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Giants at Eagles: Giants need their defense to show up

What needs to happen when the Eagles have the ball?

NFL: New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants are getting ready for their first divisional rematch of the 2018 season, as they prepare to take on the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Giants are on their first winning streak since the 2016 season, while the Eagles are coming off a two-game losing streak, including a 48-7 dismantling at the hands of the New Orleans Saints.

The Giants’ offense has played well in their last two games, but their defense has been leaky. When the Giants go on the road to Philly, they will need their defense to step up and show up if they want to win their fourth game of the year and invite the Eagles to join them in the cellar of the NFC East.

Stats that matter

Keys to the game

Defensive discipline!

The Giants’ defense was a mess against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Olivier Vernon’s three consecutive penalties will stand out in everyone’s mind, but that was just symptomatic of the defense’s greater lack of discipline. There was also Mike Evans’ long touchdown when neither Janoris Jenkins nor Landon Collins seemed to know what the coverage was.

There were also multiple shoddy, or just plain blown, tackles by Alec Ogletree and Curtis Riley. Far too often defenders were out of position, opening up running lanes.

The Eagles are one of the more modern teams in the NFL, incorporating college concepts. They frequently put stress on a defense through spacing, and also by incorporating motion to forced defenders away from the play. Giants defenders will need to maintain their discipline in the face of the Eagles’ eye-candy and misdirection. The Saints’ defense was able to restrain itself from biting, and that played a big role in limiting Philly to just 7 points in last week’s drubbing.

Disrupt Carson Wentz

The Giants were able to get pressure on Carson Wentz in their first meeting. Olivier Vernon was a force in his first game back, particularly when left tackle Jason Peters left with injury.

The Eagles’ offensive line is still beat up, with OC Jason Kelce exiting last week’s game with an elbow injury, RT Lane Johnson isn’t moving as well as normal, nor is he able to play with power as he is dealing with knee issues, and finally Jason Peters is dealing with his own bevy of injuries.

The Giants have not generated much pressure in their wins these last two weeks, but that needs to change if they want to win this week. They might not be able to sack Wentz — he is still a big and athletic QB who is tough to bring down — but they can force him in to mistakes if the pass rush is able to force him to run.

This could be a big game for Vernon, Lorenzo Carter (who’s athleticism could give the injured Johnson issues), and Kareem Martin (who had a great game in limited snaps against the Buccaneers). As well, even though Jason Kelce is reportedly “fine,” an elbow injury could tip the scales in favor of Dalvin Tomlinson, B.J. Hill, and Mario Edwards Jr.

The Giants will need all of them to show up Sunday afternoon.

Take advantage of opportunities

The reigning Super Bowl champions didn’t get to be 4-6 by consistently being beaten by better teams — they helped get themselves there.

The Eagles have played sloppy football all season long. From Wentz throwing to covered receivers, to missed blocking assignments, to miscommunications, they have been working against themselves as much as the teams lining up across from them.

The Giants’ defense didn’t play great football the Buccaneers, but it did force their offense into making mistakes and creating opportunities for big plays. They took advantage of their opportunities against Ryan Fitzpatrick, allowing the Giants to open up a 21-7 lead and come up with a trio of interceptions. Once Fitzpatrick got the hook, the defense had opportunities against Jameis Winston as well — but failed to capitalize on them until the final defensive play of the game.

Carson Wentz threw three interceptions and the Saints’ defense was able to hold the Eagles’ to just a single score — a 28-yard touchdown run from Josh Adams.

If the Eagles can’t tighten things up in the week before facing their division rivals, the opportunities should be there for the Giants. They need to take advantage of them.