JERSEY CITY, N.J. – Interesting, isn't it, how two games against the Giants this season will go a long toward defining the Eagles in 2017? They beat New York in Week 3 on the 61-yard Jake Elliott field goal, a victory that launched the Eagles to a nine-game winning streak.
And now they are here preparing for the Week 15 game with Nick Foles at quarterback, knowing that a win locks up a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs. The Giants have gone the other way during the season, winning just twice.
But we know how this rivalry is and that it is going to be a tough game on Sunday and that, besides, playing in North Jersey more often than not, it seems, brings a sense of wackiness to it. Another Miracle, anyone?
This is a business trip for a determined and extremely tight Eagles team that brought with it injured players left tackle Jason Peters, middle linebacker Jordan Hicks, running back/returner Darren Sproles, and safety/special teamer Chris Maragos. Quarterback Carson Wentz isn't yet ready to travel as the Eagles make their final road trip of the regular season.
The theme here is to find a way to beat the Giants. Let's discuss some of the particulars of this game.
What Is The Game Plan For The Offense?
Foles can make all the throws and he's been in the league for six seasons. He's had an air of calm and cool all week. The word is that he had a week of excellent practices. Foles knows he's going to see a myriad of pressure looks from the Giants' defense, which is overseen by interim head coach Steve Spagnuolo, a disciple of former Eagles coordinator Jim Johnson. Spags and the Giants may not bring heat all the time, but they want to present the illusion of pressure and that's a problem, too.
The strength of New York's defense is its front, with Jason Pierre-Paul, Olivier Vernon, and beef inside with Damon "Snacks" Harrison. The Giants will also have middle linebacker B.J. Goodson, who did not play in the first meeting. Goodson has been hobbled by injuries all season.
New York is not likely to have safety Landon Collins, who has an ankle injury and is listed as doubtful after practicing only on a limited basis on Thursday and not at all on Friday. If Collins can't go, that's a huge hole. And making matters more challenging for New York, second-team safety Nat Berhe is out with a hamstring injury. So the Giants could be down to their third-string strong safety, Ryan Murphy, or they'll use second-team free safety Andrew Adams at strong safety.
The Giants have been awful on defense this season, ranking 31st in the NFL in yards allowed per game, 395.7. They're 31st in run defense (130 yards per game) after allowing just 88.6 yards per game a year ago, and they're 31st against the pass, permitting 265.7 yards per game.
Expect the Eagles to get the ball to tight end Zach Ertz with Collins not there, and take some shots down the field against a cornerback group that has been attacked all season. The way the Eagles have talked all week, the game plan isn't going to change much, if at all, with Foles in for Wentz.
How About The Offensive Line?
Left guard Stefen Wisniewski is listed as questionable with an ankle injury, which would open the door for either Chance Warmack or Isaac Seumalo to start against the Giants. The speculation is that Warmack will be the choice, a bigger body to match up with the Giants' beef inside.
The Eagles have to win here, across the board, because New York is going to bring pressure, is going to try to confuse the Eagles, and has talent aplenty at the line of scrimmage. Neither Warmack nor Seumalo played particularly great last week in Los Angeles, so this is a critical time for both players.
Assessing The Giants On Offense
It's been a disaster for New York on offense this season and now quarterback Eli Manning has few weapons at his disposal. All of those wide receivers the Giants had prior to the season? Only Sterling Shepard remains, and he's had injuries all year, the latest a hamstring injury that limited his practice time this week. Travis Rudolph and Roger Lewis both practiced on a limited basis this week and are listed as questionable.
The Eagles are well aware that Manning will get rid of the football quickly to minimize the disadvantage at the line of scrimmage. Manning got hot in the second half of the game in Week 3, so the Eagles must be on top of their collective game defensively here. Manning can carry the offense, and he might have to do exactly that.
How Is The Team's Mindset?
This is the third straight road game, so don't forget the physical and mental toll of travel. It's not easy for NFL teams, and many struggle in that third game. Losing Wentz on the same day the Eagles clinched the NFC East title was difficult for everyone. So it's been a particularly exhausting week emotionally for the Eagles.
But there is a ton to play for here. Goal No. 1 of the regular season has been accomplished. The Eagles are in the postseason. Goal No. 2 is to get a bye week in the playoffs. A win does the trick there. Goal No. 3 is to have the conference playoffs come through Lincoln Financial Field, so there is more work to be done.
Let's see how much emotion the Eagles play with early. If New York is going to spring a monumental upset, the Giants will come out and play well early, as they did last week against Dallas before falling apart in the fourth quarter.
This is a big, big, big game. The Eagles must treat it as such.