The New York Giants (4-11) look to end the season on a three-game winning streak when they welcome the Philadelphia Eagles (8-7) to MetLife Stadium this Sunday.
The Week 17 matchup is the second meeting of the season between the NFC East rivals. Philadelphia defeated the Giants, 23-17 in overtime, in Week 14 at Lincoln Financial Field. Philadelphia's playoff hopes rest on the outcome of Sunday's game, as a win would clinch the NFC East title.
Here are three keys to victory for the Giants this week:
1. Continue to establish the run game
Saquon Barkley and the Giants run game has been on a roll the last two weeks. The second-year back has carried the ball 46 times for 301 yards and three touchdowns against the Redskins and Dolphins, while adding eight receptions for 121 yards and an additional touchdown. Barkley is coming off a historic performance in which he set a franchise record for yards from scrimmage with 279, which earned him the NFC Offensive Player of the Week award. The 22-year-old has a tough matchup against Philadelphia's run defense.
The Eagles are allowing the third-fewest rushing yards per game (88.0 yards per game). Over the last four weeks, only one running back (Adrian Peterson) has averaged more than 4.0 yards per carry against Philly's defense. In the first meeting between the two teams, Barkley was held to 66 yards on 17 carries (3.9 yards per carry). While the Eagles' run defense is among the league's best, the same cannot be said for their pass defense. If the Giants can establish the run game and keep Saquon rolling Sunday, the offense should be able to move the ball.
"Yeah, I think we just need to keep on keeping on with what we're doing," offensive coordinator Mike Shula. "They're really good upfront for a lot of reasons. They have a lot of guys up there that can win one-on-one battles and get off a block and make a play. Most of the time, they're going to have an extra guy up in there. But I think Saquon, we've all seen it, he just looks fresher, and I said that a couple weeks ago. The number one thing for him and for our offensive line is understand there are going to be some runs that we just have to kind of grind it out on. Be patient. We want to try to stay ahead of the chains where we're not playing in long yardage situations. That helps with more carries and, hopefully, anytime you get 26 the ball more, the production will be there."
2. Converting third downs on both sides of the ball
Third down conversions will be a big factor in Sunday's game. The Giants rank 18th in the league with a 37.8% conversion rate on third down, but have been better in recent weeks. Over the last two games, the Giants have picked up a first down on 52.0% (13 of 25) of their third down attempts. The Eagles rank 4th in the NFL in third down defense (34.4%). In their last two games, Philadelphia allowed Dallas and Washington to convert just 7 of 24 third downs (29.2%), while the Giants went 2 of 12 against them in Week 14. Picking up key first downs and extending drives will go a long way in helping the Giants control the time of possession.
On the other side of the ball, the Eagles offense has been dynamic on third down, converting 46.7% of their attempts, the second-highest mark in the league. Over their last three games, that number is 51.0% (26 of 51), a big reason why the Eagles won all three contests. James Bettcher's Giants defense ranks 21st in the league in third down defense (40.8%). In Week 14, the Eagles dominated the time of possession, keeping the ball for almost twice as long as the Giants. The Giants will need to come up with some key stops on third down in order to keep the defense fresh and the Eagles' offense off the field.
3. Limit Philadelphia's tight ends
Throughout his career, Carson Wentz has targeted his tight ends in the passing game. But due to the number of injuries the Eagles have suffered at wide receiver this season, Wentz's affinity for his tight ends has intensified. Zach Ertz is the leading receiver, and it isn't very close. Ertz has 88 receptions for 916 yards and six touchdowns, all of which lead the team, while his 135 targets are 58 more than any other pass-catcher. After Ertz is fellow tight end Dallas Goedert, who ranks second on the Eagles in receptions, targets, receiving yards and touchdowns.
Ertz suffered a fractured rib last week, and while he returned to the field against the Cowboys, his status for Week 17 remains unclear. With Ertz banged up, Goedert went off for nine receptions, 91 yards and a touchdown. Wentz targeted Goedert 12 times, twice as much as any other receiver. Whether or not Ertz is able to suit up Sunday, Julian Love and the Giants defense must be prepared for a ton of targets in the direction of Philadelphia's tight ends.
"One of the things is they have two really dynamic targets in the two tight ends," Bettcher said. "Whether the ball is going there, or the ball is going somewhere else, you have to account for those guys and some of the routes they're able to run. Those guys run receiver type routes and they do a great job of creating separation in space on their routes. They are very detailed in the way they run it."
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