Eagles-Giants Preview: Back in Black
So the Eagles are taking a page out of Chip Kelly's playbook from his old Oregon teams and wearing all black on Sunday night against the New York Giants. That might look cool, but it will have absolutely no effect on the outcome of this game.
The Giants come in riding a 3-game winning streak at 3-2 to face the division-leading Eagles (4-1). The Giants are 6-5 at Lincoln Financial Field, including a win last year when the teams split, but the Eagles are currently riding a 7-game home winning streak. Let's take a look at the matchup.
Eagles Offense versus Giants Defense
Did you know that Eagles quarterback Nick Foles has never started a game against the Giants? Foles came into the Week 5 game last season, when Michael Vick got hurt in the second quarter, and led four scoring drives in a 36-21 win in New Jersey. When the Giants visited Philly three weeks later, Foles missed the 15-7 loss due to a concussion. After his All Pro season last year, Foles is only 23rd in the league in QB rating (82.5), 26th in completion percentage (59.1) and 22nd in yards per attempt (6.8). You could blame some of that on the absence of Pro Bowl guard Evan Mathis and center Jason Kelce, but the truth of that matter is, Foles has only been sacked once in the last four games after being sacked five times in the opener. But, the Giants once vaunted pass rush has only accumulated 10 sacks so far this season. Plus, the Eagles are tied for first in the entire NFL in scoring (31.2 points per game), so how bad can their offense be?
Foles' problem is that he simply isn't hitting on the long passes when his receivers get open. He's only 1-for-16 on passes over 20 yards in the last two games, which is something he excelled at last season. Jeremy Maclin certainly isn't the problem. Maclin has a team-high 25 receptions for 429 yards (17.2 avg.) and 4 TDs. Riley Cooper has been inconsistent on the other side and for some reason the TEs haven't been involved as much in the passing game the last few weeks. This might be a good time for TE Zach Ertz to re-emerge. The Giants LBs are suspect and their safeties are overrated. Antrel Rolle is better at trash-talking than actually playing these days and ex-Eagles Quintin Demps was never that good. CB Prince Amukamara is apparently playing better after he consummated his wedding vows and since the Giants are winning, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is playing well. DRC has a well-earned reputation for quitting when things go south, but something tells me he'll be up to face his old team. The Giants have 8 interceptions on the season, but half of them came against Kirk Cousins in a blowout. The Eagles 9th ranked passing offense (265.8 ypg) needs to take advantage of the Giants 25th ranked pass defense (265.0 ypg). With slot corner Walter Thurmond out for the season, they just might be able to do so.
LeSean McCoy led the NFL in rushing last season, but his 81 yards last week against the Rams represented a season-high. His yards per carry dropped from 5.1 in 2013 to 2.9 this year, which helps explain the Eagles' 23rd ranked rushing offense (98.6 ypg). Darren Sproles is averaging 6.9 per carry, but that is only on 25 rushing attempts. He simply isn't big enough to take on a heavy rushing load. Getting those two involved in the screen game again, wouldn't be a bad idea though. The Giants are 10th against the run (99 ypg), but that's because nobody has run the ball on them more than 25 times since Week 2. The Eagles line looked better last week with the return of RT Lane Johnson, who teams with All Pro LT Jason Peters to help open holes. Expect the Giants to move DT Jonathan Hankins right over inexperienced center David Molk all game to try to disrupt the Eagles running game.
NFC East Standings
New York Giants
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Giants Offense Versus Eagles Defense
The Giants and quarterback Eli Manning are getting all sorts of accolades for their vast improvement in the last three games as they're learning a new West Coast offense. But the truth of the matter is, they have played horrible defenses the last three weeks. The Texans (26th) and Falcons (29th) are terrible and the Redskins (10th) were behind early so they couldn't use their pass rush to pressure Manning. That is something that the Eagles have actually done well the last two weeks, by getting 8 sacks. The rebuilt Giants line might not be better, but the new offense has Manning getting rid of the ball quicker to avoid sacks.
Manning's completion percentage (66.3) and QB rating (95.6) would be the highest of his career and he's on a pace to only throw 16 interceptions. I say only, because Eli has led the NFL in INTs three times. That's not exactly a statistic that Giants fans like pointed out, but it's the main reason Manning isn't an elite QB. His 176 INTs since he entered the league in 2004 are the most in the league over that span.
The hope for the Giants is that Manning has learned to get the ball into his own players' hands more often, since he has a few play-makers these days. The Giants are only 17th in passing (223.6 ypg), but they have been much better in their last three games. Manning has only been sacked three times over that span and last week rookie Odell Beckham made his debut with 4 catches for 44 yards and a TD. That is a nice weapon to add to starters Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle, especially when you consider that they will be matched up against the Eagles pathetic CBs, Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams. Those two are the main reason the Eagles are ranked a lowly 29th against the pass (274.2 ypg). The only bright spot is that since the Giants run so many three-receiver sets, Brandon Boykin will get plenty of playing time this week. He should see plenty of Cruz, who moves into the slot in those formations. The Giants have another receiving threat in TE Larry Donnell, but after scoring 3 TDs two weeks ago, he got shut out last week. Luckily for the Eagles, safety Malcolm Jenkins excels in coverage and has 3 INTs on the year. The Giants like to run Donnell right up the seam so he and Jenkins will be seeing a lot of each other on Sunday night.
The Giants offense likes to run between the tackles and that just might be where the Eagles run defense is most vulnerable. The Eagles are already without ILB Mychal Kendricks and now DeMeco Ryans is hobbling and might not play. That would leave deep reserves Casey Matthews and Emmanuel Acho as the starters in the middle. Expect the Giants to attack the Eagles 24th ranked run defense (132 ypg) right in the middle. Of course, the Giants are only the 15th ranked rushing offense (121 ypg) and they will be without Rashad Jennings, who sprained his MCL. His replacement is rookie Andre Williams, who had 65 yards on 20 carries last week after Jennings got hurt. The Giants are running the ball more than they have in recent years and have averaged 32.6 rushing attempts per game this season, which takes even more pressure off Manning and his error-prone ways.
The Eagles have the best special teams units in the entire NFL. They have four TDs, including one punt return, one kickoff return and two TDs off blocked punts. They are also doing a good job in coverage, even though punter Donnie Jones is only 23rd in net average. Rookie kicker Cody Parkey has been accurate on his field goals and consistently reaches the endzone with his kickoffs. On the other side, the Giants are 29th in punt coverage, while giving up a return TD to the Cardinals. Preston Parker lost a fumble on a kickoff return. And punter Steve Weatherford is 27th in net average. The only bright spot is that kicker Josh Brown has made 41 of his 45 FG attempts the last three seasons.
Eagles 2013 Week 5, 36-21 Win Over Giants
Chip Kelly is no longer being called a genius, as defenses seem to have figured out a thing or two to stop his fast-paced offense this season. He needs to find a way to get McCoy back on track, since his offense is predicated on solid running game. Tom Coughlin has won two Super Bowls. Need I say more?
The Eagles have the better record and they're at home, but the Giants come in as the hotter team. The Eagles offense doesn't seem to be clicking and their defense is ranked 28th overall, while giving up a league-leading 13 TD passes. The Giants looked lost trying to learn a new offense in the preseason and in their first two games, but seem to have found their way lately. The Eagles are banged up on the offensive line and at linebacker, but the Giants aren't exactly juggernauts themselves this season. These teams usually play each other close and I expect the same thing on Sunday night. The difference will be yet another Eli Manning interception and at least one big play by the Eagles special teams that will turn the game around.
Eagles 31 - Giants 27