Alright, before we get into the keys for this upcoming game, let’s overview the key factors in their previous two meetings:
– In each game, the team that finished with more rushing yards, more time of possession, and a higher third-down conversion rate won.
– Plaxico Burress played in the first game, and Jim Johnson noted that much of the Eagles gameplan was designed to keep Plax in check. It worked – he only had one catch for 17 yards. Problem was, the Giants ran roughshed on the Eagles D, finishing with 219 yards on the ground. He didn’t play the second game, and the Giants ran for 88 yards. Hmmm…
– Brandon Jacobs did not play the entirety of the second game, leaving in the third quarter after rushing the ball 10 times for 52 yards. The Eagles were leading the game at that point, 10-7, though the Giants only touchdown came on a blocked field goal right before the half.
– In the two games, Donovan McNabb finished 36-66 for 385 yards, four touchdowns, and one interception. Oh, and he wasn’t sacked once – in either game.
– In the first game, Brandon Jacobs rushed 22 times for 126 yards and two touchdowns, and Derrick Ward and Ahmed Bradshaw combined to rush for another 91.
– In the first game, Brian Westbrook rushed the ball 13 times for 26 yards, and caught three passes for 33 yards. He did not score. (Editor’s note: I’ve been saying the same thing about the Pundit for years now). In the second game, Westbrook ran the ball 33 times for 131 yards and one touchdown, and caught six passes for another 72 yards and his second touchdown, the now infamous scorching of Antonio Pierce.
Why the Eagles are going to win this game:
Not having Plaxico Burress really hurts the Giants passing attack. Say what you will about the improvement of Eli Manning and his receiving corps, but Plax was a big, athletic target that demanded attention. He was a playmaker, plain and simple. He freed up other receivers, and in order to double him, teams were forced to take another player out of the box, helping an already nasty running attack. I really believe that the Eagles can handle the Giants receivers, allowing them to stack said box. I’m feeling confident that they will stall this Giants running attack, and leave Eli Manning with long third-downs to deal with. Which, as we know, is when Jim Johnson is at his finest. The last time these teams met, the Giants were only 3-11 on third down, and a large part of that was because the Eagles held them to 88 yards on the ground, keeping them in more predictable passing situations.
I’ll concede that the Giants were dealing with the Plaxico/Pierce incident, and the complexion of the game might have changed if Domenik Hixon hadn’t dropped a sure touchdown. Oh, and Jacobs left in the third quarter. But when Jacobs left, the Giants hadn’t scored an offensive touchdown, and the only one they managed was in garbage time, with 20 seconds remaining. The Eagles D dominated them.
Surely, it wasn’t the Giants in their finest hour – they seemed out-of-sync the entire game. But the Eagles were also much, much better. And Westbrook was dynamite. Which brings me to another interesting point – the match-up between the Eagles offense and the Giants defense hasn’t changed much. McNabb played well against them both times, and the Eagles moved the ball in each game. Even in their first meeting, when the Giants ran off 39 minutes of possession, the Eagles still had a legitimate shot to win, in a game they really had no business being close in. The defense couldn’t get the Giants off of the field, allowing them to rush for 219 yards, and the offense couldn’t stay on the field, going 3-11 on third-down.
We almost beat them in a game they controlled, with all of their weapons healthy. We manhandled them in a game where they may have been slightly distracted, and lost their big back in the second half. We’ve won five of our last six, and just held Adrian Peterson, the NFL’s leading rusher, to 83 yards on 20 carries. And two touchdowns. But take away his one long TD scamper, and you kept AD to 43 yards on 19 carries. That’s pretty solid.
I’m not buying into the whole theory that the Giants struggled down the stretch, though. After all, they beat a very good Carolina team, and the Vikings game meant absolutely nothing to them. But I do think that, if the Eagles really stuff the run early, and get after Eli consistently, he’ll start to press. I think Eli is the key to this entire game, because I think the Eagles will stall the Giants running attack. I also think the Giants will find a way to keep Westbrook at bay, but McNabb has shown that he can have success against this defense. If the Eagles stay balanced like they did against the Vikings, and if they convert third-downs like they did the last time they played the Giants, they should be able to string together a few drives, and put up enough points to win.
Of course, those points will come much more easily if they just score some damn touchdowns. ‘Cuz the good lord knows David Akers hates dem Meadowlands. And Sav Rocca hasn’t proved to be much of a punter outdoors, either. Whatever that’s about. So if anybody gets the special team advantage, it’s the Giants. Though I don’t know how much of an advantage it will be. Surely, crazy things can happen, but I don’t foresee it deciding the game. Of course, I’ve been known to be wrong. Like in my evaluation of the special teams before the Birds vs. Vikings game, for example.
But back to Eli – for the Giants to win, Eli needs to put on his Superbowl MVP shoes and carry the Giants on his back. And he can lead this team to victory – needing a touchdown drive late, with the game on the line, I’d rather have Eli than Donovan. Sorry, but he’s just been better in those situations. In turn, of course, his receivers will need to catch the ball better than they did the last time these teams met. Eli will need to pick up the blitz and adjust accordingly, because I believe he’ll be put in a lot of obvious passing situations. It’s interesting – in my mind, the key downs for the Eagles are on first and second, where balance and diversity should lead to offensive success. For the Giants, third down will tell the story – if Eli comes out slinging, he’ll keep the offense out on the field, and if the Giants offense stays on the field consistently, that running attack will eventually wear down the Eagles D. They’ll stuff ’em early – keep chipping away at them with big ‘ol Jacobs, though, and eventually they’ll crack.
17-13, in favor of your Philadelphia Eagles. I think this one will be an absolute battle, though the Eagles D will keep the Giants offense from getting on track. David Akers will probably miss at least one field goal. Westbrook won’t quite get going, but he’ll make at least one huge play in the game. The Eagles’ struggles maintaining drives will continue, though they’ll move the ball just enough to win. The inability of the Giants to establish a running game early will put the game on the shoulder of Eli Manning, and though he’ll play well, he won’t play well enough to get the win. Not having Plax will hurt the Giants, namely in the redzone, where the Eagles will force them to kick two field goals. C’mon, Birds – make me look good.
Other winners: Panthers, Steelers, Ravens