Giants Must Net Eagles

The Giants need to even up the season series against Philadelphia to retain any hopes of an NFC East title. To do that, Eli Manning will have to cut back on his interceptions, and the defense will have to short-circuit the Eagles' big-play offense. An Insiders Scouting Report.

THE SCOUTING REPORT

WHAT: Philadelphia Eagles (9-4) vs. Giants (9-4)

WHEN: Sunday, 1 p.m. at the New Meadowlands Stadium.

SERIES RECORD: The teams have met 151 times in the regular season and the Giants lead the series 79-70-2. However, the Eagles have won the last five meetings.

LAST MEETING: November 21, 2010. The Giants did a good enough job defensively to win this one, but three interceptions and a lost fumble by Eli Manning stymied the effort and the Giants lost 27-17. Manning's fumble, coming on an awkward slide after a 16-yard first-down scramble in the closing minutes, led to LeSean McCoy's 40-yard run that set up David Akers' clinching field goal. But McCoy had earlier put the Eagles in the lead with a 50-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-1. Michael Vick had bobbled the snap and shoveled it to McCoy just inches from the outstretched arm of Osi Umenyiora. The defense did a good job on Vick, limiting him and the big-play offense to four passes of 20 yards or longer.

INJURIES: Giants – T Shawn Andrews (back), LB Michael Boley (shoulder), C Shaun O'Hara (foot), and WR Devin Thomas (hamstring) are questionable. WR Mario Manningham (hip flexor), G Chris Snee (hip), DE Justin Tuck (abdomen), and DE Osi Umenyiora (knee) are probable.

Eagles – LB Stewart Bradley (elbow) and LB Keenan Clayton (hamstring) are out. WR DeSean Jackson (foot), T  Winston Justice (knee), and CB Asante Samuel (knee) are questionable. CB Jorrick Calvin (back), G Nick Cole (knee), and TE Clay Harbor (abdomen) are probable.

WHY THE GIANTS WILL WIN: The Giants need to continue to win to stay in the playoff hunt, and definitely need this game if they expect to keep their hopes of a division title alive. The running game is going at full steam, having racked up another 200-yard game against Minnesota. The ground attack could even intensify this week as the Eagles go in missing their good-looking middle linebacker in Stewart Bradley. He'll be replaced by a rookie. They're also beaten up in the secondary, with Asante Samuel coming off a knee injury. Samuel, who picked off Manning twice the last game, might be slowed. The key defensively will be to flush the left-handed Vick from the pocket and get him to move to his right, as they did the last game. Expect a big push from Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck, with big assist from the fast-developing rookie Jason Pierre-Paul. The Eagles' offense is predicated on the big play, so if they get pressure on Vick, half of that problem will be taken care of. Holding down LeSean McCoy will be the not-so-easier second half. The Giants may go away from the three-safety alignment to playing more of run-stopping linebacker Keith Bulluck this time around to address that problem.

WHY THE GIANTS WILL LOSE: As the late George Young always said, the other guys get paid, too. The Eagles need this game as much as the Giants. If they win, they clinch the head-to-head tiebreaker and that would give them the division title in absence of a collapse over the last two games. The Giants can keep Vick down, but ultimately that big-play will come up and bite them. If the game is close at all in the fourth quarter, watch out. The Eagles have outscored their last four opponents 51-14 in that quarter, including the Giants when they scored 11 points in the final four minutes. Their defense ranks second in takeaways with 30 and tops with 22 interceptions. McCoy averages 6.4 yards per fourth-quarter carry and rushed eight times for 101 yards and a touchdown in the final period of the last meeting. That makes him, not DeSean Jackson, the Eagles' most dangerous late-game weapon. The defense, which will probably be exhausted from chasing Vick the rest of the game, will have to summon an inner strength to get the job done in the fourth quarter.

PREDICTION: This is going to be a real battle, and the absence of Steve Smith as Eli Manning's third-down receiver will never hurt more than it will Sunday. But the defense will find a way to shut down the big play, and this time there will be no Eagles comeback magic. Giants 24-21.


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