This game has more importance to next year than most people think. Aside from the fact that there's a chance it could be Tom Coughlin's last game as the head coach of the New York Giants, it also decides an important part of the 2016 schedule. There are two destinations awaiting. Which one will the Philadelphia Eagles be flying towards?
The first option is an International Series game in Twickenham, England. The St. Louis Rams have given up a home game to play abroad and the loser on Sunday will be their opponent. The Rams are currently 7-8, and away teams are 9-5 in the U.K. since that series began in 2007.
The second option is a cross-country trip to take on the Seattle Seahawks. They have already clinched a playoff spot and away teams are 4-28 when playing in Century Link Field over the last four years. I'm telling you this because you might need a silver lining because what I'm about to outline over the course of this article does not project well for our friends in blue.
Stats At A Glance
|Rushing Yards||Passing Yards||Total Yards||Total Points|
|Eagles Offense||108.2 (15th)||251.5 (14th)||359.7 (15th)||22.8 (16th)|
|Giants Defense||121.5 (25th)||297.9 (32nd)||419.3 (32nd)||27.1 (30th)|
If you were the Eagles' coach, would you play Jason Peters this week? Would you give Peters back his starting position after he took himself out of last week's game when it became clear that they weren't going to win? There is maybe a 0.1 percent shot that Pat Shurmur does so well in one week as interim head coach that the Eagles hire him for the full-time gig next season. Zero point one percent. So, you're telling me there's a chance?
But Peters is an All-Pro left tackle. That's rare, so pulling a power move to impress the owners may likely cost you a shot at victory; something which would not impress the owners. This means you cave and let a star player get away with a thoroughly uninspiring move because it means not letting Jason Pierre-Paul crush your quarterback on an inside stunt.
Inside, yes, towards Allen Barbre, who has been a serious liability in pass protection this season. Do the Giants have enough to take advantage of gaps in the line like Barbre? I doubt it. In their last two match-ups combined, New York has a meager two sacks total -- both of which came at the hands of the recently-released Damontre Moore.
In Week 17, where everyone is tired, nobody is affected more than those who have to repeatedly rush the quarterback. The Giants may suffer fatigue more than others. Guys like Barry Cofield, Cullen Jenkins, and Robert Ayers Jr are no spring chickens. This is not a young defensive line hitting their stride. In fact, the Giants need three sacks in this game in just to equal their franchise-worst 25 sacks in a season.
Who are we starting this week? Who is left? Jasper Brinkley and Jonathan Casillas played the most snaps of any linebacker last week in Minnesota and neither were signed with the intention of having them start. Brinkley wasn't on the team until September, and Casillas was meant as rotational depth player. But it's Week 17, so it only makes sense for the three top 'backers to be out of commission for this game.
The only positive for the Giants is that Brinkley and Casillas have played about as well as anyone else in this unit. Neither are going to set the world alight, and it wouldn't be too hard to seem exceptional against the backdrop of a defense that has time and time again cost this team real world football wins.
This week, they have the tall task of keeping the running backs and tight ends in check. Guys like Darren Sproles and Zach Ertz pose threats on the ground as well as the air, while last time out, DeMarco Murray rushed for 100 yards for the first time as a member of the Eagles. Can a pair of replacement linebackers and some situational guys like Uani 'Unga and Mark Herzlich keep these in check?
I wrote earlier this week about a special record that this defense might set this week. If the Eagles manage more than 328 passing yards in this game, the 2015 Giants will go down as the worst passing defense in history. In the last three games, Sam Bradford has averaged -- get this -- 329 passing yards. I nearly ripped my throat out from laughing so hard when I worked that out. Wouldn't that just be the perfect end to this visceral debacle of incompetence?
Earlier this year, the leading receiver was Riley Cooper, and the bulk of his 79 yards came on a 43-yard touchdown catch. Without a Jeremy Maclin or a DeSean Jackson, this receiving corps isn't half as scary as previous years. There is the first-round rookie Nelson Agholor and slot-threat Jordan Matthews, but even still, not that scary.
However, how many times have we seen no-name players have career games against the Giants? I swear, there have to be half-a-dozen occurrences of this phenomenon in the past year alone. If there was ever a defense for Bradford and his rag-tag bunch of wide-outs to exploit for a record-setting day, wouldn't it make sense for it to be this one? For the season to end here?
The Giants defense has allowed more than 27 points in four of the last five meetings with the post-Andy Reid Eagles. The only exception was a 15-7 Giants victory in 2013 where Philadelphia lost their starting QB early and had to play Matt Barkley for the rest of the game. Given that Big Blue are currently third worst in the league in points-allowed with 27.1 points per game, I'd imagine this 27 points thing becomes five of the last six. Let's hope the other side of the ball fares better.