Premium Preview: Eagles / Giants

Dallas may have won Saturday night, to keep themselves ahead of the Eagles and Giants, but that means that the Falcons lost. That loss puts Atlanta's playoff hopes on life support and gives the winner of Sunday's Eagles/Giants game a definite wild card edge.

Philadelphia Eagles (7-6) at New York Giants (7-6)

Giants' Game Plan:

Eagles' quarterback Jeff Garcia hasn't thrown an interception since taking over for Donovan McNabb three games ago. But with the Giants' secondary having some renewed confidence after a three-pick game in Carolina last week, this would be the ideal game to break that streak. To do that, cornerbacks R.W. McQuarters and Sam Madison will have to play some tight coverage on Reggie Brown and Donte Stallworth, the latter of whom deep-fried Madison for a touchdown in the teams' first matchup. A couple of picks should be sufficient to bring the resurgent Garcia back down to earth.

Offensively, the plan will probably be similar to what the Giants did in Philly in Week 2, which was to stick with the run no matter how ugly the score became. They proved then that the running game could help open things up and lead to a 17-point comeback, so expect Tiki Barber to get 20-plus carries, even as Jeremiah Trotter pummels him again. The Giants will have to get better on short-yardage situations, though, as Brandon Jacobs has missed three third-and-ones in the last two games.

Eagles' Game Plan:

The Eagles' pass rush has not been very productive of late, but they need to find some way to get consistent pressure on quarterback Eli Manning and force him into some mistakes. The Eagles have four interceptions in their last two games, both of which they've won. The pass rush won't matter much if the Giants are able to just pound the ball on the ground. The battered run defense of the Eagles is definitely susceptible to attack and New York proved that in their first match-up and almost every other team that has faced the Birds has had success on the ground.

On offense, the Eagles are starting to get comfortable behind Garcia. He's a smart quarterback who won't be fooled or pressured into making mistakes. Brian Westbrook should get a decent amount of carries to keep the defense honest, but the Eagles will continue to live and die with the passing game.

Inside The Giants:

You have to marvel at Rich Seubert for his versatility. He played not one, not two, but three positions during the Carolina game, and did all well.

First, he came in as the third tight end, a blocking position he's handled all season. But when Shaun O'Hara went out with a sprained ankle for two series, he moved right in at center. And then, when Kareem McKenzie went out at right tackle for the entire second half with a sprained neck, Seubert took over David Diehl's left guard spot when Diehl shifted outside to McKenzie's spot.

Considering just three seasons ago Seubert's future as a player was in doubt - he shattered his left leg against Philadelphia in 2003 and missed the entire 2004 season - he has made incredible leaps. And coach Tom Coughlin has certainly noticed.

"We're fortunate to have that kind of player in Rich," Coughlin said, "and his flexibility in having played tight end, center, and left guard, and doing a good job with them all. Even in the shotgun snapping. To keep all of those things straight and organized in his own mind is a great compliment to his focus and the way he prepares himself for a game."

Oh, yeah. Seubert also studies the left tackle spot. But the hot spot this week is at center. If O'Hara can't make it (he didn't practice Wednesday), Seubert will start there. It could be his future home, anyway, since O'Hara's contract is up and the $30 million over six years he's looking for might be deemed out of the Giants' price range.

News and Notes…

  • Undrafted rookie nickel back Kevin Dockery made some nice adjustments in the second half and came up with an interception against Keyshawn Johnson after getting burned on two, long, first-half passes to Drew Carter, one for a touchdown. Because Chris Weinke threw 61 times, mostly out of three-wide packages, Dockery saw the most field time he's seen this year and overall handled things well. He did have a dropped interception, however.
  • You'd never have known K Jay Feely was playing with a broken bone on the bottom of his kicking foot. After having trouble in practice during the week, Feely put two kickoffs into the end zone and was flawless on two field goal tries from 32 and 29 yards. Tom Coughlin had brought in a gaggle of kickers for tryouts on Friday, but they weren't necessary. "It hurt," Feely said. "But just when I came down on it. Like Brett Favre said, it's mind over matter. If you don't mind, it won't matter." Coughlin said, "We were thinking of having him break the other foot because he did as well as he did with his kickoffs."
  • RB Tiki Barber became the 20th player to exceed the 10,000-yard rushing mark with a 112-yard performance against Carolina. He's at 10,069 yards, but didn't seem overly impressed with the feat. "It's a great accomplishment, but I think my guys up front are more excited about it than I am," he said. He's also only the third player in history to exceed 10,000 yards rushing and 5,000 yards receiving, joining Hall of Famer Marcus Allen and potential Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk.
  • P Jeff Feagles continued to be one of the NFL's incredible directional punters. Out of nine punts last week, the Panthers only returned three of them. Six were either knocked out of bounds or fair caught inside the 20, and he became the first punter to put six inside the 20 since Todd Sauerbrun did it for the Panthers on December 22, 2002 against Chicago.
  • WR Plaxico Burress, despite a career-high nine touchdown catches, continues to be the same old emotional train-wreck that caused friction following last year's playoff loss to Carolina. This time, he became frustrated with Eli Manning's failure to see him wide open in the end zone on a failed screen pass to Barber. Even worse, he was disappointed they didn't use him to exploit the Panthers two rookie corners. "I was looking for a big day," Burress said.
  • PR Chad Morton had a breakout game against Carolina as far as punt returns and kick coverage goes. He returned four punts for 50 yards, just over a 12-yard average, including a 22-yarder that led to a third-quarter field goal and a 20-10 lead. But he also made his mark during a rare appearance on the coverage squad, downing a Feagles punt from the Giants' 11 at the Carolina 39 in the third quarter. Coughlin called it a much-improved performance from the entire special teams unit.
  • Inside the Eagles:

    William James likely will remain as the nickel corner this week against the Giants, even if Rod Hood's injured hamstring is better. James had a solid game last week against Washington and tipped a pass that teammate Michael Lewis intercepted and returned 84 yards for a touchdown. Defensive coordinator Jim Johnson may even use James some in his base package in place of Sheldon Brown. The six-foot James is taller than both of the Eagles' starting corners, Brown and Lito Sheppard, and matches up a little better size wise against the Giants' 6-5 Plaxico Burress.

    Eagles made a roster move this week, releasing linebacker Jason Short and signing running back/kickoff returner Bruce Perry. Perry previously was the Eagles' kickoff return specialist. But coach Andy Reid said that while Perry will likely play on special teams, he won't be replacing the team's current kick returner, Reno Mahe, even though Mahe is averaging just 21.6 yards per return.

    Injury Update:

    Giants: With Michael Strahan appearing more and more like he'll miss the remainder of the regular season with a sprained right foot, one would think the Giants would be desperate to get him back. But that's not the case, since Mathias Kiwanuka has done a good job filling in for him.
    Eagles: The Eagles expect nickel LB Shawn Barber to play Sunday, even though he is listed as questionable with a stinger. If he can't blow, it will be a big blow to the Eagles because MLB Jeremiah Trotter would replace him on passing downs. Barber is a much better cover linebacker than Trotter.

    Match-ups To Watch

  • Giants WR Plaxico Burress, who grabbed a 45-yard pass and a 28-yard touchdown pass on the same series against Carolina, vs. Eagles CB Sheldon Brown, who is one of the steadiest cover guys in the league. It was against Brown that Burress made his basketball-like catch in overtime for a 31-yard touchdown that ended the Giants' miracle comeback from 17 points down with a Week 2 win in Philly. Burress has continued doing that, although sporadically, despite gathering a career-high nine touchdown catches. Brown has one interception that he returned 70 yards for a touchdown. The need to continue finding Burress is imperative for the Giants' playoff hopes, as he is virtually the only quick-strike weapon the Giants have in their arsenal. Brown stands a full seven inches shorter than Burress, but he's outstanding at getting position to break up passes.
  • Eagles QB Jeff Garcia, who has won two out of three games since stepping in for injured Donovan McNabb, vs. Giants DE Osi Umenyiora, who has shown signs of shaking off the rust of a five-game injury layoff. In the two seasons before he came to the Eagles, Garcia threw only 13 touchdown passes against 15 interceptions, but has since learned how to take care of the ball again. The result is eight touchdowns and no interceptions this year. Just as important was his engineering of a non-scoring drive that ate up the final 4:32 of time after the Redskins got to within two points in the fourth quarter last week. Garcia will have to be quick to react this week, especially since Umenyiora appears to be rounding back into shape as a pass rusher. The hip-pointer is behind him now, and he spent a good part of the time pressuring Chris Weinke in the backfield before leg cramps knocked him out of the fourth quarter. He hasn't had a sack since his return against Dallas, but offensive tackles are finding it harder to handle him now.
  • Eagles RDE Darren Howard v. Giants LT Bob Whitfield - Whitfield has replaced injured Luke Petitgout. Howard has been struggling, but needs to play well against Whitfield.
  • KEYS TO THE GAME: Expect plenty of offense with both lines protecting their quarterbacks very well. Giants QB Eli Manning has been sacked just twice in the past four games, while Eagles QB Jeff Garcia has been taken down three times since assuming the job 3 1/2 games ago. Garcia's mobility is playing a major role, as is his ball control -- no interceptions in 133 pass attempts since taking over for Donovan McNabb. If he's able to move and find passing lanes, Eagles WRs Reggie Brown and Donte Stallworth shouldn't take long to gain separation against the Giants' mediocre secondary. Manning cut down on his mistakes last weekend, but he is still erratic and the Eagles pounce on mistakes downfield. So the Giants will lean heavily on RB Tiki Barber working against a Philadelphia defense allowing 142.5 rushing yards per game and 4.5 yards per carry.


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