The twists and turns of the Eagles' 2013 season continued last week when
For the Giants, the season has gotten late quite early. At 1-6, they're looking at a run-the-table scenario to salvage a season with playoff expectations. Offensively, the Giants have struggled to get anything going on the ground with a constantly revolving door of running backs. Meanwhile, a league-worst turnover rate has hampered the usually steady passing game. On defense, the Giants' biggest problem has been getting consistent pressure on the opposing quarterback as they rank dead last in the league with only six sacks on the season. Still, there will be no lack of motivation for the Giants in a rivalry game at Lincoln Financial Field, where they know the Eagles have struggled over the last calendar year. The final variable on Sunday will be the familiarity with two teams who lined up on opposite sides only three weeks ago.
When Eagles Have The Ball:
After becoming the first offense in NFL history to register at least 425 total yards in each of its first six games, the Eagles offense encountered its first real struggle of the season against the Dallas Cowboys in terms of effectively moving the ball. For an offense that entered the game averaging 6.6 yards per play (second in the NFL), the number is now down to 6.2 yards per play (third in the NFL) after the Eagles averaged a paltry 3.7 yards over 75 plays against the Cowboys. For context, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense ranks last in the NFL with 4.5 yards per play. The Eagles are still averaging 425.3 yards per game (third in the NFL) and will look to get back on track against the New York Giants, whose defense is giving up 391.3 yards (26th in the NFL) and 34.8 points per game (last in the NFL).
Quarterback Nick Foles had his worst performance as a pro against the Cowboys, going 11-of-29 for a mere 80 yards (2.8 average), with no touchdowns or interceptions. The 37.9 percent completion rate was the worst mark of his career, and the 46.2 quarterback rating was the second-lowest of his career, ahead of only the 40.5 he registered in his first ever start, against the Washington Redskins in 2012. To make matters worse, Foles suffered a concussion early in the fourth quarter when he took a hard hit along the sidelines while being sacked. His status for Sunday's game against the Giants is uncertain.
The Eagles passing attack now ranks 11th in the NFL and is averaging 260.3 yards per game, though it is tied for sixth in yards per attempt at 7.0. The Giants pass defense is allowing 254.9 yards per game (20th in the NFL), and the secondary has been plagued by injuries. That said, Corey Webster is returning from a groin injury and will join Prince Amukamara (who leads the team in tackles with 35) as the other starting cornerback, with Terrell Thomas in the slot. Antrel Rolle and Ryan Mundy hold down the starting safety spots, with Will Hill as the primary backup.
Eagles receivers had trouble getting consistent separation against the Cowboys defenders, and when they did, Foles was unable to deliver throws on target. From the quarterback to the offensive line to the receivers, the entire offense seemed out of sync.
The disappointing performance of the Eagles offense against the Cowboys was not limited to the passing game, as the league's top-ranked rushing offense appeared toothless last Sunday. LeSean McCoy totaled just 55 yards on 18 carries, with a long of 10, and the 91 total yards on 24 touches was his lowest of the season. The 3.1 yards per carry average was the second-lowest, ahead of only the 2.3 yards per carry he averaged against the Giants in the Eagles' 36-21 win at MetLife Stadium. Though it still ranks first in the NFL at 165.0 yards per game, the Eagles rushing attack has been in a funk in general lately after getting off to a blistering start. Specifically, through the first three games, McCoy gained 395 yards on 62 carries, a 6.4 average; in the last four games, however, he has been held to 290 yards on 79 carries, a 3.7 average. The offensive line, meanwhile, is still searching for consistency. While the running game does serve as the backbone of the Eagles offense, it was held in check by the Giants' 21st-ranked run defense in the teams' last meeting. In that game, the Giants' success came in large part because of its incorporation of "nut stunts" that gave the interior of the offensive line fits and enabled penetration into the backfield.
The Giants' lack of production up front this season has been well documented, but, as it showed against the Eagles, the front four still has a lot of pride and can make plays. Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck at the defensive end spots are always a tough matchup, and
|Eagles Projected Starting Lineup|
|QB Michael Vick||DE |
|RB LeSean McCoy||NT |
|WR Riley Cooper||DE |
|WR ||ROLB |
|LT Jason Peters||MLB |
|LG ||MLB |
|C ||LOLB |
|RG ||LCB |
|RT Lane Johnson||RCB |
|TE ||S |
|WR DeSean Jackson||S |
When The Giants Have The Ball:
The Giants offense has been such an anomaly this season. In 2012, the Giants finished sixth in the NFL with an average of 26.8 points per game. Eli Manning threw 26 touchdown passes and 15 interceptions. This season, Manning has already matched that total with 15 picks in seven games. The weapons are still there -- Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz, and Rueben Randle -- but the productivity is not. New York ranks 27th in the NFL in points per game at just 18.0 and 29th in third-down efficiency. Despite those poor numbers, the Giants rank 17th in NFL in average yards per play (5.3), meaning that they're moving the ball at a reasonable pace without score points – a testament to how bad the turnover problem has become. The Giants' 24 turnovers are a whopping seven more than the league's second most turnover-prone team and have been a major detriment to the Giants all season long. The Eagles defense ranks 14th in the NFL in takeaways and took the ball away from the Giants four times in Week 5. Winning the turnover battle will once again play a huge role in Sunday's game.
Aside from the turnovers, another problem with the Giants offense is that they've become completely one-dimensional. Running back David Wilson hasn't played since the Giants' last matchup with the Eagles, and Brandon Jacobs has missed some time since re-signing with the Giants in early September. Veteran bruiser Peyton Hillis was signed on October 16 to help provide some depth to a backfield that had rookie Michael Cox and his zero-career carries as its only completely healthy member. The Giants ground game produced more of the same in their win over the Vikings, as Hillis rushed for 36 yards on 18 carries (2.0 yards per carry) and Cox totaled 23 yards on 11 carries (2.1 yards per carry). So the expectation is that the Giants' production offensively will have to come through the air. Manning tossed 52 passes in the Week 5 matchup between the two sides.
The Giants' most explosive offensive playmakers can be found at the wide receiver position. In early October, the Eagles secondary, namely
On the other side of the ball, the Eagles defense is coming off one of its best performances of the season, when they held the dangerous Cowboys offense to just 17 points. DeMeco Ryans had arguably his best game in an Eagles uniform with eight total tackles and a key interception that brought some life back to Lincoln Financial Field. In his 23 games played in midnight green, Ryans has emerged as the quarterback of the defense and looks to be a big factor on Sunday. Mychal Kendricks and Connor Barwin have both played well this season alongside Ryans, but Trent Cole has yet to become a consistent factor. Cole's move to outside linebacker from defensive end was well publicized before the regular season started. While Cole has done a serviceable job dropping back in coverage, he has yet to make a significant impact as a pass rusher. Seven games into the season, Cole has not yet registered a sack. Granted, the switch to linebacker has limited the number of times that Cole has rushed, but prior to this season, the longest that it took Cole to record a sack was three games in 2008.
At the back end of the defense, the Eagles secondary has looked strong the last two weeks despite being without safety Patrick Chung against the Cowboys.
|Giants Projected Starting Lineup|
|QB Eli Manning||LDE Justin Tuck|
|RB Peyton Hillis||LDT Linval Joseph|
|FB John Connor||RDT Cullen Jenkins|
|WR Hakeem Nicks||RDE Jason Pierre-Paul|
|LT Will Beatty||SLB Keith Rivers|
|LG Kevin Boothe||MLB Jon Beason|
|C Jim Cordle||WLB Spence Paysinger|
|RG David Diehl||LCB Corey Webster|
|RT Justin Pugh||RCB Prince Amukamara|
|TE Brandon Myers||FS Ryan Mundy|
|WR Victor Cruz||SS Antrel Rolle|
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