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Giants vs. Eagles: First look at Sunday’s NFC East matchup

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Here are a few of this week’s story lines

Philadelphia Eagles v Dallas Cowboys
Eagles coach Doug Pederson
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The New York Giants are hoping that a strong second half of the season will catapult them to the 2016 NFL playoffs, erasing some of the failures of four straight playoff-less seasons.

There would be no better place for New York to start that run than by exorcising some of their demons against the Philadelphia Eagles, whom the Giants host Sunday at 1 p.m. ET at MetLife Stadium.

The Giants have lost four straight games to the Eagles, last beating them on Oct. 27, 2013. Dating back to 2008, the Giants have gone just 3-13 in their last 16 meetings with Philadelphia.

Can the Giants turn that history on its head Sunday?

Here are a few story lines to focus on leading up to Sunday’s game.

First matchup of rookie head coaches

Both teams have rookie head coaches. The Giants, of course, have Ben McAdoo. The Eagles have Doug Pederson. Both newbie head coaches have come under some fire midway through their first seasons.

McAdoo, of course, calls plays for the Giants and has taken heat for the simplicity and lack of production of the team’s offense. Can McAdoo make needed adjustments or will he stubbornly stick with the course he laid out for the Giants from the beginning?

Pederson was criticized for his decision-making near the end of last week’s loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Fickle Philly fans have been making their unhappiness known.

First look at Carson Wentz

When the season started, yours truly figured the Eagles would limp home in last place in the NFC East as they suffered through the rookie growing pains of quarterback Carson Wentz. That may still be the case, but both Wentz and the Eagles have been better than expected through seven games.

Wentz, the second player selected in the 2016 NFL Draft, has started all seven games and completed 65.8 percent of his passes. He has nine touchdown passes, three interceptions and a 92.5 passer rating.

The Giants have seen Dak Prescott of the Dallas Cowboys already, and they know he is the real deal. Sunday they get their first look at the other NFC East quarterback of the future.

Key matchup — Giants’ OL vs. Eagles’ DL

Whenever the subject of why the Giants’ offense has under-performed, disparaging remarks about the offensive line usually are not far behind. The Giants have given up only 11 sacks, second-lowest in the league, but have run the ball poorly and have relied on quick throws that don’t require much in the way of pass protection.

The Giants are going to get a serious test from the Philadelphia defensive front. With 22 sacks the Eagles are tied for third in the NFL. Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox each have four and Connor Barwin has three. The Eagles, though, get pressure from everywhere. Twelve different Philadelphia defenders have sacks this season as defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has dialed up all manner of blitz schemes.

Can the much-maligned Giants line handle the pressure from the Eagles? That is a topic we will discuss at length this week.

Playoff implications

The Eagles and Giants are both 4-3, two games behind division-leading Dallas. Sunday’s winner, obviously, has a better shot at chasing down the Cowboys and gets a leg up on a division rival if it comes down to a fight for a wild-card playoff berth.

Which Giants will return?

The first injury report of the week doesn’t come out until before practice on Wednesday. Monday’s practice, though, offered encouraging signs for the Giants. Safeties Darian Thompson (foot) and Nat Berhe (concussion) were back to practice. Offensive lineman Marshall Newhouse might be close to a return, as well. The Giants appear to be relatively healthy entering the second half of the season.