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Scouting Report: Key matchups, stats to know

SCOUTING-REPORT

The Giants face the Eagles for the third time on Saturday night. The Giants were beaten by the Eagles, 48-22, on Dec. 11 at MetLife Stadium, and then rested the majority of their starters in a 22-16 loss in Philadelphia on Jan. 8.

In the first matchup, the Giants were in the midst of a three-week winless streak and the Eagles were at the peak of their powers. The Giants were also without Xavier McKinney, Adoree' Jackson and Leonard Williams. Unlike the Vikings rematch, there may not be much to take out of these first two matchups, spare looking at the first one and seeing what the Giants must avoid if they want to win – in short, it probably will take their best game of the season.

When the Eagles have the ball…

Numbers to know

  • Yards/Game: 389.1 (3rd)
  • Rush YPG: 147.6 (5th)
  • Pass YPG: 241.5 (9th)
  • 3rd Down: 45.9% (4th)
  • Red Zone TD: 67.8% (3rd)
  • Plays of 20+: 80 (2nd)
  • PPG: 28.1 (3rd)
  • Turnovers: 19 (T5th)
  • Sacks allowed: 44 (T20th)

* Those numbers are impressive, but are the Eagles the same team they were for most of the regular season? After starting at 13-1, the Eagles are 1-2 since Jalen Hurts injured his shoulder. If you include the game when he got hurt (Week 15 vs the Bears), they are 2-2 and averaging 22.75 points per game.

In their past three games, the Eagles are only averaging 96.3 rushing yards per game. Hurts' ability to keep the ball on designed runs and scramble on pass plays is central to the Eagles' offense.

"It for sure opens up a lot of things," Giants safety Julian Love said. "I think that when you look across the league, guys who can run the ball at a high level, he has to be up there with the top quarterbacks right now. He's efficient, and his ability to run the ball, to scramble, opens up a lot of things for their offense – the pass game. For the running back, it opens up holes for him. That's how they get going, and they're doing it at a very high rate right now. So, it's a problem. That's no secret to anybody; it's a problem because of who's at quarterback for them. He's a good player."

But will Hurts' injured shoulder allow him to be as effective as a runner? Hurts carried it only nine times for 13 yards in the final game of the regular season and was quick to slide rather than take on contact like he was always willing to do when healthy. Will it impact his ability to throw it downfield as a passer? The answer will be crucial in determining how the game is going to play out.

* According to Next-Gen stats, Hurts has a 58% completion rate with a 93.1 passer rating vs. the blitz this season, and a 70.5% completion rate with a 105.6 passer rating against no blitz in 2022.

* Eagles starting right tackle Lane Johnson hurt his adductor muscle on Christmas Eve against the Cowboys, but declined surgery and is expected to play this week. He was limited in practice on Tuesday. Johnson was named first team All-Pro this year and was elected to the Pro Bowl.

* Starting tight end Dallas Goedert missed the Eagles' first game against the Giants with an injury. He is a very effective receiver and finished the season with 55 catches for 702 yards in 12 games. In the three games since returning, he has 12 catches for 158 yards.

Key matchups:

Dexter Lawrence vs. Jason Kelce: Lawrence is the Giants' best defensive player. He led the team with 38 quarterback hits, which was more than double than anyone else on the team. He also led the team with 7.5 sacks. He will be taking on future Hall of Famer Jason Kelce. According to Next Gen Stats, Lawrence led all defensive tackles with 62 pressures this season, and he and Leonard Williams have more pressures than any other defensive tackle duo in the NFL. Lawrence's eight pressures last week set a Next Gen Stats playoff record for the most by a defensive tackle.

On Dec. 11, Lawrence was held to no sacks and just one quarterback hit, although Pro Football Focus tracked him with five pressures. In seven career games against Jason Kelce, Lawrence has two sacks, and six quarterback hits. Lawrence has been a dominant force in the middle for the Giants all season, and he will have to be this week.

Miles Sanders vs. Jaylon Smith and Jarrad Davis: Sanders had his best game of the season on Dec. 11 against the Giants, running 17 times for 144 yards with a season-high five runs of 10+ yards. Smith and Davis must be strong in their gap assignments, especially when they have to also account for Jalen Hurts as a runner. Sanders had fewer than 70 yards and no rushing touchdowns over his final four regular season games.

AJ Brown and Devonta Smith vs. Adoree' Jackson and Fabian Moureau: According to Pro Football Focus, the Dec. 11 game saw the Giants blitzed at 52.6% and played a lot of Cover-1 (30.9%) and Cover-0 (13.2%) snaps, which maximizes pressure on the cornerbacks to keep the game in front of them. Brown and Smith are Nos. 1-2 I the league in receiving yardage from Weeks 13-18. In the rematch, the Giants played zone at a much higher rate (68.4%), according to Next Gen Stats. Hurts led the NFL with a 104.1 passer rating vs. zone coverage in the regular season. The Giants have gone five straight games using man coverage on fewer than 35% of coverage snaps after having no such games from Weeks 1-14.

Keys for the Giants' defense

* Prevent explosive touchdowns – the Eagles had three touchdowns of 30+ yards the first time. The Giants have a good red zone defense but that's negated by allowing explosive touchdowns.

* Stop the early run to force the Eagles into 3rd-and-long so Wink Martindale can unleash his unique blitz packages to affect Jalen Hurts.

* Be prepared to adjust the game plan quickly based on the health of Jalen Hurts' shoulder and how it will impact his running and throwing.

View photos from practice as the Giants get ready for the Divisional Round matchup.

When the Giants have the ball…

Numbers to know

  • YPG Allowed: 301.5 (2nd)
  • Rush YPG Allowed: 121.6 (T16th)
  • Pass YPG Allowed: 179.8 (1st)
  • 3rd Down Defense: 38.6% (14th)
  • RZ TD Allowed: 52.7% (11th)
  • Plays of 20+ Allowed: 48 (2nd)
  • PPG Allowed: 20.2 (7th)
  • Takeaways: 27 (T4th)
  • Sacks: 70 (1st)

* The Eagles are healthy on defensive. Defensive end Josh Sweat, who finished the season with 11 sacks, injured his neck against the Saints on New Year's Day. He was not listed on the Eagles injury report on Wednesday and should return for this game.

* C.J. Gardner-Johnson returned for rematch after missing more than a month with a lacerated kidney. He also was not listed on the Eagles injury report and will play. Despite only playing in 12 games this year, Gardner-Johnson leads the Eagles with six interceptions.

* Linval Joseph was limited at Wednesday's practice with a calf injury and is expected to go. Defensive end Robert Quinn has not played since Nov. 14, when he underwent knee surgery. He was limited in Wednesday's practice with a back injury. The Eagles will sometimes play one of their many talented defensive tackles at end in heavy fronts on early downs to stop the run.

* Slot cornerback Avonte Maddox did not practice on Wednesday with a toe injury. He has not played since Dec. 24 against the Cowboys. In his absence, Gardner-Johnson took those snaps in the slot with Reid Blankenship remaining at safety.

* The Eagles are third in the league in turnover ratio at +8. They do it with their pass rush (league leading 12.6% sack rate) and mixing up their coverages in the secondary with different zone and man-to-man concepts.

Key matchups:

Evan Neal vs. Haason Reddick and Brandon Graham: Neal will draw Reddick (16 sacks) and Graham (11 sacks) for most of the game. Neal played one half in the rematch and did not allow a sack, but PFF tracked him for allowing a sack and nine pressures in the first matchup against the Eagles. According to Next Gen Stats, Reddick led the Eagles with 62 pressures this season. The Eagles do not blitz (25% rate) much and they stunt less than any other team in the league (9.5% rate). It will be a lot of one-on-one matchups across the line.

Javon Hargrave vs. Nick Gates and Ben Bredeson: Hargrave is one of four players with double-digit sacks on the Eagles' defensive front. He plays almost exclusively next to Josh Sweat (and sometimes Brandon Graham) on the right side of the defense over the Giants' left guard combination of Nick Gates and Ben Bredeson. Hargrave has no sacks and two quarterback hits in two games against the Giants this season. Fletcher Cox, who will often line up against Marc Glowinski, had a sack and four quarterbacks hits over the two previous matchups.

James Bradberry vs. Darius Slayton and Isaiah Hodgins: Bradberry and fellow cornerback Darius Slay are tied for second on the Eagles with three interceptions. Bradberry also returned one for a touchdown. Bradberry plays physical, sticky coverage, but his aggression and lack of elite long speed makes him susceptible to getting beat over the top if the Giants can protect long enough to attempt those passes.

Keys for the Giants' offense

* Run the ball or utilize a quick passing game on early downs, and do not play from behind to avoid "must-pass" situations. Be balanced. Saquon Barkley must have an impactful game on the ground. He has had fewer than 60 scrimmage yards in each of his past three games against the Eagles.

* Chip where needed against the pass rush to help the right side of the offensive line to give time for routes to develop down the field.

* Daniel Jones must have a big game with his legs, either scrambling or on designed runs to keep the Eagles' defense off-balance.

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

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