In order for the Philadelphia Eagles to head out of the Medowlands on Sunday with a win, there are a various keys to the game that will need to be accomplished.
For the second year in a row, the Eagles will be voided of the playoffs. However, unlike last season's late rally, the team has won just one of their last 12 games.
The result? Sunday's Week 17 game against the Giants will only help determine where they draft in the top eight of the upcoming draft. With that being said, they also have a chance to put an early end to the scoreboard watching Big Blue will be doing in hopes of a playoff spot.
There's not much more rewarding than stealing the playoff dreams of your nearest rival. These 10 keys to Sunday's game should help the Philadelphia Eagles achieve that.
This will most likely be Michael Vick's last game in an Eagles uniform. With that being said, it will be far from his last NFL game as there are easily over five teams the could be in need of a quarterback next season.
Not only does Vick present an opportunity to use his dynamic skills to win for the Eagles, but it also will be his last chance to display himself to teams interested in his talents next season.
At the helm of the Eagles for the past couple of years, Vick obviously does not carry the same speed and elusiveness he once had. However, the slow conversation of Vick into a pocket passer has led the team to zero playoff wins. It hasn't worked.
Andy Reid should do both the team and Michael Vick a favor and let him loose on Sunday. Roll outs and designed scrambles could be a huge key to this game. With a hurting group of receivers, a quarterback looking for a home, and a team with nothing to lose, the time has never been better.
Last week Ray Rice ripped the Giants defense for 51 yards on just six receptions out of the backfield. The Eagles will need to continue to look to halfback LeSean McCoy if they want to get the win.
After being targeted 11 times, McCoys nine receptions for 77 yards against the Redskins last Sunday almost led them to a dramatic comeback. Better yet, it allowed the Eagles to stretch the field with Jeremy Maclin (eight receptions, 116 yards).
McCoy looked as dangerous as he has all season after he returned from a concussion. While the Giants' front four on defense may be one of the fiercest in the league, dumping the ball of to McCoy may be the easiest way around it.
The past two weeks have not been friendly to the Giants. After being blown out in Atlanta 34-0, the Giants followed it up with a 33-14 loss to the Ravens. By far the biggest constant in these two losses was time of possession.
Take a look at these two tables:
That is an unbelievable discrepancy over two games, making the final scores a little less surprising. The Eagles must now follow suit and combine limited turnovers with a successful run game. Doing so will allow the opportunity for a high efficiency offense while simultaneously keeping a Super Bowl MVP off the field.
No surprise here. Cruz has implanted himself as the top weapon for the Giants offense. Cruz has a knack of turning a broken play or short pass into a long touchdown. Lately, though, defenses have done an excellent job limiting the young receiver's on field production.
With just six receptions combined over the last two games, Cruz has disappeared leaving Eli Manning a very slim array of target options. If the Eagles can force guys like Domenik Hixon and Martellus Bennett to be the top options for Manning, the defense should look great on Sunday.
It is pretty standard to list "protect the football" as a key to a game. But that's a key every week, and something players should be trying to do on every play.
The Eagles, and Michael Vick in particular, seem to forget those rules in the red zone. A turnover in the red zone is directly taking point off the board. If not a touchdown, a routine field goal is a worst case scenario.
If Vick continues to fumble and throw lollipop passes into the end zone, the worst case scenario becomes zero points. With a point differential of -126 on the season, the last thing the team needs to do to win is give points away.
A key to last week's game against the Redskins was to increase targets to Jason Avant and Riley Cooper. While the Eagles only happened to do one of those, it has paid off big time for one of the league's most underrated and unknown wide receivers.
At almost 250 yards over his past three games, Avant has been a quiet but consistent option after the loss of Desean Jackson. Slowly but surely Avant is transforming himself into a guy other teams have to plan for, instead of a simple third wide receiver.
He may not be flashy, fast or elusive, but Avant's average of six receptions over the last three weeks has been a much needed constant in the offense. If the Eagles want to convert third downs and move the ball down the field, Avant is one of the few options they have.
As Featured Columnist Pete Schauer points out, "Giants fans will have their eyes on Corey Webster on Sunday, as the 30-year-old corner will be a week removed from being dissected by Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens' offense."
Eagles fans too know something about having corners picked apart this season. With Jeremy Maclin playing at the highest level he has in a while, he may have a field day against a struggling Giants cornerback.
With Chris Canty, Justin Tuck and Kenny Phillips all questionable for Sunday, a once fierce Giants defense may now be ripe for the picking. Whether those guys play or not, the obvious Achilles' Heal on the field will be Corey Webster.
If Reid and Vick can take advantage of that, putting points on the board may be easier than it has all season.
Probably the lone bright spot for the Eagles' defense this season has been defensive end Brandon Graham. After gaining a consistent starter spot when Jason Babin was cut just a few weeks ago, Graham has been electric rushing and sacking the quarterback.
Not only have these moments been huge momentum swings in the series, but they have also been rare instances the Eagles could disrupt the quarterback. Sacks have been an uncommon occurrence for this team, as they are tied for 25th with 29 on the season.
Eli Manning is a Super Bowl MVP and has pushed his way into the discussion of elite quarterbacks. If the Eagles give him the time to get through progressions, it is going to be a long afternoon. Graham could be a spark plug for the rest of the line to make sure that doesn't happen.
While very specific, forcing a fumble or two is a key that could allow the Eagles to end this one early. The Giants' running back situation has been odd this season.
David Wilson found himself in the doghouse early after a fumble. Where Andre Brown recovered the backup, and complimentary, role to Ahmed Bradshaw, he is now out with an injury.
Meanwhile, Bradshaw has seen the recurrence of some old problems. In 2010 Bradshaw had seven fumbles, but recovered great with zero in 2011. With the departure of Brandon Jacobs, however, Bradshaw's carry totals have once again gone over the 200 mark, a possible explanation for his three fumbles.
While three fumble over the course of a long season is nothing at all to panic about, it is still an exploit the Eagles can look out for on Sunday. If they can manage to knock one or two out early, Giants coach Tom Coughlin will be faced with a tough decision on whether to stick with the vet or take his chances with Wilson.
Wilson has only seen 15 carries over the past two weeks, as the Giants have been down big. Creating this havoc combined with a little rust on the rookie could provide a much needed window of opportunity for the Eagles.
“I don’t feel like he deserves to have [Sunday as] his last game. He’s done so much for this city and this team. [People] forget how good a coach he really is, so I’ll fight for him” (CSN Philly).
Whether McCoy represents the majority or the minority in the locker room shouldn't affect the players from having the same attitude . Reid has suffered from both off the field tragedies and on the field blunders to put this team where they are today. It seems that he has lacked focus while simultaneously losing his coaching edge.
That doesn't matter.
Until Jason Babin's confusing "socialistic hierarchy" tirade, it was very rare to hear something bad said about Reid or his coaching staff. This leads you to believe he truly is a good guy and one the players respect. So whether his coaching or distractions have gotten in the way, he deserves one last fight. A fight from all the players.
Like Michael Vick, this too is a last audition for Reid. If he hopes to return to coaching, leaving Philadelphia on a good note can do nothing but help his case in the future. The players have a chance to return the favor for all he has done and win him a final game.
It cannot be easy to play with passion and fire if your team is projected to pick top five in the NFL draft. Andy Reid should be all the passion, fire and drive this team needs to win on Sunday. He's been a good coach, a good man, and an excellent face of representation for this franchise.
If the Eagles fight for Andy, they will surely win for Andy.