Eagles-Giants Preview: Monday Night Blackout
Last season the New York Giants started the season 0-2, won their next three and then visited Philadelphia to play the Eagles. The Giants got thumped 27-0 in that prime time game, starting a seven game skid that effectively ended their season. And as luck would have it, the Giants are visiting Philly on Monday for a prime time game, riding a 3-game winning streak after starting the season 0-2. Should I just stop here and predict a 27-0 Eagles win? Nah. What fun would that be?
Let's take a look at the matchups between these two teams with long injury lists who will be playing in front of a "Black Out" Philly crowd.
Eagles Offense Versus Giants Defense
Sure, Sam Bradford threw for 333 yards last week against a bad Saints defense, but he once again looked terrible in the first half and once again threw a pair of ugly interceptions. He also went back to being Captain Checkdown, with 19 of his 32 completions going to the RBs and TEs. The good news for Bradford is that the Giants are dead last in the NFL Against the pass (304.2 ypg) and they are also missing their best defensive player, CB Prince Amukamara. That means even the Eagles below-average receivers might be able to have a good game. Well, maybe in the second half, since Bradford doesn't show up until after halftime.
Rookie Nelson Agholor will most likely miss this game and Josh Huff and Riley Cooper don't scare anybody, even Amukamara's replacement, Jayron Hosley. That leaves Jordan Matthews, the TEs and RBs to carry the passing attack, as usual. The Giants LBs are nothing special and Jon Beason will try to play hurt. That's good news for RBs Darren Sproles and DeMarco Murray coming out of the backfield catching passes. Murray (18) and Sproles (16) are the 2nd and 3rd leading receivers on the Eagles and they should be busy again on Monday night. Rookie safety Landon Collins struggles in pass coverage, so look for the Eagles to try to isolate Brent Celek or Zach Ertz on him all night long.
News just came down that RB Ryan Matthews has a groin issue and may miss this game. That is bad news against a Giants defense that is No.2 in the NFL against the run (80.6 ypg). DeMarco Murray is coming off his best game as an Eagle and that was only for 83 yards on 20 carries. He just doesn't look as decisive as Matthews hitting the holes and seems to want to bounce everything to the outside even on the rare occasions when the line opens up a running lane. Look for the Eagles to try to run the ball a bit just to keep the Giants honest, but expect Chip Kelly to give up on it quickly when it doesn't work.
The Eagles offensive line has been a mess all season, which is no surprise since Kelly jettisoned veteran players and replaced them with journeymen. Kelly ran more plays from under center last week, which helped the running game and they also did more straight on blocking instead of their usual zone blocking scheme. The Giants defensive front seven don't get sacks (only 7 so far), but they do a good job of stuffing the run. It's imperative that LT Jason Peters and RT Lane Johnson play the entire game with their injuries. The backup options are scary.
Giants Offense Versus Eagles Defense
On the other side of the ball, Eli Manning is having a career year. Through five games, he has 1,417 yards, 5th most in the league, 10 TDs, only 2 INTs and a QB rating of 100.2. He's also only been sacked 4 times all year (2nd fewest in the NFL), due to his quick release in the Giants West coast-style offense. The only problem with Eli this season is that he single-handedly lost a game for his team when he told his RB to not try to score a rushing TD late in a game and threw the ball out of the endzone to stop the clock against the Cowboys. That left enough time on the clock for the Cowboys to drive down for a winning TD. Apparently Eli is as dumb as he looks.
While Manning has put up big numbers so far this season, he'll most likely have trouble throwing the ball on Monday night. It's not necessarily anything that the Eagles' 26th ranked pass defense (279.6 ypg) will do. It has more to do with the fact that WRs Odell Beckham Jr and Rueben Randel are both hobbling with hamstring injuries. Even if one or both of them play, they will be limited. In that case, even big-money free agent bust Byron Maxwell should be able to cover them. But just like Bradford, that will just force Manning to go to his TEs and RBs. Luckily for him, TE Larry Donnell is having a nice year, including that amazing TD catch that won the game against the 49ers last week. Expect the Eagles to use safeties Malcolm Jenkins and ex-Giant Walter Thurmond on him. RB Shane Vereen is another dangerous weapon out of the backfield, with 20 receptions for 208 yards this season. The Eagles will need to either have one of the safeties or LB Connor Barwin on him.
How many times will Eli Manning turn the ball over on Monday night?
While Vereen is a good receiver, he isn't much of a rushing threat. Neither is Rashad Jennings. The Giants rushing offense is ranked 26th in the NFL (91.2 ypg) and the Eagles run defense is ranked 10th (96.8 ypg). Also, the Eagles 8 forced fumbles are tied for the most in the NFL and their 7 recovered fumbles lead the league. The Eagles will once again be without ILBs Kiko Alonso and Mychal Kendricks, but DeMeco Ryans is still stout against the run and rookie LB Jordan Hicks has been a revelation in stopping the run and in pass coverage.
While the Giants have the reigning Offensive Player of the Week in Manning, the Eagles have the reigning Defensive Player of the Week in DE Fletcher Cox. Cox had three sacks, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery last week and now he'll be facing LT Ereck Flowers and LG Justin Pugh. Even if those two double team him all game, they won't be able to contain Cox. The hope there is that all the extra attention the Giants have to pay to Cox will free up someone else to get to Manning. Manning hasn't thrown many INTs this season, but he's been turnover prone in his career, especially against the Eagles. Pressure could make it just like old times.
NFC East Standings
New York Giants
The Eagles aren't scoring special teams TDs every other week, like they were last season, but they're still better than most other teams. This week will be no exception. Kicker Caleb Sturgis seems to have a mental block with extra points, but he did knock through a few FGs last week. The Eagles coverage units are doing well again this season and Giants returner Dwayne Harris isn't a threat. The real return threat is Darren Sproles and we all know how the Eagles love to get punt return TDs against the Giants. It's only fitting that the Eagles would be inducting Brian Westbrook into the Eagles Hall of Fame against the Giants. You know, considering this return.
The Great Brian Westbrook
Chip Kelly's season is going so poorly, that he has to answer daily questions about which college team he will be coaching next season. He changed up a bit last week with less shotgun and less zone blocking and it worked out well. But being the most arrogant man in the NFL this side of Bill Belichick, why do I think he'll go back to his old ways and cost his team a game? Meanwhile, Tom Coughlin has two Super Bowl rings. That speaks volumes, even if it has been a few years since the Giants made the playoffs. And ex-Eagles coach Steve Spagnoulo is back coaching the Giants defense. Unfortunately, he doesn't have any pass rushers to make his system work.
Eagles-Giants games often come down to turnovers and the Eagles 6 INTs are the 6th most in the NFL. Add that to their league-leading 7 fumble recoveries and Manning's propensity to turn the ball over repeatedly during his career (31 INTs over the last 2 seasons and 22 INTs in 22 career games against the Eagles) and you would have to think that the Eagles have the advantage. There is also the fact that the Eagles and Giants have met five times on Monday Night Football and the Eagles have won all five games. More recently, the Eagles are 3-1 on Monday night under Kelly, while the Giants are 1-4 in the last five Monday night games.
Add that all up and it equals a win for the Eagles and first place in the NFC East.
Eagles 27 - Giants 23