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Eagles-Giants Preview: Battle in the NFC Least
When the 1-3 Philadelphia Eagles visit the 0-4 New York Giants on Sunday, it will be a matchup of two terrible football teams. Both fanbases figure that their team will get a win simply because the other team stinks. Sadly, I'm left wondering whether or not Donovan McNabb remembers that there can be ties in football because neither of these teams are good enough to win this game.
A win would be seen as a season-saver to both teams since the Cowboys lead the pathetic NFC East with only a 2-2 record. Of course, I'm not sure either of these teams could beat another decent team. The Eagles have the worst defense in the entire NFL, but the Giants offense, which has been outscored 69-7 in their last two games, can't score or stop turning the ball over. Plus, neither team can protect their quarterback (14 sacks allowed). Let's take a look at the matchup.
Eagles Offense Versus Giants Defense
The Eagles are second only to the Broncos in total yardage, but they can't seem to convert all those yards into points (12th in NFL). They are only 27th in red zone production (41.7 percent) thanks to the fact that Michael Vick has completed only three red zone passes in four games. Part of that is the fact that the Eagles receivers aren't great. DeSean Jackson has only two red zone receptions in each of the last two years and he's supposed to be the No.1 receiver. Some of that blame may fall on Vick since he is prone to turnovers, but his receivers are not getting the job done this season. Jackson has just five catches for 96 yards in the last two games now that defenses are playing man coverage on him with a safety over the top. The Giants defensive backs aren't great, but they aren't terrible. Each one of them (LCB Corey Webster, RCB Prince Amukamara, FS Ryan Mundy and SS Antrel Rolle) has one interception this season. Luckily for them, Riley Cooper, Jason Avant and Brent Celek have combined for just just 27 receptions this season.
Although the Eagles offensive line has had a hard time protecting Vick this season (14 sacks allowed), they may catch a break this week since the once fearsome Giants defensive front is tied for last in the NFL with four sacks. Jason Pierre-Paul is coming off offseason surgery and Osi Umenyoira is now with Atlanta. Unfortunately for the G-Men, it appears that Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwnuka have lost a step. Of course, with how poorly the Eagles have pass protected this season, the Giants may just double or triple their sack output on Sunday. Lane Johnson has looked like a rookie and Jason Peters has been surprisingly beatable so far this season.
With that in mind, expect Chip Kelly to give the Giants defense a heavy doe of the running game, led by the NFL's leading rusher, LeSean McCoy (468 yards). The Eagles have the No. 1 ranked rushing offense in the NFL and the Giants are a lowly 28th defending the run. Of course, opponents have been playing a lot of nickel defense against the Eagles spread formations, which gives McCoy more room for his ankle-breaking cutbacks. The Giants may decide to concentrate on stopping McCoy and gamble that their defensive backs can neutralize the Eagles sub-par receivers. If that happens, it could be a long day for Vick and the Eagles.
Who Turns the Ball Over the Most?
Giants Offense versus Eagles Defense
On the other side of the ball, Giants quarterback Eli Manning isn't playing like a guy with two Super Bowl rings. Manning leads the NFL with nine interceptions in four games and if you add in his two lost fumbles, it ties him with the Jets' Geno Smith for the most turnovers in the league. Part of that is due to poor pass protection (14 sacks), but Manning has thrown seven of those interceptions without any pressure on him. He simply isn't playing well. The only silver lining there is that Manning has thrown only two interceptions in the last two games and the Eagles haven't picked off a pass since Cary Williams intercepted RG3 in Week 1. Actually, the Eagles haven't forced a single turnover in the last 10 quarters. That may change this week against a Giants team that leads the NFL with 16 turnovers.
I mentioned the Giants poor offensive line as a big issue for New York, but they will be getting back veteran guard Dave Diehl back for this game. That should be a stabilizing presence on a line that isn't playing well. LT Will Beatty is lucky that he only has to block Trent Cole, who doesn't have a sack this season. On the other side, rookie Justin Pugh might have to deal with Connor Barwin regularly. Barwin normally drops into coverage, but the Eagles need to get pressure on Manning. If they let Manning get comfortable on the pocket, he does have some weapons to throw the ball to.
The biggest weapon on the Giants is receiver Victor Cruz. Cruz is coming off a 10 catch 164 yard performance with a TD last week against the Chiefs. He is third in the NFL, with 425 receiving yards and is tied for third with four TDs. He already has TDs of 69 and 70 yards, so expect the Eagles to keep a safety over the top on him all game. Unfortunately, the Eagles pass defense is ranked 31st in the NFL due to horrific safety play. Patrick Chung is still hurt so rookie Earl Wolff will start opposite Nate Allen. None of them can cover Cruz. Cruz plays both outside and in the slot, so Brandon Boykin may be matched up on him quite a bit in this game. The other Giants receivers aren't having big years, but Hakeem Nicks and Rueben Randle are talented and tight end Brandon Myers should have no trouble getting open against the middle of the Eagles porous pass defense.
The Giants rushing attack has been almost non-existent this season. They rank 30th in the NFL, but some of that is due to the team being behind most of the time and only averaging 17.5 rushing attempts a game. David Wilson was benched in Week 1 after two fumbles, but he has looked better in recent weeks. Of course, better is relative when Wilson only has 38 carries for 130 yards (3.4 average) and just two receptions for 8 yards. They should test the Eagles' 26th ranked run defense, if for no other reason than to keep the Eagles suspect defense guessing.
Not So Special Teams
Both teams are having issues with their special teams. The Eagles allowed a kickoff return TD and had a punt block returned for a TD last week. Meanwhile, the Giants have given up two TDs on punt returns already this season. Neither team has a good return game and neither kicker is producing. Alex Henery has missed a field goal in each of the Eagles' last three games and the Giants' Josh Brown has missed his last two field goal attempts.
Tom Coughlin has two Super Bowl rings and he is a master at turning his team's season around. He may not have nearly as much talent to work with on this particular team, but he knows how to win in the NFL when the pressure is on. Conversely, Chip Kelly is a rookie head coach in the NFL, going into only his fifth game. His inexperience has proven costly in the first four games. Kelly is trying to make changes on both sides of the ball and he simply doesn't have the personnel to get it done yet. He also has a defensive coordinator in Billy Davis, who has never proven himself to be even an adequate coordinator.
Both teams desperately need a win to salvage their seasons. It seem strange to say that a Week 5 game is a must-win situation, but that's exactly what this is. The NFC East is the worst division in the entire NFL and a 8-8 record could conceivably win it. But you need to win your division games and this is a critical one for both squads.
Neither team is particularly good and for the most part they are actually pretty bad. Neither team plays good defense and neither team can score. Against another, opponent there might be things that each team could take advantage of, but in this matchup it's more like bad against worse. I really have no idea who is going to win this game, so I'm going to let recent history be my guide.
The Eagles have won four of the last five games in New Jersey against the Giants and have won eight of the last ten games overall in this matchup.
Eagles 41- Giants 38