Three weeks ago, it appeared as if New York and Philadelphia were headed in an inexorable direction to the bottom of the NFC East. Now, the two meet Monday night with the Giants hoping to gain control on the division, and the Eagles in search of continued momentum in their attempt to overcome a poor start.
New York lost its first two games in devastating fashion, blowing fourth-quarter leads in both. Philadelphia, meanwhile, was less dramatic in its 1-3 start, looking inept and predictable as it staggered about. After a rout of New Orleans that included some great offense, the Eagles have found new life, while the Giants hope they can continue their prosperity after three consecutive wins.
New York at Philadelphia
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET (Monday)
Spread: Eagles -4
Three Things to Watch For
1. Second-Half Sam
The Eagles traded for Sam Bradford during the offseason hoping he would be able to pilot Chip Kelly’s quick-snap offense efficiently. So far, they have received half of what they wanted. Bradford has been extremely shaky in the first half of games this year and much better after intermission. His quarterback rating in the first 30 minutes is 65.6, compared to 102.1 in the next 30. All three of his league-leading red-zone interceptions have come in the first half. Bradford has completed just 56.2 percent of his throws in the first two quarters, versus 70.2 percent in the final two. When asked what the Eagles could do to get him ready to shine more quickly, Kelly’s answer was glib. “See if we get a scrimmage going before it, a doubleheader,” Kelly said. “He'd be great at a doubleheader. That would be awesome. That's a good suggestion. I don't know, we'll talk to him a little bit about it, but I think he needs to see some things, and it kind of seems like he gets settled. He's one of those guys where if he gets hit, he feels a little bit better, but you also don't want to have him get hit.”
2. Showing Spunk
After surrendering leads in their first two games, the Giants have tightened things up. Last week’s 30-27 win over San Francisco was accomplished when Eli Manning hit Larry Donnell with a 12-yard TD pass with 0:21 to play. The Giants sit alone the NFC East at 3-2. Granted, their lead isn’t overwhelming, but things look a lot better now than they did three weeks ago. “Well, the grit, the way in which we play, the energy that is spent, the scrappiness, the will, the ability seemingly to have people miss games and others kind of step up [have helped],” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said.
3. Manning Up
There were some people who wondered whether it was a good idea for the Giants to give Eli Manning a four-year, $84 million extension in September. So far, that has looked like a pretty darn good decision. In his second year in Ben McAdoo’s speed-up attack, Manning has looked quite comfortable, completing 66.5 percent of his throws for 1,417 yards, good for third in the league. He has thrown 10 TD passes and just two interceptions, while looking comfortable leading the Giants’ offense.
This is a big game for both teams. Should the Giants win, they will push the Eagles two games behind them in the standings. An Eagles triumph will create a mishmash in the NFC East and give the team momentum and confidence heading forward.
Philadelphia must get its offense untracked more quickly, and that means Sam Bradford must overcome his first-half troubles. The ground game that sprung to life last week against New Orleans can help that pursuit. New York, meanwhile, can build on its recent success by riding the arm of Eli Manning and continuing to demonstrate toughness late in games. Last year, the Giants came into a Monday night game in Philadelphia 3-2 and were blown out, the first loss in what ended up being a seven-game losing streak. The Eagles would love for that to happen again.
Prediction: Eagles 30, Giants 24
— Written by Michael Bradley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Bradley is a writer and broadcaster based in suburban Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter @DailyHombre.