A Giant turnaround gives Big Blue a chance to land a knockout punch on the Eagles
The last time the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles met was the last time the Eagles looked like the reigning Super Bowl champs. A 34-13 victory was easily the team's most complete game this season, a true butt-whipping of the Giants in all facets of the game.
But since then? They’ve been in an unprecedented Super Bowl slump, losing three of the past four games, with their lone win in that span coming against a reeling Jacksonville team in London. Carson Wentz has mixed heroics with harrowing decisions, climaxing in a three-interception, career-worst game against the Saints this past Sunday. The 48-7 drubbing leaves the Eagles 4-6 and headed toward the brink of playoff elimination.
The Giants, meanwhile, have played markedly better since that loss to the Eagles, the low point of the Eli Manning era. They lost the next two games by one score before winning two straight heading into Sunday’s contest. Packed with offensive firepower, from Saquon Barkley to Odell Beckham Jr., can they somehow keep themselves in the NFC East mix? A victory this weekend brings them to 4-7 but headed in a markedly different direction than the Eagles. Only one game after that (a home game against the Bears) feels completely out of reach. The Redskins are down a quarterback with Alex Smith’s gruesome leg injury, and the Cowboys may fire their coach before the season is out.
“Go 9-7 and get in the playoffs,” Beckham said of the team’s goals two weeks ago, when the Giants were sitting at just 1-7. “The Giants have been there before, 9-7 and in the playoffs, and I think they did pretty good. It’s not an easy task, but that’s the goal. I want to win every game and do anything I can to help that.”
The team is now a quarter of the way there. Can they dismantle the crumbling Super Bowl champions and continue the streak?
New York at Philadelphia
Kickoff: Sunday, Nov. 25 at 1 p.m. ET
Spread: Eagles -6
Three Things To Watch
1. Who will cover Odell Beckham Jr.?
The Eagles' secondary feels like a living, breathing M.A.S.H. unit instead of a fully functional part of the defense. Right now, the team has just three healthy cornerbacks: Cre’Von LeBlanc, De’Vante Bausby and Chandon Sullivan. LeBlanc has only been with the team since Nov. 5; Bausby, in just his second season, was signed off the practice squad; and Sullivan is an undrafted rookie from Georgia State.
Everyone else is in various states of disrepair. Promising rookie Avonte Maddox could be done for the season with a knee injury. Ronald Darby is already on injured reserve with a torn ACL. Jalen Mills has been out with a foot injury. Rasul Douglas and Sidney Jones left the Saints game with various ailments and may not be ready in time for Sunday.
Where does the team go from here? And how much must Beckham be drooling over Sunday? He’s already motivated over a season-low 44 yards posted against the Eagles last time out. Since then, he’s averaged 106.5 yards and one touchdown per game; he could easily eclipse those numbers in this one.
2. Can Saquon Barkley be stopped?
It’s bad enough that the decimated Eagles secondary will be vulnerable for Manning, who threw for just 6.53 yards per attempt in their last matchup. But one of the few bright spots of the Eagles, their rush defense, must battle against a potential NFL Rookie of the Year candidate.
The last time Barkley faced the Eagles, he ran for a then-career-high 130 yards and absurd 10 yards per carry. His pace hasn’t slowed down since, upping that career-high number to 142 last week in a win against Tampa Bay. Sixth in the NFL with 728 rushing yards, Barkley has shown speed that is virtually unmatched in the league, and he only gets better every week.
Compare that to the Eagles' rushing attack: Leading rusher Josh Adams has a total of just 178 yards in the last four games. Advantage, Giants.
3. Which quarterback will clean up his act?
Despite an ugly slump in the season’s first half, the Giants chose to stick with Manning, their two-time Super Bowl-winning QB. Thus far, the move seems to have paid off. The veteran has bounced back strong, pulling a season-best rating of 155.8 last week while completing 17 of his 18 passes against the Buccaneers. His 12.83 yards per attempt was also a season high as Manning looked comfortable and confident in the pocket.
The Eagles' defense, of course, presents a stiffer test. But Manning has done a nice job taking care of the ball the past two games, going interception free while fumbling only once. If he can keep up that streak, the Giants win easily.
Wentz, meanwhile, has tried to do it all with an anemic Eagles' rushing attack. Against a team like the Saints, being a one-trick pony exposed him to some ugly interceptions. Zach Ertz needs to return as a weapon this week for Wentz to get his groove back. Ertz was held to just two catches and 15 yards last week one week after a career-best 14-catch, 145-yard performance against the Cowboys. New acquisition Golden Tate was up to 71 percent of snaps last week, and his integration into the offense can only help.
It’s amazing to see how much can change in a month. The Eagles are reeling, riddled with injuries and appearing to have lost their locker room chemistry of a year ago. There’s also no true rushing attack to provide balance with an offense searching for its identity with Carson Wentz back under center.
The Giants, meanwhile, have found a way to rally under first-year coach Pat Shurmur. The talent is there offensively for them to make an unlikely run if they can somehow get past the Eagles on the road. Could the best team left in this division be the team that won just once over the season’s first eight games?
Prediction: Giants 24, Eagles 10
— Written by Tom Bowles, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @NASCARBowles.