It’s a balancing act most decent teams have to contend with, though perhaps not to the extent the Giants will this week, as they prepare to take on the best team in the NFL. Two of their last five games will be against the 11-1 Eagles, meaning that they both have to fully understand the breadth of the challenge ahead without getting overwhelmed by it.
“They have talented players across the board,” Daniel Jones said. “On defense at each level, they’re talented — [they have] people who can make a lot of plays and they play hard. They’re smart, you can tell that they don’t have many busted coverages or schemes or any issues with that kind of stuff. They’re a good team, they’re talented, they’re smart and they play hard.”
So, to recap: The Eagles have a strong offense and a strong defense. And good coaching. They’re adaptable and they’re smart, and have Jalen Hurts, A.J. Brown and James Bradberry. And the Giants’ path to a wild-card berth almost inevitably passes through them. When Brian Daboll was asked what stood out the most about Nick Sirianni’s team, he replied, “everything.”
But Daboll is a realist, and that part of him is also insistent on the second portion of this equation. Even without glaring flaws, no team is unbeatable. Strip the game down to its pegs — decide to compete against individual players instead of the idea of an insurmountable whole — and things get easier. It’s consistently been his philosophy, and it’s one he hopes his players share.
“I think I’ve been to 30 playoff games, a [college football] national championship, five Super Bowls, nine AFC Championship Games, been in some big games throughout my career as a position coach and as a coordinator,” Daboll said Wednesday. “I don’t think you can let one game be bigger than any other game or one mean less than any other game. It’s the most important game because it’s the next one. On top of that it’s the leader in our division and pretty much the leader in the NFL. So, certainly as a competitor you want to play and compete against the best and they’re the best.”
And maybe it helps that Daboll is so well-acquainted with Sirianni, who served as his wide receivers coach in Kansas City when Daboll was the offensive coordinator there in 2012. To hear Sirianni talk about it, Daboll was instrumental in shaping his career. There’s significant mutual respect there, despite the Philadelphia-New York rivalry that runs as deep as the subway system.
“I’ve always thought, man, I wish I had more years with him and how much more I could have learned from him,” Sirianni said in a conference call with the New York media. “The things he taught me about the game of football I use to this day. He knows how much he taught me. He gave me so much information.”
For what it’s worth, it does seem like some of the Giants have internalized the Daboll mentality. Darius Slayton said there are weaknesses to exploit, and that the Eagles’ record doesn’t affect the way anyone prepares. It’s not even harder to find the fault lines, he said.
“There’ve been times where they’ve been in close games, and they’ve been able to make a play to win the game,” Slayton said. “That doesn’t mean the other team [didn’t have] them on the ropes. Or maybe they were able to exploit something, just not get the win. It’s pretty the same.”
The same, but different. A brutal opponent, but an opportunity. Letting the game be big, but not too big. It’s a balancing act, and a tough one, but if the Giants want a way into the playoffs, it’s likely one they’ll have to master soon.