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Eagles-Giants Game Preview

The Eagles currently trail the Giants by three games and are two games behind the Dallas Cowboys. But with three division games remaining, and with the Giants staring down a difficult schedule, it's not impossible for the Eagles to make a run – though they will certainly have to raise their level of play on both sides of the ball. The big question for the Eagles this week is whether or not they'll have the services of quarterback Michael Vick, who, unbeknownst to anyone but Vick at the time, played through two lower broken ribs in the 21-17 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. Vick's status for this week is still up in the air, and if he's unable to play, the reins are likely to be in the hands of Vince Young for the first team this season.

As for the Giants, they've found themselves atop the division thanks in large part to the sterling play of quarterback Eli Manning, who has thrown for 17 touchdowns to eight interceptions and sports a 97.0 quarterback rating. The Giants have showed their mettle with some big wins, notably at New England and in Philadelphia, but have also proved vulnerable with head-scratching losses like the one at to the Seattle Seahawks. The Giants' victory over the Eagles in Week 3 was the first time they had defeated their rivals in seven contests, so the Eagles will now be the ones looking for revenge and, at the very least, to play spoiler.

Last Time They Met
September 25 , 2011: Giants 29, Eagles 16
With the Eagles and Giants both coming into the game with 1-1 records (coincidentally both team's wins came against the St. Louis Rams), this game had major implications within the division. The winner of the game would sit atop the NFC East with a 2-1 record, while the loser would find themselves in an uphill battle to get back into the division race. The Giants thoroughly dominated the Eagles at home, outscoring them 15-0 in the fourth quarter. Eli Manning threw for four touchdowns, including two to second-year wide receiver Victor Cruz, who entered the game with just two career receptions. For the Eagles, Michael Vick was largely ineffective. He suffered a contusion to his non-throwing hand and the subsequent swelling knocked him out of the game in the fourth quarter. Under the direction of backup quarterback Mike Kafka, the Eagles offense sputtered; the second-year Northwestern-alum threw two interceptions in the fourth, allowing the Giants to turn a two-point deficit going into the final quarter into a 29-16 victory.

When The Eagles Have The Ball
With Michael Vick fighting through broken ribs, it's unclear as to who will be under center for the Eagles come Sunday. No matter who starts at quarterback, the Eagles offensive line will have to deal with a voracious Giants pass rush. The Eagles hope to have left guard Evan Mathis, who missed a game with a turf toe injury, back in the lineup. Mathis' replacement, King Dunlap, may not be able to play because of a concussion he suffered in the Cardinals game.

The Giants defense is statistically in the middle of the road in most categories. They are 17th in yards allowed and 21st in points allowed. However, they are first in the league in sacks with 30. Second-year defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul leads the way with 9.5 while Osi Umenyiora, who missed the start of the season with a knee injury, is second on the team with 7.0 sacks. There are two injuries to watch regarding the Giants defense this week. Middle linebacker Michael Boley suffered a hamstring injury against the 49ers and was missed late in the game. Giants head coach Tom Coughlin said that he's day-to-day. The status is the same for cornerback Aaron Ross, who has a left quad contusion. Michael Coe replaced Ross in the lineup on Sunday. Boley's potential loss would be a crucial one for the Giants defense as defensive end Justin Tuck said that Boley is the most important player on defense. Boley is second on the team in tackles and has three fumble recoveries (including a touchdown) this season. He is also the most experienced linebacker on the squad.

In the secondary, the Giants are sound with cornerback Corey Webster and safeties Antrel Rolle and Kenny Phillips. In the first meeting between these teams back in Week 3, the Eagles were very effective at running the football out of two tight-end sets. The Eagles noted that on film the Giants run their nickel package against that formation and with the extra defensive back it was easier to run the ball. LeSean McCoy was stellar with 24 carries for 128 yards in the game. He has scored a touchdown in each game this season setting the franchise record for most consecutive games with a touchdown. If Boley is unable to go, this is a matchup the Eagles will look to exploit. Meanwhile, DeSean Jackson will be looking to make a statement after being deactivated for the Cardinals game. Obviously, Jackson's walkoff punt return, the first in NFL history, came against the Giants, but when the Eagles played the Giants in New Jersey on Sunday Night Football in 2009 he had 178 receiving yards and a punt return for a touchdown.

When The Giants Have The BallGiants quarterback Eli Manning has guided his team to the best record in the division through 10 weeks of the NFL season by posting impressive numbers despite the lack of a run game to support him. Manning has completed 63 percent of his passes for 2,688 yards and has thrown 17 touchdowns against eight interceptions for a solid 97.0 QB rating. The Giants' pass offense ranks fifth in the NFL, but the rushing game that has been the staple of head coach Tom Coughlin's offenses for years is garnering just 89.2 yards per game - good for 29th in the league. Adding to their struggles in the run game, the Giants have been without lead back Ahmad Bradshaw (foot injury) for the past two games. Brandon Jacobs got the lion's share of the carries Sunday against San Francisco, but D.J. Ware received more of the touches late in the game. Jacobs is averaging a middling 3.2 yards per carry this season.

In the Week 3 meeting between these two teams, Manning torched the Eagles defense for four touchdowns and completed nearly 70 percent of his passes for a season-high 11.04 yards per attempt and a 145.7 QB rating. Manning was able to take advantage of mental miscues on part of the Eagles defense, which was still adjusting to Juan Castillo's scheme. Jacobs caught a 40-yard touchdown pass off of a wheel route which should have been picked up by linebacker Casey Matthews, who has since been replaced in the lineup by Brian Rolle. Kurt Coleman gave up a 74-yard touchdown to Victor Cruz after he was unable to make a tackle that would have limited the gain to a short one.

The Eagles should get Nate Allen back from his concussion this week to pair up alongside Coleman. Joselio Hanson is likely to take over as the nickel cornerback due to Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie's high-ankle sprain. Even though the run game has been grounded for the Giants, Manning does have Cruz, Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham at receiver. Jake Ballard has been quietly consistent at tight end with at least three catches in each of the past six contests. Ballard's late catch against the Patriots showed that Manning has the trust to go to him in crunch time. Manning was sacked three times by the Eagles in the first meeting. However, the line has done a good job of late protecting Manning as he has only been sacked twice in the last four games. Teams are utilizing more max protect schemes to neutralize the Eagles pass rush, so it will be interesting to see if the Giants continue the latest trend.

Key Matchups
Giants RT Kareem McKenzie vs. Eagles LDE Jason Babin
Babin's second go-round with the Eagles got off to a roaring start, as he registered 7.0 sacks in his first four games. But the hard-charging rusher has hit a bit of a dry spell, failing to bring down the quarterback in four of the last five games. He did sack Eli Manning back in Week 3 when lining up against McKenzie, so perhaps Babin can get back in the sack column against the hated Giants. Charged with protecting Manning's front side, McKenzie has given up three sacks on the year according to ProFootballFocus.

Eagles WR DeSean Jackson vs. Giants S Antel Rolle
After he was deactivated because of a missed meeting, Jackson apologized to his teammates Monday and said that he has taken responsibility for his actions and is ready to move on. That will begin this week against a Giants secondary that held him to only two catches for 30 yards in Week 3. The challenge for Jackson could be made more difficult if Vick is unable to play, but there is plenty of motivation for Jackson to perform. Aside from bouncing back from his deactivation, Jackson is, of course, in the final year of his rookie contract. He's also been known to not quite get along with Rolle, the Giants safety who has said that he can cover Jackson one-on-one. Sunday night, during which Jackson has provided some memorable moments in the past, all eyes will once again be on No. 10.

Players To Watch
WR Victor Cruz
Since his breakout game against the Eagles in Week 3, wide receiver Victor Cruz has been one of the biggest surprises in the NFL. The second-year man out of Massachusetts is fourth in the league in receiving yards since Week 3, with 655 yards in just seven games. Despite only starting one game, the 6-foot receiver leads the Giants in receiving yards and is tied with Hakeem Nicks for the most receptions and touchdowns with 40 and 4, respectively. Amazingly, Cruz signed with the Giants as an undrafted free agent in 2010.

DE Osi Umenyiora
After missing the first three games of the season because of offseason knee surgery, Umenyiora has returned with a vengeance. One of the NFL's top pass-rushers, Umenyiora posted 4.0 sacks in his first two games back from injury; he has 7.0 in the six games he's played this season. Since becoming a full-time starter in 2004, the 255-pound defensive end has the seventh-most sacks in the league, with 66 in 82 starts. In his career, he has been accrued more sacks against the Eagles than against any other team, racking up 11.5 sacks in eight games.

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