I hope you all enjoyed and reveled in the victory over the Dallas Cowboys. It was a fun game and it’s always wonderful to see the Eagles beat those Cowboys. But it’s time for me to move on and set my sights on the New York Giants, another NFC East rivalry game.
The Giants are still an interesting team. I asked this question before the last face off: Who are they? Their record indicates that they are 9-4, just like the Eagles. The statistics on both offense and defense are impressive to say the least. They also have many flaws, which I pointed out in the last preview of the Giants. They turn the ball over at an astonishing rate. They have a susceptible secondary. But make no mistake, they are a very tough football team. As always, I am here to bring you the matchup position by position.
The Giants’ offensive line has given up a league low 13 sacks this season. That’s remarkable. They’ve given up the third least amount of quarterback hits with 41. Again, remarkable. This past weekend they got left tackle David Diehl back and it’s entirely possible they’ll get center Shaun O’Hara back this coming weekend against the Eagles. The Eagles’ defensive line has been struggling in getting after the quarterback for the past few weeks, however they have been getting penetration and bearing down on the run. The Eagles have also lost a key member of the defensive line in defensive end Brandon Graham, who is done for the season with a torn ACL. While Graham wasn’t putting up the most impressive statistics, he was getting pressure from the right side and was freeing up defensive tackle Mike Patterson. The good news is that Juqua Parker returned last week and had himself a solid game against the Cowboys. However, as it stands, the Giants’ offensive line very well might be the best in the NFL and they’re only getting healthier. The edge here easily goes to New York.
Behind the line stands a rushing attack that is starting to come into its own. The Giants’ two leading rushers, Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw, both averaged over 8 yards per carry against the Vikings. This is nothing short of a formidable rushing attack. The Eagles did a very good job of shutting down the run against the Cowboys, allowing their running backs only 57 yards. The Eagles allowed another 53 yards to John Kitna and Miles Austin, but those types of rushes aren’t common for the Giants. No, the Giants tend to just come at you with their running backs and they do so very successfully. In the previous matchup, the Eagles only allowed the Giants to rush for a grand total of 61 yards and that includes Eli Manning on broken plays. The Eagles’ defense may be weak against the pass but they are very stout against the rush and they seem to have the Giants’ number when it comes to shutting down the run.
The Giants’ Kevin Boss caught a beautiful touchdown against the Vikings, as he tallied 23 yards and a score on 4 catches. A few weeks ago he posted 2 catches for 22 yards against the Eagles. Last week, the Eagles struggled mightily with Jason Witten, who caught 7 passes for 69 yards and 2 touchdowns. However, Boss is no Witten. Boss is a good tight end, but the Eagles have been able to take care of him in the past. Now, much of Witten’s success last week was a direct result of Ernie Sims having what might have been his worst game of the season. He was over-persuing, leaving assignments, and rarely in the right spot. That has not been the case for most of the season and I expect Sims to return to form this weekend. However, the Eagles will be without middle linebacker Stewart Bradley, who left the game last weekend with a nasty elbow injury. In Bradley’s place will likely be rookie Jamar Cheney, who had a solid game against Dallas. However, you know that the Giants will build an offensive game plan that will test Chaney early and often. The rookie faces a tough test.
In the previous matchup, the Eagles caught a break when it came to the Giants’ receivers and they seem to be doing so again in multiple ways. By all accounts the Eagles will finally be getting cornerback Asante Samuel back and the Giants will be without wideouts Steve Smith. Last week they welcomed back their number one receiver in Hakeem Nicks and he instantly made his presence felt by putting up 7 catches for 96 yards. Nicks is unquestionably very dangerous, but if Asante Samuel plays, I give the complete edge to the Eagles. The Eagles’ makeshift defensive back core did a good job of keeping the Cowboys’ explosive passing game under wraps for most of the game and now they appear to be getting back one of the best corners in the league. That bodes well for Philly.
Eli Manning has thrown 24 touchdown passes this season, however only 3 of them have come since he last faced Philadelphia. He also still leads the NFL in interceptions (19). He added 2 more to his total against the Vikings, both coming from awful decisions. Eli has never impressed me as a player and I don’t know that he ever will. Since 2007, he has an average quarterback rating of 73.6 and only eclipsed a rating of 100 once against the Eagles. Last week I mentioned how Jason Witten has always given the Eagles headaches. The Eagles have always given Eli Manning headaches and I think that trend will continue. Manning has yet to figure out this Eagles’ defense and I see no reason for that to change, especially with the likely return of Asante Samuel, who leads the league in interceptions despite missing four games this season.
Let’s flip sides now. Looking at the Giants’ defense is a far different story. The Giants were the team that figured out how to “slow down” Michael Vick and have had a very good season as a whole on defense. In the past two weeks, they’ve given up one touchdown and have only surrendered 10 total points. Granted, they’ve also faced two of the more inept offenses in the league (Minnesota and Washington), but one cannot take away the fact that the Giants defense is tough. Let’s take a look at how they match up with the Eagles offense.
The Eagles’ offense should be getting Winston Justice back, thank goodness. King Dunlap was awful in pass protection against the Cowboys, but we should be used to that by now. The line has been poor all season in pass protection, evidenced by the fact that they’ve given up 35 sacks and 68 quarterback hits. The Giants’ defense leads the league in sacks with 39, and you can be sure that they have their sights set on getting after Vick again. The Giants were able to abuse the Eagles’ offensive line in the previous meeting and I see no reason for that to change. The Giants’ leading defensive end Justin Tuck has a rib injury, but I do not expect it to keep him out of the game.
Ladies and gentlemen, give it up for LeSean McCoy. This guy is a stud in the making. Peter King of Sports Illustrated summed up the significance of his production perfectly in his Monday Morning Quarterback column this week, which can be viewed here. McCoy is tearing it up, but what’s most important is that he is making the plays when the Eagles absolutely need him to. He tends to have quiet first halves but then erupts on the defense in the second half. The Giants’ defense has been solid against the run all season, only allowing an average 95.2 yards per game on the ground. The Eagles rushing attack, led by McCoy, averages 146.1 yards per game on the ground. In the last meeting, the Eagles were able to rush for a total of 148 yards while McCoy earned 111 of those yards. One of McCoy’s strengths is his ability to catch the ball and work the screen to perfection. The Giants are very tough against the screen and have done a good job of shutting down running backs in the passing game.
Brent Celek was targeted once all game from what I saw. Once. His stats? 0 catches. He is purely a blocker at this point, with the occasional game where he’ll make a few grabs and sometimes score. That will remain the case as long as the Eagles offensive line is as poor in pass protection as it currently is. This part of the preview is truly getting tedious to write. I expect more of the same from Celek. The Giants kept Celek from getting a single reception in their previous meeting. I’m sure he’ll have a catch or two, but I would be very surprised to see him earn any more than that.
I have breaking news for you, my dear readers: DeSean Jackson is fast. Very fast. In related news: The earth is round. His 4 catches for 210 yards was, well, record breaking. No one in league history had ever put up that amount of yardage on so few receptions. The Giants were eaten alive by the Eagles’ wide receivers during the last game, and were it not for a few uncharacteristic dropped passes, they would’ve gotten completely blown out in Philly. I do not expect that to happen again. The Giants have a fantastic pass rush which gets to quarterbacks and that makes their secondary look good. They will get to Vick, but as has been proven all season, just getting to Vick isn’t enough. He will deliver the ball to his weapons. I expect Jeremy Maclin to be the big guy this weekend. He has the Giants’ number and I think New York will focus a ton of coverage on Jackson.
As I mentioned, getting to Vick isn’t enough. Teams have been getting to Vick all season. The offensive line is awful when it comes to pass protection. However, despite this, Vick is still putting up numbers like nothing we’ve seen in his career. People said that the Giants shut Vick down in their previous meeting, yet he posted 258 yards and rushed for a TD. He also threw what should’ve been 3 touchdown passes. Vick was slowed down to a point, but he still had success. The Giants’ defense still poses a tough challenge, but it’s nothing Vick can’t overcome. The Giants have picked off 13 passes for the season with 4 coming since these teams last faced off. Vick has done a good job for the most part in taking care of the ball though he did make an absolutely awful throw last week that led to an interception, and his second interception was Jeremy Maclin’s fault. I expect Vick to post numbers similar to what he posted in the previous meeting, this time with a few touchdown throws because the receivers will not have a contagious case of the “dropsies.”
The Eagles’ kicking and punting units have been fantastic this year, and ever since Colt Anderson was added in the middle of the season, the coverage units have gotten much better. However, the return units are a different matter. There is no spark, even with DeSean Jackson fielding punts. The Giants are basically the exact same way. They have solid coverage units, but no spark in the return game.
I love Andy Reid in December. His winning percentage in the winter months is among the best in NFL history. This is when he gets his team to shine. I also have a world of respect for Tom Coughlin. I believe he is an excellent coach and motivator. However, as the past 5 games between these teams have suggested, Reid has Coughlin’s number. I don’t know why that is, but Reid has been outsmarting Coughlin for a while now and until I see otherwise, I don’t know that it will change.
HOW I SEE IT:
This is going to be a fantastic game. The NFC East games almost always are, but right now the Eagles have the Giants’ number. The Giants lost some key offense members in their win over the Vikings and that will render their offense one dimensional. Their defense will create some headaches for the Eagles, but as the game winds down Philly will have created the necessary turnovers and will have taken care of the New York suspect secondary to ensure an NFC East division championship.