Critical Jalen Hurts ‘doubts’ Eagles could advance to third Giants meeting

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Not all clichés are true, especially in sports.

Cheats never thrive? Good things come to those who wait? It’s hard 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 won the annual home-and-home against the No. 6 Giants and will host the third meeting in Saturday’s divisional round of the playoffs. As some might try to spin that to the Giants’ advantage, history shows that the two-time regular season winner has won the playoff rematch in 15 of 24 previous situations like this since the NFL merge in 1970, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Giants head coach Brian Daboll predictably said Monday that there’s no impact from the first two games to the third, but forgive a famished fan base for remembering one of nine retaliations — when the 2007 Giants took the No. and division-rival Cowboys in this round.

“The hardest thing about this situation is being the favorite and someone everyone expects to win,” former Giants receiver Amani Toomer, an analyst for MSG Network, told The Post. “When you’ve worked hard to get to the mountain top, it’s hard to stay.”

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

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

“We don’t go there to see Jessica Simpson,” defensive ending Justin Tuck said, fueling the story of a distracted Tony Romo vacationing with Simpson during farewell week.

Just three days ago, the 49ers defeated the Seahawks for the third time this season. The Giants-Eagles situation is a bit different as the second game in the regular season finals was a mismatch of Eagles starters playing to capture the NFC East and the top seed against Giants backups with starters who rested for the playoffs – and yet that result (22 -16) was much closer than when the two “A-teams” went head to head (48-22).

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Why? Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts was not looking good as he came back from a two game absence with a shoulder injury. Last week he said goodbye.

“Everyone was like ‘Jalen is back, we’re coming back to the same team,’ and then they played against the Giants and they weren’t,” Toomer said. “There is doubt in the back of their minds. In the beginning of 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 against the Cowboys.

“Something big has to happen early,” said Toomer, “but the problem with the Giants is that the adjustments in the game usually make 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.”

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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 to James Bradberry of the Philadelphia Eagles in their regular season finale.
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“Human nature is, ‘We’ve already beat them twice, let’s just roll out the footballs and beat them again,'” said Toomer. ‘It’s not like that. It often happens because usually the team that won twice is the better team, but I remember that [third meeting] not be an easy game.”

It’s unlikely that Daboll’s locker room will follow Pierce’s strategy of building the Eagles up for a letdown.

“You have matchups that you went against the last two times you played,” said Daboll. “One game has nothing to do with the next game except you get things out of it. You learn from it, but what matters is how we perform on Saturday and how we prepare throughout the week.

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