The New York Giants (4-11) look to close out the season on a three-game winning streak when they welcome the Philadelphia Eagles (8-7) to MetLife Stadium this Sunday. This will be the second matchup of the season between the NFC East rivals, who went against each other earlier this month. Philadelphia took home the victory in Week 14, defeating the Giants in overtime, 23-17, at Lincoln Financial Field.
The Eagles are coming off a pivotal victory in Week 16, defeating the Dallas Cowboys (7-8) this past Sunday, 17-9. Following that win, Philadelphia's season and playoff hopes are on the line entering the regular season finale.
Here are five storylines to follow ahead of the Week 17 matchup between the two NFC East rivals:
Giants have chance to play spoiler role
Due to Philadelphia's win over the Cowboys last week, Sunday's game has huge playoff implications. With a win over the Giants, the Eagles clinch the NFC East title and head to the postseason as the NFC's number four seed. A loss, though, combined with a Dallas win over Washington, would give the Cowboys the division crown. Thus, the Giants now have an opportunity to spoil Philadelphia's season with a win.
"It's a big game," Saquon Barkley said. "It's going to be a big game because it's the last game for us, we want to go off on the right note. Obviously, it's a big game for them. I think they have to win to clinch in the playoffs. The last two times we've played them have been hard fought games when they've found a way to come back and win when we got on top. We just got to learn from those things. I think it could be something big for us if we could finish off the season strong going into the offseason into next year."
After winning just two of the first 13 games of the season, the Giants have a chance to end the season on a strong note with a three-game winning streak. As much as Giants fans would like to ruin Philadelphia's playoff hopes, the team is more concerned about carrying some positive momentum into what will be an important offseason for the franchise.
"Well, it only changes things if you build on it through the offseason and then play better to start the year," coach Pat Shurmur said. "But, yeah, I think when we have the number of young players that we have going through this for the first, some of them just for the second time, them learning how to win in December is very important so that when we win more games early in the season, it'll be meaningful."
Saquon needs 89 rushing yards to hit 1,000
Following his record-breaking performance against the Redskins last week, Barkley sits just 89 rushing yards shy of reaching 1,000 yards on the season. This would be an impressive feat for the second-year back, as a high ankle sprain caused him to miss three and a half games earlier in the season. If Barkley is able to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark, he would become the first player in Giants history to rush for 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons. Barkley, however, is more concerned about the team than his individual accolades.
"It's just numbers," Barkley said. "At the end of the day, we're still, hopefully we'll be 5-11, not a playoff team. So, when my production or the numbers I put up translates to us being a playoff team or in contention to be in the playoffs, then those numbers will matter."
Last week, the 22-year-old carried the ball 22 times for 189 yards (8.6 yards per carry) and a touchdown, and with his 90 receiving yards, Barkley set a franchise record for total scrimmage yards with 279. He faces a tough matchup this week as the Eagles own the league's third-strongest run defense, allowing just 88.0 yards per game. Despite the daunting battle against one of the NFL's top run defenses, the Giants offense is ready for the challenge.
"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."
Jones looking to end historic season strong
Barkley wasn't the only Giant to have a record-breaking performance last week. Daniel Jones completed 66.7% of his passes (28 of 42) for 352 yards, five touchdowns and zero interceptions, and became the first rookie in NFL history to throw for 350+ yards and five touchdowns with no picks in a game. He joined Fran Tarkenton and Deshaun Watson as the only players in NFL history with three games of four of more touchdown passes during their rookie seasons.
"I think it was a combination of a lot of things," Jones said of the output in Washington. "I think when you look at it overall, we were able to run the ball really well, we were able to throw the ball, and I think it's a large credit to the guys up front and how well they played. Obviously Saquon had a huge game and played really well, but he had holes to run through and we had a lot of time to throw the ball. A lot of credit to them for how well they played and how well they've played this whole season."
Despite starting just 11 games this season, Jones has completed 256 of 412 pass attempts (62.1%) for 2,726 yards, 23 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. The number six overall pick holds the franchise record for most touchdown passes by a rookie with 23, surpassing Charlie Conerly's mark of 22 touchdowns set in 1948. Jones is also just four touchdown passes shy of matching the all-time rookie QB touchdown record set by Cleveland's Baker Mayfield last year. In addition to owning the franchise record for most touchdown passes by a rookie, Jones has set team records for yards, pass attempts and completions by a first-year player.
"Yeah, I think he's done a really good job," Shula said. "Unfortunately though, we don't have the wins to show for it. But just going back from day one of the offseason to training camp, his knowledge of what he's being asked to do and then the speed at which he does it has been impressive for a young guy. I think that like anybody else, he needs to continue to make strides in that area. He's very talented, but there are a lot of things that come with the position."
Golden hits double-digit sacks
With his sack against the Redskins last week, Markus Golden reached 10 sacks on the season. He is the first Giant with double-digit sacks since 2014, and the first Giants linebacker to reach that mark since Lawrence Taylor had 10.5 in 1990. Overall, the 28-year-old edge rusher has enjoyed a strong season, accumulating 65 tackles (35 solo), 10.0 sacks, 13 tackles for loss, 27 quarterback hits and one fumble recovery which he returned for a touchdown. Another year removed from the torn ACL he suffered in 2017, Golden appears to be back to his pre-injury form as a pass rusher.
"I think just the burst," defensive coordinator James Bettcher said when asked what he has seen that tells him Golden is back to his old self. "The power that he's able to play with. When he rushes and Markus might be the first one to tell you, he's a blood rusher. To be able to have his power back from the lower half of his body and just to be able to have the burst when he might separate from a block and the first two steps off the block, that burst is important for guys like Markus. You can see that back and with that, I think, comes confidence. Confidence comes because you feel good and you're able to do some of things you know you've been able to do in your career. Once he got his confidence going, he's been pretty dynamic."
Eli's possible last game as a Giant?
No one knows what the future holds for Eli Manning, but regardless of what happens in the offseason, the 16-year veteran will go down as one of the greatest players to ever put on a Giants uniform. Manning has led the Giants to two Super Bowl victories, taking home MVP honors in both of those games, and ranks seventh on the NFL's all-time list in passing yards and passing touchdowns. In Week 15, Manning started against the Miami Dolphins and led the Giants to victory. Manning was pulled towards the end of the game in order to allow the MetLife Stadium crowd to give their beloved quarterback the standing ovation that he rightfully deserved. Whether or not Sunday is the last time Manning trots off the field in a Giants uniform, you can expect another round of cheers from the crowd for the all-time great.
"I feel really lucky," Shula said. "I feel really lucky to be here for a lot of reasons, with our ownership, with Coach Shurmur, with Dave (Gettleman), but especially coaching a guy like Eli. I've coached a lot of really good players. I've been really fortunate to be around, and he is really special for a lot of the reasons that won't ever go down on a stat sheet, in my opinion. The kind of guy he is, the way he handles things, watching him how he is with you all, with his teammates, with coaches, handling the situation earlier this year. It's just unbelievable. I'll never forget it. I've learned a lot from him in all areas of my life."
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