Weren't we here not that long ago? We were, in fact. The New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles met just three weeks ago at MetLife Stadium, with three fourth-quarter Eli Manning interceptions turning a close game into a lopsided 36-21 Eagles victory.
The teams meet again Sunday, this time at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. Let's break down the match-up and see what might have changed for each team since they last met.
|Offense||18.0||328.1 (22nd)||260.9 (10th)||67.3 (31st)|
|Defense||30.9||364.9 (19th)||254.9 (20th)||110.0 (21st)|
When The Giants Have The Ball
Even if the Eagles defense if improving, and it might be since Philadelphia allowed only 17 points last week in a loss to the Dallas Cowboys, the Giants should have opportunities to move the ball. The Eagles are last in the NFL in yards allowed per game (412.7) and 31st vs. the pass (311.6 yards).
The Giants moved the ball well enough against the Eagles in Week 5, with Eli Manning passing for 330 yards. The problem was turnovers -- with interceptions on three straight fourth-quarter possessions -- turning a 22-21 deficit into a lopsided 36-21 loss.
The Giants made some progress in the turnover department Monday night against Minnesota as there were no offensive turnovers. Running backs Peyton Hillis and Michael Cox each fumbled, but recovered their own miscues. Brandon Jacobs missed Monday's game with a hamstring injury and his status remains uncertain, so Hillis and Cox may have to carry the load again.
After allowing 14 sacks in four games the Giants have only allowed four in the past three weeks. Eagles' linebacker Connor Barwin has three sacks this season. The Giants lost starting center David Baas for the season this week due to a knee injury, meaning Jim Cordle will once again have to fill in.
The Eagles' defense has allowed 19.3 points per game in its last three games after allowing 34.5 in its first four. Here are some thoughts on why from Bleeding Green Nation:
Reasons for improvement, aside from facing weaker offensive opponents, are numerous. Bill Davis has seemed to settle in a little after a rough start. He drew up some nice blitzes against Dallas and kept Romo on his toes. Personnel changes, such as playing Vinny Curry more often, have helped as well. Other players are looking more comfortable in the defense. Nate Allen is playing decent after a tough start, and Fletcher Cox has been coming on strong at defensive end.
|Offense||24.1||425.3 (3rd)||260.3 (11th)||165.0 (1st)|
|Defense||28.0||412.7 (32nd)||311.6 (31st)||101.1 (12th)|
When The Eagles Have The Ball
Michael Vick will reportedly return from his hamstring injury, suffered vs. the Giants, to quarterback Philly this week. Giants' fans know the drill with the Eagles. With Vick at quarterback and LeSean McCoy (685 yards rushing, 4.1 yards per carry) the Eagles feature an explosive rushing attack. It is, in fact, league-best at 165 yards per game and 5.2 yards per carry.
In the passing game, wide receiver DeSean Jackson (37 catches, 16.5 yards per catch, 5 touchdowns) is the play-maker.
The Giants, a little bit like the Eagles, have been much improved on defense the past two weeks. After allowing more than 30 points or more in each of their first five games, the Giants' defense has allowed only three points in its last six quarters. The only touchdown the Giants surrendered Monday was via a punt return.
The defensive improvement coincides with the insertion of middle linebacker Jon Beason, acquired via trade right before the first game against the Eagles, into the lineup. Beason has led the Giants in tackles in each of his two starts.
"He's had a big impact," said Eagles' coach Chip Kelly. "Obviously he's a talented player, an All Pro player. I think he's a big upgrade on the defensive side of the ball and that's where it's not the same team, at least from a defensive standpoint."
Beason's presence has been huge. The Giants defensive line, with a solid defensive tackle rotation of Cullen Jenkins, Shaun Rogers, Linval Joseph and Mike Patterson along with defensive ends Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck, has played the run well in recent weeks. They held Minnesota's Adrian Peterson to 28 yards on 13 carries.
The Giants will have to handle the speed and fast pace of the Philly rushing attack in order to unleash a pass rush that showed signs of life against the Vikings.
The Giants' special teams were especially awful against the Vikings. The Giants allowed their third punts return of more than 80 yards for a touchdown Monday night, the first NFL team to allow three punt return TDs in a season since 1959, according to Elias. Rueben Randle lost a fumble on a punt return vs. the Vikings, and is averaging only 6.7 yards per return this season. The Giants are also 23rd in the league in kickoff returns, averaging only 22.2 yards per return, and punt returns.
"We're disappointed in the majority of our special teams play, our coverage teams first and foremost. We have plenty of work to do," head coach Tom Coughlin said.
Damaris Johnson handles returns for Philadelphia. He averages 25.7 yards on kickoff returns and 7.9 on punt returns.