Five on the Giants
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - In a week where the future of a middling player overwhelmed a key divisional matchup, the Eagles went about preparing for Eli Manning and the New York Giants amid distraction.
We will see how Philadelphia handled it come Sunday when the Eagles try to solve their road woes in a venue they have traditionally had success in, MetLife Stadium.
Here are five things you should know about the Giants heading into Sunday’s encounter:
Jim Schwartz often talks about wanting to make teams one dimensional and the Eagles' defensive coordinator probably won’t have to work that hard to do that with the Giants, who embrace the passing game and often eschew the ground game.
New York is currently sixth in the NFL in passing yards per game with an average of 275.0 through Week 8 behind Manning and star receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who is fourth in receiving yards per game behind only A.J. Green, Julio Jones and Amari Cooper.
“I think their running game has been more of them choosing to pass rather than not being able to run,” Schwartz said. “They are a no-huddle team; they are a call-the-play-at-the line of scrimmage team. Eli is going to -- I almost called him Peyton [Manning], but there are a lot of similarities. It’s a different offense, but there are similarities in that he's going to try to put the offense in the right play.”
BEAST AGAINST THE NFC EAST
Since 2014, OBJ has been one of the best receivers in football when playing against divisional opponents, ranking first in the NFL in TD receptions and third in catches per game when playing against divisional foes. From a talent standpoint, this is a true WR1 and the kind of game-changing talent the Eagles need to elevate their own shaky receiving corps.
Beckham, however, has been prone to letting his emotions take him out of a game and that might be the best way to deal with him, although the Eagles' top cornerbacks, Leodis McKelvin, Nolan Carroll and Jalen Mills aren't known as particularly physical players.
“I mean, we certainly want to frustrate every receiver, and the way we do that is to keep him from catching the ball and limit his ability after the catch,” Schwartz said when discussing OBJ. “But that’s the only thing we've talked about with him. And that's no different than every week when we talk about guys. Particularly guys that are marquee players, you certainly want to take them out of the game plan. You want to make the quarterback press to have to throw it to them.”
The Giants defensive backfield is much improved this season and while the strength is at cornerback, safety Landon Collins has taken a huge step forward in his second season. Known as a thumper coming out of college, Collins has improved in coverage and he and teammate Janoris Jenkins are two of just eight players so far this season to record multiple interceptions and score a touchdown. Collins also has recorded the first two sacks of his career this season, showing off his versatility.
“Landon has always been a guy that’s had good football instincts,” Giants coach Ben McAdoo said. “You see his instincts showing up, you see his tackling; he’s a physical football player. You can see that he loves to play, whether it’s on defense or on special teams and now he’s tracking the ball well, catching it well and you see his talent when he has his hands on the ball.”
Offensive coordinator Frank Reich is a bit surprised that Carson Wentz and Zach Ertz have been unable to get in a groove and things only get tougher this week with Collins and linebacker Keenan Robinson available to try and slow Ertz in the passing game.
Robinson has been one of the best linebackers in pass coverage this season with four passed defended, a comparable number to the Eagles’ Jordan Hicks (6), who has been lights out when defending the pass.
“I can tell you each week, you go in and there's X number of plays geared to go to Ertz since he's been back,” Reich said, “and then because of the flow of the game or [the defense is] holding him at the line of scrimmage on one or two of them -- it's ridiculous, but whatever. It's the NFL.”
DREADING THE DREADS
Josh Huff was one of the best kickoff returners in football but is no longer available for the Eagles and that’s advantage Giants because their KR, Dwayne Harris, is second in the NFL in kickoff returns, averaging 28.7 per attempt. Expect Caleb Sturgis to bang it through the end zone if at all possible Sunday.
973espn.com Prediction - The Eagles haven’t been the same offensively since Lane Johnson left the lineup and that’s no coincidence. Meanwhile, they haven’t been able to finish on the road so it’s probably going to take a defensive or special teams TD (not as likely without Huff) to get over the top in North Jersey and while that’s entirely possible, it’s tough to pick this Philadelphia team on the road in the division until it actually gets it done. Call it Giants 20, Eagles 17
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen