Giants vs. Eagles: Key Matchups That Will Decide Sunday Night Showdown
It doesn't get much better than an NFC East clash between the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants, a rivalry that has been particularly compelling in recent seasons.
Both teams come into the contest 2-1. Each team has looked very good at times and incredibly shaky at others.
And the stars will certainly be out for this one, especially on the offensive side of the ball. The game could be a shootout. It could also be a defensive struggle. Given how these teams have played this year on both sides of the ball, it's hard to say.
But there are a few matchups that are particularly important. Let's review the key battles that will decide this contest.
Giants' Pass Rush vs. Eagles' Offensive Line
Few people know this about the Eagles, but the offensive line isn't very good, Michael Vick seems to get hit 20 times a game, and the Eagles turn the ball over way too much.
Wait, everyone knew that? Oh, right.
Vick has been sacked nine times on the season, thrown six interceptions and fumbled three times (losing one). Meanwhile, the Giants have a really dangerous pass rush (though they have just six sacks after three games, a surprisingly low number).
The battle up front when the Eagles have the ball will decide the game. If Vick gets beaten up and continues to turn the ball over, the Giants are going to win this ball game. But if Vick gets rid of the ball quickly and the Eagles stay out of long third downs and don't turn the ball over, they'll be tough to beat.
Victor Cruz and Ramses Barden vs. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha
With no Hakeem Nicks in play, we can surmise two things about the battle on the outside when the Giants throw the ball:
1. The Eagles will look to take Cruz out of the game.
2. The Giants will look to get Barden heavily involved like they did a week ago if the Eagles double up Cruz.
Barden was a revelation against the Carolina Panthers, catching nine passes for 138 yards. Surely, the Eagles took notice and won't want him to do the same again this week.
For the Birds, keep an eye on Asomugha. The huge 2011 free-agent signing was disappointing a season ago, and he's looked as though he's lost a step again this season. I'd expect to see him matched up against Barden for the majority of this one. It will be a key matchup.
Will the Eagles effectively run the ball?
In the Andy Reid era, the Eagles have become known as a pass-happy offense, but in 2012 they've been at their best when they've effectively run the ball.
The team has has rushed for more yards than opposing teams in all three weeks, but they've seen the rushing total diminish from 150 yards in Week 1 to 113 yards in a loss to the Arizona Cardinals last week, infuriating because of how infrequently the team ran in the first half.
LeSean McCoy is one of the best running backs in the NFL, and the Eagles are at their best when centering the offense around him. When they become too reliant on the pass, Vick becomes a punching bag because the offensive line simply can't protect him.
So look for the Eagles to reestablish the running game in this contest. If they can control the clock by running the ball, it serves two purposes: It protects Vick and it keeps Eli Manning and the dangerous Giants offense off the field.
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