This is obviously a critical moment for the Giants, and it's understandable why Giants fans would be anxious. A third straight loss would amount to a strong case that the Giants aren't among the league's best. And avoiding this fate won't be easy. Despite their not uncharacteristic lapse against the Raiders, the Eagles are excellent as always this year. What's more, they'll be playing in front of an even more raucous crowd than usual because of the subsequent World Series game a stone's throw away. So there are many reasons to worry. But let's pause for a moment to appreciate how fun this all is. As nice as it was skating through most of the season last year, aren't these tough, pivotal NFC East games what being a Giant fan is all about?
Injury Notes: The Eagles biggest question mark is Brian Westbrook, who's still listed as questionable with a concussion sustained last week. Receiver Kevin Curtis is out with a knee injury that has sidelined him since Week 2. Defensive end Victor Abiamiri, who mans the left side on running downs, is also out.
For the Giants, Ahmad Bradshaw revealed that he has a cracked bone in his right foot, another chronic injury to go along with his right ankle injury. Should the bone breaks completely, Bradshaw will be lost for the season. Taken together with the ankle, you have to wonder what the odds are of Bradshaw's finishing the season in one piece. With the uncertainty surrounding both Bradshaw's health and Jacobs's effectiveness, don't be too shocked if Danny Ware is our go-to back by the end of the year.
Mario Manningham injured his shoulder in practice on Thursday. He is listed as questionable but will probably play. Still, that's four upper body injuries for Manningham in less than half a season: He has already injured his neck, his chest, and this same shoulder. The guy is obviously talented, but between the injuries and the drops, you just hope he doesn't get torpedoed.
Kareem McKenzie will step back in at right tackle. Michael Boley and Chris Canty both started practicing this week but won't play. They're on track to get back after the bye week though, which will be a nice lift.
Giants Offense vs. Eagles Defense:
The Eagles' defensive M.O. is well known: They blitz the shit out of the quarterback, and are successful at doing so: Their 8.3 Adjusted Sack Rate - a Football Outsiders stat that adjusts raw sack totals for passing attempts and situation - ranks sixth in the league this year. The strategy is so effective because the Eagles cornerbacks, Sheldon Brown and Asante Samuel, might just be the top tandem in the NFL. Philly is tied for third in the league with 12 picks, and Samuel and Brown have 4 and 3 respectively. Overall on pass defense, Philly ranks 3rd in the league in terms of DVOA, a Football Outsiders stat that puts traditional stats into context based on situation and opponent.
Because the Eagles blitz so much, they're vulnerable to deep passes. So the onus is once again on Eli Manning and the receivers to hit some of these deep shots. With the exception of the flukish touchdown to Nicks last week, the Giants have been poor in this area over the past two weeks. For this reason, the health of Manningham - and whether or not he can catch the ball - will figure prominently. He is by far the Giants' biggest deep threat.
The presence of so many defenders near the line makes the Eagles strong against the run as well. They rank 8th in the league, according to DVOA. Last year, the Giants had no trouble running on them in their first meeting but couldn't run in their second and third games. Overall on defense, they rank 2nd in DVOA.
Eagles Offense vs. Giants Defense
The Eagles offense has been average this year, ranking 16th in DVOA. How dangerous it will be on Sunday will depend on the health of Brian Westbrook, who will be a game-time decision after sustaining a concussion last week. Although Andy Reid has tried to ease Westbrook back from offseason ankle surgery by giving LeSean McCoy more carries, Westbrook has been much more effective, averaging 4.8 yards per carry to McCoy's 3.6. It will be interesting to see if Andy Reid abandons the run early on if the Eagles don't have success early on.
The Eagles best runner might just be DeSean Jackson, who broke a reverse last week for a long touchdown and also lines up at quarterback in the Wildcat. (Michael Vick has been a complete non-entity this year). It might have been a good thing that Jackson broke that run on Monday night, as it gave Giants defenders a lesson in gap discipline. Two of the Giants three ends - Osi Umenyiora and Mathias Kiwanuka - can sometimes be overaggressive, so hopefully they will heed the cautionary tale of the Monday Night game and refrain from over-pursuing.
Another thing the Giants have to watch for is tight end Brent Celek, an emerging star who is on pace for over 1,000 yards. The Giants have been very vulnerable to passes over the middle during the past couple of weeks, and McNabb is good at throwing that seam pattern. With Michael Boley still sidelined and C.C. Brown still C.C. Brown, the intermediate to deep middle is an area of concern.
On the positive side, the Eagles right tackle is none other than old friend Winston Justice, the infamous benefactor of Osi Umenyiora's six-sack performance in 2007. Justice won't face Osi this time because he's on the opposite side, but he faces no easy task in the combination of Justin Tuck and Matthias Kiwanuka. The Giants' best chance of winning may reside in their pass rush. The Eagles offense's Adjusted Sack Rate ranks 18th in the league while the Giants defense ranks 10th. In other words, the Giants can get to McNabb.
Prediction: The Giants pass rush generates some turnovers. Eli doesn't have an easy time with Philly's rush either, but he and the receivers are able to break just enough big plays to pull this thing out. Giants 24 - Eagles 20.