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Eagles-Giants Preview: No Walkie-Talkies Needed
A lot has happened since the last time the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants played.
Back then, both teams had 4-3 records. Since then, the Eagles have gone 1-5, while the Giants have gone 5-1. The Giants (10-4) can clinch a playoff spot and have a chance of catching the Cowboys for the division title. The Eagles (5-9) are officially eliminated from the playoffs and are playing for pride and draft position.
Yeah, things have not gone well for the Eagles since they lost to the Giants 28-23 in Week 9. The only thing that's gone wrong for the Giants is that they got caught using walkie-talkies on the sideline last week and got a big fine and their 4th round draft pick will be moved to the end of that round. Guess the Patriots aren't the only cheaters out there after all.
Let's take a look at this Thursday Night Football matchup.
Eagles Offense Versus Giants Defense
Eagles QB Carson Wentz started out the first Giants game with two first quarter INTs. The Giants turned them into early TDs and the Eagles were playing catch-up the rest of the game. Wentz rebounded to throw for a career-high 364 yards and got the Eagles down to the Giants' 17 yard line before throwing incomplete into the endzone on 4th down. Wentz has continued to throw INTs and now has a very rookie-like 13 TDs and 13 INTs on the season. The Eagles are ranked 20th offensively overall (340.4 yards per game) and 24th in passing (227.5 ypg). That is not good. The Giants defense is ranked 15th overall (347.5 ypg), but only 23rd against the pass (257.4 ypg). The bad news for the Eagles is that the Giants have a bend-but-don't-break defense that has given up the 3rd fewest points in the NFL (17.9 points per game).
The Eagles rushed for 169 yards last week against the Ravens' No. 1 ranked run defense. The reason for that is that the running game was working early and the game stayed close. Eagles head coach Doug Pederson has shown that he comes directly from Andy Reid's passaholic coaching tree this season by completely abandoning the run in a few games. Ryan Mathews led the Eagles 9th ranked rushing attack (112.9 ypg) last week with a season-high 128 yards on 20 carries. He also had one of the most epic goal line leaps I have ever seen. The Giants are No. 6 against the run (90.1 ypg), but as long as Pederson doesn't give up on the ground game, the Eagles have shown they can run the football.
The Eagles starting outside WRs, Nelson Agholor and Dorial Green-Beckham caught one pass each last week, so it probably doesn't even matter that Giants CB Janoris Jenkins is questionable for the game. Wentz relies on TEs Zach Ertz and Trey Burton, along with slot WR Jordan Matthews almost entirely in the passing game. Ertz will be matched up against the Giants best defender, safety Landon Collins, who leads the team with 108 tackles and 5 INTs.
Want a bright spot for the Eagles? RT Lane Johnson is back after serving his 10-game PED (stupidity) suspension. This is good news, since the Eagles went through four RTs after Johnson was suspended. Actually, this will be the first time since the fourth game of the season that the Eagles have their original starting offensive line, with Alan Barbre moving back to LG. Hopefully Johnson is in game shape, but there is no other option. He's lucky that DE Jason Pierre-Paul is out for the game. The marquee matchup in the trenches is 8-time Pro Bowl LT Jason Peters going against DE Vernon Olivier, who has 8.5 sacks on the season.
The Giants offense is ranked a lowly 27th overall (320.6 ypg) and 17th in passing (239.4). That's surprising for a team that can't run the ball, like the Giants. Eli Manning is having a decent season with 3,491 yards, 25 TDs and 13 INTs. He is 19th in passer rating (89.3), 18th in completion percentage (63.4), 24th in interception percentage and 25th in third-down passing (79.6). In the first Eagles game, he threw 4 TDs and 2 INTs. That was his only 4-TD game of the season. Will he get a second? Against a defense with Leodis McKelvin, Nolan Carroll and Jalen Mills at CB, the odds are in his favor. I also saw a meaningless, but interesting stat that Manning has more career losses (15) and career INTs (25) against the Eagles than he has against any other team.
As I said before, the Giants can't run the football. They are ranked 30th in rushing (81.2 ypg) and yards per carry (3.2 per carry) and they only have five rushing TDs all season. Their primary ball-carrier is Rashad Jennings and he's averaging that same anemic 3.2 yards per carry. The Eagles are ranked a middle-of-the-pack 17th against the run, but that stupid Wide-9 defensive front they run leaves them susceptible to long-gainers on the ground. Even the Giants might find a huge hole to run through and not trip. Eagles LBs Jordan Hicks and Nigel Bradham have had their hands full all season.
The Giants offense goes as far as their passing game takes them and that's due mainly to Odell Beckham Jr, who has the third most receiving yards in the NFL with 1,173 yards and 10 TDs. Victor Cruz is toast, but Sterling Shepard has 7 TDs on the season. They will absolutely dominate the Eagles CBs. The Eagles pass defense has given up the third most pass plays of 20 yards or more (52), the most pass plays of 30 yards or more (24) and are tied for second most pass plays given up of 40 yards or more (13). Expect all three numbers to go up this week. As an amusing side note, Jalen Mills and Beckham went to LSU together. Don't expect to see "the finger" from Mills this week.
The Giants have only given up 21 sacks this season (5th fewest in the NFL), but most of that has to do with Manning's quick release. The Eagles sacked him once in the first matchup and have 31 on the season. After a two-game lull where the Eagles didn't get a single sack, they got five in the last two games. That production has coincided with the re-emergence of DT Fletch Cox, who had 2.5 of those sacks in the last two games. The Giants are lucky LG Justin Pugh is healthy for this game. He and center Weston Richberg are going to have their hands full all game with Cox back to playing at a Pro Bowl level. The Giants tackles aren't very good, but neither are the Eagles outside pass rushers.
NFC East Standings
New York Giants
Should the Eagles Win their last two games?
The Eagles still have the best all-around special teams in the NFL, since they will be getting Darren Sproles back this week from a concussion. Sproles has the second best punt return average in the NFL (13.2) and returned a punt 66 yards in the first game against the Giants. The Giants haven't given up a punt return TD this year and for the first time in three years, Sproles has not returned at least one for a TD. He's due. Eagles kicker Caleb Sturgis has turned into a reliable kicker, who hit a 55-yarder. Giants kicker Robbie Gould replaced wife-beater, Josh Brown, back in October and has only attempted 4 FGs in 8 games. At least he's hit them all. The FGs that is, not his wife.
Doug Pederson is a terrible coach. His body of work so far in his rookie season has proven that fact. I don't fault him for going for that 2-point conversion at the end of the game last week (might as well go for a win on the road in a lost season), but his predictable pass-heavy play-calling is going to get Wentz killed. And don't even get me started on his shortcomings on challenges. Giants head coach Ben McAdoo is also a rookie coach, but he's got his team in the playoffs with the possibility of winning the division. Why do I even write this paragraph each week? The other team's coach is always better than Pederson, even if they can't cheat by using walkie-talkies on the sideline.
The Eagles have nothing to play for but pride, while the Giants need a win to clinch a playoff berth and keep their slim chances of winning the NFC East alive. That would be the first time that the Giants made the playoffs in five years, so they are definitely not going to overlook the Eagles. The Giants have won 8 or their last 9, while the Eagles have lost 7 or their last 8. The game should be close, but the Giants are 8-2 in games decided by 7 points or less.
Giants 24 - Eagles 20