LOCATION: MetLife Stadium (East Rutherford, NJ)
BETTING LINE: NYG (-2.5)
EAGLES PLAYER TO WATCH
Despite the rest of the defensive front performing extremely well recently, the highest paid player on the team has not. In the past three games, Cox has 4 total tackles and ZERO sacks. Most of this can be attributed to the loss of Bennie Logan and most teams sending two linemen at him. However, this guy has too much talent to stay quiet for much longer. The Giants’ interior line is no joke as Eli has remained mostly upright in 2016, only being sacked 11 times (tied for 2nd best in the NFL). Bennie Logan could return this week, but in his absence, Jim Schwartz has been rotating a variety of defensive lineman at the other DT spot. I expect him to scheme up something in order to get Fletcher Cox one-on-one with a Giants’ lineman, a matchup I would take any day.
GIANTS PLAYER TO WATCH
"Paul Perkins has an NFL pedigree and is the hardest working guy on the team." – Marc Ross
— New York Giants (@Giants) April 30, 2016
I wanted to say Darian Thompson here, but the rookie free safety still may not be 100% after suffering a sprained left foot Week 2. So instead I’m going to mention another rookie who could look to play a bigger role this week against the Eagles. New York’s fifth round pick from this year’s draft has only tallied 10 rushes for 39 yards so far, but has impressed in the short pass and screen game with 6 receptions for over 100 yards. Perkins looks to have the measurables to be a feature back in years to come, and with starter Rashad Jennings struggling, keep an eye on the rookie to continue increasing his snap count over the coming weeks.
EAGLES KEY POSITION GROUPS
Carson Wentz will have his first chance to face the most decorated QB of the NFC East in Eli Manning and his two Super Bowl rings. Wentz hasn’t necessarily regressed at all, but he has not posted a QB rating over 100 since Week 5 against the Lions. Part of this is due to the offensive system he is running, but part is due to some errant throws that are expected from a rookie. I still maintain that Wentz’s best attribute is his composure and ability to make plays from the chaos within in the pocket. With starting left guard Allen Barbre not practicing this week, and Lane Johnson still serving his suspension, Wentz could be under fire against the Giants’ front and will have to make solid, improvised decisions.
The Eagles’ wide receiving corps has been pedestrian so far this season, and the weekly drops have not helped their cause. Offseason acquisition Dorial Green-Beckham has been a bit of a surprise this season given how quickly he had to learn and adapt to a new offense. He recorded the second-most targets on the team (9) last Sunday Night and caught 5 of them for 55 yards. Not much of a stat-line, but the main focus for these receivers should be pretty simple: get open. The staleness of last week’s gameplan was either due to Dougie P’s distrust of the receivers getting open downfield or simply Pederson being stubborn trying to exploit a matchup.
Last week against the Cowboys, the secondary had some unfortunate breakdowns late, but overall performed very well. They executed Jim Schwartz’s plan to perfection and took out Dak Prescott’s favorite target, Cole Beasley, for virtually the entire game. Leodis McKelvin came up big on multiple occasions defending Dez Bryant, but this Giants’ receiving corps is a different animal. They have 3 wide receivers capable of stretching the field, and with Malcolm Jenkins most likely playing in the slot once again, the cornerbacks will have a ton of pressure when matched up in man coverage.
Special teams coordinator Dave Fipp has been a genius this season. There have only been two kickoff returns for touchdowns in the NFL this season, and both belong to the Eagles. With the recent incidents and ultimate release of Josh Huff, rookie Wendell Smallwood could carve out a larger impact in the kick return game. He let go a brutal fumble in the 4th quarter last week against the Cowboys, so we will see how much trust the coaching staff gives him.
GAME PREVIEW ANALYSIS
After a hot 3-0 start, the Eagles have lost 3 of their last 4 games, including 2 divisonal games by one touchdown. It’s only midway through the season, but the Birds need a win now, especially one in division. Doug Pederson’s play calling last week wasn’t the best of his young career and he will have to rebound with a fresh gameplan if the Eagles want to leave New York with a much needed division win. As it was last week, this game is going to be extremely physical and will ultimately come down to which team can handle and win the war of attrition that is sure to come.
NEW YORK GIANTS
The Giants will be coming off a bye week looking to push ahead further in the NFC East, after claiming the 2nd seed wildcard over the break. It’s only the halfway point in the season though, and anything can happen. Many will hope to see some variation in personnel and play calling, two areas that New York have been undeniably predictable, in the hopes that the offense can find a groove it has sorely lacked so far. If the defense can pressure Carson Wentz and get up early to force the rookie QB to take chances down the field, Big Blue should be able to seal this one away. But it won’t be easy, and any Giants fan will tell you that division games are annoyingly unpredictable.
GIANTS KEY POSITION GROUPS
This Giant’s offensive front has continued to improve since Week 1. They still aren’t good per say, maybe not even adequate, but they are getting better. Pass blocking has been relatively consistent, despite the inexperience in the tackle positions from Ereck Flowers and Bobby Hart, and some uncharacteristically poor play from center Weston Richburg. Run blocking is the major issue, and against arguably a top 5 defensive line in the Eagles, New York will have to hope the O-line has a hell of a game.
This highly regarded receiver trio has done admirably so far, despite facing blanket coverage by secondaries all season. With the Giants lacking any semblance of a run game, Beckham, Cruz and Shepard are almost solely responsible for any yardage gained by this offense. If New York can relieve some pressure with a few halfway decent rushes, these three might just be able to do the damage we know they are capable of. That’s a big if though. At the very least look for OBJ to provide a couple for the highlight reel against a sub par Eagles secondary.
The Giant’s coaching staff have continually stressed the importance of QB hurries and hits over sacks, and can you really blame them, after forking out nearly 200 million dollars to revamp the defensive New York rank 2nd last in sacks. Both Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon may indeed be playing well, but if Big Blue hope to have a chance to take this one out then these two will need to find a way to get home against an injury depleted Philadelphia offensive line.
The New York media have not been kind to Ben McAdoo of late, though they aren’t too kind to anyone really, but criticisms of the rookie head coach’s play calling, leadership ability and fashion sense have abounded. All eyes will be on McAdoo this Sunday, and whether or not he displays a willingness to adapt his game plan in response to horribly inefficient offensive production. The Giants have remained in 11 personnel formations for 96% of their snaps this season, which clearly hasn’t worked so far, if he strays from that even slightly this weekend many will consider that a win in and of itself.