This is the matchup we’ve all been waiting for. The Eagles finally get a shot at a legitimate opponent since their Week Two game against the Saints. Both teams have looked shaky in their past couple outings but are battling for the top spot of the NFC East. You can see statistically that the Giants are a lot better than some of the teams the Eagles have faced in their last couple games. However, the Giants are coming off two straight losses and have show everyone that they are beatable.
Here’s some quick team stats and league rankings:
Points per game: 27.9 (6th)
Yards per game: 391.3 (6th)
Pass yards per game: 249.4 (11th)
Rush yards per game: 141.9 (5th)
Points per game: 20.4 (16th)
Yards per game: 262 (1st)
Pass yards per game: 158.4 (2nd)
Rush yards per game: 103.6 (15th)
Eli Manning – After getting his huge contract, the stakes have never been higher for Manning. He played well earlier in the season posting a quarterback rating of over 100 in four straight games before being brought back down to reality in his previous two games. Manning has turned the ball over five times in his last two games and shown that if you get in his face, he is going to make mistakes. I look for the Eagles to bring pressure on him early and often and try not to let him establish any flow. He has shown in the past that once he gets disrupted, he takes a while to get back on track.
Running backs – After having a three-headed monster last year, the Giants are down to just thunder and lightning with Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw. The two can be a vicious combination if you let them get going but the Eagles run defense has been pretty stout so far this year. Unlike the Eagles, the Giants have a pretty balanced attack so you will see your fair share of Jacobs on Sunday. Bradshaw is the more explosive back who gets a lot of draw plays and screens and can be very effective in the open field.
Wide Receivers – This was the biggest question mark for the team coming into the season but their young group of receivers has surely stepped up. Steve Smith and Mario Manningham have both shown that they are stellar talents and ready to be stars in the NFL. Smith is the kind of guys that can just catch balls all day and keep picking up first downs while Manningham has that big play threat and can beat you with his speed. Domenik Hixon is another very talented wide receiver in the group and the rookie Hakeem Nicks has already found the end zone his fair share of times this season. The Eagles secondary will have their hands full but hopefully the front seven can get pressure on Eli to force him to make mistakes.
Kevin Boss – He may be the least talented tight end in the NFC East but with the problems the Eagles have covering tight ends he could end up looking like a star on Sunday. Boss has put up very minimal numbers so far this season but I’m sure he’s aware of the production other tight ends are having against the Birds. Just because he isn’t as flashy as some of the other tight ends the Eagles have seen this season does not mean they don’t have to pay attention to him.
Osi Umenyiora – He will be lining up across from Jason Peters and trying to make his life a living hell. Umenyiora is one of the more talented defensive ends in football and if you ask anyone around the league, they will say the same thing. With only three sacks so far this season, you know he’s looking to get going and finally put up some numbers. The Eagles offensive line hasn’t done all that great with protection this year so I hope to see them use a tight end or running back to help out Peters every once in a while.
Justin Tuck – Tuck is just as good as Umenyiora and quickly made Giants fans forget that Michael Strahan was no longer on the team. He is an athletic freak and can beat you in a bunch of different ways. Winston Justice will be asked to take care of him and I hope he gets the same type of help Peters should get in taking care of Tuck. Justice should be carrying a chip on his shoulder since his last outing against the Giants was the legendary “revolving door” performance.
Antonio Pierce – He lines up in the middle for the Giants and is the captain of the defense. In the past few seasons, he has really hit his prime and showed he is a solid middle linebacker in this league. You’ll see him all over the field on Sunday and if the Eagles want to establish a running game, they will need to make sure they know where he is on the field.
Secondary – Losing Aaron Ross before the season for the Giants was a lot like us losing Stewart Bradley. Their secondary can be very suspect and with the threats we have at receiver, I expect to see at least one big play on Sunday. There is a reason you always hear about the Giants front seven and never their secondary. They are a very beatable group and our line will need to provide Donovan McNabb time so he can sit back and pick them apart.
On special teams, Hixon and Bradshaw are their primary return man and can be explosive if given the opportunity. The Eagles coverage units have played pretty well this year and that trend will need to continue. In a game like Sunday’s could be, a big play on special teams could be a deciding factor.
This is a huge game for the Eagles and could put them right where they want to be with a win. I expect this to be a battle, and the Eagles really need to come out and play their best football. This is one of those games you look for as soon as the schedule comes out and winning this football game could put the Eagles right on the roll they need to be on.