5 Keys to the Philadelphia Eagles Beating the New York Giants
When these two teams met in Week 2, the story was much different.
The Dream Team was still undefeated. The Giants were coming off a season-opening loss to the Washington Redskins and entered the contest both demoralized and bruised with injury.
Nine weeks later, the tables have turned.
Now, it is Philadelphia entering the rivalry matchup coming off a demoralizing loss, a 21-17 loss at home to the three-win Arizona Cardinals. Now, it is the Eagles who play the Giants with an injured squad—quarterback Michael Vick has cracked ribs, while the statuses of wide receiver Jeremy Maclin and corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie both remain uncertain.
The Eagles must play effective, flawless football to defeat the New York Giants and keep alive even a sparkle of hope toward postseason play.
Clearly, turnovers are not just a key to beating the Giants, but rather a key to winning every football game. Yet giveaways have plagued the Eagles all season. The Birds have turned the ball over 21 times thus far in 2011, tied for most in the NFC.
The biggest culprit has been Michael Vick. The quarterback's 1:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio is a far cry from last season's 21:6.
On the other side of the ball, the Giants' secondary forces a lot of turnovers, including 11 interceptions, fourth most in the NFC. With a menacing pass rush, New York's defense has done a terrific job this season in forcing opposing quarterbacks to prematurely get rid of the football or force passes in frustration.
Whoever starts as the Eagles' quarterback Sunday must be prepared to throw the ball away or take a few sacks. Either outcome limits the damage a turnover would otherwise cause.
Get Seven in the Red Zone
The Eagles have scored touchdowns in only 45 percent of the team's red-zone trips, good for 22nd worst in the league.
The problem is one that has crippled Philadelphia's offense all season. Even back in the Eagles' Week 4, one-point loss to the 49ers, the Eagles offense settled for four red-zone field goals.
Worse yet, in the first meeting between these two NFC East rivals, twice the Eagles were forced to settle for field goals inside the 5-yard line.
There is no clear answer as to how the Eagles can more consistently finish drives with the team's lack of a big receiving target.
Perhaps Philadelphia continues to utilize tight end Brent Celek. In recent weeks, Celek has shown great ability to split seams of zone defenses on short streaks. Should the Eagles decide to put the ball in the air with the end zone in sight, the burly tight end may be the Birds' best option.
Whichever route the Eagles choose, the road must lead to the end zone, not three points.
Keep the QB Upright
Each season, the Giants' front seven is among the league's best. This season, they aren't just among the league's best—New York's front seven is the best in the NFL at getting after the quarterback. Big Blue's 30 sacks are the best in football after 10 weeks.
Quietly, the Eagles' trench men have done a great job keeping their quarterback off the turf. The Eagles' pass blockers have allowed just 16 sacks this season—fifth fewest in the league. Credit Michael Vick's ability to escape pressure as one reason for the low sack total, but don't discredit offensive line coach Howard Mudd's job on coaching up the Eagles' hog mollies.
Philadelphia's tackles will have their hands full trying to keep Giants defensive ends Osi Umenyiora and Jason Pierre-Paul out of the backfield. New York's pair of defensive ends have combined for 16.5 sacks this season.
Whichever quarterback ends up starting for the Eagles must also be diligent when reading the defensive pre-snap, as the Giants also like to bring pressure from the second level.
With either a banged-up Vick or an inexperienced Vince Young taking snaps Sunday, expect the Giants to bring extra heat toward the passer. The Eagles' ability to limit the pass rushers' effectiveness could prove pivotal in the final outcome.
Run the Football
Sunday, the Eagles will enter battle with either a quarterback with cracked ribs or a hurler playing in his first start for the Birds.
Sunday, the Eagles enter battle against a rush defense that gives up more than 120 yards a game on the ground.
Sunday, the Eagles enter battle with a running back who torched his opponent for 128 yards and a score in the team's first meeting earlier this season.
In short, Andy Reid must establish a run game early Sunday night to keep the Giants' pass rush honest, to limit the damage his quarterback could do to his own team and to, quite simply, give one of the best running backs in football enough touches to be the difference maker he already has shown he is.
Limit Eli's Effectiveness
There are no two ways about it: Giants quarterback Eli Manning has been among the best in the league at his position this season.
In the their Week 2 meeting, Manning threw for four touchdowns, and while Eagles fans' initial reaction bordered on nausea, the Giants signal-caller has followed up the performance by leading New York to an NFC East-best 6-3 record behind 17 touchdowns and just eight interceptions.
Interestingly, the answer to limiting Manning's effectiveness may not be to bring heat or to force the quarterback into quick decisions. In a study done this past offseason by Sportingnews, analyst Vinnie Iyer found that Manning is among the best quarterbacks in the league with a blitz in his face. Coming into 2011, Manning had thrown 14 touchdowns to just six picks against pressure, better than even Saints quarterback Drew Brees.
Rather, the Eagles should focus on covering New York's talented wideout group. Philadelphia fans remember with malice New York receiver Victor Cruz malling Eagles cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha on the goal line for a go-ahead score in the third quarter of the two teams' first meeting.
The Eagles secondary has shored up a lot of the early-season confusion defensive coordinator Juan Castillo's zone scheme brought, but the Birds' secondary must stay tight on the Giants' wideouts and limit miscues, especially with Manning threading needles the way he has this season.
With uncertainty at quarterback and a defense that has shown the inability to stop long scoring drives with the game on the line, the Eagles will have their hands full Sunday night.
Yes, the title of this slide show is " ... Eagles Beating the Giants." But add in the New York crowd, a hot opposing quarterback and an angry Giants squad coming off a closer-than-close loss, and the short trip back down the Jersey Turnpike could be feel a whole lot longer.
Giants 27, Eagles 17