Victor Cruz looks to break out of a slump against a team he has torched throughout his young career.
Two horrific losses against the Atlanta Falcons and the Baltimore Ravens stripped the Giants of the steering wheel. After controlling the NFC East for most of the season, they now need a surplus of help to sneak into the postseason.
The odds are against them, but they can at least avoid a catastrophic finish by staying over .500 with a victory over the 4-11 Philadelphia Eagles.
This game smells fishy as a perennial trap game that the Giants blow. Facing a last-place team doesn't feel as good when they have nothing to lose in Andy Reid’s last game of a 14-year coaching tenure.
Then again, the Giants always show up once everybody writes them off following disgusting displays of football, so they could respond with a huge game to conclude a topsy-turvy season.
Michael Vick took a beating behind a lackluster offensive line before losing his starting job.
The key component to two Super Bowl runs is nowhere to be found.
New York's success relies on its defensive line's ability to pressure the quarterback. This season, the Giants rank in the league's bottom half with 32 sacks.
The Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers also fall in the bottom 10 in terms of sacks surrendered. The Giants' defensive line feasted on Aaron Rodgers and Alex Smith during their two strongest performances of the season.
In their last matchup, Michael Vick erased his linemens' shortcoming by scrambling away from New York’s pass-rushers. Nick Foles would have presented a much more stagnant target, but Vick will likely make his first start since Week 10 because Foles broke his hand in Sunday’s game against the Washington Redskins
Vick could return rested and eager to audition for a starting gig elsewhere, but how much can they reasonably expect from a 32-year-old who’s been out of commission since early November?
Nnamdi Asomugha has fallen short of lofty expectations with the Eagles.
Once a ferocious defense the Giants feared facing, the Eagles are now a soft, exploitable squad.
This defense does not operate nearly as aggressively as past units. Formerly frequent leaders in forcing turnovers and pressuring quarterbacks, the defense has only amassed nine interceptions and 29 sacks.
The Eagles rank 26th in the NFL with 26.8 points allowed per game, and that’s including a solid start. After its Week 7 bye, Philadelphia has yielded 30.7 points per contest.
Instead of torturing Eli Manning with the Eagles, Asante Samuel is now intercepting Manning as a Falcon.
Philadelphia also represents the ideal opponent for some Victor Cruz salsa dancing. Cruz has been blocked from the dance floor over the past two weeks, only earning 36 receiving yards in both games combined.
But in three career games against the Eagles, Cruz has caught 18 passes for 347 yards and four scores.
The receiver plays an integral role in determining the Giants success; he has scored eight touchdowns in their eight wins but just one in their seven losses.
Manning can alleviate potentially the longest offseason of his career since claiming Super Bowl hardware by finishing on a high note against an inferior opponent.
Julio Jones led the No. 1 seed Falcons to a convincing victory over the Giants.
In New York's defense, a majority of its defeats came against playoff-bound squads.
Enduring a brutal schedule, the Giants have played 10 games against teams who have clinched or can still earn a postseason bid.
None of their last 10 opponents hold a record worse than 7-8. Even the “cupcakes” on their schedule (Carolina Panthers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Cleveland Browns) all played well at certain junctures of the year.
The only poor team the Giants could not pick up a win against: the Eagles.
This took place in Week 4 due to a strong performance from Vick, who will be shoved back into action this Sunday. They lost by two points, plagued late by poor clock management and a questionable decision to send Lawrence Tynes out to attempt a field goal clearly out of his range.
At that point of the year, the Eagles, poised to make a run in the NFC East, improved to 3-1. They have since lost 10 of their last 11 matchups.
After facing premier squads on a weekly basis, the Giants can finally take advantage of an easier challenger.
David Wilson has averaged 5.1 yards per carry this year.
Eventually Tom Coughlin will wake up and realize that he's wasting an exceptionally talent playmaker, right?
David Wilson cleared up space in Coughlin's doghouse by fumbling during Week 1, but how long can he stay mad at the rookie for one fumble? Ahmad Bradshaw receives regular touches over the speedster despite already coughing off the ball three times.
When Wilson piled up 155 rushing yards and two scores on 25 carries during Bradshaw's absence, logic indicated that the first-round pick would keep getting the ball.
He instead received three touches, one of which he took to the house for a 14-yard score.
How can a team who liked Wilson enough to avoid conventional wisdom by investing an early pick on a running back not even give him a chance? While they show concerns over Wilson's ability to block, a banged-up Bradshaw failed to protect Manning last Sunday.
If the Giants can establish a productive passing game and evade an early deficit, they should run more against a defense that allows 122.4 yards per game on the ground. Since there's usually a solid chance Bradshaw can't play anyway, here's to hoping that Wilson is at least afforded 12-15 carries to prove his merit as next year's deserving starter.
Does the good Eli show up this Sunday?
This is the type of stupid illogical thought process I typically avoid, but there’s a frustrating pattern with these Giants: They only win when they need to.
Once the Giants created some wiggle room, they took their foot off the gas, dropping games to the nonconference Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals heading into a bye week.
Even when they lost to the Washington Redskins, they still held control, but a loss against the Saints would change that. So they scored 52 points.
The last two losses were devastating, but neither knocked them out of playoff contention.
The Giants are a college student who needs the pressure of starting a paper two hours before it’s due. They’re a child who climbs up a jungle gym after receiving parental warning of its danger.
They need to live on the edge of destruction. They need to hear that they’ll fail so they can play the underdog card and rub success in their critics’ faces.
Is this short-sided thinking? Probably. Is it sad that a team of professional athletes does not treat every game with gravitas? Absolutely.
But after years of watching these New York Giants, the trend is becoming increasingly clearer.
Unfortunately, they probably took their procrastination one step too far, as 9-7 likely won’t suffice this time around.