Fresh off a well-deserved bye week, the New York Giants face their toughest test of the season this week in the division rival Philadelphia Eagles. While both teams are 4-3, the Giants currently possess a playoff spot, something that the Eagles are all too aware of. Both teams simply have to win this game, but there can only be one victor on Sunday.
Kickoff from MetLife Stadium is set for 1:00 on Sunday, and can be seen on FOX.
New York Giants: Offense
Coming off of a much-needed bye week, the Giants say that they’re ready to revamp their offensive game plan. All too often this season, the Giants have looked extremely predictable and have suffered turnovers at the worst possible moments. Despite their current playoff status, the Giants have not resembled an elite NFL offense this year, despite their pedigree and playmakers.
Eli Manning hasn’t had his best year, but he has looked better in recent weeks as he has been given better protection by his offensive line. The Giants finally got Odell Beckham Jr. back on track the last few weeks, but it has come at the expense of Sterling Shepard and Victor Cruz, who have had quiet weeks all too often. The Giants are averaging an NFL-worst 70.3 rushing yards per game, and only have 4 rushing touchdowns. A big day from Rashad Jennings and co. would go a long way in balancing out the offense.
Coach Ben McAdoo claims he’ll try to spice up the Giants’ bland offensive schemes this week, but we’ll have to wait and see on Sunday if he’s a man of his word.
Philadelphia Eagles: Offense
The big story for the Eagles this season on offense has been the emergence of rookie quarterback Carson Wentz. The second overall pick in this year’s draft, Wentz has looked wise beyond his years and has led the Eagles to many improbable victories. He has slowed down a bit in recent weeks, but his numbers remain superlative: 1,526 yards, 9 touchdowns against only 3 interceptions, and a sterling 92.5 passer rating.
The Eagles, much like the Giants, rely heavily on their three-receiver attack and the run after catch, but they do two things that the Giants don’t: they effectively incorporate everyone in their offense, and they can run the ball with force to keep defenses honest.
Wentz is an expert at spreading the ball around; the Eagles have had 7 different players score a receiving touchdown, including duel-threat running backs Ryan Matthews and Darren Sproles. The Eagles’ offensive parity is a tough juggling act for defenses to combat, and a chief reason as to why the Eagles are so special on offense.
New York Giants: Defense
The Giants have been very consistent on defense this year, only allowing an average of 20 points per game. The team embraces the “bend but don’t break” mantra. The pass rush has shown signs of revival in recent weeks; the team has garnered 18 quarterback hits and 5 sacks over the past 4 games.
The play of the linebackers, specifically Jonathan Casillas and Keenan Robinson, has been a pleasant surprise, and the secondary has performed as expected when everyone’s been healthy. Coming off an open week, the Giants’ secondary is at full strength against the vaunted Eagles’ attack.
Young players Devon Kennard and Landon Collins will need to have big games in order to keep the Eagles at bay.
Philadelphia Eagles: Defense
Quite surprisingly, the Eagles’ defense has been just as strong as their offense for the first time since Andy Reid was at the helm. The pass rush, known for its characteristic “wide 9” setup, still generates pressure with the best of them, and creates opportunities for linebackers and members of the secondary to come in on delayed blitzes.
The Eagles’ secondary has been just as good as the pass rush, though. Cornerbacks Nolan Carroll II and Leodis McKelvin have done a good job on the outside, and deep safeties Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod have combined for 4 interceptions, including a pick-six.
To beat the Eagles’ defense, the Giants will have to expose the middle of the field on underneath routes. Young linebackers Jordan Hicks and Mychal Kendricks are ultra-talented, but inconsistent week by week. If the Giants can work some mismatches over the middle of the field, they’ll find a way to score some points.
New York Giants: Special Teams
The Giants’ special teams received a facelift last week with the addition of kicker Robbie Gould, a steady and reliable veteran. Gould converted his lone field goal try in his Giants debut last week. Punter Brad Wing is as steady as ever, but the Giants would ideally not be using him 7 times a game, like they did last week in London. The Giants are waiting for return man Dwayne Harris to finally get going on runbacks this week; he has yet to bust a big return on the season.
Philadelphia Eagles: Special Teams
The Eagles have arguably the finest collection of special teams in the entire NFL. Kicker Caleb Sturgis has a strong leg and has only missed one field goal all season. Punter Donnie Jones has both the strength and the hang time to limit returns. Even the Eagles’ return men are dangerous; rookie Wendell Smallwood and since-released Josh Huff each have a kickoff return TD on the season, and punt returner Darren Sproles has yet to lose a step.
The Giants and Eagles always play good, close games that are impossible to predict. While the Eagles have won 5 of the last 6 meetings against the Giants, the G-Men are well rested and are amped up for the playoff push. However, I’ve learned in my years as a fan that it is never a good idea to pick the Giants to beat the Eagles, but rather to be pleasantly surprised if a win does in fact happen.
The Eagles have been firing on all cylinders while the Giants have yet to put forth a complete effort. They may be evenly matched on paper, but until the Giants’ offense shows signs of change, they cannot be taken as serious contenders. Here’s to hoping that coach McAdoo’s new game plan is a winner.
27-20, Eagles (Record picking Giants games: 6-1)