Week 4: Every time I come close to picking the Eagles in this game I think of Demetress Bell trying to block Jason Pierre-Paul. Bell won’t exclusively be responsible for stopping the freakishly-talented Giants defensive end, but the Eagles left tackle will see him the most. And that’s just plain scary. Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg will aid Bell with a tight end or a chip here or there, and they can with Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck seemingly not what they once were. But they can’t double Pierre-Paul all game.
There’s more to this intriguing game than just one battle on the line, and I think the Eagles will win their share of individual matchups. DeSean Jackson or Jeremy Maclin could have big days against a Giants secondary that may be without safety Antrel Rolle and cornerback Jayron Hosley. Cornerbacks Corey Webster and Prince Amukamara can be taken. LeSean McCoy will not be negligently overlooked as he was last week, and should receive about 25 touches. He should be good for at least 100 yards from scrimmage. And on defense, defensive ends Trent Cole and Jason Babin – along with backups Darryl Tapp and Brandon Graham – should be able to exploit tackles Will Beatty and Sean Locklear.
But Eli Manning doesn’t need much time. The quarterback is off to a great start. This will easily be the best offense the Eagles have faced thus far. Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks sat out last week, but he’s back and he’s dangerous as ever. As impressive as he is, the Eagles have kept Nicks in check for most of his career. But the Giants don’t have just one stud receiver. Victor Cruz had his breakout game against the Eagles in September, catching two touchdowns – one after the Eagles missed a few tackle attempts and another over Nnamdi Asomugha. He remains a vital threat and could take advantage of rookie corner Brandon Boykin when he runs out of the slot, which is often.
And lastly, the difference for the Giants could be the semblance of a running game, something they did not have last year, especially when the Eagles upset them at the Meadowlands in November, 17-10. Ahmad Bradshaw is back from injury, but the X factor is Andre Brown, a 227-pound tailback that surfaced two weeks ago and has rushed for 184 yards on 33 carries.
It’ll be a close game, but New York spoils Brian Dawkins night. Giants 24, Eagles 20.
What goes right: Michael Vick (can’t believe it took me this long to mention him) bounces back with an efficient performance under center.
What goes wrong: The Eagles don’t have an answer for 6-foot-6 tight end Martellus Bennett.
Week 4: In the NFL, each week seems to serve as a one-week indictment of the team, the coach, and the quarterback. The story on Monday morning will be different than it was one week earlier, because the Eagles will escape this game with a win. The Giants are a safer pick for the season, but for this game, on Sunday Night Football at Lincoln Financial Field with the crowd enlivened by a ceremony for Dawkins, the Eagles will advance to 3-1.
Vick will play better than he did last year, mostly because of the return of Maclin and the problems with the Giants' secondary. The Eagles' offensive line will have trouble blocking the Giants' pass rushers, but it helps that the game is at home and Bell will not need to deal with crowd noise. Expect McCoy to see an increase in carries, but the Eagles will still go with a pass-heavy attack.
A key matchup to watch is how the Eagles contain Giants tight end Bennett -- especially in the red zone. The Giants have perhaps the best wide receiver duo in the NFL with Nicks and Cruz, and the attention paid to them could open up space for Bennett. The Eagles also must ensure the Giants don't have the same success rushing as they did last week in Carolina. Bradshaw returns this week, but Brown will still play a big role in their offense.
This will be a close game, but it's a more favorable matchup for Philadelphia than perception would indicate. The Eagles won seven of the past eight against the Giants. They will quiet critics on Sunday -- at least until next week, when they need to travel to Pittsburgh. Eagles 31, Giants 27
What goes right: Maclin bolsters the passing game and is the Eagles' leading wide receiver. Bell plays better at left tackle.
What goes wrong: The Eagles struggle to stop Nicks. Dallas Reynolds continues to look shaky at center.