Fortunately for the Philadelphia Eagles, Michael Vick should return from a two-game hiatus to start on Sunday against the New York Giants. It hasn’t been officially announced, but all signs suggest Vick will play. Nick Foles is sidelined with a concussion following last week’s hideous performance, and starting Matt Barkley would likely produce disastrous results.
Vick has an opportunity to put the Eagles back in a tie for first place in the NFC East, if the Eagles win and Dallas loses to the Detroit Lions. A 4-4 record doesn’t sound too intriguing, but it could put Philly in line for the fourth overall seed in the playoffs, if all goes according to plan.
The last time the Eagles played the Giants, they capitalized on a strong showing from Foles, who played for an injured Vick. Philadelphia outscored Big Blue a combined 30-0 in the second and fourth quarters, coming away with a 36-21 win.
In this matchup, Vick must play turnover-free football, while the defense must get pressure on an erratic Eli Manning. In all, expect an Eagles win to put the team at an even .500 mark, breaking an embarrassing nine-game home losing streak and putting Philly back on track.
Vick is expected to start on Sunday against the Giants. Chip Kelly has been adamant in not naming Vick as his starter yet, and Vick has said he wants to test his speed in a 100-yard dash before committing to starting.
Still, it would be a big surprise to see anyone other than Vick under center. He has taken first-team reps all week, and if the Philadelphia Eagles would have to start, he would be the one taking Vick’s snaps in practice.
If Vick starts, he definitely won’t be the playmaking threat he is when he’s at full strength. That Vick is a threat to take off and run even at age 33, considering he’s averaging a ridiculous 9.3 yards per attempt on 33 rushes. Even before he hurt his hamstring against the Giants last time, he had put up 79 yards in not even two quarters of action.
The best bet for an Eagles win is for Vick to avoid turning the ball over, to show accuracy with his passes and to hand the ball off to LeSean McCoy often.
He is averaging close to 100 rushing yards per game on 4.9 yards per carry. Add in his receiving numbers, and he’s on pace for a 2,000-yard season in terms of total offense. He’s a phenomenal all-around back capable of handling a full workload, and the Eagles would be wise to give him one in this game.
The Giants have a terrible defense. They rank 31st in total points allowed and 21st in rushing yards allowed. The last time they faced McCoy, they contained him to the tune of just 46 rushing yards on 20 carries. Still, the Eagles are 13-2 when he gets at least 20 carries, which shows his overall importance as an offensive weapon.
A strong case could be made that DeSean Jackson has been the most valuable player on the Philadelphia Eagles offense in 2013. He’s playing at a higher level than ever before, even higher than his Pro Bowl seasons of 2009 and 2010.
He is a more complete player, and he’s capable of making a huge impact even when he doesn’t break a big play. He is averaging 5.3 catches, 87.1 yards and 0.71 touchdowns per game, numbers that project to an 85/1,397/11 line.
Jackson has done all this without the presence of a legitimate No. 2 receiving threat opposite him, thanks to Jeremy Maclin’s early season-ending injury. In fact, Riley Cooper has been arguably the NFL’s most ineffective No. 2 receiver all season, despite a string of two straight solid performances.
Jackson put up a 7/132/1 line last time the Eagles played the New York Giants. Judging by Cold Hard Football Facts’ Defensive Real Quarterback Rating, the Giants are seventh worst in the league at stopping opposing quarterbacks. They don’t have a cornerback who can run one-on-one with Jackson, and a deep ball to him could make the difference in this contest.
The Offensive Line
The Philadelphia Eagles have stayed remarkably healthy on their offensive line. Through seven games, the five starters have started 35 of a possible 35 games. Only Jason Peters has missed time, and that was in two brief instances.
Cold Hard Football Facts rates Philadelphia as tied for the fourth-best offensive line in the league, per its Hog Index statistic. Pro Football Focus has the Eagles as one of the inferior teams when it comes to pass blocking but ranks them far and above any other NFL team in terms of run-blocking efficiency (subscription required).
The key is the left side of the line; Peters, left guard Evan Mathis and center Jason Kelce are arguably the best trio in the league. Surprisingly, the New York Giants that won the Super Bowl in 2011 on the backs of their pass rush has generated almost none in 2013. Jason Pierre-Paul is looking more and more like a one-hit wonder, while Justin Tuck is just washed up.
Former Eagles Mike Patterson and Cullen Jenkins are playing very well on the New York interior line, but they will have a tough task in slowing down McCoy. This advantage goes to the Eagles.
Expect Philly to put up a performance much like its season average thus far—427 total yards and 24 points.