This game against the Giants isn't unlike any other in the NFL, as the outcome will be decided, as it usually is in the game, at the line of scrimmage. In this one, though, the focus has changed largely because New York's trenches have been pummeled by injuries and the Eagles must take advantage.
New York is minus a couple of starting offensive linemen, and the Giants will have capable backups starting in Game 5 of this regular season. Defensive tackle Linval Joseph won't play and Cullen Jenkins might not play, and while New York's depth includes a quality player like former Eagle Mike Patterson, the Eagles are going to try to take advantage of the interior of the Giants' defensive line.
Summary: For the Eagles to win, they have to control the trenches. The defensive front tried every which way but loose to push Peyton Manning out of his comfort zone last week. It clearly didn't work, and the Broncos shredded Bill Davis' defense.
Eli Manning has had his share of troubles through four losses, and the Eagles must continue his misery with a pressure-oriented scheme. Giving wide receivers Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks and Reuben Randle room to catch the football and make plays is going to make it awfully tough for the D.
From where, then, does the pass rush emerge? Is a big game in the making for Trent Cole off the edge? Does Davis turn loose Mychal Kendricks, who shined in the opener against Washington playing downhill? Are there some other plans Davis has in mind? Does he stay with the four-man pass rush when the Eagles go to their nickel personnel and hope his four pass rushers beat New York's five pass protectors?
It's going to be fascinating to see. Davis wanted to keep Denver's offense in front of his defense last Sunday, and the results were not pretty. Peyton Manning had a record day as Denver, aided by two touchdowns on special teams, scored a franchise-record 52 points.
The hope here is that Davis doesn't have to dial up the blitz, that he doesn't need gimmicks to get to Manning in the passing game and to shut down the speedy David Wilson in the running game. The hope here is that the Eagles win some one-on-one battles and create their own pressure.
It's up to the players here, not the scheme.
Same with the offense. To have the chance at attacking New York's depleted secondary, the offensive front has to give Michael Vick time to throw the football, and give LeSean McCoy some lanes through which to run the football.
The offensive line must assert itself as a dominating presence once again.
It means that ends Lane Johnson and Jason Peters have to handle the New York edge rushers, who are offense wreckers when they are on their games. Jason Pierre-Paul hasn't been the same player since his back injury, but this is a game the Giants know they need to win so expect to see New York at its best and most aggressive defensively.
I love the Eagles here. I love going to New York with the idea that everything is wide open in the NFC East, and that a win here puts the Eagles in the game in the division.
But I'm also wary, because I believe in the Wounded Animal Theory, and I believe that the Giants are a desperate team. So, this is going to be a battle.
This is going to be a great football game between two teams who understand how crucial the game is for staying in the picture in the NFC East. And the game is going to come down to the line of scrimmage. While McCoy and Jackson are going to get the headlines, they know that their numbers are going to be dependent upon the play at the line of scrimmage.
And the Eagles need to make some hay here. They need to win in the trenches.
I'm looking for the Eagles to play inspired, urgent and physical football. I want to see this team end its three-game losing streak and start the crucial month of October the right way. I want to see a win over the Giants, a 2-0 record in the NFC East and some momentum started.
For that to happen, it has to be done up front. Not just by a little, either. The Eagles have the tools to dominate the line of scrimmage. A game, and a chance to stay in the mix in the NFC East, demands for that to happen.