Must-Win Game Vs. Tough Opponent
Last Thursday night showed me what the Eagles can be – exciting, explosive and efficient offensively and suffocating defensively. It was an all-around dominating performance that means the Eagles can go into a matchup with the Giants on a high note instead of coming off of tremendously disappointing showings like the ones against Cincinnati and Baltimore. They've probably got some confidence back. Not to mention that they've had three days to rest – they're going to be in the best shape possible this late in the season to play the best team in the NFL. That's what you want.
Now, this game is going to be tougher than against the Cardinals. It's doubtful that they will be able to move and cruise the way they did on Thanksgiving. The road is going to be tougher, but they can be productive and successful. I think they got out of the doldrums, I think they reacquired their rhythm. I think the time off will prove beneficial. We saw Brian Westbrook explosive again, and Donovan McNabb rhythmic and accurate. There's every reason to believe that this is going to be a tough game, but the Eagles are certainly more than capable of playing a good game and beating the Giants.
I think the Eagles have to get the running game going to help out Donovan McNabb. We're going to have to see Brian Westbrook look like Brian Westbrook. The Eagles must convert on third down. And Donovan must avoid a slow start. Donovan McNabb must come out on fire. And I think he's capable of it.
However, I don't think you can say that the Eagles are better equipped to play the Giants this time because they've already played them. The Giants have already played the Eagles, too. The advantage is neutralized. Here's the key, though: Plaxico Burress isn't playing. If he doesn't, I think it's significant. I still believe that he is the Giants' greatest weapon. While some teams can get by without a weapon for a week or two, over a while, it takes its toll. Look at what the Eagles did to contain him. Without him there, the Giants still have capable receivers, but they don't have anyone that gives them the dimension Plaxico gives them. They don't win the Super Bowl last year without him. They might not even have been there without him. I don't think it would be a stretch to say that. If the Eagles don't have to concentrate on him, then they can better focus on the run game, which really hurt them on Nov. 9. Also, turnovers are vital in every game. And as good as Eli Manning is, he puts the ball up for grabs. The Eagles are going to get a couple of chances.
I think the key to this game is that the Eagles are fighting for their lives. This is the season. Lose, and regardless of what you do the rest of the year, and chances are high that the playoffs will not happen. But win, and you have a winning streak entering the Cleveland game. Win, and you have an enormous boost into the thick of things. It gives you life.