This is the final part of my conversation with Jason from 'Bleeding Green Nation.' We finally get down to the dirty business of picking Sunday's winner. And, as you might expect, we have ourselves a bit of a disagreement.
Nonetheless, I have enjoyed the back-and-forth with BGN, and I thank Jason for his efforts on this. Now, on with today's conversation.
Big Blue View: When we talk about predictions for Sunday's game you know that, as the Giants' blogger, I am picking the Giants. Jason, I assume you will pick the Eagles and I am anxious to hear why. Anyway, here is my case for why the Giants will win.
Simply, it boils down to this. The Giants are the better football team. The Giants are defending Super Bowl champs, the Eagles did not make the playoffs last year. The Giants went 12-4 this season, won the NFC East and earned the No. 1 seed. The Eagles went 9-6-1, earned a playoff berth with a season-ending victory (albeit an impressive one) and are the sixth seed.
I looked at the two regular-season meetings between the Giants and Eagles earlier this week. I believe the Giants' 36-31 victory is a game New York thoroughly dominated, and that only a couple of uncharacteristic Giants turnovers made the game close. In the second game, I honestly believe the Giants lost it more than the Eagles won it. There was a dropped pass by Domenik Hixon that would have gone for an 85-yard touchdown. There was also a stupid reverse to Mario Manningham that cost the Giants a field goal opportunity. Those two plays equaled a 10-point swing, and probably cost the Giants that game.
The Eagles have not shut down the Giants' running game either time the teams have played. Brandon Jacobs ran for 126 yards in the first meeting. In the second meeting, he had 10 carries for 52 yards (a 5.2 yard average) before getting hurt and Derrick Ward had eight carries for 39 yards (a 4.9 yard average). In the second game I think the Giants simply did not run often enough. If the Giants stick with the run like they should, and like they normally do, I don't see the Eagles shutting it down this time, either.
Also, I read the other day that in 11 meetings between a six seed and a one seed, the one seed is 10-1. So, that favors my team.
All of that said, I do respect the Eagles. They are a good team and have, for the most part, played well in recent weeks. Brian Westbrook and Donovan McNabb are tremendous, and playing against a Jim Johnson defense is never a walk in the park. Would I be completely stunned to see the Eagles win? No, but if the Giants play the way they are capable of playing I don't see it happening.
My Pick: Giants 24, Eagles 20
Steelers 17, Chargers 14
Ravens 24, Titans 21
Carolina 31, Cardinals 14
Bleeding Green Nation: I happen to think the Giants got thoroughly dominated in game number two between these teams. Much like the first game, the close final score didn't really reflect how the game went. The Eagles owned the line of scrimmage in that game, much like the Giants controlled the line in the first game between the two.
You can call the Giants' turnovers in that game "uncharacteristic" but the fact is that it's not uncharacteristic for teams to turn the ball over against this Eagles defense. You can also say we didn't shut down the Giants' run game, but any time you hold a team that can run the ball as well as the Giants to 88 total rushing yards and less than 4 yards per carry.... you've done well. Maybe not "shut down" but pretty close.
And Hixon's pass drop? I would suggest that it's just as much of a fluke that he got open behind our defense as it was that he dropped the pass. This Eagles defense is ranked #3 in the NFL. They're the 3rd best pass defense in the NFL and it's not likely that many receivers are going to have opportunities to run free behind our secondary.
As for Jacobs getting hurt against us... would it shock anyone if he got dinged up again? He is a really good player, but he's clearly not the most durable back in the world. By Jacobs own admission he could have returned in that game but didn't see a point. "But why?" he said. "We couldn't get anything going and we didn't play as good as we're supposed to play." I thought that quote was interesting...
Plus, he always seems to get a case of fumbilitis against the Eagles. I believe he's fumbled in both games this year. Again, backs fumbling is not something that is rare against this Eagles defense.
Maybe the most amazing stat between these teams is that Giants have not yet sacked McNabb. I believe they got credited for a sack on a play where McNabb tripped after the snap and Justin Tuck touched him down. They've not been able to beat the Eagles' line and pressure McNabb for a sack once! The Giants' defense is built on pressuring the passer and when they don't get there, they struggle. That's evidenced by the 51 points they've allowed against the Eagles in two games this year.
The Giants may well be the better football team, after all records speak for themselves. However, the records do say that the Eagles are playing better football right now. Since the start of December the Giants are 1-3 and the Eagles are 4-1. There was a meaningless loss to the Vikes in there for the Giants, but the fact is that in the last month and a half the Giants have only tasted victory once. That means something.
I have no delusions about this game. Despite all my negativity toward your team in this post, I absolutely respect the Giants. They've got a good QB and a really good defense and when you have those two things you've got a better than average shot to win any game especially in the playoffs. Going on the road to beat a team like a the Giants in the postseason is a gargantuan task... but I'm keeping the faith. Keeping the faith in McNabb, Westbrook, and especially this Eagles defense. I say this ends with the exact final score of the last game. 20-14.
As for the other games...
Tennessee 17, Baltimore 20
San Diego 13, Pittsburgh 17
Carolina 31, Arizona 17