Eagles suddenly with much at stake in Week 18 matchup vs. Giants


The Giants once found themselves in a desperate battle for a playoff spot, a battle they thought would go down to their final game. The Eagles were cruising for most of the season, having built a seemingly insurmountable lead in the race for the top seed in the NFC.

Then somehow, over the last three weeks, the stretch became a scene from the movie “Trading Places.” Or maybe “Freaky Friday.” Their destinies were failed. Up is now down. The Giants are now the team that can rest their players.

And it’s the once-dominant Eagles who are suddenly in desperate need of a win in Sunday’s game.

“Nobody said it was going to be easy,” Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham said. “We know our issues and we know what’s going on. I think we’re going to be fine. We’ve got a special team. We just have to go out there and prove it.”

The Eagles spent the first 14 weeks of the season proving it, posting a 13-1 record and looking like an easy Super Bowl favorite in the NFC. Then quarterback Jalen Hurts injured his shoulder in Chicago and Philly had to scramble behind backup Gardner Minshew. But even then, the Eagles still had a three-game lead in the division and conference with three weeks to go. Even after narrowly losing to Dallas a week later, things still looked good.

It was only after the Eagles’ home loss to the Saints last Sunday, which dropped them to 13-3, that it finally seemed like a panic button needed to be hit.

Is it time for the eagles to panic?

Is it time for the eagles to panic?

LeSean McCoy weighs in on the Eagles’ 20-10 loss to the Saints in Week 17 and whether it’s time to panic after two straight losses and the No. 1 seed on the line.

Of course, Eagles coach Nick Sirianni insisted, “I’m never going to be someone who hits a panic button,” but he knows what’s at stake. If the Eagles lose to the Giants (9-6-1), not only are they in danger of losing the conference’s top seed and a first-round bye, but they could also lose the NFC East and a game home playoff too. There’s also the danger of losing all of their momentum after ending the regular season on what would be a three-game losing streak.

And that is very possible. The Cowboys (12-4) play in Washington, where the Commanders are so deep in their finals that they are giving rookie Sam Howell his first start at quarterback. And the San Francisco 49ers (12-4) are at home against the Arizona Cardinals, who are on a six-game losing streak and will start starting quarterback David Blough for the second straight week.

If the 49ers win and the Eagles fall, the Eagles lose the top seed and the bye week. If the Cowboys win and the Eagles lose, Philadelphia loses the NFC East and begins the playoffs on the road.

So yes, there is a lot at stake. That’s why the Eagles will almost certainly bring Hurts back into their starting lineup. They didn’t expect to be in this position until the playoffs actually started. But this game really is a must.

“There’s no pressure,” Graham told the media. “I think you’re all going to put as much pressure on that, because at the end of the day, if we have to keep rolling, that might as well be okay.”

It’s hard to imagine he really believes that, considering where the Eagles were a few weeks ago. But on the bright side, they could still get a rest Sunday from a Giants team that won’t have to take this game seriously. Thanks to two wins in their last three games, dating back to a 48-22 loss at home to the Eagles on Dec. 11, they are locked into the NFC’s sixth seed and will go on the road in the first round against any team that finishes No. 3.

Daniel Jones MVP material after clinching a playoff spot?

Daniel Jones MVP material after clinching a playoff spot?

Craig Carton makes a case for Daniel Jones to win the MVP award considering the New York quarterback has led the Giants to a postseason berth for the first time since 2016.

And with nothing to play for, and nothing that could change their postseason position, it doesn’t look like the Giants will play their starters much, if at all.

“We’ll talk about it and do what’s best for the team,” Giants coach Brian Daboll said. “Whatever we think is best for our team, that’s what we’re going to end up doing.”

The best thing for them is probably sitting quarterback Daniel Jones, given the hits he’s taken this season. The same goes for running back Saquon Barkley, who has been dealing with a shoulder injury for weeks. And a Giants team without their top two players certainly gives the Eagles a chance to get back on track, especially with Hurts running the show again.

And maybe it will all work out for the Eagles. Maybe getting a taste of late season pressure, or whatever they want to call it, will help them in the playoffs. Maybe some adversity will help too. Because their goals remain the same. They still believe they are on the fast track to the Super Bowl and are good enough to win a championship.

But that’s only if they manage not to lose the rest first.

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Ralph Vacchiano is the NFC East reporter for FOX Sports, covering the Washington Commanders, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants. He spent the previous six years covering the Giants and Jets for SNY TV in New York, and before that, 16 years covering the Giants and the NFL for the New York Daily News. Follow him on Twitter at @RalphVacchiano.

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