Game Preview: Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants, November 6, 2016
This is one of the most important games of the season for the Giants and Eagles. Both teams are 4-3. The Giants are 1-1 in the NFC East while the Eagles are 0-2 in the division. I’ve discussed it ad nauseam – the Giants have failed to make the playoffs in recent years, and Tom Coughlin was fired, because the Giants could not beat the teams in their division, especially the Eagles and Cowboys. The Eagles have beaten the Giants an absurd 13-of-16 times and four in a row. While one could argue that the Eagles were a better team in the last eight years, they were not that much better. The Eagles are in the Giants heads. And everyone knows it. Until the Giants grow a set and punch the Eagles in the mouth, this trend will continue.
THE INJURY REPORT:
- QB Ryan Nassib (elbow) – questionable
- RB Bobby Rainey (calf) – questionable
- WR Odell Beckham, Jr. (hip) – probable
- RT Marshall Newhouse (calf) – questionable
- DE Kerry Wynn (concussion) – out
- S Darian Thompson (foot) – out
- S Nat Berhe (concussion) – questionable
- LS Zak DeOssie (ankle) – probable
NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
The Giants have faced a series of good defenses – Vikings, Ravens, Packers, Rams – and will face another on Sunday. Under new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, the Eagles have impressively roared to 8th in the NFL in overall defense (20th against the run, 5th against the pass).
“Their defense is a hard charging unit, their front four leads them,” said Ben McAdoo. “They’re deep and talented along the defensive line. Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox and company are playing very well upfront for them. Athletically, their linebackers can run and they can hit. Their secondary had a lot of position flexibility. They have some guys that can play some different spots, with Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod and Jaylen Watkins.”
As McAdoo, points out, this is a very good defensive line with ends Connor Barwin (who has given the Giants fits) and Graham, plus a very strong interior duo of Cox and Bennie Logan. And the Eagles are deep on the defensive line and will rotate in fresh reinforcements frequently. The Eagles are second in the league in sacks (22). On paper, this looks like a bad match-up for the Giants given how New York’s offensive front has been playing. If the Giants offensive line can rise to the occasion, the Giants can do damage running the ball and attacking a secondary – that while ranked 5th – has given up some big plays.
To me, other than the offensive line, the big key to success for the Giants in this game is the Eli Manning to Odell Beckham connection. When the Giants last had the Eagles number, Plaxico Burress was the Eagle-killer. Odell Beckham has to become the new Eagle-killer. Eli and Odell have to click and connect for the Giants to win this game. Eli is going to have to play with more toughness and courage in the pocket and elevate his overall game. This is why he is being paid the big bucks. He has to out-play his rookie counterpart.
NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
The Eagles are 28th in overall offense (16th rushing, 29th passing) but 10th in scoring. Given the fact that the Giants are likely going to have issues on offense against Philadelphia’s defense, the Giants likewise need their defense to bring it on Sunday. Carson Wentz (66 percent completion rate) is having a remarkable first season, but he is still a rookie playing in his eighth NFL game. The Eagles offensive line isn’t what it once was and comes into this game banged up. The Eagles receiving corps – while respectable – doesn’t scare people.
“Offensively, they’re a West Coast ball control outfit,” said McAdoo. “That’s their foundation. They use personnel groups and creativity to try and create confusion for the defense. Carson Wentz is a big, strong, athletic quarterback who has acclimated well to the pro game. They’re deep in experience along the offensive line. Ryan Mathews is their feature ball carrier and he can carry the mail. They have a trio of play makers in the pass game, how they like to deal the ball, with Darren Sproles, Zach Ertz and Jordan Mathews; they feature those three guys inside.”
The good news for the Giants is that they finally have the added athleticism at linebacker to deal with a back like Sproles and a tight end like Ertz. The bad news is Darian Thompson is out (possibly for the season) and the Giants will have to play with the injury-prone Nat Berhe or Andrew Adams at free safety. But overall, I like the match-ups for the Giants in this game. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Janoris Jenkins, and Eli Apple should be able to shut down the wide receivers, allowing the linebackers and Landon Collins to focus on the backs/tight ends. Wentz has not been taking many deep shots down the field, and I expect the Giants pass rush to also force him to dump the ball off short for much of this contest.
The Eagles try not to tax Wentz. Giants should be able to stop the run. Matthews is the starter, but Sproles is the bigger threat as a runner and receiver. Wentz’s go-to guys are Matthews (36 catches), Sproles (22 catches), and Nelson Agholor (21 catches). If the Giants can keep Sproles and Ertz in check, the Eagles should struggle to move the football and Wentz will be in trouble. Keenan Robinson and Jonathan Casillas will be under the spotlight in coverage.
NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
Over the past few seasons, the Eagles have fielded one of the NFL’s best special teams units. And unfortunately, their special teams prowess has been a major factor in a number of Giants defeats. Wendell Smallwood (kickoffs) and Darren Sproles (punts) are very dangerous returners. The Eagles are very good in covering returns.
FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Offensive Coordinator Mike Sullivan on the Eagles defense: “They’re able to apply quite a bit of pressure just with their front four and that makes it a challenge.”
Head Coach Ben McAdoo on the Giants offense: “Some say that the points are in the passing game. I believe the points are in balanced football. I believe in running the football and having things come off of the run game. That makes for a good red zone, green zone offense. We need to keep running the ball and to be balanced. We need to be aggressive with what we’re doing in the passing game. The most important thing about it is we need to get down there (the red zone) more. We’re not down there enough.”
THE FINAL WORD:
This should be a defensive struggle with the outcome possibly being decided by turnovers and special teams plays. The latter favors the Eagles. But if the Giants offensive line can give Eli some time, I like Odell Beckham to have a big game in this spot.