KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:15 ET
TV: FOX, Dick Stockton, Daryl Johnston, Tony Siragusa
SERIES: This will be the 139th meeting between the teams, dating back to the first encounter in 1933, and the Giants hold the regular season series lead, 73-63-2. They also hold a 2-0 lead in playoff meetings between the teams. But Philadelphia has won five of the last six games, which immediately followed a nine-game Giants' winning streak. One of the most memorable meetings came just last season, when the Giants held a 10-7 lead with 76 second to play and punted -- but not out of bounds -- to the Eagles. Brian Westbrook took it at the 14-yard line and turned it into an 84-yard touchdown that earned a 14-10 victory. The Giants held Donovan McNabb to a net of 47 passing yards.
*2003 RANKINGS: Giants: offense 20th (28th rush, 11th pass); defense 22nd (18th rush, 25th pass). Eagles: offense 18th (9th rush, 20th pass); defense 20th (22nd rush, 16th pass)
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Giants cannot afford to get stuck in long passing situations with their rebuilt offensive line yet to prove it can protect QB Kurt Warner and Eagles DE Jevon Kearse looking to make an impact in his first game. Philadelphia's defensive line is undersized and vulnerable to the run, and the Giants will use a combination of RBs Tiki Barber and Ron Dayne to attack on the ground early. Warner will also attack first-year starting CBs Sheldon Brown and Lito Sheppard covering WRs Amani Toomer and Ike Hilliard. The Giants changed six of their front seven starters on defense. Eagles RB Brian Westbrook is dynamic on the ground and as a receiver. If he's effective early, QB Donovan McNabb can take shots downfield to WR Terrell Owens. One way or the other, the Giants need big plays to keep it close.
FAST FACTS: Giants: Dayne last season became the first former first-round pick to spend all 16 games on the game-day inactive list. .. Lead the series 73-63-2. Eagles: Have won five of the last six meetings between the two teams, including both games last season. ... They have held the Giants to 10 points or less in five of the last six meetings. ... Eagles wide receivers caught five touchdown passes last season. Terrell Owens caught nine on his own as a 49er.
PREDICTED SCORE: Eagles 19, Giants 10
-- SLB Carlos Emmons is returning to Philadelphia, where he played for the previous four seasons before signing with the Giants as an UFA. "I loved it there and I especially loved the fans," he said, "but it was time to move on." Emmons was well-liked by Eagles' head coach Andy Reid, who said, "what he did for our program and our team and for me as a coach will always be respected." Emmons was voted the team's Defensive Player of the Year for 2003.
-- RCB Will Allen has not practiced for a few days (knee) and yet wants to play Sunday in Philadelphia. Head coach Tom Coughlin wants him to play, but is rigid on his rule that you don't play if you don't practice. It would appear that Friday's practice will determine whether Allen plays or sits. If he sits, he will be replaced by either Terry Cousin or Frank Walker.
-- LG Jason Whittle has a chance to start, even though he has been back with the Giants for only a week or so. He was re-acquired in a trade with Tampa Bay, where he went last year to sign as an UFA. If he doesn't start, it will be Wayne Lucier, the second year guard/center who has filled in since UFA Barry Stokes was placed on Injured Reserve (herniated disc).
-- TE Jeremy Shockey insists he'll play and so far he seems to be making good on his promise to practice hard all week. First hobbled by foot surgery, he came back too fast and suffered a pulled hamstring. But he is so valuable to the offense that Coughlin will take all the time he needs, right down to a minute before the opening kickoff (4:15 p.m. ET) to make his decision.
-- QB Kurt Warner, who was awarded the starting job over rookie Eli Manning in the worst-kept secret of the summer, went through the entire four-game exhibition season without throwing a single TD pass, which was hardly Warner-like. "It just didn't happen," he said, "but I am confident it will. And soon."
--DT Paul Grasmanis has been ruled out of Sunday's game. Grasmanis has an Achilles tendon strain that bothered him most of the preseason. That leaves the Eagles with three tackles -- starters Corey Simon and Darwin Walker and backup Hollis Thomas.
--C Dominic Furio had surgery to repair the peroneal tendon in his left ankle Thursday. Furio, a seventh-round pick, suffered the injury in the Eagles' final preseason game and has been on injured reserve since Sept. 5.
--WR Terrell Owens, who is nursing an abdominal strain, has practiced all week and doesn't expect to be hindered at all Sunday against the Giants.
--LG Jermane Mayberry has practiced the last two days and is expected to start Sunday against the Giants. He had been sidelined most of the preseason with a hamstring injury.
--FS Brian Dawkins didn't play a down in the preseason because of a knee bruise. But he has been practicing since last week and will start Sunday against the Giants.
INSIDE THE CAMPS
Grudgingly, Giants head coach Tom Coughlin is giving away bits and pieces of his starting lineup.
On Thursday he announced that Jason Whittle, the newly-acquired guard from Tampa Bay, would start over Wayne Lucier, who had the job since veteran UFA Barry Stokes was injured (and is now on the I.R.).
Why Whittle, who played for the Giants a year ago and left for Tampa Bay? "This is the reason we brought him in," Coughlin said. "We need Lucier to be our backup center, our backup interior guard, so this is the way we're going to go with it."
Middle linebacker will be Kevin Lewis, something of a surprise in that he was chosen ahead of Nick Greisen. "We like Kevin Lewis, and feel like he is the guy that has been in the middle and played the way we wanted him to play. So he starts. Nick has done a good job, he has shown his ability on special teams and he makes a strong contribution. There are really situations where both of them can be utilized, but for now Kevin Lewis will start."
Coughlin also said that cornerback Will Allen needs to practice if he is going to play and that gives him Friday to do so. Tight end Jeremy Shockey has worked more often and will almost certainly get his starting position back in time for Sunday's game against the strong Philadelphia Eagles.
However, Coughlin wouldn't divulge the starting free safety. "Look, we have three guys we'll rotate if we have to, and we'll make that decision as we get closer." The three are Omar Stoutmire, the incumbent starter at free safety, Shaun Williams, the strong safety, and UFA Brent Alexander, who has challenged Stoutmire all summer and may well have won the job.
The Eagles are leaving open the possibility of Brian Westbrook returning a punt or two in Sunday's season-opener against the New York Giants.
Because of his increased role in the offense, Westbrook, who led the NFC in punt returns last season, no longer will be the club's primary punt returner. That job now belongs to second-year man Reno Mahe.
But special teams coordinator John Harbaugh said that doesn't mean Westbrook won't be back there at all Sunday.
"We have settled on (Westbrook's) duties on offense," Harbaugh said. "We know that he is the starting running back. I am sure that will lessen his role on special teams. But he is catching punts every day. If needed, I am sure he is ready to be called upon.
"We haven't ruled out the possibility of a situational type return for Brian. I wouldn't be shocked if he was out there."
The 5-9 1/2, 200-pound Westbrook has been susceptible to injuries in his first two NFL seasons. The Eagles initially had planned to keep his touches per game in the 15 to 18 range. But with backup Correll Buckhalter out for the season and no other experienced running back on the roster, his workload likely will increase.
"With his physical tools, every time he touches the football he has a chance to hit a home run on you," said offensive coordinator Brad Childress.
"We'll make certain that he gets enough touches."