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Fact or Fiction: Darren Waller, Saquon Barkley stat predictions


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

Darren Waller will lead the Giants in receptions and receiving yards in Philadelphia.

John Schmeelk: Fiction – I feel confident Waller will lead the Giants in receptions on Christmas Day, but I do wonder whether he will lead the team in receiving yards. The Eagles turned over the majority of their linebacker and safety corps in the offseason, and their defense in the middle of the field has not been the same this year. But they've also had problems giving up big plays outside, allowing 17 pass plays of 30 or more yards. I think Jalin Hyatt might make a couple of plays over the top to lead the team in receiving yards.

Dan Salomone: Fiction – I'll go "fact" with receptions but "fiction" on yards. A receiver like Jalin Hyatt or Darius Slayton has the ability to rip off a big chunk of yards at any point in the game.

Lance Medow: Fiction – Just one opposing tight end has led his team in receptions and receiving yards against the Eagles this season. That was Jake Ferguson of the Cowboys in Week 14. That's not to say other tight ends haven't had success, but it's been a rare feat. When you look at the Philadelphia defense and the current state of the Giants' offense, I'd lean more toward Wan'Dale Robinson or Darius Slayton because Tommy DeVito will need to get rid of the ball quickly to counter the Eagles' defensive front. A player that is shifty and can gain some yardage after the catch will likely top the charts.

Matt Citak: Fact – In his first game back from an injured hamstring, Waller tied for the team lead with four receptions while his six targets were the second most. All of this came after playing just 26 offensive snaps, or 42 percent of the team's offensive snaps, against the Saints. With another week removed from the injury, Waller will likely be on the field more, which should translate into more looks in the passing game. While the Eagles contained the Seahawks' tight ends Monday night, Cowboys tight end Jake Ferguson and 49ers tight end George Kittle averaged 4.5 receptions for 70 yards in the two weeks prior. Waller could be in for a big game on Christmas Day.

The Giants' defense has a bigger challenge than the offense against the Eagles.

John Schmeelk: Fact – The Eagles' offense, despite the fact it has been less efficient in recent weeks, has on average been a much better unit than the defense throughout the season. The Eagles' pass rush is still very dangerous, but their defense ranks 30th in EPA allowed per play and 28th in success rate. They are the worst third-down defense in the league (48 percent) and the fifth-worst team preventing red-zone touchdowns (67 percent). The offense, meanwhile, is top 10 in almost every metric that matters. The Giants' offense should be able to move the football on Monday afternoon.

Dan Salomone: Fiction – In their three meetings since the start of last season, the Giants have allowed 14 sacks, converted only 13 of 40 third downs, and scored just seven first-half points. You can't get off to a slow start offensively in Philadelphia.

Lance Medow: Fact – Given the Eagles' recent struggles, you can make a case for both sides of the ball, but no matter how you look at it, I still come back to the Giants' defense. The Eagles have scored fewer than 20 points in each of their last three contests, yet can easily still put 30 on the board at any given time because of their strong offensive line, versatile running backs (including quarterback Jalen Hurts), and a three-headed monster in the passing attack by the names of A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert.

Matt Citak: Fact – Coming into this game, the Philadelphia defense ranks 26th in points and 22nd in yards allowed on the year. While they still have one of the league's best run defenses, the Eagles have been unable to slow down opponents in the passing game throughout the season. The unit ranks 28th in yards and 31st in touchdowns allowed through the air. On the other hand, the Philly offense is once again a top 10 unit, led by its elite rushing attack. The Giants allowed over 250 rushing yards in two of the three matchups between the two teams last year. Slowing down Jalen Hurts, D'Andre Swift and the entire Eagles run game will be the biggest challenge in Week 16.

View photos of the Giants on the practice field ahead of the Week 16 matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Giants need to force at least three turnovers to win on Monday.

John Schmeelk: Fiction – I don't think they need three, but I do think they will have to win the turnover battle, probably by two if they want to win the game. It is far more important for the Giants not to turn the ball over themselves and give the Eagles easy scoring opportunities on short fields. Tommy DeVito and the offense have protected the ball extremely well the last four weeks (three turnovers), and that needs to continue if the Giants want to win in Philadelphia on Monday afternoon.

Dan Salomone: Fact – For all the accolades Tommy DeVito rightfully received, the Giants likely wouldn't have won three consecutive games without forcing 12 turnovers during that run. The streak ended on Sunday. The Giants were unable to get the ball away from Derek Carr and company as the quarterback turned in his highest passer rating (134.8) since 2018, when he was with the Raiders.

"Defensively we [had] been talking all week about embracing the challenge, and really if we want to put our team in position to win, it's got to be on us," linebacker Bobby Okereke said after the game. "Executing, creating turnovers, really just getting that momentum swinging coming out in the second half. And having them go down and drive and score, that's not what we need. We've just got to do better from that standpoint."

Okereke added, "History tells if we get turnovers, we'll win the game."

Lance Medow: Fact – The Giants have won five games this season, and in three of them, they collected at least three takeaways (second game against the Commanders, Patriots, Packers). That's not a coincidence. The Eagles have struggled with ball security this season as they have 21 giveaways (tied for 10th most NFL) in 14 games with five coming in the last two contests. With that being said, takeaways are great, but it still comes down to what you ultimately do with them though the best way to slow down an opponent is to limit its possessions. That could go a long way in helping New York's cause.

Matt Citak: Fact – The Eagles are going to attempt to dominate the time of possession battle on Monday by pounding the ball on the ground. The Giants have struggled against the run this season, ranking 29th in yards and touchdowns allowed along with 30th in yards per attempt. On paper, this does not bode well for the Giants. The best way to stop the Eagles from sustaining long scoring drives would be to force some turnovers. Giants defenders should be punching at the ball every chance they get. If they can force multiple turnovers, the Giants could have a chance at upsetting their divisional rival.

The NFC is proving to be tougher than the AFC this season.

John Schmeelk: Fiction – But it's very, very, close. We will learn a lot more this week when the Ravens play the 49ers, who look like the best team in the NFL. We will also learn a lot when the Cowboys play in Miami. Whichever conference wins those two games probably gets the advantage for me. The AFC is not what we thought it would be before the year, in large part because of quarterback injuries to Joe Burrow, Aaron Rodgers, Deshaun Watson and Justin Herbert. The Bills, however, just beat the Cowboys and Eagles. The NFC, meanwhile, has been buoyed by the Rams emerging as a dangerous team and the top teams (49ers, Cowboys, Eagles, Lions) all playing good football.

Dan Salomone: Fact – I'm going to defer my answer to Tuesday morning after the 49ers host the Ravens in an inter-conference matchup of the current No. 1 seeds on Christmas Night.

Lance Medow: Fiction – The NFC is very top heavy. The Niners, Cowboys and Eagles have separated themselves from the rest of the pack with the Lions a close second. Other than that, there's not as much consistency across the board. In the AFC, every division leader has a winning record, and the current three Wild Card holders (Browns, Bengals, Colts) have all proven to be tough outs despite losing their starting quarterbacks. That says a lot about the depth of the conference.

Matt Citak: Fiction – The NFC has perhaps the best team in the league in the San Francisco 49ers. However, the AFC is proving to be a much deeper conference this year. In the NFC, four teams are tied at 7-7 fighting for the final two Wild Card spots. The AFC has a similar situation for its two final Wild Card spots, but four teams are tied at 8-6 with another two a game behind at 7-7. The Buffalo Bills, a team widely considered to be one of the most dangerous in the league, are not even currently holding a spot in the playoffs. And then there is the NFC South, whose division winner will likely have to battle to finish with a record over .500. Outside of the 49ers, the top of the AFC looks a whole lot scarier than the top of the NFC.

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