Ever since the Giants lost Plaixco Burress, they have been unable to beat the Eagles. The most recent match-up was a blowout, seeing the Eagles win 40-17. This week the Giants have a chance to avenge that horrible loss in a game that could decide the NFC East.
Offensively the Giants have had lots of problems against the Eagles without Burress. It is no secret that his loss has allowed the Eagles to focus on shutting down the Giants running game and have Manning beat them. Unfortunately, Manning has failed to step up in any of the past three games, where they have scored 14, 11, and 17 points. I hate to say this because I have been preaching offensive balance all season, but this might be a good game to come out passing often. While the Giants did find success running the ball last time, they need to put a higher emphasis on getting Eli into a rhythm early. Eli is a streaky passer and can look amazing when in a rhythm and horrible when not and if they are going to win this game, it will be due to a great performance by Eli. To start out the game the Giants should look to get some quick passes into the hands of Kevin Boss, Steve Smith, and Hakeem Nicks. The Eagles have had trouble covering the middle of the field and Boss had a great game last time. In addition these receivers are the most reliable and the ones that Eli trusts the most, getting these guys involved in some short and intermediate routes should help Eli to get comfortable. The Giants should also aim to avoid the long ball as they were not effective last time. They brought up too many third and long situations, a problem for the Giants as they did not convert a single third down that was longer than six yards. In short the offense should be a similar one we saw in the playoff run in 2007. There does not need to be a big play, but a lot of short efficient passing complimented with power running leading to some 8-10 play scoring drives.
Defensively the Giants have played well against the Eagles, except this season. As mentioned earlier, the last time these two teams met the Giants let up 40 points. The interesting thing about this, is most of the stats the Eagles accumulated during the game would not indicate a blow-out. For a team that loves to pass the ball, they had only 211 passing yards, they converted only 6-11 third downs, scored a touchdown in only one of three red zone opportunities, held the ball for 24 min, and had two turnovers. The big stat the Eagles had: 180 yards rushing and more importantly 7.5 yards per rush, a stat that probably shocked the Eagles as well. When you break the game down, the defense did not do that horrible of a job. They gave up 10 points because of bad field position (An Eli interception, and a Hixon fumble on a kick-off return) and 21 more points on big plays. If you get rid of those plays the Giants defense held the Eagles to 73 rushing yards and 3.3 yards per carry, 157 passing yards and most importantly 13 points. While these plays are still the responsibility of the defense, there is reason to believe the Giants won’t give them up this time around. Both runs were due to a poor push up the middle, and terrible angles by the safeties. In this game Canty and Boley were still sidelined, Robbins was starting, Cofield wasn’t playing well, and C.C. Brown and Michael Johnson were the starting safeties. With a healthy defense and the line-up changes we saw last week, there is reason to believe the Giants won’t miss as many assignments, especially with their performance against the Cowboys. They limited the Cowboys running game and made Romo and the offense work for their touchdowns. I know a lot of people look at that game and see close to 400 passing yards as a bad thing, but when the team only scores twenty-four points, seven that were somewhat meaningless, the defense did a good job. The safeties made sure no plays got behind them and played the run hard, this made the Cowboys one-dimensional and forced them to score points only if they were able to do so methodically. They weren’t, leading to some bad third down plays and turnovers, and the Giants were able to come out victorious. If the Giants can have a similar performance against the Eagles, the Eagles will have a hard time scoring.
The main thing the Giants have to look to do is eliminate the big plays both offensively and defensively. Turnovers and big offensive plays led the Eagles to the easy win. If Eli gets into a rhythm and doesn’t turn the ball over the offense has the chance to get some good drives going. Defensively if the Giants make the Eagles work for their yardage they have a good chance of keeping the Eagles in check, as they have not been good scoring in the red zone or converting on third down. The Giants have some momentum after the big win last week and can go for their second division win in a row and really solidify their chances of making the playoffs and maybe even win the division.