In a season of twists, turns, and role reversals, the Eagles face the ultimate role reversal this Sunday when they host the playoff-bound New York Giants at 4:25 p.m. at Lincoln Financial Field. The NFC East-leading Eagles have a lot to risk, if they lose, and the Giants have nothing at risk after securing the No. 6 position in the NFC playoffs. The Eagles are one victory away from securing a first-round bye and home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs—and a third-straight loss away from a possible No. 5 seed in the conference playoffs and likely early golf dates.
It is why the Eagles will be playing their starters, while there is a strong likelihood the Giants rest theirs.
One Giant to watch, if he plays, will be defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence. The man-mountain 6-foot-4, 342-pound Lawrence is playing his best football at the most important time of the season. He leads the Giants with 7.5 sacks for another team-high 50 yards in losses, and if he plays against the Eagles, he will be looking for his third-straight game with a tackle for a loss. He already has career highs in sacks (7.5), tackles for losses, (7), forced fumbles (2) and passes defended (3) this season.
The Eagles did not exactly help themselves in the 20-10 debacle against the New Orleans Saints in Week 17. They committed eight penalties—all in the second half—and six came on the offensive line, with three false starts during one drive alone.
The Giants (9-6-1) with a win at Philadelphia (13-3) on Sunday would have six more victories than they had in 2021 (4-13). The Eagles (13-3) are one victory away from improving their record by five games over 2021 (9-8) and their 14 wins would be a record for wins in a season.
When not knowing the personnel that the Eagles will be going up against, given the uncertainty whether the Giants are going to be playing their starters or not, how do you game-plan?
“We’re all preparing for the starters, no question about it, and then adjust off that,” Eagles’ offensive coordinator Shane Steichen said. “It’s an NFL football game, and no matter who they put out there, we have to go operate. I’ve been a part of games where you go in and some teams don’t play their guys, and some teams will walk in and are like, oh, we’re going to beat them because they’re not playing their starters. Then next thing you know you lose. I’ve seen it happen before. Our mindset has got to be the same no matter who is on that field playing for them. We’re preparing for their starters, and we have to be locked in ready to go. Everything we do, we have to do we a sense of urgency and a sense of purpose this week.”
Regardless of who plays, there has been no question that the 2022 season will go down as a year of close games and comebacks. The NFL can make even more history in those two departments this week, considering the following: Entering Week 18, 69 games have been decided by three points or less. The single-season league record is 73 in 2018; Entering Week 18, 133 games have been decided by seven points or less. The single-season league record is 135 in 2016; Entering Week 18, 11 games have been won or tied by teams that trailed by 16-or-more points. The single-season league record is 12 in 2011; In 2022, 19 games have been won or tied by teams that trailed by 14-or-more points, matching the single-season league record (19 in 2013).
Already this season, the NFL has broken its single-season records in seven related categories: Games decided by six-or-fewer points (114), games decided by eight-or-fewer points (148), games within a one-possession margin in the fourth quarter (192), games won or tied by teams that trailed by 10-or-more points (51), games won/tied by teams that trailed in the fourth quarter (81), games with the winning score coming in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter or in overtime (62) and games with the winning score coming in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter or in overtime (71).
Expect Jalen Hurts to play. Expect the Eagles to get out to a big lead. Expect the Eagles to rest their starters after the third quarter, and finally, expect the Eagles to snap the league-wide trend of close games this season and earn home field throughout the NFC playoffs. Giants coach Brian Daboll, a strong NFL Coach of the Year candidate, is too smart to risk losing anyone important, and Eagles coach Nick Sirianni is too smart not to risk playing his starters and losing a week off for a leaking team limping into the playoffs.
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area who has written features for SI.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com, MLB.com, Deadspin and The Philadelphia Daily News. In 2006, he was nominated for an Emmy Award for a special project piece for ESPN.com called “Love at First Beep.” He is most noted for his award-winning ESPN.com feature on high school wrestler A.J. Detwiler in February 2006, and his breaking story on Carson Wentz for PhillyVoice on January 21, 2019. In 2015, he was elected president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.