An inside look at Sunday’s Giants-Eagles Week 16 matchup at Lincoln Financial Field.
Eagles WR DeVonta Smith vs. Giants CB James Bradberry
We have been through this before. The Giants loved Smith and wanted to draft him, but the Eagles traded up over the Giants and took him. The first time around, Bradberry did a masterful job, limiting Smith to two catches for 22 yards. Smith was targeted just four times, as the Giants forced the ball to go to Jalen Reagor, a far more favorable option for the defense. The Eagles do not have a dynamic deep passing attack, which has hurt Smith, but he nevertheless is effective. He has 53 receptions for 741 yards and four touchdowns as a rookie and he must be accounted for every play.
Since losing to the Giants in Week 12, the Eagles have not lost. Since beating the Eagles in Week 12, the Giants have not won. Notice a trend here? Jalen Hurts threw 31 passes against the Giants the first time around, and that was too many. Expect the Birds to pound away on the ground and take their shots downfield only when necessary. With a first-time starter at quarterback for the Giants, how does that add up to a victory?
Eagles 27, Giants 13
Run it back: When you hear “1985 Bears,” what is the first thing you think about? All-time great defense, right? Yes, but there is another reason why they shuffled all the way to a Super Bowl victory after that season. They ran the heck out of the ball. Well, the Eagles are the first team since those Bears 36 years ago to rush for 175 or more yards in seven consecutive games. This torrid surge boosted the Birds to the NFL lead in rushing, at 165 yards per game. Incredibly, the Eagles likely will not have a 1,000-yard rusher this season. Their leaders are quarterback Jalen Hurts (733 yards) and running back Miles Sanders (709).
No Toney time: It has been challenging to keep up with all the physical issues rookie Kadarius Toney has encountered in his rookie year: Hamstring. Ankle. Quad. Oblique strain. Two separate stints on the reserve/COVID-19 list. He came off that list this week, but is listed as questionable because of the oblique issue and the time he spent away from the team. Is this guy injury-prone?
“This guy’s got great muscle tone,” head coach Joe Judge said. “Talk about his body type, this guy is explosive. Everyone goes through nicks and bumps. You can’t always control all of the injuries and what you can control is how you rehab, recover, come back and get ready for when your number is called when you come back. He’s done a good job of that.”
Quick study: No one knows how Jake Fromm will perform, and his cameo last week (6-for-12 for 82 yards on the last drive of a 21-6 loss to the Cowboys) probably does not offer much of a clue. There is an agreement on this: Fromm is a smart dude who has picked up a new offensive rather impressively.
“From Day 1 he was on it,” tight end Evan Engram said. “With his knowledge of the game, he was able to mesh in and pick things up quickly. He’s a really smart player.”
Just for kicks: The list of players deserving of Pro Bowl consideration for the Giants was not long: safety Xavier McKinney, kicker Graham Gano and … that’s it. Gano finished second in the NFC fan voting. He is 27-for-31 on field goals this season, but Matt Gay of the Rams is 28-for-29. These two kickers work in different conditions, of course.
“Back in the day, guys that kicked in the freaking dome or in warm weather didn’t get a whole lot of consideration regardless of how many kicks they made,” special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey said. “You’ve got to understand what you’re looking at. Most of the people that are voting on it have no idea what they’re looking at.”