As SNY.tv's Garrett Stepien noted this week, Saquon Barkley
has been pestered all season long about his health, but he let his play do the talking last Sunday when he had a career-high 189 yards rushing in the Giants' 41-35 overtime win over the Washington Redskins.
The second-year running back, who missed three games with a high right ankle sprain, has experienced ups and downs since coming back from the midseason injury.
But after taking 24 carries for 112 yards (4.67 average) and two touchdowns in last Sunday's 36-20 win over the Miami Dolphins, Barkley drove his point home with Week 16's explosive performance.
"I haven't felt this good since the (Nov. 17) bye week," Barkley said after the game. "Opportunities, I feel like Philly. When you go back and watch Philly, we run the ball really well. Just because everyone doesn't get the sixes or sevens because when I hit six- and seven-yard runs, I don't want to take the short ones. Because of Philly, when I break the long runs, we are getting five, getting five. It is just how the game played out. We had to go away from the run and unfortunately, we lost that game. These last two weeks we were able to stay with the run and definitely run the ball in (overtime) and last week ground and pound with like six, seven minutes left."
With 22 carries, Barkley attempted more than 20 rushes for only the second time all season. He averaged 8.6 yards per carry, including a long of 67 that finished with him in the end zone and gave the Giants a 14-7 lead with 6:46 left in the first quarter. Barkley made his impact felt as a receiver out of the backfield, too, with four receptions for 90 yards (22.5 per catch) and a long of 51 -- including a 33-yard touchdown on a seam from rookie quarterback Daniel Jones
, giving the Giants a 21-14 lead with 9:16 left in the second quarter.
"It starts up front," Barkley said. "They did a real good job with stopping penetration, reestablishing the line of scrimmage. That's something that (head coach Pat Shurmur) always preaches. My job is to make that one guy miss and sometimes they are going to make a play but with the will I have more times than not I'm going to make that person miss."
While the season is all but over for the Giants (4-11) with next Sunday's 4:25 p.m. finale against the Philadelphia Eagles (8-7) on deck, Barkley believes that the offense is finally starting to show what it can do when healthy.
"I think that is what they kind of envisioned when they drafted DJ and drafted me," said Barkley, who now has 200 carries for 911 yards (4.6 average) and five touchdowns on the ground with 69 receptions for 413 yards (6.0 average) and two touchdowns through the air in 12 games.
"I think we both have the potential and talent to play well together and open stuff up for each other. We showed that today with the help of everyone else and we were able to find a way to get the win."
Meanwhile, following a two-game injury absence, Jones completed 28 of 42 pass attempts for 352 yards and five touchdowns to add to Barkley's big day.
Jones has now thrown at least four touchdowns in three of his past six games and is up to 25 total scores in 11 starts this season. Jones ranks first in passing touchdowns per game (2.1) and 10th in fantasy points per game (18.3) during those 11 weeks.
As ESPN's Field Yates notes, with all the uncertainty and volatility (and with players like Lamar Jackson sitting out), some will be seeking quarterback help. Jones has a good matchup against an Eagles secondary that has had vulnerable moments this season.
In fact, as ESPN's Mike Clay notes, the Eagles have allowed the sixth-most fantasy points to wide receivers this season, including the most to perimeter receivers for the season and over the past month.
Ronald Darby is out with an injury, so Rasul Douglas is back in the lineup along with Jalen Mills. Albeit with Eli Manning under center, these teams met in Week 14 and Darius Slayton exploded for five catches, 154 yards and two touchdowns on seven targets. Sterling Shepard was held in check in that one, but with Jones back and the Eagles continuing to struggle against the perimeter, both receivers are solid plays.
Clay added that Golden Tate was held to one catch in the first meeting and should be downgraded against the defense allowing the fewest fantasy points to the slot this season. ...
And finally. ... The Giants placed tight end Rhett Ellison on injured reserve Friday, the team announced.
Ellison has missed the past five games with a concussion.
He finished his eighth NFL season with 18 receptions for 167 yards and a touchdown in 10 games.