For two teams who have been in existence since the 1930s, share a parkway, and play each other twice every year, it’s hard to imagine any way that a rivalry could grow. But that’s just what’s happened in the first decade of the new millennium in the Philadelphia Eagles-New York Giants matchup.
Sure, there have been memorable games. Whenever the teams play in Giants Stadium, the broadcast flashes back to the "Miracle at the Meadowlands" game in which NY was unable to sit on the ball for a victory and literally gave the game away.
There was also the wild card game in 1981, in which the Giants upset Philadelphia, ending the Eagles' bid to repeat as conference champions.
But as the '90s rolled around, the intensity seemed to lose its luster. The reason for that is simple: In that decade, it simply never happened that the teams were competing for any type of postseason success against each other. Whenever one team was doing well, the other was fighting just to avoid last place.
In fact, other than splitting during the Giants' championship season of 1990, every season ended with one team sweeping the other. The Eagles did it in ’91 and ’92, and the Giants returned the favor in ’93 and ’94. The Eagles continued the two-year trend by sweeping in ’95 and ’96, while the Giants ended the decade by sweeping the last three years.
During those '90s, the Giants made the playoffs in 1990, ’93, and ’97, while the Eagles qualified in 1990, ’92, ’95, and ’96. Note that none of those seasons featured a postseason matchup or even an especially memorable game.
Of course, all that changed in the first year of the third millennium. After sweeping the Eagles during the campaign, the Giants beat the Eagles in the playoffs on their way to the NFC Championship.
The very next year, the Eagles dethroned the Giants as division champs by knocking them out of the playoffs in Philly in the next-to-last week of the season. The G-Men almost succeeded with a last second set of laterals but ultimately fell short.
Going into the last week of the 2002 season, the Eagles had already secured the division and a bye, while the Giants needed a win to get a wild card spot. In an overtime thriller, the Giants won on a field goal to take the game 10-7.
In 2003, the Eagles dropped their first two games in their brand new stadium, and many had wrote them off. Both they and the Giants entered their first meeting at 2-3, and the Giants looked to have the game put away with a 10-7 lead as they punted the ball to Brian Westbrook. But the Eagle back turned the game around (and the Eagles' season) with a touchdown return, and the Eagles went on to win their next nine games on their way to their third consecutive championship game appearance. Meanwhile, the Giants stumbled to a 4-12 last-place finish.
After trading sweeps in ’04 and ’05, the Giants entered Lincoln Financial Field in the second week of the '06 season and endured a first half clobbering by the score of 24-7. But Eli Manning then changed NY's campaign by leading a comeback to tie the game and send it to overtime. In the extra minutes, he would connect with Plaxico Burress on a game-winning touchdown pass.
However, the Eagles would gain revenge in the playoffs of that year with a 23-20 Wild Card victory.
Both teams started 0-2 in 2007 but gained significant wins in Week Three: The Giants mounted a second-half comeback in Washington, while the Eagles slaughtered the Lions 56-21. The Giants defense had given up 97 points the first three weeks and was seen as a weakness, but the unit solidified itself against Philly with a 16-3 victory in which they sacked Donovan McNabb a league-high-tying 12 times.
This past season, though, the Eagles stole the show from the defending Super Bowl champions by becoming the first team to win twice in Giants Stadium in one season; the second, of course, was the playoff game in which the Giants didn’t even look like they woke up that morning.
So what kind of games will we witness this season? Will it be one team dominating the other like the contests of the ‘90s, or will we see some more classic finishes and season-changing performances like those of this past decade?
One thing’s for sure: Both teams’ fans will still hate each other no matter who wins by how many points how many times.