Would the Giants have rather played the Arizona Cardinals this Sunday? Probably. Would Giants fans feel more comfortable if Big Blue were facing the Cards? Most likely. But, come on, Giants vs. Eagles is way more fun. An old-fashioned NFC East smackdown will surely be a step up in entertainment value and quality football. Let Carolina play Arizona.
The Eagles have now become the team the Giants are supposed to be scared of. Remember just a few short weeks ago when everyone was saying the Cowboys are the one team that can beat the Giants in the Meadowlands in January?
Oops, that didn’t work out. Now it’s the Eagles’ turn. But they’ve earned it, winning four out of their last five, and beating Minnesota last week (with a lot of help from the Vikings, though).
The Giants and Eagles have already met twice this season, but you can pretty much throw those games out the window. In the Giants’ victory on November 9th, the Eagles weren’t the same Eagles that are playing now.
And in the rematch, the Giants entered the day 11-1, took their foot of the pedal and were in cruise control (in fact, they clinched the division title that night with Dallas’ loss), and Brandon Jacobs left the game in the first half with a knee injury. In three out of their last four games, the urgency for the Jints was gone and they were just tuning up for the playoffs. The only game that mattered was the matchup with Carolina, and the Giants won.
The QBs: Have you looked at Donovan McNabb’s and Eli Manning’s 2008 stats? They’re eerily similar. Completion percentage: McNabb 60.4, Manning 60.3; Touchdowns: McNabb 23, Manning 21; Interceptions: McNabb 11, Manning 10; Yards per Attempt: McNabb 6.9, Manning 6.8; and their quarterback rating is exactly the same: 86.4. (Does anybody know how to calculate that?
From what I understand, you take Johnny Unitas‘ birthday, divide it by pi, add the number of touchdowns and yards thrown and subtract the number of times Ryan Leaf’s name has been mentioned over the last 15 years, and there you have it.)
McNabb threw for more yards (3,916 to 3,238) and threw almost 100 more passes. But he also lost five fumbles to Manning’s two. They play a different style, but the end result is almost equal. At least statistically. Manning is more consistent, but McNabb can run.
Defense: Both teams D’s are led by genius coordinators, in Jim Johnson and Steve Spagnuolo. The Eagles let up 18.1 points per game (fourth in the league), the Giants 18.4 (fifth). The Eagles gave up 274.3 yards (third), the Giants 292 (fifth).
The Eagles allowed 92.3 rushing yards (fourth) and 182.1 passing yards (third), the Giants 95.8 (ninth) and 196.2 (eighth). The Eagles are third in the league in sacks, with 48, while the Giants finished sixth, with 42. They’re both blitz-happy, physical and can make things difficult for the opposing offense.
Why the Eagles Will Win
Brain Westbrook: The Eagles running back can do it all - run, catch passes (and then
run some more), return punts, return kickoffs, and as a kid, he even invented Miracle Whip. What more could you ask from a guy? He always gives the Giants fits, so if he has a big game, the Eagles can win.
The D: If the Eagles can stop Jacobs and Derrick Ward (or at least slow them down), it will be hard for the Giants to overcome that. This matchup showcases the NFL’s fourth-best rushing defense vs. the league’s best rushing offense. And if Jacobs has problems with his knee, that’s a big advantage for the Eagles.
Donovan McNabb: If the energetic, big-game McNabb is the McNabb who shows up on Sunday, advantage Eagles. He can avoid sacks, make big plays and have a dynamic impact on a game. But that doesn’t happen every week. So which McNabb is in Giants Stadium on Sunday will go a long way toward deciding the game.
Why the Giants Will Win
Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward: Both Giants running backs gained more rushing yards than Westbrook (Jacobs 1,089, Ward 1,025, Westbrook 936) - though neither is as super-talented as he is. Jacobs rushed for 126 yards and two touchdowns in the first matchup between the teams, and was on his way to doing it again (52 yards on 10 carries) before he left the rematch with his injured knee.
Jacobs and Ward can control a game, and if they eat up yardage and keep Philly’s offense off the field, that will be a big boost for the Giants. Jacobs will probably have the biggest impact on whether the Giants win or not. When he doesn’t play or misses more than half of a game, the Giants are 1-3. Big Blue misses him more than Plaxico Burress.
The Giants are 5-3 without Burress, so they’re used to not having him. (I should cut the wide receiver some slack. I had a Plaxico moment last Saturday. I walked into my living room with a can of beer in one hand and a slice of cake in the other. I started losing the grip on my beer, and while I saved that I dropped my cake all over the floor. If that slice of cake were a gun, I would have shot myself. As it was, there was frosting everywhere. Oh, the humanity.)
Coaching: Tom Coughlin is just a flat-out better coach than Andy Reid. I don’t think there’s any argument there. Coughlin even has a big edge in challenging calls. When Coughlin was in high school, he was voted Most Likley to Yell at People for a Living While Remaining Completely Disciplined.
When Reid raised his hand in high school to challenge a teacher’s remark, do you get the feeling the teacher usually replied,” Umm, Andy, you’re in the wrong class. This is American History. Algebra is two doors down.”
Eli Manning: He’s been through the wringer. He’s faced every pressure situation he can face. He’s won games he should have lost. He won a Super Bowl he should have lost. He’s Mr. Last-Minute Drive. He’s clutch. If the game is on the line with two minutes left and he has the ball, the Giants will probably win. Every game the Eagles won this season, they were already winning at half time, so they don’t have the come-from-behind pedigree of the Giants and Manning, so that’s an advantage for Big Blue.
People are starting to doubt the Giants, and they thrive on that. It’s almost like they need to have a chip on their shoulder and play the underdog. And that’s what’s happening now.
That plays right into their hands. And for Philadelphia, which Eagles team will show up? The one that couldn’t score a touchdown against Washington with their season on the line or the one that destroyed the Cowboys? The Giants are favored for a reason and finished on top of the conference for a reason.
So I’ll pick the Giants to win 24-20. But I’m a Giants fan, why wouldn’t I pick them?