JEFF MCLANE Record, 3-6.
Michael Vick or Vince Young? Under normal circumstances the choice would be a no-brainer. But nothing about this Eagles season has been normal. Vick has two broken ribs and hasn’t practiced at all so far this week. Wednesday and Thursday are the most important practice days and Young took every snap with the first team offense. So Vick, who has hardly ever started a game in his career with a limited week of practice, would have at the most one day of real practice (Friday) if the Eagles were to decide that he was healthy enough to play. Add to that Vick’s awful outing against the Cardinals – supposedly played for almost the entire game with broken ribs – and it makes very little sense to go with No. 7. Yes, the season is on the line. Yes, Young hasn’t inspired much confidence in his limited amount of play this season. But the word out of locker room is that he’s been surprisingly sharp during practice this week. He’ll have a week of repetitions under his belt and he should be fresh as a flower having played so little this season.
I think it’s fairly clear Young will start. Now, the question is, can he win? I don’t think it’s out of the question if the game plan leans heavily on LeSean McCoy, but not so much that every call is telegraphed. The offensive line just isn’t built to go mano-y-mano, We’re running the ball whether you know it’s coming or not against most defensive fronts. The Giants’ 20th-ranked run defense isn’t overpowering, though. And they will likely be without linebacker Michael Boley, their top run-stopper. So the Eagles can get it done on offense with an efficient game plan that balances the run-pass and gives Young high-percentage throws.
A balanced attack would also aid a finesse defense that just hasn’t had staying power into the fourth quarter. The Giants will also be without running back Ahmad Bradshaw, who killed the Eagles on the ground and catching the ball out of the backfield in a September meeting. Eli Manning was excellent in that game, completing 16 of 23 passes for 254 yards and four touchdowns without an interception. He has been playing at a high level all season. I can’t see the Eagles blitzing him much. For one, they haven’t sent extra pass rushers much this season and two, Manning is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL at picking up the blitz.
If this is a close game heading into the final quarter, defensive coordinators Juan Castillo’s play-calling hasn’t inspired much confidence. That being said -- I can’t believe I’m writing this -- I think the Eagles win. They have every bit as much talent as the Giants, probably more, can obviously pull it together when they want to, so why not now? Eagles, 23-20.
What goes right: McCoy gets more than 20 carries and makes good use of them.
What goes wrong: The DeSean Jackson slump continues.
How do you get to a 3-6 record? By picking the Eagles to win seven times in this season of disappointment. How did Andy Reid get the same mark? By putting together a glittery team short on the kind of chemistry needed to pull together when games get tight. The Giants have been the exact opposite, winning four games in which they trailed in the fourth quarter and a fifth that was tied in the final 15 minutes.
Statistically, the Eagles are better in almost every category. They have scored more points, allowed fewer, rushed for more yards, and given up fewer on the ground and through the air. But that hasn’t meant much in the standings. (Turnovers have been the Eagles worst number, and it has meant the most in their wins and losses).
As of Friday morning we weren’t sure who would start at quarterback, though all signs point to Vince Young. Here’s a bet that if he has to play, a week of practice helps him look better than he has in the only three snaps he’s played this season. But if Jeremy Maclin is out the Eagles offense could suffer another blow, we don’t know what Jackson’s demeanor will be and only Reid knows if he actually plans to utilize one of the best running backs in the NFL.
The Giants, with the division lead, have much to play for while the Eagles are searching for the fight that has eluded them all season. The Eagles have at least been in a position to win every game this year. This week is when it turns really ugly. Giants: 30-10.
What goes right: Young isn’t the scattershot quarterback we saw in much of the preseason.
What goes wrong: Manning, having a stellar season, takes advantage of the Eagles underachieving secondary.