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Spadaro: 6 storylines to follow in regular-season finale vs. Giants

Shaquille Leonard
Shaquille Leonard

The Eagles are hoping to finish their 2023 regular season on a high note against the Giants on Sunday at MetLife Stadium. Philadelphia has won five straight games and 13 of the last 15 against New York, including last season's 38-7 win in the Divisional Round, so there is no question the Eagles have the momentum in this series.

We know the biggest storyline: The Eagles need to beat New York and hope Washington defeats Dallas at FedEx Field in a 4:25 PM kickoff to win its second consecutive NFC East title. Otherwise, the Eagles will have the fifth seed in the conference playoffs with a date at the NFC South Division Champions on Wild Card Weekend.

There are others, so let's take a look under the hood at the 11-5 Eagles playing at the 5-11 Giants on Sunday at MetLife Stadium ...

  1. No DeVonta Smith in the Eagles' lineup

There is no player tougher than DeVonta Smith, who is going to miss the first game of his three-season NFL career. He finishes the regular season with 81 receptions, 1,066 yards, and 7 touchdowns. How do the Eagles adjust without Smith, who teams so well with A.J. Brown and presents such problems for defensive backfields? That's the big question for an Eagles offense that moved the ball extremely well against the Giants two weeks ago, including Smith's 4 receptions for 79 yards, including a 36-yard catch and run for a touchdown. Julio Jones is coming off a two-touchdown game against Arizona. Quez Watkins has the speed to play outside and make the defense respect his deep-threat ability. Olamide Zaccheaus has been a reliable target this season. The Eagles have options. It's just going to be ... different without one of the best receivers in the NFL.

  1. The run defense faces a test

It isn't just about this game for the run defense, it's about turning things around for the postseason. New York averages 110 yards per game on the ground, in the middle of the NFL pack. But Saquon Barkley is a star running back and the Eagles have had their challenges on the ground lately and New York likely wants to shorten the game and run the football, so it boils down to this: The Eagles need to win against the New York running game. No matter what it takes, the Eagles need to win in the trenches. It will help having linebacker Zach Cunningham back in the lineup – he has been inactive for the last three games and in four of the last five games – but it's also going to come down to some one-on-one matchups at the line of scrimmage.

  1. What does playing New York twice in three games mean?

Not sure, but it sure is an appropriate way to end a season that has had more than its share of bizarre schedule quirks. Is it an advantage or disadvantage playing the Giants two weeks after a 33-25 win on Christmas? Nobody seems to know, so we will find out together. But it is something to think about: The teams are extremely familiar with each other, so what wrinkles will be added by both coaching staffs?

  1. The Eagles' defense would love to have a strong 60 minutes

Matt Patricia is working really hard to push the right buttons on gameday and now he's in his fourth game overseeing the calls and he has a sense of what his personnel can do now. He wants to put the players in the right position to make plays. That's what it comes down to here and that's the goal he's been working toward since the Seattle game. With this game the only one between the Eagles and the postseason, a really strong 60 minutes would boost confidence and provide a playbook for what the defense can be moving forward.

Take a look at the all-time best moments from the 184 meetings between the Eagles and Giants as they get set to square off for the 2023 regular-season finale.

  1. Jalen Hurts closes the regular season

The Eagles' quarterback needs 58 total yards to break his single-season franchise record for total yards from scrimmage (4,461 in 2022), he needs 237 passing yards to top Carson Wentz's Eagles record of 4,039 set in 2019, and Hurts needs 2 rushing touchdowns to tie LeSean McCoy's franchise record of 17, set in 2011. So, yeah, there are some significant statistical milestones that could very well be set in Week 18, and that means something.

  1. The biggest storyline of all: The Eagles want some momentum going into playoffs

Having an 11-5 record is something all of those other teams in the NFL would love to have, but the Eagles have extremely high expectations and, besides, they were 10-1 just six weeks ago. Philadelphia wants to move into the playoffs with a good taste in its mouth, and even though what happened in the regular season isn't necessarily a precursor to what will happen in the postseason, it sure doesn't hurt to finish the regular season with a victory and move into the next phase of the year with some mojo. So, yeah, the Eagles are playing to win here and it would be great to beat the Giants for a sixth straight time and have some positive chatter around town the following week.

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