Two teams from NFC East celebrated at the end of the Wild Card Weekend. The New York Giants invaded Minnesota and exacted their revenge on a Vikings team they had defeated just three weeks earlier.
The Giants accumulated 31 points en route to their first playoff win since Super Bowl XLVI. In an insane turn of events in East Rutherford just a year ago, the Giants are a serious threat to a deep playoff run in the NFC.
Daniel Jones threw for over 300 yards and two touchdowns, while Saquon Barkley did a lot with small touches and scored two points that day. Dexter Lawrence and the defensive line continue to dominate, keeping the Vikings to just 61 rushing yards on the day.
The Dallas Cowboys defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31-14 and handed quarterback Tom Brady his first career loss to the Cowboys. Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott was outstanding, throwing for over 300 yards and four touchdowns while adding another on the floor. It was a no-fly zone for the Buccaneers as the Cowboys accumulated 12 pass breakups and one interception.
The Giants, Cowboys and Eagles all remain in the postseason tournament. This means at least one NFC East team is guaranteed to make the championship game. There’s even a divisional matchup when the Giants return to Philadelphia for a third game against the Eagles.
The Cowboys visit the red hot 49ers in a game that should be fun. There’s going to be good play from NFC East this weekend, so let’s take a look at how each team will fare in the Divisional Round.
New York Giants (+7.5) at Philadelphia Eagles (-7.5)
The Giants and Eagles are a rivalry that has been going on for a long time. The two teams meet for the fifth time in the playoffs, the series separates in two games each.
Under freshman head coach Brian Daboll, the Giants surprised everyone with a 9-7-1 record and an extra playoff win. The Giants are certainly not done yet and are playing with plenty of confidence heading into Philadelphia. They have played their best football in the last month and it shows in the stats.
They have averaged 28 points per game over the last three competitions. Take Week 18 with them as they rested their starters and the Giants averaged nearly 35 points a game in their last two games, including the playoffs. Daniel Jones is currently playing his best football, taking charge of offense and looking comfortable in the first year of this new system.
A big reason the offense clicks late is because they don’t force the run game. They’ve had one of the best attacks of the regular season with Saquon Barkley at the helm, but they’ve been focused on entrusting Jones with winning the game on his arm alone. This allows the barrel clearance to flow naturally, giving Barkley the opportunity to shine in clutch moments. He had two big quick touchdowns in the wild card win over Minnesota.
The Giants’ receivers have been criticized by analysts and fans all year, but they rose to the challenge. Isaiah Hodgins had 105 yards and a touchdown last weekend. Darius Slayton had 88 yards on just four catches. Richie James has made key first-down plays all season and it showed again against the Vikings.
The defense didn’t play their best game against the Vikings. In their first matchup on Christmas Eve, they totaled four sacks and 11 quarterback hits. This time, they had the same number of QB hits but no sacks. TJ Hockenson gave the secondary fits-all game with a total of ten catches for 129 yards. There was one big win for the defense, however, and that included Justin Jefferson. Jefferson had just seven catches for 47 yards that day.
The eagles, on the other hand, are not the Vikings. Star quarterback Jalen Hurts, who bowed out in the first round, is healthy and ready to go after suffering a shoulder injury in recent weeks.
The Eagles have guns available and will have an opportunity to show them Saturday night. Wide receivers AJ Brown and DeVonta Smith had 1,000-yard receiving seasons, while running back Miles Sanders had his first 1,000-yard rushing season.
On the other side of the ball, the Eagles have one of the most talented units in the league. Cornerbacks Darius Slay and James Bradberry always lock their respective sides of the field.
The Eagles have four players with ten-plus sacks: Haason Reddick (16), Javon Hargrave (11), Brandon Graham (11) and Josh Sweat (11). Philadelphia had 70 sacks in the regular season, the most of any team this season. The Eagles’ ability to get through to quarterback could pose problems for the Giants’ offensive line.
One team should be here, the other shouldn’t. A great game is developing between these two longtime rivals.
Dallas Cowboys (+3.5) at San Francisco 49ers (-3.5)
On Monday night, the Cowboys won their first road playoff game in over 30 years.
They definitely looked dominant. Dak Prescott threw four touchdowns and rushed for another. Two touchdowns went to Dalton Schultz, the other two to CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup. The Cowboys’ defense also stopped any chance of the Buccaneers getting back in the game after taking an 18-0 lead at halftime.
The Cowboys now travel to San Francisco to take on the 49ers. The Niners look like one of, if not the, best team in the NFC. After trailing the Seahawks 17-16 heading into halftime, the Niners exploded for 25 unanswered points and eventually won 41-23. The San Francisco offense is just a juggernaut right now. Led by rookie quarterback Brock Purdy, the Niners have created a dream scenario for a young rookie quarterback.
The Cowboys are tasked with stopping Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, George Kittle, and Christian McCaffrey. Don’t forget that the Niners also have one of the best offensive lines in the entire league, led by left tackle Trent Williams. McCaffrey is one player they need to keep a close eye on. Since joining San Francisco, the running back star has rushed for 1,210 yards and ten touchdowns. He has become a focal point on offense and is dangerous in both the running and passing game.
The Cowboys are finally looking to get over the hump of losing the playoffs as it’s been almost 30 years since their last Super Bowl win. Beating a strong 49ers team and going to the NFC Championship will only earn them respect as they advance in the tournament.