It’s time! After 5 weeks of waiting, the very first New York Giants-Philadelphia Eagles showdown will take place in Philly this Monday Night. The Giants are coming in off a thrilling victory versus the San Francisco 49ers, while the Eagles are flying high after pounding the weak New Orleans Saints at home, accumulating over 500 yards of offense in the process. With injuries crippling these NFC East foes, who will emerge victorious in their first battle of the season?
In one of many drastic and unforeseen Eagles’ personnel changes, head coach and quasi-General Manager Chip Kelly replaced fan favorite Nick Foles with injury-prone Sam Bradford. Thus far, the move has been up and down. While Bradford has 1,281 yards and a 63.2% completion rate, his 8-6 TD-INT rate is lackluster, his QBR of 83.7 is merely average, and while Bradford comes alive in the second half of games, he is simply terrible at the start of games. His Giants counterpart, Eli Manning, is coming off an outstanding game that garnered him NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors and is in the midst of a season with solid numbers such as a 66.5% completion rate, 1,417 yards, a stellar 10-2 TD-INT rate, and a QBR of 100.2. Bradford may be flashy, but Manning’s dependability and clutch tendencies give the Giants the edge.
Boy, did anyone think that the Giants would even have a remote chance of competing with the Eagles’ running backs? I mean, after Philly replaced LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown with DeMarco Murray and Ryan Matthews to partner with Darren Sproles, they were projected to be the best rushers in the game. Well, the narrative has certainly flipped. Murray has missed a game due to injury, and has a pedestrian 2.7 AVG while losing carries to Matthews. Matthews has 2 touchdowns and a 5.0 AVG, but is questionable for Monday Night. Sproles is dangerous, but the Giants have a younger, better option in Shane Vereen. Expect Vereen to have a big game due to the injuries to Odell Beckham Jr., Rueben Randle, and Victor Cruz. In conjunction with bruising Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams, the Giants have a rushing attack that looks good on paper. But the Eagles’ offensive line creates more holes than the Giants’, which gives them the edge.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:
Similarly to the running backs but inversed, did anyone think that the Eagles would even have a remote chance of competing with the Giants’ wide receivers? While the Giants boasted Odell Beckham Jr., Victor Cruz, and Rueben Randle to partner with Larry Donnell, the Eagles were stuck without a number one wideout, only carrying good-but-not-great options like Jordan Matthews, Riley Cooper, and rookie Nelson Agholar. But while each of the Giants’ big three have been banged up, Matthews has accumulated 30 catches and running backs and tight ends have taken over as primary receiving options to cover for Philly’s lack of WR depth. Injuries to Beckham and Randle shouldn’t keep them out of the game, but will hamper them versus Philly. Larry Donnell has hops, but has gone missing at times. With the Eagles boasting Zach Ertz and Brent Celek at tight end, they have the edge there. But in terms of overall receivers, the Giants are too stacked to warrant them giving up their crown.
The Giants’ offensive line has been much better than expected, but is still a bit out of its league here. Justin Pugh and Geoff Schwartz have been busy being top 10 offensive guards per Pro Football Focus, and rookie Ereck Flowers and center Weston Richburg are as tough as they come. Right tackle Marshall Newhouse has been the weak link, but that was to be expected; he’s merely keeping the seat warm until Will Beatty returns. Despite their solid pass blocking (5 sacks allowed), the G-Men have struggled to make holes for their running backs. Over in Philadelphia, their group fails to protect Bradford (7 sacks), but creates lanes for their shifty backs. Blind side blocker Jason Peters has lost a step, but is still one of the NFL’s best, as is center Jason Kelce. Young Lane Johnson is improving by the week for the Eagles as well. Guards Allen Barbe and Matt Tobin are nothing special. Despite this, Peters, Kelce, and Johnson are so good that they give the Eagles the edge.
While Eli Manning is the NFC Offensive Player of the Week, the NFC Defensive Player of the Week will be targeting him on most every play. That would be defensive end Fletcher Cox, a former first round pick, who’s coming off of a 3-sack performance. Cox plays the run effectively as well. Nose tackle Bennie Logan has 26 tackles and a sack on the season, and ends Cedric Thornton and Vinny Curry rotate opposite Cox. The Eagles blitz quite often. In New York, the Giants have found their run-stopping defensive end: Kerry Wynn. Wynn has 26 tackles and stops the run admirably. His zero sacks on the season are frustrating though. Ex-Eagle Cullen Jenkins can play end or tackle; he has 2 sacks. Jonathan Hankins doesn’t have a sack yet, but has plugged the run. The potential return of ends Robert Ayers Jr. and George Selvie would help the Giants out immensely. DaMontre Moore is a pass-rushing specialist, and young third rounders Owa Odighizuwa, and Jay Bromley are impressing weekly. But the Giants are missing the one big, Fletcher Cox-like playmaker on the pass rush. That gives the Eagles the easy edge here.
Just when it seems that the Giants’ linebacking play is improving, an injury ruins it all. Devon Kennard has been the Giants’ best homegrown linebacker since Jessie Armstead, but will miss his second straight game. Jon Beason is a sure tackler and leader, but is coming off a concussion. In their stead, Uani ‘Unga and J.T. Thomas III have performed well, but the assurance of Beason and Kennard is missing weekly. Jonathan Casillas is the Giants’ nickel linebacker. Meanwhile, the Eagles have some of the best linebackers in the NFL, and that’s not even counting the injured Mychal Kendricks and Kiko Alonso, who are stellar. Connor Barwin and Brandon Graham are legit pass rushers, captain DeMeco Ryans is their Jon Beason and unheralded Jordan Hicks has become the Eagles’ secret weapon at linebacker. All of this leads to a huge Eagles’ edge.
The Giants’ secondary had been playing better than expected, but will now be without top corner Prince Amukamara. Ex-Eagle Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will play a big role versus Matthews, but his opposite starter will be Jayron Hosley, a scary thought for Giants’ fans. Trumaine McBride is a steady nickelback but has struggled thus far. Landon Collins and Brandon Meriweather have shockingly turned the safety position into a Big Blue strength, but are still a bit nerve-wracking. The Eagles’ secondary is nothing special, but Byron Maxwell is a solid corner, Malcolm Jenkins is Philly’s leading tackler, and ex-Giant Walter Thurmond III has excelled in his shift to safety. The Eagles are thin at corner much like the Giants, making this a fair and even matchup that will dictate the outcome of this game.
Between accurate kicker Josh Brown, precise punter Brad Wing, reliable snapper Zak DeOssie, and electric return man Dwayne Harris, the Giants are set on special teams week in and week out. The improving coverage units will face a tough test versus Josh Huff and Darren Sproles in Philly though. Philly kicker Caleb Sturgis is 4-5 on the year, punter Donnie Jones has a big leg, and snapper Jon Dorenbos has been there forever. These two special teams are solid, but the Giants’ coverage gives them the edge.
This game is nearly impossible to predict. There are so many variables and injuries in this game on both sides that it ought to be quite the fun game. While the Giants have looked good lately, they never match up well against the Eagles and never play well at Lincoln Financial Field. The game will be very close, but the Giants’ injuries could be too difficult to overcome.
Prediction: 31-24 Eagles