It's only Week 3, but this NFC East matchup between New York and Philadelphia could be as close to a must-win as possible for the Giants, who enter the game 0-2. New York is playing its second game in the division after losing to Dallas in Week 1 and a second contest in less than a week following the Monday night home loss to Detroit.
These Giants do not look at all like the team many picked to win the division. Eli Manning has been under siege because of a leaky offensive line while the running game has provided zero help. New York's defense also is not performing in accordance to last year’s statistics, but it’s also been on the field plenty because of a sputtering offense.
Philadelphia meanwhile is 1-1 after winning at Washington in Week 1 and then losing at Kansas City last Sunday. The Eagles can't really run the ball either right now, but Carson Wentz has been shouldering the load on offense. Wentz did have some crucial turnovers in Chiefs territory last week, but he’s also benefiting from better weapons in the passing game. Still, Philadelphia needs to find a running game, whether it’s LeGarrette Blount or Darren Sproles or Wendell Smallwood. The defense has done its part, creating four turnovers (all vs. Redskins) and getting to the quarterback (8 sacks).
The Eagles have won three of their last four against the Giants including two straight at home. Philadelphia has to travel cross-country to face the Chargers next week, so it would be great to get the win in the first home game of the season. New York plays at Tampa Bay in Week 4 so an 0-4 start is a possibility with a loss Sunday.
New York at Philadelphia
Kickoff: Sunday, Sept. 24 at 1 p.m. ET
TV Channel: FOX
Spread: Eagles -6
Three Things to Watch
1. Beckham beckons
Odell Beckham Jr. was not on the initial injury report for the Giants, which presumably means he didn’t suffer a setback on Monday night. He remains limited in practice, but a closer to 100 percent Beckham could make a world of difference for this offense. If anything, Philadelphia will definitely have to prepare for him. Last year in two games against the Eagles, Beckham saw a whopping 30 targets, which he turned into 15 catches for nearly 200 yards. While Philadelphia’s defense has been solid in the early going, the secondary remains a concern for defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, especially with top cornerback Ronald Darby and three safeties sidelined due to injuries. That puts more pressure on Jalen Mills, who is already a little dinged up himself, as Schwartz will be digging deep into his depth chart to put together a defensive backfield.
2. Will Eli have Philadelphia freedom?
Philadelphia has been a house of horrors for Eli Manning over the past few seasons. The starting quarterback has thrown just two touchdowns and five interceptions over his last four games at Lincoln Financial Field. Manning also has been sacked 10 times over that span. New York’s offensive line has been underwhelming to say the least early on, and it could be without Bobby Hart for this game. Ereck Flowers is having all kinds of issues at left tackle, and this week he’ll have to keep Brandon Graham and Chris Long at bay and out of the backfield. Head coach Ben McAdoo has tried to call plays that get the ball out of Manning’s hand quickly, but the quarterback has seemed jittery at times and reluctant to throw. Manning has yet to throw for more than 210 yards. He’ll need to do better than that (and then some probably) on Sunday if the Giants want to pick up their first win of the season.
3. Fast times in Lincoln Financial Field
It’s fair to say that the Giants are a fragile team right now. Therefore, it would behoove the Eagles to start fast at home and add even more pressure to the team that’s 0-2. New York’s defense is better than it has played to this point and should get cornerback Janoris Jenkins and linebacker B.J. Goodson back in the starting lineup. Philadelphia needs to gets its running game going so it can open up play-action opportunities for Carson Wentz and his stable of weapons. Defenders won’t bite on the fake handoffs if they know you can’t run the ball in the first place. Wentz struggled against New York in two games (TD, 3 INTs, 56.3 percent completion rate) last year. Better balance on offense will help take some of the pressure of off the young quarterback, especially against one of the league’s stingiest secondaries (when healthy).
There's something nagging about this game that makes me think the Giants come alive and get their first win. They are better than their record and Odell Beckham Jr. should have a field day against the Eagles’ banged-up secondary. The question is if Eli Manning will have the time to throw the ball and will he be able to survive the potential beating the Philly front seven will give him? I really thought New York was going to win at home on Monday night, but the Lions took it to Manning and company. Unfortunately for the Giants, a late Jake Elliott field goal will give the home team the win as New York must deal with the reality of starting 0-3.
Prediction: Eagles 23, Giants 20
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.