Bleeding Green Nation already took some time to chat with Big Blue View in order to preview this big Philadelphia Eagles vs. New York Giants Divisional Round playoff matchup and you can read that here. Today, we’re back with three reasons why each team might lose. This exchange allows us to show what the other side is concerned about.
Read on for why the Giants could lose, as written by Nick Falato. To see why I think the Eagles could lose, stay tuned to BBV.
The Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Giants will add another storied chapter into their long and bitter rivalry. A divisional playoff game at Lincoln Financial Field, with the rested first seed Eagles battling the confident underdog New York Giants. Saturday night is must watch television.
The Eagles blew the Giants out in a convincing 48-22 fashion in Week 14. The two teams also played in the last game of the season. New York rested its starters, as the Eagles defeated the Giants 22-16 with their full healthy squad.
There are several ways in which the Eagles can win this game. Their roster is more complete, they have a possible MVP at quarterback, and their receiving weapons are very impressive.
If the Giants use split-safety looks as they did against Minnesota, the Eagles potent rushing attack can exploit the season-long vulnerabilities of New York - the Giants surrendered 140 rushing yards per game this season, ranking them 27th in the league.
Containing the Eagles offense will be difficult, and New York must remain efficient on money downs, and they have to be opportunistic. The Giants will have CB Adoree Jackson, SAF Xavier McKinney, and DL Leonard Williams available for the game; the Eagles have yet to see any of those three players this season.
Still, the Eagles will look to capitalize on more assailable tendencies and personnel deficiencies on the Giants roster. Here are some ways they can achieve that goal.
1) The Giants’ inability to stop Power/Gap rushing concepts on defense.
The Giants’ inability to fit power-gap rushing concepts is the critical vulnerability of this Wink Martindale-coached defense, and the Eagles are well aware of the weakness. In Week 14, the Eagles rushed for 253 yards on 31 carries. Similar to previous matchups for the Giants, the power-rushing attack proved to be a vulnerability for the Giants’ defense.
A power-rushing attack is a scheme that involves pulling offensive linemen and other blockers. The Eagles leaned on their GH-Counter run in Week 14. Eleven of Philadelphia’s 31 carries were GH-Counter, where the backside guard and the sniffer (H-Back) pull to the play side around down-blocking offensive linemen; the backside guard kicks out the end man on the line of scrimmage with the sniffer locating the most dangerous man in the hole.
Here’s an example of the 12 personnel (two tight ends), pistol run toward the boundary (short side of the field) against the Giants’ base package:
New York has not consistently executed their run fits all season against teams that employ GH Counter and other power concepts. Dallas, Baltimore, Jacksonville, and Washington all successfully ran the football against the Giants using this play design and other variations of power/gap. The secret was out early, and teams with the means knew how to exploit the Giants on the ground.
GH-Counter stresses linebackers and the end man on the line of scrimmage against a TITE front look (three defensive linemen inside of the outside shoulder of the tackles). The offensive line can block the TITE front down, leaving an opening on the 5 or 6 holes (depending on direction, call it the C-Gap). Therefore, linebackers’ ability to quickly decipher, scrape, and position is vital to the continuity of the defense, as are the EDGEs keeping the rushing lane narrow.
Giants’ base personnel consists of three down linemen in a variation of the TITE front, with two inside linebackers and two EDGE rushers in front of four defensive backs. New York isn’t fond of their base personnel package. If the situation warranted, the Giants would use lighter personnel. The Giants led the league in quarter personnel (7+ defensive backs on the field).
League average quarter usage was at a whopping 0.8% - the Giants used it on 13.3% of snaps, by far the most in the NFL. However, New York won’t match quarter against 12 personnel unless it’s third and long - not against the Eagles, at least. The Giants matched the Vikings’ 12 personnel package with nickel but would switch to base only when FB CJ Ham entered the game in 21 personnel (two RBs).
In Week 14, the Giants used base against 12 personnel on early downs but would match 12 personnel with their nickel package in favorable defensive situations; anything longer than five yards to gain on third down was matched with nickel or even lighter personnel. It would behoove the Giants to force early negative plays to get into second or third-and-long situations; this would allow Martindale to employ the personnel that he wants with the speed that he likes to leverage.
Issues at the linebacker position have plagued the Giants all season. There’s been a revolving door at the position, and it’s safe to say Jaylon Smith - who the Giants promoted to the active roster in October - is their best option at linebacker. Smith is an inconsistent player, but he’s the best the Giants currently have active on the roster.
However, the other linebacker in nickel personnel that was used in the Wildcard round was Jarrad Davis, who signed with the team on December 28th. Rookie linebacker Micah McFadden was a healthy scratch. We’re not certain which linebacker will dress opposite of Smith. Either way, questions at the second level of the Giants’ rushing defense are fair to ponder, given the glaring inability to cease opposing power-rushing attacks.
If the Eagles build on their Week 14 gameplan and use power-rushing concepts, and the Giants struggle to fit, forcing the alley defender into continuous one-on-one situations in space versus Miles Sanders, Kenneth Gainwell, Jalen Hurts, and Boston Scott, then the Giants will be in for a long Saturday night.
2) Stifle the Giants’ quick passing attack, contain Daniel Jones
New York established a renaissance of passing success over the last several weeks of the regular season. Glimpses of the approach manifested during the Giants’ 31-18 blowout home loss against Detroit. In the previous game, a 24-16 win over the Houston Texans, running back Saquon Barkley had 35 carries. Desperation against the Lions was one early factor of evolution.
The loss to Detroit allowed the Giants to establish comfortability in their quick passing attack out of 11 personnel. Wide receiver Isaiah Hodgins was added during the Giants’ Week 9 bye, and the loss to Detroit allowed Jones to operate a quick passing offense out of 11 personnel, which they used on 86.1% of snaps in that game.
After two games of middling offense in a Dallas loss and a Washington tie, the Giants transitioned their offense to a more quick game-oriented passing approach centralized around the employment of 11 personnel. The Giants have used 11 personnel on more than 79% of snaps in every game since Week 13. For context, the only average a 64.3% 11 personnel rate on the season.
However, the recent nickel & dime type of approach that’s provided the Giants’ recent success has not met many formidable foes - at least not in a competitive sense. In Week 14, the Eagles took an impressive 21-0 lead midway through the second quarter. The game was almost over before it started.
In Week 15, the Giants’ offense struggled against Washington, and their only touchdown of the game was a sack-fumble touchdown by rookie EDGE rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux. Jones threw for only 160 yards. The Giants carved up the hapless Nick Foles’ led Colts in Week 17, and they rested their started in Week 18 at Philadelphia.
Week 16 and the Wildcard round were the two performances that primarily elicited praise about the Giants’ recent passing success, and both of those games were against the Vikings’ defense, which, to be kind, is very bad.
There’s a reason why Mac Jones threw for 382 yards and Mike White 369 against Minnesota; the number of coverage busts that led to wide-open receivers over the field was astonishing in the Wildcard game, to say the least.
Jones threw for 334 and 301 yards in each of the two matchups. Throwing against the Philadelphia Eagles defense shouldn’t be as kind to the Giants, especially with the Giants’ offensive approach.
Daniel Jones deserves a ton of credit. He’s grown as a quarterback, and he’s with a progressive offensive staff that is currently maximizing his skill set. However, he still ranked 32nd out of 33 qualifying quarterbacks in intended air yards per attempt, according to Pro Football Reference. According to Pro Football Focus, his average of 6.9 yards per attempt ranks 23rd in the NFL.
The Vikings seemingly ignored the middle of the field from a coverage standpoint; Giants offensive coordinator would either flare Barkley outside, which vacated the linebacker, or released him through the line of scrimmage underneath three inward releases to the TRIPS side; this created a lot of issues for the Vikings in man coverage and forced sloppy transitions in match.
Furthermore, the Vikings allowed Jones the freedom to run whenever he wanted. More of a presence in the middle of the field to stop the Giants’ successes using stacked formations, and to contain Jones’ dynamic rushing ability, are ways to stifle their offensive attack.
BANJO switches are another way to handle the Giants’ bunch and stack releases in man coverage. Removing the quick read to the boundary for Jones will force him to extemporize; he can be successful doing so, but containing him with disciplined rushes and a QB spy can get Jones off his game and force Mike Kafka and Brian Daboll back to the drawing board.
Jones has all the physical capabilities to make deep passes, but plays have been left on the field throughout the season; some were on Jones checking down, and others were a breakdown in protection.
No team wants to give up explosive plays; that’s one reason why so many teams employ split-safety looks. The Giants ranked dead last in explosive plays this season; ten of their league-low 48 explosive plays (20+ yards) came against the Vikings. Remove the accessibility of the quick passing attack and contain Jones; that’s one surefire way to halt the Giants’ offense.
3) Attack right tackle Evan Neal
The Eagles had a league leading 70 sacks this season. The next closest team in 2022 was the Kansas City Cheifs with 55 sacks. Philadelphia was two sacks away from tying the team sack record set by the 1984 Chicago Bears. The last team to achieve 65 sacks in a season was the 2000 Saints. Four Eagles pass rushers earned double-digit sacks - it’s a very impressive feat.
New York’s offensive line has comported themselves well in recent weeks. However, rookie seventh overall pick Evan Neal has struggled all season. A mid-season knee injury rendered Neal inactive from Week 8-12. He played the Eagles in his second game back from injury, and it wasn’t a great showing from the former member of the Crimson Tide.
Neal surrendered eight pressures, five hurries, and two sacks in Week 14; he was spun around Hasson Reddick after oversetting, and he gave up a sack to Brandon Graham’s bull-rush that allowed the veteran to win through the inside shoulder.
Neal’s inability to protect his outside shoulder, set to his landmarks consistently, punch with conviction/timing, and his unfortunate propensity to play outside of his frame, leading to balance issues, has made his rookie season turbulent.
The Vikings did a solid job getting after Neal, albeit they played little to no contain on Jones. Neal did concede eight pressures and a sack, with seven of the eight pressures consituting as hurries. Despite missing three games, Neal surrendered the eight most pressures of all offensive linemen this season.
Against Philadelphia in Week 14, the Giants attempted to use Daniel Bellinger and Matt Breida to help Neal. Reddick still found a way to harrass Daniel Jones. The Eagles can make the Giants offense very uncomfortable early in the game if Reddick & Company can get after Jones, but specifically Reddick against Neal, who is asked weekly by the New York media about his struggles on the right side.
Jonathan Gannon’s twist scheme up front can manipulate the right side of the Giants offensive line, which has been erratic this season. Right guard Mark Glowinski is a solid run blocker, but his problems in pass protection were exploited by teams for much of the season.
Philadelphia’s defensive identity is centralized around pressuring the quarterback. The Giants have recently thrown more on early downs; a key to success for Philadelphia is sacking Jones on first down and putting the Giants into second-and-long scneraios where Reddick, Josh Sweat, Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, and Javon Hargrave can pin their ears back and do what they do best - rush the passer - and the biggest liability up front for the Giants is Evan Neal at right tackle.