What made the Giants 11-1 start in 2008 most impressive was their unstained record against divisional opponents: 4-0. But after defeating the Redskins 23-7 at FedEx Field, the Giants promptly went on to lose back-to-back rematches with the Eagles and Cowboys, respectively.
Including the playoffs, the Giants lost their last three games against division rivals. Needless to say, that streak must end if the Giants hope to reestablish NFC East dominance.
That task will not be easy. Although the 2008 records of the teams following the Giants won’t blow you away (9-6-1, 9-7,8-8), it would take a very convincing argument to displace the “Beast” from the label of having the best division in the NFL.
This is what the Giants must overcome in order to attain their goals. Here are specific problems they may encounter with the divisional foe that finished behind them in the standings in 2008, but ultimately finished ahead.
In one season, they went from possible Super Bowl contenders, to almost losing their coach and franchise quarterback. Then, they pulled off the most inexplicable Week 17 the NFL has ever seen to reaffirm themselves as contenders.
After two playoff wins, they were touted “this year’s Giants,” a reference to how the 2007 Giants pulled off historic wins en-route to an unbelievable Super Bowl run. Like the Giants, the Eagles story ended at Arizona. Only in this instance, the Eagles were not able to pull off a last minute touchdown drive, and had their season end one game short of reaching the Super Bowl.
Coming off such a turbulent season, high expectations remain for the Eagles. They are an extremely deep team, with a plethora of talent laden amongst the offense, but a share of question marks on the defense that allowed one garbage touchdown against the Giants in the last eight quarters they have played.
Of course, the team the Eagles will showcase in 2009 will be very different from the one in 2008. It will feature the Wildcat, manned by Michael Vick, whose playing time will be a mystery until we see him dress during a regular season game.
Doubts continue to linger regarding the running game, with Westbrook coming off multiple surgeries and the Eagles having a history of ditching the run for more pass attempts.
How the Eagles and Giants match up
Throughout the December battle, the Eagles thoroughly dominated the Giants. But through the first two quarters of the playoff affair, the game was played much more closely. The Giants defense looked refreshed coming off a bye and Jacobs was running the ball well.
The second half was opened with an interception by defensive tackle Fred Robbins, and a few plays later the Giants were facing a second and five at the Eagles 17-yard line. The Giants ran two errant pass plays, and Carney made a field goal that gave the Giants the lead. It would be their last of the season.
The defense wore down and gave up an abundance of third downs to the Eagles, including a third and 20. The Giants offense couldn’t pass the ball, and were stuffed on two forth and ones in the second half.
Will there be a repeat this year? Or will the lack of a solidifying force in the wide receiver corps prove to be irrelevant when the two teams match up again? The Eagles are replacing the late Jim Johnson at Defensive Coordinator, and have lost Stewart Bradley, their stud middle linebacker, for the season.
This certainly weakens their entire defense and should allow Jacobs more success then he already had against Philly last season. If the Giants improve on the passing attack, then they have enough firepower to rack up enough points to beat Philadelphia.
As for the other side of the ball, the mystery of the Eagles offense continues. How will Vick be employed? Will teams be prepared to stop it? Personally, I think the Giants will. Their defense is loaded with talented and speedy players that are outstanding at closing in on the man holding the football.
The two regular season battles between these two squads will feature firepower and venom. Obviously the Michael Vick twist adds even more to the drama, and could be a determinant in who comes out on top. Ultimately, the team that conquers the other should have the edge when the final standings are in place.