All eyes will be on Philadelphia, Pa for two NYC vs. Philly battles. The Fightin’ Phillies take on the Yankees in Game Four of the World Series and the Eagles will face the NY Giants in a key NFC East divisional battle
NY GIANTS (5-2) AT PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (4-2), 1 PM EST on FOX
Broadcast Team: Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, Tony Siragusa (Field reporter)
Though some national media outlets will tell you that Green Bay, WI will be the place to be on Sunday, Nov. 1 for Brett Favre’s return to Lambeau. Most sports fans will agree with legendary actor W.C Fields who used to always say, “I’d rather be in Philadelphia.”
The reason for sports fans flocking to South Philadelphia will be for a sports extravaganza featuring the Philadelphia vs. New York City. With pleasant expected conditions of only a 30 percent chance of precipitation and temperatures in the 60s, Philadelphia fans maybe looking at one of the best sports days in the city’s history.
The Philadelphia Eagles will take on the New York Giants in an NFC East grudge match at 1:00 PM EST at Lincoln Financial Field then sports fans can return to their tailgates to recharge for World Series Game Four featuring the New York Yankees vs. the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park (NY leads 2-1 going into Sunday).
Eagles-Giants games are almost always close physical games and I don’t expect Sunday to be any different. This week’s meeting will be the first time these two teams have played each other since the Eagles surprised the home team Giants in the divisional round of the 2009 playoffs by a score of 23-11.
The game also will take on significance as the Eagles are only one-half a game behind the Giants in the current standings and a win will vault them back to the top of the NFC East. In recent weeks both teams have had to fight through some hard times, but you know Sunday that they will be bringing their “A” effort.
The G-Men have lost two straight games (Saints and Cardinal) after fattening up on a string of early season cupcakes. And the Eagles also are looking for consistency as they have looked like a potential playoff team in wins over the Panthers, Chiefs, and Buccaneers.
In breaking down the game, the Philadelphia Eagles offensively will follow the lead of their head coach Andy Reid (over 100 career regular season wins). The Giants are known to play the run well (top five in the NFL), so to the surprise of no one expect the Eagles’ pass-first offense (rank seventh in the NFL in throws per game) to continue.
The Birds probably will be without RB Brian Westbrook (concussion), so look for rookie RB LeSean McCoy to get several touches on screens and for them to go after a Giants defense that has struggled in pass coverage.
Especially safety C.C Brown, who has had difficulty in coverage since safety Kenny Phillips went on injured reserve (knee) and cornerback Aaron Ross has been missing with a lingering hamstring injury. It will be very important that Eagles QB Donovan McNabb (63-110, 768 yards, 6 TDs, and 1 INT) starts faster than he did in recent erratic performances against the Raiders and Redskins.
The Giants are susceptible to three- and four-receiver formations as they are known to sit back in coverage, so expect to see a lot of receptions for DeSean Jackson, rookie Jeremy Maclin, and Jason Avant.
Without Westbrook, the Eagles surely will look to get the ball in the hands of their main playmaker, Jackson, who has five touchdowns this season (3 receiving, 1 punt return, and 1 rushing) all 50+ yards. Plus tight end Brent Celek, who leads NFC TEs with 386 receiving yards.
Of course any big plays from McNabb, Celek, Jackson and the rest of the Birds’ offense will start with solid offensive line play. I believe the O-line is one of the biggest keys of this game as the Giants defensive line is fast and relentless and loves getting after the passer.
With a rotation that features Pro Bowl players Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck (3.5 sacks in ’09) along with many other fresh players including DE Mathias Kiwanuka, the Giants thrive on pressuring the quarterback.
However even though new Giants defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan’s unit is ranked No. 1 in the NFL in terms of yardage (262.0), in recent weeks when his D-line has not gotten pressure, opposing quarterbacks had big games. Saints QB Drew Brees threw for 369 yards and 4 TDs in a dominating 48-27 win and he was not sacked once in that game.
On defense, Eagles defensive coordinator Sean McDermott will be concentrating on getting pressure on Giants quarterback Eli Manning (120-203, 1633 yards, 12 TDs, and 6 INTs), because as Eli goes so go the Giants.
The last time these two teams met in the divisional round of the 2009 playoffs, Manning was inconsistent, completing 15 of 29 passes—and only six to the outside receivers—while the Giants had the ball five times inside the Eagles’ 20, and came away with just three field goals to show for it.
Manning is getting a very good relationship with Plaxico Burress replacement receivers Steve Smith (NFC leading 45 receptions for 594 yards and 4 TDs), Mario Manningham (watch for drops), and rookie Hakeem Nicks (1st Giants receiver with a touchdown reception in four consecutive games since 1948).
Even though the Eagles’ top-ten pass defense rarely gives up big plays—fourth in the NFL in allowing gains of 20+ yards through the air—it will be imperative that the Eagles pressure Manning.
So the Eagles will look to DE Trent “The Hunter” Cole (6.5 sacks, second in the NFC) and newcomer MLB Will Witherspoon (8 TKLs, 1 INT for a TD, 1 sack and 1 FF in win over Redskins) to supply most of the heat on Peyton’s little brother.
The Eagles are currently ranked first in the NFL in turnover ratio (+11) so any pressure usually leads to big defensive plays especially in the secondary led by Pro Bowl cover corner Asante Samuel (4 INTs, tied for 3rd in NFL).
To take that pressure off Eli, who surprisingly has had success against the Eagles in Philly (has won four starts in row), the Giants will look to re-establish a dominating run game that has recently taken a couple of weeks off. The Giants have a new Thunder-n-Lighting combination their backfield with workhorse Brandon Jacobs (120 rushes for 464 yards, and 3.9-2 ypr plus has an average of 5.45 ypr since Week Five) and Ahmad Bradshaw.
It will be interesting to see if Bradshaw is even close to 100 percent after a cracked metatarsal in his foot was found this week. Despite the injury, Bradshaw says he will play against the Birds so you know all eyes will be on him and the Giants veteran O-line.
Speaking of the Giants offensive line, against the Cardinals this group’s 38-game consecutive start streak was ended as OT Kareem McKenzie (groin) had to be replaced by rookie William Beatty who struggled at times blocking one-on-one and penalties.
LV ’s Pick: Though the Giants lead the all-time series against the Eagles by a count of 79-67-2 and the G-Men have won three of the four last regular season meetings, there is something special in the air around Philadelphia this week.
There is nothing better to a Philadelphia Sports fan than “sticking it” to an NYC team, whether it is the Mets, Knicks, or Rangers.
I expect the home crowd to be amp’d from pre-game introductions on and McNabb (won nine of past 13 starts vs. NYG (incl. playoffs) is going to rise to the occasion of playing in the national spotlight for the second week in a row. It will be a typically close NFC East slugfest, but the Birds win – Eagles 20, Giants 17
Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award -winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America ( PFWA )