Eagles could bring Jalen Hurts ‘doubt’ into third Giants meeting


Not all clichés are true, especially in sports.

Cheaters never prosper? Good things come to those who wait? It’s difficult to beat the same NFL team three times in a season? That’s not what the numbers say.

The NFC’s No. 1 seed Eagles swept the annual home-and-home from the No. 6 Giants and will host the third meeting Saturday in the divisional round of the playoffs. Try as some might to spin that into a Giants’ advantage, history shows that the two-time regular-season winner has won the playoff rematch in 15 of the 24 previous situations like this one since the NFL merger in 1970, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Giants head coach Brian Daboll predictably said Monday that there is no impact from the first two games on the third, but forgive a starved fan base for recalling one of the nine times revenge was achieved — when the 2007 Giants upset the No. 1-seeded and division-rival Cowboys in this round.

“The hard part about this situation is being the favorite and somebody that everybody expects to win,” former Giants receiver Amani Toomer, an analyst for MSG Network, told The Post. “If you’ve worked hard to get to the mountaintop, it’s hard to stay.”

Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts
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Sixteen years ago, the Giants tried to put even more pressure on the Cowboys leading into the game.

“It’s like an All-Pro Team versus an All-Joe Team,” linebacker Antonio Pierce quipped about the talent discrepancy.

“We’re not going down there to see Jessica Simpson,” defensive end Justin Tuck said, feeding the narrative of a distracted Tony Romo vacationing with Simpson during the bye week.

Just three days ago, the 49ers beat the Seahawks for a third time this season. The Giants-Eagles situation is a little different because the second game in the regular-season finale was a mismatch of Eagles starters playing to clinch the NFC East and top seed against Giants backups with starters resting for the playoffs — and yet that result (22-16) was much closer than when the two “A-teams” squared off (48-22).

Why? Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts didn’t look right coming back from a two-game absence with a shoulder injury. He had a bye last week.

“Everybody was like, ‘Jalen’s back, we’ll be back to the same team,’ and then they played the Giants and they weren’t,” Toomer said. “In the back of their mind, there is doubt. Early in these games, you have to punch them in the mouth.”

NFL playoff bracket
NY Post Illustration

It was Toomer who landed the first figurative haymaker — a tackle-breaking 52-yard touchdown catch — on the opening drive versus the Cowboys.

“Something big has to happen early,” Toomer said, “but the thing about the Giants is the in-game adjustments are usually what’s making this team win so, if they can just keep it close early in the game … the Giants are playing their best football of the year and the Eagles aren’t so that gives them a chance.”

Toomer has been on the other side of the coin. The 2000 Giants completed a three-game sweep of the Eagles in the playoffs.

Giants
Lawrence Cager of the Giants catches a pass in front of James Bradberry of the Philadelphia Eagles in their regular season finale.
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“Human nature is, ‘We already beat them twice, let’s just roll out the footballs and beat them again,’ ” Toomer said. “It’s not that way. It happens a lot because usually the team that won twice is the better team, but I remember that [third meeting] not being an easy game.”

It’s unlikely Daboll’s locker room will follow Pierce’s strategy to build up the Eagles for a letdown.

“You have matchups that you went against over the last two times you played,” Daboll said. “One game has nothing to do with the next game other than you take things from it. You learn from it, but it’s going to be how we execute on Saturday and how we prepare throughout the week.”


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