Eagles vs. Giants: 3 key matchups to watch during the Divisional Round
This Saturday night, we’re getting another chapter in the storied Eagles vs. Giants rivalry. It’ll be the fifth time these NFC East foes have met in the postseason; the record is currently split at two-a-piece.
Philadelphia managed to take the regular season series from the Giants, dominating New York in the first round 48-22, before defeating their backups in Week 18, 22-16.
With the divisional round right around the corner, let’s breakdown three key matchups to keep an eye on come game time.
CB Adoree Jackson vs. WR AJ Brown
Giants corner Adoree Jackson was arguably the team’s most valuable player during wildcard weekend. He and the Giants secondary successfully shut down Vikings WR Justin Jefferson, limiting the All-Pro wideout to just 47 yards on seven catches. In the second half, Jefferson tallied only one reception for four yards.
It was Jackson’s first game back in the lineup since November 20, due to a sprained MCL. He hasn’t faced Eagles WR AJ Brown at all this season, and after last weekend, New York is probably feeling pretty good about their chances against Brown and the rest of the Eagles playmakers.
In the two games against the Giants this year, Brown racked up eight catches for 165 yards and a touchdown. Although Jackson’s return certainly played a role in New York’s ability to slow down Minnesota’s passing attack, defensive coordinator Wink Martindale also dialed back his blitz-heavy scheme dramatically. He employed a split-safety look on 65 percent of the pass plays against his defense last weekend, while blitzing a season-low 23 percent of the time.
It’ll be interesting to see how Martindale approaches the Eagles offense this week. Brown is the clear-cut No. 1 receiving option in this offense, but Philly has more playmakers than Minnesota. Take away Brown, DeVonta Smith will be open on the other side. Take away both the wideouts, Dallas Goedert will carve you up over the middle for chunk plays.
It’s really not as simple as: have Jackson follow Brown and viola, you’ve successfully shut down the Eagles offense. Nick Sirianni and Shane Steichen have plenty of options with their offensive personnel. Even if Jackson brings his A-game against Brown, it won’t completely hinder what the Eagles can do offensively.
RT Lane Johnson vs. DE Kayvon Thibodeaux
Although Johnson will suit up Saturday night, he probably won’t be 100 percent. He’s going to be playing through a torn adductor in his groin. I’m no doctor, but I’m pretty sure that’s not good. Luckily, Johnson is a man’s man and doesn’t feel pain; which obviously bodes well for his chances against Giants rookie edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux.
Against the Vikings, Thibodeaux saw 37 snaps on the left side of New York’s defensive line. If that continues Saturday night, he’ll be matched up with Johnson for the majority of the game. The Giants other pass rusher, Azeez Ojulari, exited the wildcard game and his status for this week is still up in the air.
Thibodeaux is a talented player. He racked up four sacks, 49 combined tackles, two forced fumbles, and five pass deflections in 14 games this season. Regardless, the rookie pass rusher is no match for Johnson – even if Johnson isn’t at 100 percent. Simply put, Lane Johnson is the best tackle in the game right now and he’s, without question, the best pass blocking lineman in football.
If you don’t believe that, just nibble on this little fun fact. The last time Johnson gave up a sack, Donald Trump was still President and the UK still had a queen.
Lane Johnson >>> Kayvon Thibodeaux (or literally any other pass rusher the Giants have at their disposal).
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Eagles run defense vs. Giants rushing attack
This matchup could very well determine the outcome of Saturday night’s contest.
Against Minnesota, New York’s rushing attack paved the way. They racked up 142 yards on 30 attempts (4.7 YPC) while gaining 11 first downs from running. Oddly enough, it was QB Daniel Jones leading the charge. He accumulated 78 yards on 17 carries, most of which were scrambles, while only five were designed runs, per Pro Football Focus.
RB Saquon Barkley only carried the ball nine times, but he still managed to record 53 yards and find the end zone twice.
As we all know by this point, the Eagles biggest weakness this year has been stopping the run. They rank inside the top-five in nearly every other metric aside from run defense. They rank 21st in run defense DVOA, while ranking sixth in overall defensive DVOA. They’re 16th in terms of total rushing yards allowed (2,068) and 18th in rushing touchdowns given up (15).
The Eagles have really struggled stopping quarterbacks on the ground. They’ve surrendered 448 rushing yards to QBs this season, fourth-most of any team in the league.
In the teams’ first matchup of the year, the Eagles defense did a masterful job against Jones and Barkley. The Giants RB only had 29 yards on nine carries, while Jones rushed just four times for 26 yards. It’s important to note that Barkley wasn’t 100 percent in that first game and Jones has really come into his own as a running threat in recent weeks.
The Eagles have stepped up to the plate and played well whenever they’ve been tasked with slowing down an elite running back this season. They’ll have to do it once again if they want to advance to the NFC Championship game.
Mandatory Credit: AP