the biggest thing. Making (sure) we have the opportunity and now we have the opportunity to continue to clinch the playoffs, we clinched the playoffs and now do our thing."


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