Coming off a divisional match-up last week, the Eagles will jump right into another one as they take on the Giants for the second time this season. The Eagles won the first match-up 27-17 and will look to complete the series sweep on Sunday.
Both teams will enter the game with a record of 9-4, and both teams will look to enter double digits in the win column as well as take the outright lead in the division. Entering the game, both teams will be banged up and will look for guys to step up and make plays for them.
In the end, the winner will be the division leader and be in great position for the playoffs. The loser will still be in playoff contention, but it’s a position they’d rather not be in.
Today, I look at three key match-ups that will have a big effect on the outcome of the game.
1. Eagles Run Defense vs. Giants Run Offense
In their win against the Vikings, Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw ran the ball a combined 25 times for 219 yards and both scored touchdowns. Each running back went over 100 yards on the day. Jacobs averaged 8.3 yards per carry, while Bradshaw averaged 9.4.
These numbers are extremely impressive. They absolutely gashed the Vikings defense. On Sunday against the Eagles, the duo will look to do the exact same thing.
In the match-up earlier this season, the Eagles held Bradshaw to 29 yards on 12 carries and gave up 10 yards to Jacobs on 5 carries. The Eagles will look to hold the Giants to similar numbers this week, but they will have to do so without starting middle linebacker Stewart Bradley. Bradley suffered a dislocated elbow in the win over the Cowboys and will miss the remainder of the regular season.
In Bradley’s absence, rookie Jamar Chaney stepped into the middle linebacker position and is the probable starter for this weeks game. Chaney did a pretty good job in run coverage in the time he saw against the Cowboys.
The Eagles held the Cowboys to 110 yards rushing. This number is a bit deceiving as Miles Austin had a 26 yard rush and quarterback Jon Kitna had three runs for 27 yards. Running backs Felix Jones and Tashard Choice were held to a total of 57 yards.
With the current injuries to their receivers and the recent success running the football, the Giants will look to establish their run game early. The Eagles need to defend the run like they did in their first match-up and not let the Giants running backs break big plays like they did against the Vikings.
2. Eagles Offensive Tackles vs. Giants Defensive Ends
The Eagles didn’t do a great job of protecting quarterback Michael Vick last week. Vick was sacked twice and saw a lot of pressure throughout the game.
This week, the Eagles will see a very talented Giants defense who is led by two great pass rushers, Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck.
In the first match-up, the Giants sacked Vick three times. Tuck recorded all three sacks.
Jason Peters has performed well this year, and I expect him to do a good job in protecting Vick again on Sunday. However, there is much more uncertainty on the opposite side of Peters.
Winston Justice missed last weeks game against the Cowboys, and King Dunlap proved to be an obvious downgrade. At this point, it’s unknown whether or not Justice will be able to play this week against the Giants, but he’s obviously the guy you want to see out there.
Regardless of who starts, I’d like to see the Eagles provide a lot of help on the Giants explosive defensive ends. This could be anything from tight ends chipping off the line or just not even releasing and staying in for a double-team. The tight end position hasn’t been used much as a threat through the air this season. The Eagles have enough talent with their wide receivers to get away with a lack in production from the tight end.
Vick has taken too many hits as of late, and I’d like to see the Eagles do a better job of protecting him in the pocket.
3. Eagles Receivers vs. Giants Secondary
When the Eagles and Giants first met this season, the Giants didn’t give up any home-run plays to the Eagles. However, they didn’t do a great job in shutting down the Eagles receivers. Jeremy Maclin recorded nine receptions for 120 yards, DeSean Jackson recorded five receptions for 50 yards, and Jason Avant recorded two receptions for 39 yards.
The Eagles failed to record a touchdown through the air in this game, but had many opportunities. Each receiver mentioned above had a legitimate opportunity for a touchdown reception, but all three failed to keep their hands on the ball.
Regardless, the Eagles had success in getting the ball to their receivers against the Giants and will look to do so again this Sunday.
Coming off a hot game last week, the Eagles will look to get Jackson involved early. He proved again that he can take the ball the distance at any time, as he ripped of a 91 yard touchdown on a simple reception against the Cowboys.
The Giants will focus on taking away the big play over the top, but the Eagles can still spring a big play on them from underneath.
The group of wide receivers the Eagles have are just about impossible to shut down. If Vick can consistently get them the ball, they should be able to make the Giants pay all game.