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Receiving yards for Cowboys’ Amari Cooper during Sunday’s 29-23 win over Eagles

Eagles-Giants: Not as easy as last time

Posted by Eric Fisher On November 24

After an embarrassing loss to the Saints, the Eagles appear to have the perfect team against which to bounce back. The Eagles handled the Giants easily, 34-13, when they met on Oct. 11. Now the Eagles (4-6) get the Giants (3-7) on Sunday (1 p.m.) at Lincoln Financial Field, where the Birds have won four straight against the Giants.

But nobody should be expecting an easy victory. The Giants are playing better, winning both of games since their bye week. By contrast, the Eagles haven’t won in the United States – their lone victory was over the Jaguars in London – since their win over the Giants.

Another reason Sunday’s game might not be a walkover for the Eagles is health. The Giants only have one player on their injury report. The Eagles are missing nearly their entire starting secondary, as well as several of the backups. Middle linebacker Jordan Hicks also won’t play Sunday due to a calf injury, which more than offsets the return of defensive tackle Tim Jernigan.

The Giants have dangerous weapons in rookie running back Saquon Barkley and receiver Odell Beckham. They could cause major problems for the Eagles defense. On the other hand, the Eagles should have an advantage at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.

Can the Eagles defeat the Giants and elevate themselves into the thick of the race for the NFC East title?

Here are 10 questions to consider prior to and during Sunday’s game.

Why is this game important?

The Cowboys’ victory over the Redskins on Thanksgiving provides the Eagles with the opportunity to move within one game of first place in the NFC East by defeating the Giants on Sunday. With games against the Redskins (6-5) and Cowboys (6-5) the next two weeks, the Eagles could be tied for first place by Dec. 9 without requiring any outside help.

Why else would a win Sunday be particularly important?

After getting their butts kicked by the Saints, a loss to the Giants, while not eliminating the Eagles from the NFC East race, would be psychologically devastating. It’s one thing to get blown out by the Saints in New Orleans. It’s another to lose at home to the Giants.

After cruising to a 34-13 victory over the Giants in October, why should the Eagles have any concerns about Sunday’s game?

We can start with the records. The Eagles have lost three of their four games since supposedly turning the corner with their convincing win over the Giants. The Giants lost their next two games, but, following their bye, have won their last two games. The Giants are playing much better than they were on the Thursday they lost to the Eagles. The Eagles are playing much worse.

Will this be the last time the Eagles face Eli Manning?

The Eagles have faced Manning 29 times, winning 19 times. A few weeks ago, there were questions about whether Manning would still be the starting quarterback after the Giants’ bye week, let alone whether he would be the starter next season. But Manning has played extremely well since the bye, throwing five touchdowns without an interception during the past two games. Will this be the last time Manning starts against the Eagles? That still needs to be determined.

How have the Eagles been so successful against Manning?

The key to containing Manning is applying pressure. Manning isn’t very mobile, which is a problem for the Giants when the Eagles’ defensive front overwhelms the overmatched offensive line. But the Eagles haven’t been applying consistent pressure this season, and the Giants’ offensive line has improved its play the past two weeks. With the Eagles’ depleted secondary, a fierce pass rush is of prime importance.

Who is going to play in the Eagles’ secondary?

Sidney Jones, after one game back, is sidelined again with hamstring injury. Rookie Avonte Maddox also is out this week after being injured in the loss to the Saints, and Jalen Mills remains sidelined by a foot injury. Rasul Douglas, also injured during the loss to the Saints, is listed as questionable. Cornerback Ronald Darby and safety Rodney McLeod suffered season-ending injuries. Safety Malcolm Jenkins is the sole survivor from the original starting secondary. Corey Graham will likely start at the other safety slot. Tre Sullivan should also see time at safety, Could Chandon Sullivan and De’Vante Bausby be the starting cornerbacks? Or will Cre’Von LeBlanc, who was claimed off waivers from the Lions after the Eagles’ bye week, find his way into the starting lineup? With receivers Odell Beckham (69 catches for 932 yards, 5 TDs) and Sterling Shepard (44 for 573, 3 TDs), the Giants will undoubtedly test the Eagles’ depleted and inexperienced secondary.

Will the return of Tim Jernigan matter?

Don’t expect miracles from the defensive tackle in his first game of the season, but Jernigan’s return should make a difference. At the very least, it should improve the run defense. The Eagles allowed 171 and 173 yards, respectively, to the Cowboys and Saints the past two weeks. With Saquon Barkley (158 carries for 728 yards, 7 TDs), the Giants will test the Eagles’ run defense. The best thing the Eagles can do to neutralize the Giants’ rushing attack is to jump out to an early lead, forcing them to throw the ball more often.

Will Carson Wentz bounce back from a terrible outing?

Wentz completed 19 of 33 passes for 156 yards against the Saints, throwing three interceptions. Even his completions were a little off-target, which prevented receivers from catching the passes in stride and gaining yards after the reception. It’s difficult to imagine Wentz playing that poorly two weeks in a row. Count on Wentz having a much better outing.

How can the Eagles help Wentz?

The Eagles need to establish a running game. Josh Adams looked good again against the Saints, providing the lone offensive highlight with a 28-yard touchdown run. Unfortunately, the Eagles were behind by so much so quickly against the Saints that they had to abandon their running game. But will head coach Doug Pederson stick with the running game against the Giants? A lack of commitment to the running game has been an issue this season.

What’s the most important injury that is flying under the radar?

Well, it’s not an injury to the Giants, who only have one player on their injury report. All of the focus on the depleted secondary has overshadowed the loss of middle linebacker Jordan Hicks (calf injury). Hicks has been having a quiet season, but the Eagles are better with Hicks at middle linebacker than with anyone else on their roster there. With Saquon Barkley a receiving threat (64 receptions for 540 yards, 3 TDs) as well as a threat to run, Eagles linebackers will have a lot of responsibility this Sunday. This would be a good week for Nigel Bradham to return to last year’s high level of performance instead of the pedestrian production we’ve seen from him this season.

Prediction: The Eagles could bounce back from their loss to the Saints with a superlative effort, starting their string of NFC East divisional games with an emphatic victory. For a team that hasn’t put together a complete effort since their victory over the Giants on Oct. 11, however, that seems unlikely. A more likely outcome is a bounce-back performance from Carson Wentz and the offense while the injury-riddled defense continues to struggle. The question is whether the Eagles manage to score enough points to win the game and get back in the thick of the NFC East race. Eagles 31, Giants 30

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