Eagles-Giants Preview: A Turning Point for Two Franchises?
The Philadelphia Eagles travel to the swamps of New Jersey to play the Giants on Sunday in a matchup of teams seemingly going in opposite directions, even thought the teams have matching 4-3 records.
The Giants are trying to cling to the past with a QB who is clearly at the end of his overrated career. Meanwhile, the Eagles are starting a rookie QB, who they mortgaged the future to get in the draft. The Giants are on the upswing lately, winning their last 2 games after losing 3 straight. The Eagles have lost 3 of their last 4 games, after a 3-0 start to the season. And while both teams have plenty of new faces, the Eagles have won the last four meetings between the two teams and 8 of the last 9, including the playoffs. Let's take a look at the matchups.
Eagles Offense Versus Giants Defense
The Eagles offense is just not very good. They are ranked 28th in total offense (317.7 yards per game) and most of that is due to a passing attack that is ranked 29th (208.3 ypg). Rookie QB Carson Wentz completed 74.4 % of his passes last week, but averaged just 4.7 yards per attempt. It's promising that he didn't turn the ball over, but the combination of him not taking chances downfield and play-calling that never calls for deep throws is making it far too easy for defenses to bring their safeties up to stop the run and the short passing game. Wentz needs to take more chances downfield to open up the rest of the offense.
The problem with that is that the Eagles receivers are terrible. Jordan Matthews is the only receiving threat on the team and he has trouble actually catching the football half the time. Dorial Green-Beckham has all the physical ability in the world, but it hasn't translated into production in the NFL. The good news is that the Eagles cut useless WR Josh Huff after his arrest for getting caught speeding with weed and a gun with hollow-tip bullets in the car. He might be going to jail eventually, but at least he can go lose games in San Francisco with Chipper now. Good riddance. The Giants pass defense is ranked 22nd (267.4) even though they spent a considerable amount of money to revamp the defense in the offseason. Janoris Jenkins was signed as a free agent and Eli Apple was drafted 10th overall to upgrade the CBs. They join Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to form a group that really should be better than they are. Of course, they'll look good against the Eagles this week. The wild-card here is TE Zach Ertz, who had 9 catches for 152 yards the last time these teams met. Too bad Ertz has all of 15 catches for 150 yards this entire season, so far.
The Eagles are slightly better running the football, ranked 17th (109.4 ypg), but they seem to have changed the leader of their RB-by-committee approach. Last week, leading rusher Ryan Mathews had all of 4 carries, while Darren Sproles had 15 carries for 86 yards. I would expect it to go back to more of a 50-50 split this week against a Giants run defense that is ranked 10th against the run (93.6), but expect Sproles to end up with more yards and better yards-per-carry than Mathews. The Giants run defense is led by giant run-stopping DTs Jonathan Hankins and Damon Harrison. Eagles center Jason Kelce is going to be completely over-matched again and Stefen Wisniewski is starting in place of injured Allan Barbre. Sproles should also have some luck in the passing game, as the Giants LBs are not good in coverage.
The Giants gave DE Olivier Vernon a boatload of money in free agency and has delivered all of one sack. LT Jason Peters shouldn't have any trouble with him on Sunday. Normally DE Jason Pierre-Paul against a rookie RT making his 3rd NFL start would be a massive mismatch, but JPP is a shadow of his former self since blowing off a few fingers in a fireworks accident. The Giants are 31st in the NFL in sacks, with only 9 and safety Landon Collins leads the team with 2. Even without two starters, the Eagles line shouldn't have any trouble keeping a clean pocket for Wentz on Sunday.
Giants Offense Versus Eagles Defense
I know Eli Manning has two Super Bowl rings, but anybody who isn't a blind Giants fan will admit that they won because of their defense, not Manning. Manning is 22nd in the NFL in passer rating (87.3) and has thrown only 8 TDs with 6 INTs. Yes, he will probably finish with more than 4,000 yards passing this season, but that says more about the sad state of the Giants running game than it does about Eli as a passer. The Giants are 6th in passing (275 ypg), but only 26th in scoring (19 ppg). It's harder to pass in the redzone when the other team doesn't respect the run. The Eagles are 8th overall on defense (328.9 ypg), but excel against the pass, ranked 5th (214.1 ypg). They are also the 4th best redzone defense, which helps explain their No. 4 ranking in points against (16 ppg).
Manning will be getting back his best weapon this week in Odell Beckham Jr. As long as Beckham doesn't fight, propose or whatever with a field goal kicking net on the sideline this week, he is going to pose a problem for the Eagles CBs. Nolan Carroll did a decent job on Dallas WR Dez Bryant last week, but gave up a 22-yard TD late in the 4th quarter that tied the game. Leodis McKelvin was brought in as a free agent, but hasn't performed all that well in the rare instances he is actually healthy and on the field. And now safety Malcolm Jenkins has to play the slot in the nickel package. Beckham, Sterling Shepard and Victor Curz are going to be tough to handle.
Odell Beckham Jr. versus the kicking net
The Giants have the worst rushing attack in the entire NFL, gaining only 70.3 ypg. The Eagles run defense is ranked 20th (114.7 ypg), but with the exception of giving up 230 yards rushing to Washington, they haven't been all that bad. Rashad Jennings is the lead back for the Giants, but he's averaging only 1.8 yards per carry in the last two games, after he missed the previous 3 games with a thumb injury. The Giants average just 21 rushes per game, which is the 3rd lowest percentage in the NFL. The Giants will have to at least try to run the ball against the Eagles, but I don't expect it to generate many yards.
That will be bad news for the Giants offensive line. The Giants offensive line is decent enough, but without the threat of a running game, the Eagles defensive line is going to pin their ears back and get after Manning. The Eagles already run the stupid Wide-9 and go after the QB on every snap anyway, so I would expect Manning to be sacked repeatedly. The Eagles are second in the NFL in sacks, with 22, and they might take over first place after Sunday. DE Brandon Graham is going to destroy RT Bobby Hart, who is replacing the injured Marshall Newhouse. Hart is making only his 6th NFL start and Graham is having the best year of his career. I would also expect DT Fletcher Cox to have a big game, especially if DT Benie Logan plays.
What stupid thing will Odell Beckham Jr. do on Sunday?
The Eagles special teams are back to being the best in the NFL. Sure they just cut kick returner Josh Huff, but Wendell Smallwood also has a kick return TD this season. As a matter of fact, since Huff is technically not on an NFL roster right now, Smallwood is the only player in the NFL with a KO return TD in the NFL this season. The Eagles lead the NFL with a kickoff return average of 37.3. They also lead the NFL in both average starting position after kickoff (30.6) and opponent average starting field position after kickoff. Yes, Giants returner Dwayne Harris is dangerous, but he shouldn't have much room to run on Sunday. Sproles is always a threat to take one to the house and his averaging 10.1 yards per return. Eagles kicker Caleb Sturgis has hit 17 in a row, including a 55-yarder. And after the atrocity that was kicker Josh Brown, the Giants signed former Bears kicker Robbie Gould who made his only FG attempt of the season last week in his first game with the Giants
Doug Pederson lost the game for the Eagles lat week in Dallas with his horrible play-calling. Period. He needs to learn from his mistakes or the Eagles will be losing a lot more games than they win for however long he is the head coach. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz got his side of the ball back in order since the Redskins debacle, so at least they have that going for them. Ben McAdoo is in his first year as the head coach of the Giants after being the offensive coordinator for Tom Coughlin. I'm going to miss seeing Coughlin get all red-faced every time the Giants blew a game against the Eagles. Good times. Good times. And former Eagles coach Steve Spagnuolo leads the Giants bend-but-don't-break defense.
NFC East Standings
New York Giants
The Eagles have owned the Giants in recent years, but the Eagles are a completely different team than they have been in recent years, so that may not be relevant. The teams are basically opposites of each other. The Eagle have a good defense and pedestrian offense, while the Giants have a lot of weapons on offense and struggle defensively. The key here is that I don't think the Giants will be able to protect the immobile Manning without a running game to slow down the Eagles pass rush. And history tells us that Eli does not play well when he gets pressured. I'm betting that Wentz is the best QB on the field at MetLife Stadium on Sunday and that could signal a turning point for the two franchises.
Eagles 23 - Giants 20