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Eagles vs. Giants: 3 keys to rivalry game in NFL playoffs

Familiar, not familial. There is a key distinction while describing the rivalry between the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants. 

They know each other quite well. They have little affection for one another. 

The Eagles will host the Giants in the first NFC divisional round game of the weekend (Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET, Fox), two weeks after they played a Week 18 game in which Philadelphia clinched the No. 1 seed while New York – with no playoff positioning to play for – rested its starters. On Dec. 11, the Eagles throttled the Giants 48-22. 

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The foes have met four times in the playoffs, most recently in the 2008 divisional round, an Eagles upset victory at The Meadowlands. Since then, the Eagles have won 23 of the 30 meetings. Going back to 1990, the Giants are 6-0 against No. 1 seeds in the playoffs.

Here are three keys that will determine who moves on to the NFC championship game:

How healthy are the Eagles? 

Two of Philadelphia’s most important players, quarterback Jalen Hurts and right tackle Lane Johnson, are working their way back from injuries. Both will play. How their health impacts their play will be a deciding factor in the game’s outcome.

Hurts suffered a sprained right shoulder, his throwing arm, on Dec. 18 against the Chicago Bears. He missed two games before returning for the second Giants game; the Eagles called a conservative game for Hurts to not risk further injury. 

‘I’m feeling good,’ he told reporters this week. 

Johnson is playing through a groin injury but pushed surgery required to correct the issue until the offseason. 

The Giants entered the postseason at full health, and edge rusher Azeez Oljulari (quad) could play after getting banged up in the wild-card round victory against the Minnesota Vikings. 

Can Giants survive in the trenches? 

Eagles general manager Howie Roseman has constructed one of the most well-rounded teams in the league. The primary reason for their 8-0 start and overall dominance this season is their offensive and defensive lines. 

Philadelphia finished the season first in sack rate, and the pass rush helped them become the top overall defense against the pass. Haason Reddick finished tied for second in the league with 16 sacks and Brandon Graham, Javon Hargrave and Josh Sweat all had 11.

The team had seven sacks against the Giants in the first meeting of the season (Graham had three) and held Giants running back Saquon Barkley to 28 rushing yards on nine attempts.

On the other side of the ball, the Eagles have one of the NFL’s most cohesive offensive lines. Anchored by veteran center Jason Kelce, Johnson and left tackle Jordan Mailata, the line paved the way for the league’s fifth-best rushing offense at 147.6 yards per game. 

Eagles running back Miles Sanders went for 144 yards on the ground during the teams’ first game of the season. Hurts is always a threat to run, particularly in the red zone. New York defensive linemen Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence will have to stand up against the unit for the Giants to contain the run and give their own offense a chance. 

This will be the first playoff matchup in NFL history in which both quarterbacks rushed for more than 600 yards during the regular season. Jones’ rushing prowess was on full display against the Vikings, and he will have to keep the Eagles honest to give Barkley a chance to break bigger gains. 

Which team will benefit more from familiarity? 

The Giants gave the Eagles a decent game in Week 18, a 22-16 loss with third-string quarterback Davis Webb and other backups going head-to-head against the Eagles starters. 

This will be the third meeting in five weeks for the teams. That’s a lot of time spent game-planning for one opponent, and a challenge Eagles coach Nick Sirianni must prepare his team for following the bye week. Surely, they were watching Vikings tight end T.J. Hockeson (10 catches, 129 yards) light up the Giants and will have something in the playbook for tight end Dallas Goedert. 

New York knows that it will have to be close to perfect for this one. Mistakes like the blocked punt the Eagles executed in the first matchup could be fatal. Turnovers, too. 

The Giants are not supposed to be here. The Eagles are. Does that make the underdog more dangerous, or put the favorite at ease? 

What definitely feels right is these two teams playing with everything on the line. 

Follow Chris Bumbaca on Twitter @BOOMbaca.

This post appeared first on USA TODAY

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