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[Editor’s note:  Former Broncos G.M. Ted Sundquist looks at the NFC East clash between the 7-1 Giants and 5-3 Eagles.  If the Eagles hope to have any chance at winning the division, they’ got to win this game.] 
The Giants-Eagles matchup in Week 10 is another example of the critical divisional battles that start to materialize after the midway mark of a season. New York has established itself as the team to beat in the NFC, defending last year’s Super Bowl Championship with a 7-1 record. Those that subscribe to the work of Aaron Schatz and Football Outsiders will know that Philadelphia (despite their 5-3 overall record) is statistically performing as one of the top teams in the League. In fact at the moment New York is ranked #1 and Philly #2 (considering a combo of offense, defense and special teams play). This will be the first of two meetings (the 2nd on Dec. 7) over the course of the last 8 games.
A victory at Lincoln Financial could pull FO’s highly rated Eagles to within one game in the NFC East. A loss may all but seal Philly’s chances of making the playoffs to a chase for one of two wild-card births and would be their 3rd within the division (already losing to Dallas & Washington).
The Giants have maintained a balanced attack throughout ’08 with a low turnover margin and ball control ability. RB’s Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward have formed a 1-2 punch to the tune of 162.6 yards per game (2nd in the NFL). The Giants have more “big plays” of 10+ & 20+ yards via the ground (43 & 13) than anyone in the League. 46.8% of their runs go for over 4 yards, 46.2% on 1st down.
This is a team that looks to create manageable situations on 3rd down, but is so efficient on 2nd that it rarely faces the scenario. We’ve discussed in past reports how QB Eli Manning has done a good job of “spreading the wealth” around to his WR trio of Steve Smith, Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer. TE Kevin Boss has worked his way into the production over the past two weeks as well (7 for 64, 2 TD’s).
This continued balance will be paramount to counter whatever Philly throws at New York defensively (KEY #1). The Eagles are the 5th rated defense in the League. They’ve surrendered on average 89 yards per game via the rush. Opposing QB’s throw at a 64.9 rate and teams are netting under 200 yards per game. This is a club that shuts down the run on 1st and is ranked 4th & 5th preventing 2nd/3rd down conversions. They’ve given up only 130 points on the season (6th) and go up against New York’s top scoring offense (215). The Eagles like the blitz and do so effectively, where Manning tends to falter with pressure in his face. “Something’s gotta give.”
Donovan McNabb has reemerged as one of the top QB’s in ’08. The Eagles aren’t afraid to throw on any down, from any distance. Philly has made a living on “big plays” with 104 over 10+ and an impressive 37 over 20+ yards (31 through the air). Third and long is not so daunting a task for the Eagle offense and Philly has thrown more & averaged more on 1st than any other down. Despite some particularly “gaudy” numbers, Philly really doesn’t have any singularly dominant receiver. McNabb spreads the ball around as well as anyone in the League, and with the pass such an integral part of their offense all the skilled positions are contributing.
KEY #2 for the Giants will be controlling the “big play” passing of the Eagles and forcing McNabb to dump off to his RB’s Brian Westbrook and Correll Buckhalter. McNabb has been solid in avoiding the pick (4) and finding the outlets. Westbrook is the 2nd leading receiver, but averaging 6 to 7 yards per catch. WR’s DeSean Jackson, Hank Baskett, Greg Lewis and Kevin Curtis are all over 14 yards per catch and TE Brent Celek sits at 15.3. McNabb will surely have his attempts and corresponding completions (63.2% on the year). New York will want to avoid coverage busts or miss tackles in the secondary that would lead to “big plays”. Keep it all in front, be physical (Eagle receivers drop close to 10 per game) and “bring on” some of that 30 sack production (2nd in the League).
The Eagles will have to find some semblance of a run game to slow down the aforementioned rush of the Giants (KEY #3). Philly was able to find production out of both Westbrook and Buckhalter (over 100 yards) in both ’07 losses. New York was able to achieve KEY #2 and limit any and all damage by the WR’s.
Still the Eagles have to protect McNabb from what will most certainly be an onslaught of pressure as New York recorded 15 sacks in last season’s two games. Look for the Eagles to run behind ROT Jon Runyan where they tend to find a bit more room and the Giants are giving up over 6 per carry. Some off tackle success might very well open up play action opportunities where McNabb likes to throw up the middle seams.
On defense, Philly will have to answer the balance of the Giants with their own and they are more than capable. As already mentioned, the Eagles have the 5th rated overall defense in the League, 8th in net yards allowed both run and pass. They are tight on 1st vs. the run and New York looks to their ground game almost 55% at the start of a series. The Giants are most productive running off the left side of their O-Line (OC Shaun O’Hara, LOG Rich Seubert & LOT David Diehl).
KEY #4 will be how well the Philly front can handle the power blocking schemes of New York. The Giants like to come right at the opposition, power on power. The key for the Eagles will be to win the leverage battle, hold the LOS and quickly fill with the LB’s. Gang tackling is a must against Jacobs, who is capable of carrying a lone defender 2 or 3 extra yards after contact with a full head of steam. Philly can’t afford for the momentum to even get started.
You would think with a runner like Jacobs that the Giants would dominate 3rd and short, but they are tied for 11th at 63.6%. It’s the Eagles who have risen up and stuffed opponents in short situations (<4 yards) with a League leading 41.7%. Bank on the battle up front to be pivotal in Philly’s ability to thwart the consistency of New York drives. To do so may eat into some of the Time of Possession advantage the Giants have enjoyed throughout the season.
I’m putting the combination of punters & returners as KEY #5. New York’s Jeff Feagles has a solid leg with good hang time, equating to a gross to net differential of 4 yards and 6 fair catches. He has pinned opponents 13 times this season. Giant return man Domenik Hixon averages over 10 yards a return (long of 50) and has proven to be a threat in the open field. For Philly, Sav Rocca averages a whopping 45.4 and nets 41.1. He’s forced 5 fair catches and has 14 pins. WR DeSean Jackson has taken one 68 yards for a score and averages 11 yards per return. Look for the winner between these two duos to more than likely be the winner of a close football game.

Permalink 8 Comments Feed for comments Latest Stories in: Features, Home, New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles
  1. existentialistmz says: Nov 7, 2008 10:44 PM

    Ultimately this game will come down to TE play on both sides of the ball.

  2. BroadStreetBully says: Nov 7, 2008 11:38 PM

    This years Eagles and last year Eagles against the Giants are a totally different team. First off we got our starting tackles in this year and the giants are missing there starting DE’s from last year. Donovan and westbrook are healthy. Donovan has another year with wrs Curtis and Brown plus a healthy LJ Smith plus the addition of the explosive Desean Jackson. They have a year more expiernce at LB. Also the addition of Asante Samuel. They also added Desean Jackson and Quinton Demps in the return game.

  3. gibsonplyer says: Nov 8, 2008 12:47 AM

    I’m really tired of hearing about the number of sacks by the Giants against the Eagles last year. Yeah its impressive but as a predictor for what’s going to happen this year its worthless. They racked up most of those sacks in one game and only got a few in the 2nd.
    In the sackfest Donovan was still on that gimpy knee that wasn’t 100% yet and this year that has changed. More importantly in that game they were without their starting LT and Westbrook. This is huge. Thomas is not I repeat NOT Justice and Westbrook is adept at picking up blitzes and enough of a threat running/catching the ball to make them pay when given the chance. Throwing that sack number out there is worthless unless Justice is going to be starting which isn’t going to happen even if Thomas does go down its set up that Todd slides out and a backup guard takes his place. Justice is buried on the depth chart.
    I would include that the Giants don’t have their starting defensive ends from last year but that could be rebutted by the fact that they’ve put up good sack numbers again this year so I’ll leave that alone since the changes just in health I think proved my point.

  4. Bob S. says: Nov 8, 2008 5:24 AM

    ONLY game giants lost this year was when for some strange reason spagnuola decided NOT to blitz derek anderson of the powerful cleveland browns coached by the genius romeo crennel , and just about all game long. and anderson who is terrble under pressure picked the giants apart. giants are one of the 2 top sacking teams in the entire league BUT NOT that night because spagnuola decided it that way.
    same thing will or won’t happen this sunday night- if spagnuola reverts again to his tim lewis predecessor’s system of NO blitzing – eagles will indeed beat the giants. if he blitzes giants win. i am sure eagles johnson will be blitzing eli almost all game long.

  5. Sock_Puppet says: Nov 8, 2008 6:21 AM

    Ultimately, this game comes down to whether or not the Giants play down to their competition. Oh, and Filthidelphia being less Filthy.

  6. Tebow15 says: Nov 8, 2008 9:33 AM

    That’s just not true that they didn’t blitz the Browns. The Browns had a great offensive game plan that night. Anderson was taking one and two step drops and getting rid of the ball. The Cleveland WR’s and especially TE Steve Heiden wer running quick, short patterns, which also worked because the Giant DB’s were playing 8 yards off the line of scrimmage. The Giants were blitzing but just weren’t getting to Anderson. Plus it didn’t help that Aaron Ross was doing his best Elvis “Toast” Patterson impression.

  7. Bob S. says: Nov 8, 2008 9:48 AM

    Tebow15 says:
    The Giants were blitzing but just weren’t getting to Anderson.

    go back and watch the game tape again. spagnola had giants only rushing the passer practically all game long with JUST the 4 down lineman. and that is why they not only never sacked him but never with one single play as an exception even got a hand on the slowfooted qb anderson who is no fran tarkenton re:elusiveness.

  8. ottawagiantsfan says: Nov 8, 2008 12:01 PM

    like almost every game, it’s going to go down to who turns the ball over. I don’t care what the records are. The Giants could be 0-8 and the Eagles could be 8-0 and this will be a tough game because they are hated division rivals. I expect to see a lot of injury timeouts.

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