THE SCOUTING REPORT
WHAT: Giants (6-3) vs. Philadelphia Eagles (6-3)
WHEN: Tonight, 8:20 p.m. at Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia.
SERIES RECORD: The Giants lead a series that began in 1933 by a 79-69-2 margin. But the Eagles have won their last four meetings, including a 23-11 victory in the 2008 division semifinal.
LAST MEETING: Dec. 13, 2009. Despite Eli Manning's career-high 391 career passing yards, the Eagles made plays when they had to in a 45-38 victory that took the Giants' playoff destiny out of their own hands. DeSean Jackson brought back a punt return for a touchdown, and Michael Vick, then working as a situational quarterback, scored on a 1-yard run. The Eagles also produced two other big-play touchdowns on a 72-yard catch by Jackson and Sheldon Brown's 44-yard return of a fumble.
INJURIES: Giants – OL David Diehl (hip and hamstring), C Shaun O'Hara (foot), WR Steve Smith (pectoral), and FB Madison Hedgecock (hamstring) are out. T Shawn Andrews (back) is questionable. TE Kevin Boss (back), WR Darius Reynaud (hamstring), DE Osi Umenyiora (knee), CB Corey Webster (toe), and LB Gerris Wilkinson (hand) are probable.
Eagles – T King Dunlap (knee) and DE Juqua Parker (hip) are questionable. S Nate Allen (neck), DT Brodrick Bunkley (elbow), CB Jorrick Calvin (hand), G Nick Cole (knee), CB Ellis Hobbs (hip), RB LeSean McCoy (shoulder), and LB Ernie Sims (ankle) are probable.
WHY THE GIANTS WILL WIN: The bandwagon lost quite a few members after last week's mistake-filled loss to the Cowboys, so the Giants will want to get some support back, as well as sole possession of the NFC East lead, in this one. They have performed well away from their home, going 3-1 so far. Having previously taken out the raucous home crowd in Seattle, they could do the same at the Linc if they come out with a couple of early touchdowns. They'll have to control video-game quarterback Michael Vick with a measured pass rush and good coverage, and force him into turnovers. Vick hasn't done that, though, with no interceptions while throwing 11 touchdown passes. The good news is Vick comes off a once-in-a-lifetime performance against the Redskins, so no one should expect a repeat of his four passing, two rushing touchdowns. Safeties Antrel Rolle, Deon Grant, and Kenny Phillips will have to take turns helping Corey Webster and Terrell Thomas in covering fast, big-play receiver DeSean Jackson, since putting any cornerback on him 1-on-1 amounts to gameplanned suicide. Jackson (28 catches, 602 yards, five TDs) appears fully recovered from the concussion that sidelined him for a game three weeks ago. The best way to neutralize Vick and Jackson is to keep them off the field, and the Giants can do that by establishing a strong running game. Ahmad Bradshaw would like nothing better than to get back on that 100-yard track – he hasn't had one since the first meeting with Dallas three weeks ago. Brandon Jacobs must run with authority on all downs, and he certainly can't have a repeat of last week when he failed to get a yard on fourth-and-1. This could come down to the foot of Lawrence Tynes. He's been solid on 11-of-14 field goal kicking this year. Just as important will be Matt Dodge's ability to keep the ball away from a dangerous punt returner in Jackson. This may be the one game where a 28-yard shank out of bounds is perfectly acceptable.
WHY THE GIANTS WILL LOSE: They go into this thing in horrible offensive shape, and not just because the production of their five-game winning streak has tailed off. With LT Shawn Andrews a gametime decision because of his sore back, it's possible a rusty Will Beatty may have to step in to face pass-rush terror Trent Cole (seven sacks, 21 hurries). Look for a lot of chipping from Bear Pascoe and Kevin Boss to help out on the left side. Even if a patchwork line that now features Kevin Boothe at left guard and Rich Seubert at center can keep Manning's uniform clean, it still isn't a great run-blocking group. And with Derek Hagan just in off the street at third wide receiver, limitations on the passing game could take away a lot of points potential. So if the defense can't handle Vick, the Eagles may be off to the races. The NFL took away Osi Umenyiora's touch sack on Jon Kitna last week, so the Giants now have not had a sack in two games. Umenyiora, reduced to eight, hasn't had a sack in three. Vick can be captured, but it will take a disciplined game from the front-seven to do it. Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell may just lay back, leaving Barry Cofield to try to pressure up the middle and devote his linebackers and DBs to coverage, for the Eagles have many targets besides Jackson. RB LeSean McCoy is actually the leading pass-catcher with 46 catches for 352 yards, while Jeremy Maclin leads the Eagles with seven touchdown catches and a 15.4-yard average. Jason Avant (31-357-1) is also a downfield threat. And McCoy is being used much like Brian Westbrook was, working the perimeter as he rushes for 616 yards and five TDs. Jerome Harrison (13-115-1) adds a nice change of pace in the backfield.
PREDICTION: The Giants' defense won't look as confused as it did against Dallas last week, so it should be able to hold Vick and his receivers to respectable numbers. But that offense is just too banged up. There will still be six games left, but the Giants will now have to play catch-up in the divisional standings after they lose this one, 27-17.