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Rivalry Is About More Than Miracles

It's a rivalry that we know through the Miracle of the Meadowlands, Parts I, II and III, but for those who really know the history of Eagles-Giants, it more about mutual dislike and a battle for turf.

"I think it's one of the greatest rivalries in all of sports," said Eagles radio play-by-play voice Merrill Reese, in his 38th year on the job, and the eyes and golden voice of 77 of these battles. "Two teams, less than 100 miles apart, both in the same division, both with a blue-collar mentality. There is just nothing like it. It's a great, great rivalry.

"Generally, one team will have somebody during that week who says something that gets inflated and this week it happens to be Giants' safety Antrel Rolle, who said that the Eagles really aren't the team to beat in the division. There is always something that starts the spark. It's a special game, a very special game, and it helps that the Eagles are 4-1 and that the Giants are coming off three straight wins. These are two teams that think they are pretty good.

"Even when the teams weren't contenders, or when one team was good and the other wasn't, the games were always bitter and tensions were always high. It's what we think of in Philadelphia when two Big 5 teams play each other in college basketball, or the Army-Navy football game. It's just a great rivalry in which the records don't matter and something out of the ordinary usually happens."

The Giants own the advantage in the series that dates back to 1933, having won 85 games. The Eagles have won 77 times. There have been two ties and the teams are 2-2 in playoff action against each other. There is certainly a tremendous amount of respect for a Giants organization that has won four Super Bowls and that doesn't seem to stay down for very long after a tough season or two.

That this game is in prime time, and that the teams are at the top of the NFC East, and that there are enough former Eagles on the New York roster (defensive tackles Mike Patterson and Cullen Jenkins, defensive back/kick returner Quintin Demps, cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and offensive lineman Dallas Reynolds) to make this one a little bit more special, adds to the flavor of the rivalry.

"I think everybody feels it," said wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. "It's a huge game, it's on national television and both teams are playing well. It doesn't get a whole lot better. The Washington game was big and now this. These are our rivalry games. This is our division to defend."

  • Special teams ace Brad Smith is out with a core muscle injury, so the Eagles have to fill a substantial void. Smith is one of the best special teams players in the NFL, even if he's not always the one making the headline play. Rookie Josh Huff is healthy at just the right time. He's likely to be the team's No. 4 wide receiver and Huff will have to be solid in special teams. He has a lot of responsibility, including returning kickoffs in place of the injured Chris Polk.
  • It's likely that Maclin will see a lot of Rodgers-Cromartie on Sunday night. New York likes to play a lot of man-to-man coverage and Rodgers-Cromartie has had the assignment of handling the best receiver on the offense. "He's good and I know from playing against him how good he is. Long, physical, and a great athlete," said Maclin. "It's going to be a fun challenge."
  • Andre Williams is the Giants' starting running back if, as expected, Rashad Jennings misses Sunday's game. Williams is a powerful, low-to-the-ground back who does nothing fancy. He hits a hole and goes with power. The Giants lose some explosiveness minus Jennings, who is also proficient in the passing game, but Williams brings a hard-running, straight-ahead style to the ground game.
  • All of a sudden, Brandon Graham is an impact defender on both sides at linebacker for the Eagles defense. He had a monster game against St. Louis with three tackles, 4 quarterback hurries and a forced fumble that Cedric Thornton recovered and returned 40 yards to set up a touchdown. Graham has been solid all season in every phase at linebacker. "All the work he put in during the off-season is paying off," said outside linebackers coach Bill McGovern. "Brandon is playing well on both sides for us. He's really doing a good job. He's been a big part of our defense."
  • Cornerback Cary Williams on what the Eagles need to do on Sunday night to slow down the red-hot Eli Manning: "We've got to get to him. He's getting rid of the football and he's playing with a lot of confidence. We have to hit him, disrupt his timing, take him out of his comfort zone. That's going to be key for us."
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