Ed: After the Eagles hammered the Giants in Week 6 I figured that would springboard them on a run that would give them control of the NFC East. What’s the biggest reason that hasn’t happened?
Brandon: You and me both. It really looked like they were going to turn a corner, especially as they were up 17-0 at home on the Panthers. But then they blew that game and they’ve been 1-2 since that loss.
The offense has majorly contributed to the Eagles’ struggles. Philadelphia ranks 23rd in points per game (just under the 22nd-ranked Giants), 22nd in yards per play, and 22nd in offensive DVOA. There’s no real running game to speak of and there’s a real lack of explosive play-makers. Carson Wentz has posted good numbers this season but he’s coming off the worst game of his career with a three interception performance against the Saints. Philadelphia’s top-ranked offensive line in 2017 has regressed in 2018. Doug Pederson and his coaching staff deserve blame for an offense that’s averaging a league-worst 2.1 points per game in the first quarter. (14 of those 21 first quarter points came against the Giants.)
Jim Schwartz’s defense doesn’t look so awful on paper when you see the Eagles rank seventh in opponent points per game. But that figure doesn’t tell the whole story. The Eagles are still 22nd in defensive DVOA and only two teams have fewer takeaways this season. No defensive players can really be counted on to make a big play.
Injuries haven’t helped, either. The Eagles rank 24th in adjusted games lost this season, which shows they’ve been hurting more than most teams.
Ed: What is going on with Golden Tate? I keep reading about the Eagles having a hard time figuring out how to incorporate him into their offense. What’s the deal?
Brandon: The Eagles traded a 2019 third-round pick for eight games of Tate. One would think they’d be pretty committed to giving him a lot of playing time in that limited window.
But Tate’s only played 47.8 percent of the Eagles’ offensive snaps through his first two games on the roster. He’s been targeted 12 times for seven receptions, 67 yards (9.6 yards per reception), and zero touchdowns. He has one rushing attempt for negative eight yards.
So, yeah, the Eagles have clearly not been able to incorporate him effectively. Offensive coordinator Mike Groh said it’s been “challenging” to get him involved, which seems like a crazy thing to say because that’s basically an admission he’s not good at his job.
Part of the issue is that Tate is primarily a slot receiver and that’s the role where Nelson Agholor usually excels.
Ed: What worries you most about the Giants as you look ahead to this game? Conversely, where do you look at the matchup and feel like the Giants are vulnerable?
Brandon: Odell Beckham Jr. and Saquon Barkley worry me the most about this game.
The Eagles’ secondary has been absolutely ravaged by injury. Starting cornerback Ronald Darby is out for the year with a torn ACL. Starting cornerback Jalen Mills is likely to be out with a foot injury. Third cornerback Sidney Jones has a hamstring injury and won’t play this week. Fourth cornerback Rasul Douglas is dealing with an injury issue and might not play on Sunday. Ditto for rookie starting safety / nickel cornerback Avonte Maddox.
Against the Giants, the Eagles might be down to undrafted rookie free agent Chandon Sullivan and practice squad player De’Vante Bausby starting on the outside with recently acquired Cre’Von LeBlanc starting in the slot. None of those players were even on Philadelphia’s roster on October 24.
I just don’t see those guys standing much of a chance of containing OBJ and the rest of the Giants’ receiving corps.
As for Barkley, we saw him give the Eagles trouble back in Week 6. Philadelphia’s run defense has only worsened since then. Ezekiel Elliott went off for 151 yards and one touchdown against Philly in Week 10. Then Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara combined for 174 rushing yards and two scores on 29 carries in Week 11. I can only imagine what Barkley might do against this depleted defense.
Ed: On BBV Radio, Michael Kist seemed to indicate that he thought there was some Super Bowl hangover when it came to the Eagles preparation/readiness for the current season. Agree or disagree?
Brandon: I think Kist put it well. This group just looks like a team that wasn’t able to turn the page on 2017. They’ve been coming out flat in most weeks. As I previously mentioned, they’re dead last in first quarter scoring. It’s hard to say the same hunger to be truly great has been on display. Even the team’s leaders have made that point in recent weeks. You have Jason Kelce saying there’s not enough accountability with this team. And you have Malcolm Jenkins criticizing the team’s demeanor in their latest loss.
Ed: Your prediction for Sunday? Are we ever going to see the 2018 Eagles look like the 2017 Eagles for any extended period of time?
Brandon: On one hand, I don’t think the Giants are suddenly some juggernaut just because they beat Nick Mullens by four points and a benched Ryan Fitzpatrick by three points. I think it’s entirely possible the Eagles can beat New York as they’ve often done in recent years.
But I don’t have a lot of confidence in their ability to do that right now. The offense is majorly struggling. The defense is depleted. The Eagles have lost three in a row at the Linc so it’s not even like they have home field advantage going for them right now.
I expect this to be a close game that could go either way but I’ll say the Giants win, 24 to 20.
And no, I don’t think we see the 2017 team for an extended period of time.