In his postseason debut, New York Giants RB Saquon Barkley wasn't a bell cow, but he was highly productive.
Offensive coordinator Mike Kafka has found the most effective way to utilize Barkley, whose efficiency will determine whether the Giants continue their playoff run.
The 25-year-old only had 14 touches in Sunday's win against Minnesota but turned them into 109 yards and 2 TDs. He appeared re-energized, and his workload played a significant role in that. He'll likely receive an uptick in volume this week, but probably not in the ballpark of 30 touches.
SAQUON TO THE HOUSE— New York Giants (@Giants) January 15, 2023
: FOX pic.twitter.com/GvPirYvcUl
Earlier this season, Barkley hit a mini-slump due to an overwhelming workload. Although playing banged up, 35 carries against Houston in Week 10 clearly taxed him. The following four games saw Barkley total 152 rushing yards, the same amount he had versus the Texans.
Barkley doesn't need to rush the ball just to contribute. His receiving ability has allowed him to break out of his slump, and he's getting more involved in that department. Over his last four games, he has topped 100 total yards three times.
Since Week 16, Barkley has eclipsed his season-high in single-game receiving yards twice (though both against the Vikings).
QB Daniel Jones was surgical on Sunday, but Minnesota's pass defense is a night-and-day difference compared to Philadelphia. Minnesota was 31st in passing yards allowed this season, while Philadelphia ranks as the league's best, allowing 179.8 yards per game.
The Eagles have one of the best CB duos in the league in Darius Slay and James Bradberry, so Jones might not throw as much or as deep. According to FiveThirtyEight, Jones threw for 8.6 yards per attempt against Minnesota, the seventh-highest of his career.
Expect to see a few check-downs and swing passes for Barkley on Saturday.
While he's one of the league's best with the ball in his hands, Barkley's presence on the field, even without the ball, is a considerable advantage for New York's offense. With Jones' legs and Kafka's creativity, the back can be an effective decoy.
New York has been doing just that as of late. Backup RB Matt Breida is getting in the mix, and he's been a subtle difference-maker. In the Wild Card, the 6-year veteran played 15 snaps while on the field with Barkley, keeping Minnesota's defense on its toes.
That's not to say Breida should see extra carries against Philadelphia, but by sending him in motion pre-snap, the Giants can dig deeper into their bag of tricks. Philadelphia will have to account for him even if it's a fake, and this would also allow Barkley to stay fresh throughout the game.
On 3rd & 1, Matt Breida hard-running gains 1-yd to move the sticks#Giants 24 #Vikings 21 3ʀᴅ pic.twitter.com/SF5gjF5HWk— Sᴘᴏʀᴛs 24/7 (@Sports_24x7_) January 15, 2023
It'll take a collective effort to defeat the NFC's top-seeded team, but an efficient and explosive Barkley can be the X-factor for New York to pull off an upset.
New York is a seven-and-a-half-point underdog for Saturday's matchup with Philadelphia, per Oddschecker.
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