5 key matchups to watch when the Eagles battle the Giants in week 18

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Eagles Haason reddick
Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Haason Reddick celebrates after sacking Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Oct. 8, 2023, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian)

The Philadelphia Eagles seem intent on playing their starters in Week 18 despite some cries for them to rest up for the postseason. Technically, the team can clinch the NFC East title and claim the No. 2 seed with a divisional win over the Giants, coupled with a Dallas loss to Washington.

The Eagles would secure a home date in the first round of the NFC playoffs in that scenario. So, yes, there is a very good argument for playing it out. Of course, the contradictory opinion comes for the point of view of a realist: there is no way the Cowboys lose to a hapless Commanders’ squad likely throwing out all their backups.

“It’s about going to work every single day and being locked into the details of the meeting,” head coach Nick Sirianni told reporters, “and being locked into the walk through and being full speed to the snap in walk through and having a high-intensity practice and to be committed to our core values.”

5 Key Matchups to Watch

Kayvon Thibodeaux vs. Jordan Mailata/Lane Johnson

PHILADELPHIA, PA – OCTOBER 18: Philadelphia Eagles Offensive Tackle Jordan Mailata (68) looks on in the second half during the game between the Baltimore Ravens and Philadelphia Eagles on October 18, 2020 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)

The Giants’ top rusher hasn’t exerted his will on a game since November 19 when he collected two sacks versus Washington. Thibodeaux will have his work cut out for him as he bounces around the formation, picking his spots on the right side (Jordan Mailata) and on the left side (Lane Johnson). Pick your poison. He recorded only three pressures on 31 pass-rush snaps the last time these two teams faced off.

Xavier McKinney vs. Dallas Goedert

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Philadelphia Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert (88) runs with the ball after making a catch as New York Giants cornerback Adoree’ Jackson (22) tries to stop him during the first half of an NFL divisional round playoff football game, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The Eagles have struggled to get Dallas Goedert going since his return from a forearm injury. To be honest, it’s been tough sledding all year for the standout tight end. The Giants’ secondary should pose a stiff test, paced by McKinney who hasn’t allowed a touchdown this season on 573 coverage snaps while earning a 70.8 passer rating on 50 targets.

Healthy Eagles vs. Injured Eagles

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeVonta Smith celebrates after scoring with quarterback Jalen Hurts during the first half of an NFL football game against the New York Giants Monday, Dec. 25, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

Injuries will account for resting at least two starters in this one after Philly ruled cornerback Daruis Slay and receiver DeVonta Smith out. Meanwhile, running back D’Andre Swift is listed questionable and might be a game-time decision. It might behoove the team to keep him on the bench and finally unleash Rashaad Penny. He hasn’t seen a snap since November 5.

Wan’Dale Robinson vs. Kelee Ringo

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Michael Wilson, left, catches a touchdown pass in front of Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Kelee Ringo (22) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 31, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)

There is a growing sense that Robinson, not Darius Slayton, could be heavily targeted by Giants quarterback Tyrod Taylor. Why? Well, he could be on an island with the rookie while Slayton gets bottled up by James Bradberry. But, let’s not forget, Ringo has impressed in recent weeks as a fill-in starter for Darius Slay. He was holding it down last week versus Arizona until a pass interference call in the fourth quarter shattered his confidence. Eight plays later, Ringo got beat for a game-tying touchdown.

Haason Reddick vs. Matt Patricia

PHILADELPHIA, PA – AUGUST 12: Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Haason Reddick (7) prepares to rush during pre-season game between the New York Jets and the Philadelphia Eagles on August 12, 2022 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia PA. (Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)

Haason Reddick has been unable to get on track since Matt Patricia took over as the de facto defensive coordinator. The explosive linebacker has been (curiously) dropped into coverage on more and more snaps, essentially taking away his biggest advantage which is rushing the passer. Reddick is toeing the company line — “there’s no complaints about it,” he said, referring to his new role — but it’s clear something is amiss. Reddick has gone three straight weeks without a sack.

AP Photo/Kevork Djansezia