An inside look at Sunday’s Giants-Eagles NFC divisional round matchup in Philadelphia:
Eagles C Jason Kelce vs. Giants DT Dexter Lawrence
It will be difficult to take your eyes off this heavyweight battle. The 342-pound Lawrence says the 282-pound Kelce is “little and he’s scrappy.’’ In the only meeting between these superior players this season, Lawrence had three pressures and a quarterback hit in the Eagles’ easy victory.
“He had a great year and he’s a great player,’’ Kelce said. There is a 10-year age gap — Kelce is 35, Lawrence is 25 — and Kelce possesses all the tricks of the trade.
“He knows how to get his body in good position,’’ Lawrence said. “He knows how to manipulate D-linemen and the guards do a good job pounding down and helping when he needs it.’’
The Giants are riding high and brimming with confidence, but it will take their most efficient and bold performance to get past this one. There are many ways the Eagles can dominate, on offense and defense. Probably too many ways for the Giants to handle.
Eagles 27, Giants 19
One that got away: Not long after Joe Schoen was hired as the Giants’ general manager, he knew the first order of business from a personnel perspective was to get the sickly salary-cap situation in order. Schoen did not want to get rid of James Bradberry, the top cornerback on the roster, but he had no luck on the trade market and desperately needed the $10.1 million in cap space that was created by releasing Bradberry, who promptly signed a one-year deal with the Eagles worth up to $10 million.
How did that work out? Bradberry, this season, had the third-lowest passer rating allowed in the NFL (55.9) with a minimum of 50 targets. He had the third-most pass breakups (17). The Giants? They struggled to find consistency with a group of cornerbacks let go by other teams, especially when Adoree’ Jackson missed seven games with a sprained knee.
Dominant unit: There really is no way around it. The Eagles can impose their will and take over a game with their defense. Some of the numbers they put up are wild. They set a single-season franchise record with 70 sacks. Since 1982, when sacks were recognized as an official statistic, just two teams — the 1984 Bears (72) and 1989 Vikings (71) — amassed more. It is a spread-the-mayhem group. The Eagles are the only team to have four players with 10-plus sacks in the same season: Haason Reddick (16.0), Brandon Graham (11.0), Javon Hargrave (11.0) and Josh Sweat (11.0). Ridiculous.
Big-game hunters: There is something about the Giants and the postseason and taking out the top dog. The NFL restructured the playoff system in 1990, and since then, the Giants played a No. 1 seed in the playoffs six times. They are 6-0. That six-game winning streak facing No. 1 seeds is the longest for any NFL team since the league began seeding playoff teams in 1975. The Eagles, of course, are the No. 1 seed in the NFC.
Target practice: Jalen Hurts missed two games (the Eagles lost both of them) with a sprained right shoulder, and he was asked if he believes the Giants will target that area of his body.
“There’s a bounty on me every week,’’ he said and vowed to do his thing, scrambling and running — he gained 760 rushing yards this season.
“Me being an edge rusher, you see just across the league, people scheme against the great players,’’ rookie linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux said. “So, of course, teams are going to scheme against him as being one of the best quarterbacks in the league. And I would say for us, we just got to do what we can to contain him.’’