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Preview: Daniel Jones eyes next playoff challenge

DANIEL-JONES-CITIZENS

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Daniel Jones and Jalen Hurts are 1-1 when they've faced each other as starting quarterbacks.

On Nov. 28, 2021, Jones threw for 208 yards and a touchdown while Hurts was intercepted three times in a 13-7 Giants victory in MetLife Stadium in which Jones suffered a season-ending neck injury.

The two quarterbacks met again on Dec. 11. Hurts threw for two touchdowns and ran for another, while Jones had a passing and a rushing touchdown. But the Eagles cruised to a 48-22 victory, the Giants' most one-sided defeat of the season.

The third installment of an NFC East quarterback rivalry that could play out for many years will take place Saturday night when the sixth-seeded Giants visit the top-seeded Eagles in an NFC Divisional Playoff Game in Lincoln Financial Field.

"It's a great opportunity for us to still be playing," Jones said this week. "This is where you want to be, playing these big games."

The Giants are 10-7-1 after their 31-24 wild card victory in Minnesota, the first game this season in which they scored more than 30 points and gained more than 400 total yards (431).

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

Philadelphia set a franchise record for victories in a 14-3 season in which they won the NFC East title. The Eagles have not played since Jan. 8 when Hurts returned after missing two games with a shoulder injury and led them to a 22-16 victory against the Giants that earned them a first-round bye. Hurts threw for 229 yards but limited his running to protect his shoulder. Jones did not play as Brian Daboll rested most of his starters with the team's playoff position solidified.

Because they entered the NFL a year apart and play in the same division for teams that have been rivals since 1933, Jones and Hurts will be compared to each other for the foreseeable future.

Jones was the Giants' first-round draft choice in 2019, No. 6 overall. Hurts was selected by the Eagles in the second round in 2020, the 53rd overall pick.

Jones has played in 54 regular-season games with 53 starts, Hurts has appeared in 45 games with 34 starts.

This will be the second career playoff start for both Jones and Hurts, who was the quarterback when the Eagles lost a wild card game last year at Tampa Bay.

In the regular season, Hurts' 101.5 passer rating was the NFL's fourth highest. He completed 66.5% of his passes and threw for 3,701 yards, 22 touchdown passes and six interceptions. Jones' 67.2 completion percentage and 92.5 passer rating were both career highs. He led the league with a 1.1 interception percentage (five picks in 472 attempts) and threw for 3,205 yards and 15 touchdowns. Jones also carried himself with his customary equanimity.

"He's really even-keeled, same guy every day, which you appreciate for that position," Daboll said. "Hard worker. Good teammate. Nothing really rattles him. I think he's been through a lot of different things in his career, and I think players look to him because he is that consistent voice, consistent messaging, consistent player (with) how he practices. I think consistent is probably the best word to use."

The two players are most similar when running the ball. Hurts was fourth among NFL quarterbacks with 760 rushing yards and tied for second in the league among all players with 13 touchdowns. Jones was fifth with 708 and scored seven times.

In 2022, Jones and Hurts were two of the four quarterbacks in NFL history with 700+ rushing yards and six or fewer interceptions in a single season, joining Robert Griffin III in 2012 and Lamar Jackson in 2019. They were two of the three quarterbacks with 3,000+ passing yards and 500+ rushing yards (also Buffalo's Josh Allen, who had 4,283 and 762).

The Jones-Hurts connections don't end there. This will be the first playoff matchup in NFL history in which both starting quarterbacks had 600+ rushing yards in that regular season and just the fifth playoff matchup all-time in which both starters had 500 or more regular season rushing yards. Russell Wilson and Cam Newton were each involved in three of them, most recently in 2019.

Giants defensive coordinator Wink Martindale expects to see Hurts at his best tomorrow night.

"He's off the injury report, so I'm expecting Jalen Hurts, the MVP candidate," Martindale said. "I think if you expect anything less, you're kidding yourself because the guy is definitely a competitor.

"Everybody's saying he's having an MVP season, and I agree because he can beat you with his legs. He can beat you with just being a dropback quarterback. He can beat you with a sore shoulder. He can beat you a lot of different ways, and that's a great challenge because there's just a few quarterbacks that can do it that way. And you can have him dead to rights back there in the pocket, and he's a magician. He'll get out of it."

The Eagles were four yards shy of having the first trio of teammates age 25 or younger each with at least 1,200 scrimmage yards in the same season in NFL history. Running back Miles Sanders had 1,347 and wide receivers A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith finished with 1,496 and 1,196 yards, respectively. Tight end Dallas Goedert contributed 55 receptions despite missing five games with a shoulder injury.

Collectively, it might be the five best eligible ballhandlers any team has.

"And really, it ends up six eligible," Martindale said. "It's the sixth back when you include Jalen with it. That's what makes them so tough to defend. They're explosive at the receiver, the tight end, back."

Jones' primary concern will be a pass rush that accounted for 70 sacks, 15 more than No. 2 Kansas City and tied for the third-highest total in NFL history.

"They've got good players and they know how to get to the quarterback," said Jones, who absorbed four of Philadelphia's seven sacks in the Eagles' victory last month. "We'll have a plan for those guys, and we've got a lot of confidence in our guys up front. They've played really well the whole year and they'll be ready to go."

Who won't be?

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

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