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Eagles-Giants Preview: London Calling
The big story of this meaningless Week 17 matchup between the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants is that the loser of the game gets to play the Rams in Week 7 of the 2016 NFL season in London, England. While that might not sound like a good thing, consider that the winner of the game would finish in 2nd place in the NFC East and instead of facing the Rams in London, would have to travel to Seattle to take on the Seahawks, who are 28-4 at home over the last four years. If that isn't enough incentive to lose for two teams that have already been eliminated from the playoffs, then how about the fact that the loser could draft as high as 8th in the 2016 NFL Draft, while the winner could drop as low as 16-18.
These two teams really have nothing to play for and it appears that half the players on both teams have already quit on the season. In spite of that, both teams claim they will try to win and will not use the opportunity to see what their young players can do in a game. So stupid. The Eagles won the first matchup this season, 27-7 in Philly, that wasn't even as close as that score might indicate. These teams have two of the absolute worst defenses in the NFL, so at least there might be some offensive fireworks to keep the fans entertained.
With that in mind, let's take a look at the matchups.....................
What? Is there some other story line for this game that I'm missing? Hmmmm. Well, maybe I'll think of it while we go through the matchups.
Eagles Offense Versus Giants Defense
The Giants have the worst defense in the entire NFL overall and against the pass. As a matter of fact, the Giants pass defense is so bad, they could possibly set a record in this game. If they allow 329 yards passing, they will go down as the worst pass defense in the entire history of the NFL. And in a funny coincidence, Eagles QB Sam Bradford has averaged 329 yards in his last three games. Bradford should be able to pad his stats in this game, before heading into free agency after the season. Bradford is coming off one of his best games as an Eagle, throwing for a career-high 380 yards on 37-of-56 passing with 1 TD in the blowout loss to the Redskins that ended the Eagles season. Bradford has actually looked good the second half of the season as he has become more comfortable in the offense and more comfortable stepping into his throws after missing the last two seasons with ACL injuries.
The Eagles have zero receiving threats on the outside, which is good news for CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie who Eagles fans know has a history of quitting on his team. What the Eagles do have is decent inside threats in WR Jordan Matthews, who leads the Eagles with 78 receptions for 943 yards and TE Zach Ertz, who caught 13 passes for a season-high 122 yards last week. The Giants pass defense, ranked 32nd (297.9 ypg) won't have an answer for either one of them. The other issue for the Giants pass defense is their LBs, who are literally all injured. The Giants will now be starting two guys name Jasper Brinkley and Jonathan Casillas. Unless you are a die-hard Giants fan, I'm sure you've never heard of either of those stiffs. They will spend much of Sunday getting abused by the Eagles RBs catching passes out of the backfield. Darren Sproles has the best reputation as a pass-catching RB for the Eagles, but I expect DeMarco Murray to get his fair share of chances too.
Speaking of Murray, his season can't be considered anything but a complete bust. A year after leading the NFL with 1,845 yards rushing for the Cowboys, Murray has only 633 yards (3.5 ypc) this season. He's also no longer the starter. Of course, his only 100-yard rushing performance of the season came against this porous Giants run defense, ranked 25th (121.5 ypg). Maybe Murray will get more chances than usual to run the ball this week. Or maybe the Eagles will stick with new starter, Ryan Mathews, who is averaging 5.2 yards per carry. I'm guessing that deep sub Kenjon Barner won't even dress for this game, but I'm not quite sure why I think that. The Eagles haven't had much luck running the ball all season (ranked 15th - 108.2 ypg), but they should be able to stay in this game long enough to not have to abandon the run game.
The Eagles offensive line is a joke. LT Jason Peters is a Pro Bowler on reputation alone and actually took himself out of the game last week because he didn't want to get hurt in a game he didn't think he team could win. Honestly I hope he doesn't even try to play in this game. The guards are horrible and the line as a whole can't open running lanes for the RBs and have given up 36 sacks. Luckily for the Eagles, the Giants defensive line is old and not very talented. When "Three Finger Discount" Jason Pierre-Paul is your best pass rusher, you've got problems. Heck, ever Peters might be able to block JPP. Might. The Giants have gotten on two sacks total in their last two games against the Eagles. And their pass rush is so bad, that their 22 sacks this season are more than only 2 other teams and is the lowest total in team history (Previous record: 25).
Giants Offense Versus Eagles Defense
The Giants offense is average overall, but they excel at passing the ball (6th - 270.2 ypg) and scoring (6th - 26 ppg). QB Eli Manning is having a career year, but a lot of that is volume based. Manning has thrown the 5th most passes (575) in the NFL and converted that into the 7th most yards (4,134). He has also thrown 33 TDs and 14 INTs. But he's coming off his worst game of the last two seasons, when he threw 3 INTs against the Vikings and had a 50.7 QB rating. Luckily for Manning, he gets to face the Eagles 26th ranked pass defense (265.3 ypg), that will be without their top two CBs. Manning will also be getting back his favorite weapon, after a one-game suspension.
Odell Beckham Jr. returns from his one game suspension for being a scumbag of a human being who tried to intentionally end the career of a fellow NFL player. Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if a defensive player tries to take out his knees one game. Fortunately for him, the Eagles pass defense is so bad, they would be better off trying to taunt him into retaliating and getting himself thrown out of the game again. He's not very bright. Assuming ODB keeps his cool for a change, he should have no trouble burning either rookie CB Eric Rowe or CB E.J. Biggers. Of course, I would expect the Eagles to keep a safety over the top of Beckham all game, since he has 1,396 yards receiving and the next best receiver on the Giants roster is Ruben Randle, with 718 yards. Rookie TE Will Tye is also having a nice season.
Shane Vareen has become more of a pass-catcher out of the backfield, which should cause major problems for the Eagles LBs, but the Giants' main rusher is Rashad Jennings. Now that the Giants have abandoned their RB-by-committee, Jennings has over 100 total yards in each of the last three games. Even though the Giants can't run the ball at all (ranked 26th - 93.4 ypg), expect them to run at an Eagles team ranked 29th against the run (129.7 ypg) that doesn't look like any of the players have the heart to make a tackle anymore.
In spite of the fact that the Giants can't run the football and have to throw the ball constantly, they have given up the 6th fewest sacks (25) in the NFL. But the bad news for Manning is that RT Marshall Newhouse is injured, so he'll be protected by two rookie tackles on Sunday; LT Ereck Flowers and RT Bobby Hart. That might cause problems for Manning, with the Eagles pass rushing OLBs Brandon Graham and Connor Barwin. Especially since the Giants will need to double or triple team DE Fletcher Cox on every snap. Cox is rounding into one of the best defensive players in the NFL and has 9.5 sacks on the season. He is going to eat LG Justin Pugh alive.
NFC East Standings
New York Giants
Should the Eagles Win this game?
The Eagles special teams are still among the very best in the NFL. They are 3rd in punt return average (11.4 yards), 4th in punt coverage (5.1 yards per return) and 6th in kickoff coverage (20.7 yards). Plus Sproles is 2nd in punt return average (11.7 yards) and has 2 return TDs. And punter Donnie Jones is 4th with a 41.9 net average yards per punt. The Giants special teams aren't bad, but this is going to be the biggest (only) mismatch of the game.
The coaches.........oh right. The Eagles fired, I mean "released" Chip Kelly this week. Shocking development, but I don't think it will have much of an impact on this one game. Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur takes over as interim head coach, but he won't have time to change anything about the offense in a few days. Shurmur and the rest of the Eagles coaching staff are sure to follow Kelly out the door after the season and it will be well-deserved. Defensive coordinator Bill Davis, especially, deserves to be fired. His defense has been atrocious for three straight seasons and he won't be getting another chance to run his own defense for a very long time. On the other side, it looks like the Giants are finally going to fire head coach Tom Coughlin. This is at least the third time that Coughlin has been on the coaching hot seat and there will be no Super Bowl win to save his job this time. This is easily the saddest coaching matchup I have ever seen. All of these guys need to be put out of their (and our) misery.
Neither team has anything left to play for since they have already been eliminated from the playoffs. Obviously the coaches and players are saying all the right things about wanting to win the game, but any fan with a clue knows that the best thing for both teams would be to lose this game. Losing gets a far better draft pick and a trip to face the lowly Rams in London rather than a trip to Seattle to face the Seahawks. The Eagles have won three in a row and four of the last five meetings between the two teams and are 4-1 at MetLife Stadium in the swamps of New Jersey. They even beat the Jets at MetLife earlier this season too.
While both teams say they will try their best to win, I've seen too many Eagles giving a questionable at best effort in recent weeks. The Giants don't look to be giving their full effort lately either, but something tells me that enough of their players will step up for Coughlin one last time before he's "released" by the Giants.
Giants 34 - Eagles 30