Brian Daboll focused on Giants’ unlikely path to success

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Brian Daboll was smoking a cigar outside U.S. Bank Stadium Sunday evening, and he deserved one. Let’s be real. The brain trust of the 2022 Giants—Joe Schoen the GM and Daboll the coach—inherited a bad combination when they took the jobs last January. The Giants had the worst talent 1 to 53 and the worst cap situation, combined, of any team in the league. Oh, that cap. But the Giants had a quarterback with athleticism and some moxie, Daniel Jones, and they had a running back, Saquon Barkley, burning to show the world he was back, and a defense with some intriguing talent.

So the Giants made the playoffs. Now, winning a playoff game, on the road, against the NFC’s three seed, the 13-4 Vikings Wouldn’t this be time to breathe a sigh and appreciate the feat of winning a playoff game in what was absolutely a bridge year for what Schoen and Daboll were building?

“No,” Daboll said. “Can’t do it.”

Sort of a Parcellsian answer.

He wasn’t positive yet, but Daboll thought there was a good chance the Giants would be playing top-seeded Philadelphia Saturday night in the divisional round. Not only was this not the time to preen, it was a time to start the short-week homework for Philly.

Daboll got on the bus to the airport. A minute or two later, he said: “You know what I’m doing right now? I’m watching our field-goal rush team against Minnesota’s field-goal protection. I’m watching the tape. No time for that other stuff.”

The Giants beat Minnesota 31-24 in the Wild Card game Sunday. Barkley churned for 109 total yards and two rushing touchdowns. Jones, in his best clutch games as a pro, threw for 301 yards, ran for a game-high 78, outplayed Kirk Cousins, and looked like he’d been playing games like this one forever. No sweat.

But what impressed me is what else the Giants had Sunday. Some teams have cap problems and push the issue into the future. The Giants were in cap hell last spring and it influenced every last decision they made with this team. The fact is, they started four veterans who, on average, were making $960,000 this year. The leader of that pack: wide receiver Isaiah Hodgins. What a story. The Bills drafted Hodgins, a 6-4 target from Oregon State, in the sixth round in 2020, and he’d mostly languished on the Buffalo bench and practice squad. Daboll and Schoen were with that Buffalo team when Hodgins came aboard. Daboll, then the Bills’ offensive coordinator, coached him.

On Nov. 3, the Giants saw Hodgins on the waiver wire. The brain trust thought: He could be our best wideout. The Giants put in a claim for him.

What a strange league. The Giants were the only team to claim Hodgins.

Turns out Buffalo was trying to move Hodgins from the active roster to the practice squad and had to expose him to waivers to do so. The Giants were awarded Hodgins, and he quickly moved into the rotation. He started five games in the regular season and a sixth Sunday in his first playoff game, in Minnesota. At 6-4, he was the kind of big receiver the Giants lacked.  “Smart player, dependable guy, kept his head down,” Daboll said. “Caught a lot of contested balls at Oregon State. He worked. He knew what we were trying to do offensively inside and out. Joe [Schoen] brought him up. We thought he’d be a good fit because he knows all the terminology of our offense.”

Hodgins in Minnesota on Sunday. (Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

Price tag for the cap-strapped Giants was good too: Hodgins would make just $705,000 in 2022. He’d be one of the lowest-paid players on the team.

The Giants were the land of opportunity, though, and Daniel Jones took to Hodgins right away. Since Dec. 1, he’s the most-targeted wideout on the team, with 33 targets, and another nine Sunday in Minnesota. His 14-yard TD catch from Jones Sunday gave the Giants a 14-7 lead late in the first quarter. New York never trailed after that.

Turns out Hodgins had the first 100-yard game of his life—eight catches, 105 yards. One of the lowest-paid guys on the field out-performed the likely Offensive Player of the Year, Justin Jefferson. One more catch, one more TD, 48 more receiving yards.

The Giants employed three other starters in Hodgins’ financial neighborhood—wideout Richie James, corner Fabian Moreau, linebacker Jaylon Smith—on short, prove-it deals, the only kind Schoen could offer roster marginalia. He signed others to low-paying Practice Squad jobs, telling those willing to work cheap it’s all the Giants had, and they’d be moved to the active roster on gameday when the opportunity permitted. And Daboll, offensive coordinator Mike Kafka and defensive coordinator Wink Martindale coached them hard.

The result: New York will go to Philadelphia with a bunch of players with boulders, not chips, on their shoulders. The Giants wanted them. No one else did. The Eagles will have more talent, to be sure. But desire could make this a game Saturday night at the Linc.

Read more in Peter King’s full Football Morning in America column

2023 NFL Playoffs AFC, NFC Championship Round Schedule: Dates, start times, how to watch/live stream info for today’s games

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The 2023 NFL Playoffs have been filled with nothing short of excitement! The action continues this week with the Championship Round on Sunday, January 29. First, at 3:00 PM ET Brock Purdy and the San Francisco 49ers will head to Lincoln Financial Field to take on Jalen Hurts and the Philadelphia Eagles. Then at 6:30 PM ET Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals take on Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.

See below for the full AFC, NFC Championship Round schedule as well as additional information on how to watch each game.

Click here for the full 2023 NFL Playoffs Schedule

Conference Championship Round Schedule:

Sunday, January 29

NFC Championship Game:

San Francisco 49ers vs Philadelphia Eagles – 3:00 p.m. ET on Fox

  • Where: Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

AFC Championship Game:

Cincinnati Bengals vs Kansas City Chiefs – 6:30 p.m. ET on CBS

  • Where: Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri

RELATED: Brock Purdy, Jalen Hurts met in a 2019 college football classic


2023 Divisional Round Scores and Recap:

Jaguars (4) vs Chiefs (1)

Giants (6) vs Eagles (1)

Bengals (3) vs Bills (2

Cowboys (5) vs 49ers (2)


What 4 teams are in the NFL playoffs?

The San Francisco 49ers, Cincinnati Bengals, Philadelphia Eagles, and Kansas City Chiefs.

Which teams have been eliminated from the 2023 NFL Playoffs?

The Seattle Seahawks, Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, Los Angeles Chargers, Baltimore Ravens, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Giants, Buffalo Bills and Dallas Cowboys have all been eliminated from the 2023 NFL playoffs.

RELATED: FMIA Divisional – Tales Of Outsmarting, Outplaying, And Outbuilding The Other Guys

NFL Super Bowl History:

RELATED: What to know about Super Bowl 2023 – Date, location, halftime performance info, and much more


 Follow along with ProFootballTalk for the latest news, storylines, and updates surrounding the 2023 NFL Playoffs, and be sure to subscribe to NFLonNBC on YouTube!

What NFL games are on today? TV, kickoff, live stream for today’s AFC, NFC Championship games

NFL: AUG 21 Preseason - Bills at Bears
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The 2023 NFL Playoff action continues this weekend with two Conference Championship games this afternoon. The action kicks off at 3:00 p.m. ET as Brock Purdy and the San Francisco 49ers will make the trek to Lincoln Financial Field to take on Jalen Hurts and the Philadelphia Eagles. Then at 6:30 PM ET Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals will go head-to-head with Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.

See below for additional information on how to watch/live stream today’s games as well as the latest NFL playoff scores, schedules, and bracket.

RELATED: 2023 NFL Playoffs AFC, NFC Championship Round Schedule – Dates, start times, how to watch/live stream info for Sunday’s games

What NFL games are on today?

Sunday, January 29

NFC Championship Game:

San Francisco 49ers vs Philadelphia Eagles – 3:00 p.m. ET on Fox

  • Where: Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

RELATED: 2023 NFL Playoffs – What to know about SF QB Brock Purdy Ahead of NFC Championship game

AFC Championship Game:

Cincinnati Bengals vs Kansas City Chiefs – 6:30 p.m. ET on CBS

  • Where: Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri

NFL Super Bowl History:

RELATED: FMIA Divisional – Tales Of Outsmarting, Outplaying, And Outbuilding The Other Guys


When is Super Bowl LVII?

  • Date: Sunday, February 12
  • Time: 6:30 p.m. ET
  • TV Network: Fox

2023 NFL Playoff Bracket:


2023 NFL Playoff Scores:

Wild Card Weekend Scores and Recap:

Seahawks (7) vs 49ers (2)

Chargers (5) vs Jaguars (4)

Dolphins (7) vs Bills (2) 

Giants (6) vs Vikings (3) 

Ravens (6) vs Bengals (3) 

Cowboys (5) vs Buccaneers (4) 

2023 Divisional Round Scores and Recap:

Jaguars (4) vs Chiefs (1)

Giants (6) vs Eagles (1)

Bengals (3) vs Bills (2

Cowboys (5) vs 49ers (2)

RELATED: See the 2022 NFL Sunday Night Football schedule here

 Follow along with ProFootballTalk for the latest news, storylines, and updates surrounding the 2023 NFL Playoffs, and be