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NFC Divisional Playoffs: Daniel Jones vs Jalen Hurts, a look at who has the advantage

The NFC Divisional Playoffs kick off Saturday in a game pitting New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones against NFL MVP contender Jalen Hurts of the Philadelphia Eagles.

For most of the regular season, Hurts was seen as the best quarterback in the NFL. That’s until he missed two games at the end of the campaign due to a shoulder injury.

As for Jones, he’s coming off a career-best performance in New York’s upset road win over the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Wild Card Playoffs. The fourth-year signal caller quieted naysayers by putting up nearly 400 total yards of offense with two touchdowns in a 31-24 win.

Philadelphia comes out of its first-round bye as 7.5-point home favorties against its division rivals after beating New York twice during the regular season.

More so than any era in the past, today’s NFL is defined by quarterback play. It will make or break teams during the postseason. Heading into the NFC Divisional Playoffs, these two rivals seem to be on good footing when it comes to this. But who has the advantage? We break that down below.

Related: New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles NFC Divisional Playoff preview

Jalen Hurts outshines Daniel Jones in nearly every statistical category

nfl divisional playoffs: philadelphia eagles jalen hurts
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The regular season saw Hurts put up six different games with 300-plus total yards. He also accounted for three touchdowns or more seven times. Despite turning it up late in the season and in the first round of the playoffs, Jones has four 300-yard games to his name. He tallied three touchdowns just one time.

Hurts ranked 10th in passing yards, 11th in passing touchdowns and boasted the sixth-fewest interceptions among regular starters during the regular season. This led to him receiving a resounding 85.9 grade from Pro Football Focus.

Jones was not as lucky in any of these categories. He was 15th in passing yards, tied for 21st in touchdowns. Though, the young quarterback also threw just five interceptions. PFF graded him out at 76.0.

As you can see, Jones stacked up well against Hurts running the ball. That was on full display with the Duke product leading New York in rushing during the wild card round (78).

One advantage for Jones here is the fact that he led the NFL with an On-Target rate of 81% compared to 80% from Mr. Hurts. He also boasted the third-best QB rating on passes of 20-plus yards down the field (119.4).

  • Advantage: Jalen Hurts

Related: Bold predictions for New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles

Daniel Jones needs his supporting cast to step up

new york giants' daniel jones
Chris Pedota, NorthJersey.com / USA TODAY NETWORK

A lack of true talent at wide receiver has been a season-long issue for the New York Giants. Despite getting some tremendous production from Isaiah Hodgins late in the season and during the wild card round, this remains a problem.

Richie James led all Giants receivers with 57 catches. Darius Slayton topped in the yards category with 724. This isn’t going to cut it against an Eagles pass defense that allowed a mere 22 touchdowns through the air compared to 17 interceptions during the regular season.

The situation is vastly different in Philadelphia after front office head Howie Roseman went out there and acquired star receiver A.J. Brown during the 2022 NFL Draft. All Brown did in his first regular season with the Eagles was record 88 receptions for 1,496 yards and 11 touchdowns. He more than doubled what Slayton put up for the Giants.

If that weren’t enough, former first-round pick DeVonta Smith did his thing as a sophomore with 95 receptions for 1,196 yards and seven touchdowns while hauling in 70% of his targets.

The good news for Mr. Jones? He seems to have the advantage at running back with Saquon Barkley having returned to pre-injury form this season. The former NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year gained 1,650 total yards while scoring 10 touchdowns in 16 regular-season games. That included catching 57 balls.

Sure the Eagles love what they have in Miles Sanders. But he’s more one-dimensional. Also a product of Penn State, Sanders caught just 20 balls during the regular season. Expect Jones to rely a lot on Barkley’s dual-threat ability as a way to overcome talent issues at wide receiver. Hurts won’t have the same problem. That’s probably a good thing.

  • Advantage: Jalen Hurts

Related: Ranking NFL Playoff offenses

Both Daniel Jones and Jalen Hurts benefit from great offensive line play

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Philadelphia Eagles
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Escapability is an obvious plus for both Jones and Hurts. But it always helps to have elite-level offensive line play. For the most part, these two have had that this season. It was this past weekend that former first-round pick Andrew Thomas dominated in protecting Jones’ blindside. Per Pro Football Focus, he did not allow a single pressure on 44 pass-blocking snaps.

Jones was pressured 90 times throughout the regular season compared to 87 for Hurts. New York’s star completed 47% of his passes when under pressure with Hurts coming in at 34.5%.

The issue here for Jones and his Giants is the fact that they’re going up against an Eagles defense that recorded a whopping 70 sacks during the regular season. New York put up 41 sacks and is set to take on an Eagles right tackle in Lane Johnson who didn’t allow a single QB hit or sack during the regular season.

  • Advantage: Jalen Hurts

Related: NFL Playoff and Super Bowl predictions

Bottom line: Daniel Jones still has a long way to go

NFL: NFC Wild Card Round-New York Giants at Minnesota Vikings
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Jones was absolutely electric in New York’s wild card win over Minnesota. That much can’t be denied. But taking on Philadelphia on the road is going to be a completely different monster. Starting Eagles cornerbacks Darius Slay (83.9 QB rating allowed) and James Bradberry (51.6 rating allowed) dominated during the regular season.

With a lack of consistent weapons at wide receiver, Jones will have to beat Philadelphia in other ways. That includes stepping up and running when protection breaks down and finding Barkley out of the backfield.

Hurts’ situation is vastly different in that he has more than one truly elite skill-position player to rely on. He’s shown more consistency than Jones over the past two years and is primed to break out even more as the quarterback prepares for his second career NFL Playoff start. He has the obvious advantage heading into the NFC Divisional Playoffs.

  • Advantage: Jalen Hurts