Approach to the Game – Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants, October 22, 2001: This is probably as important a game as the Giants will play in this regular season. Why? Because if the Giants are going to win the NFC East, they will most likely have to at least split the home-and-away series with the Eagles and it is far easier to win the home game than the away game.

It will not be easy. The Giants have won nine games in a row against Philadelphia and the simple odds of them keeping that streak going are not good. Also, this upcoming game has some haunting similarities to a Monday night Giants-Eagles game in 1988. Coming into that game, the Giants had beaten Philadelphia six times in a row from 1985 to 1987. The Eagles were an up-and-coming team determined to finally show everyone on national television that they had arrived by defeating the team that had been bullying them for the past four seasons. It was also the coming out party for a mobile, athletic quarterback with a strong arm by the name of Randall Cunningham who beat the Giants by bounding off of a Carl Banks tackle, miraculously maintaining his balance, and firing the ball into the endzone for a touchdown. Let’s hope history does not repeat itself.

But the Giants have their own advantages. The streak can work in their favor too as the Eagle players have to start wondering if this thing is turning into some sort of jinx. Football players are very superstitious and if things starting going wrong for Philadelphia, self-doubt could creep into their minds again. Also, when it comes down to it, the Giants are probably still the better team.

Giants on Offense: The Eagles have a very good defense led by pass rushing demon DE Hugh Douglas, DT Corey Simon, vastly under-appreciated (by the fans) stud MLB Jeremiah Trotter, and two big, physical cover corners in Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor. Don’t forget roving headhunter safety Brian Dawkins in the middle of the field too. The defense is quick, aggressive, and likes to bring it. They are also a tad undersized up front so the Giants’ ground game will be important.

I’m not going to talk about this match-up or that match-up this week or strategy other than to say the Giants need to use misdirection (cutback runs, reverses) and deception (screens, draws) a lot in this game. Use Philly’s aggressiveness against them. Also, I wouldn’t use a lot of slow-developing outside runs where they can get penetration.

All I am going to say is this: SCORE. Get the damn ball into the endzone. I don’t care how you do it, but do it a few times. Enough is enough. It’s time for the Giants’ offense to start pulling its own weight around here. The onus is on Kerry Collins (or should I say “omus” in deference to John Madden). It’s well past time for him to have one of his good games and he normally plays quite well against the Eagles – his favorite team when growing up.

So no “LT Lomas Brown has to play well against Douglas and Ron Stone faces a real tough test against Corey Simon” this week. Yadda, yadda, yadda. Put that all aside and just SCORE.

Giants on Defense: The Eagles will be tougher to defend this year for the Giants because they are running the ball better (though keep in mind that Duce Staley was healthy when the Giants played them in week two last year). Thus, unlike the second regular season game and the playoff game where the Giants could largely ignore the run other and focus on containing QB Donovan McNabb in the pocket, the Giants must make sure the ground game doesn’t hurt them first and foremost. It won’t be as easy as most think as the Eagles do have some very good offensive linemen – especially their two outside tackles (RT Jon Runyan and LT Tra Thomas). My focus again will be on the weakside of the defense where guys like DE Kenny Holmes, WLB Jessie Armstead, and CB Jason Sehorn need to do a good job of containing the runs to the left side of the offense. The Eagles will undoubtedly test Holmes as well as DT Cornelius Griffin – the later who is improving with more experience and as his ankle injury improves. Griffin faces Jermane Mayberry is an underrated player who can pass and run block with equal facility.

Griffin was a big factor in last year’s playoff game as the Giants used him on many occasions as the spy on McNabb. It will be interesting if the Giants do this again and if the Eagles find a way to counter it. But also keep in mind that Griffin was not used exclusively as the spy. Others were as well such as MLB Mike Barrow and Armstead. How healthy and productive the injured Barrow (hip pointer) will be is key. New York needs a big game from him. Other injury concerns are DT Keith Hamilton (shoulder) and CB Will Allen (ankle).

So first stop the run. Then, as always, when rushing the passer against McNabb, maintain disciplined pass rush lanes and try to keep him from hurting you with his feet. Maintaining disciplined pass rush lanes hurts the pass rush as the pass blockers have a better idea where the rushers will end up – but is in necessary against this team. And obviously the more pass rush the Giants can get from their down front four, the better as this will afford New York the luxury of having a spy and putting more people into coverage.

The Eagles have much more dangerous wide receivers this year in James Thrash (a former Redskin who has given the Giants problems in the past). Thrash is a guy who can get deep. Todd Pinkston is an emerging youngster who is very tall yet thin. I’d like to see Sam Garnes or Shaun Williams get a good whack on him over the middle. The Eagles first rounder is WR Freddie Mitchell who Philadelphia is phasing in more and more.

Also, New York must be very wary of the short passing game as the Eagles do run a West Coast-style of offense. Brian Mitchell is their third down back and he is a play-maker. FB Cecil Martin is a factor in the passing game as is Pro Bowl TE Chad Lewis. Lewis isn’t much of a blocker, but he is a sure-handed receiver. Lewis is McNabb’s security blanket on third down. The linebacker and safety coverage will be important in covering all of these guys.

Giants on Special Teams: Thank God that Tiki Barber is back returning punts as Amani Toomer just wasn’t getting the job done. Kick returns could be a concern this week as Ron Dixon may not play. Omar Stoutmire didn’t look very explosive in that role last week. P Rodney Williams needs to bounce back from a sub-par performance.

Punt and kick coverage needs to step it up as Brian Mitchell is very deadly returning both punts and kicks.