I got a chance to re-watch the Giants' loss to the Cardinals from last Sunday night. Here are some observations. I tried to relate them to the Eagles as best I could.
Giants on offense
** Brandon Jacobs looked great, carrying 13 times for 76 yards. I was a little surprised the Giants didn't go to him more, actually. On the season, he's averaging an underwhelming 3.9 yards per carry, but the Eagles' defense, and particularly the linebackers, face a major test.
** Ahmad Bradshaw, meanwhile, did not have a strong performance against the Cardinals. He averaged just 2.7 yards per carry, lost a costly fumble in the fourth quarter and was called for a 15-yard penalty.
** Don't be surprised to see the Giants throw some wide receiver screens in Asante Samuel's direction. They had some success on those plays against the Cardinals, and we've seen Samuel perform poorly as a tackler all season.
** The more I think about it, this game is going to come down to the Giants' success on big plays vs. the Eagles' ability to force turnovers. Eli Manning is not afraid to take chances and allow his receivers to make plays. It will be imperative for the Birds' defensive backs to make sure they look back for the ball and avoid pass interference penalties. There will be some interceptions for the taking, but if the Eagles fail to show good awareness, the Giants are capable of hitting on some big plays.
** Speaking of Manning, he looked completely out of rhythm against the Cardinals. Some of his throws in traffic were just careless. He was picked off three times, and that number could have been as high as five by my count.
** Analyst Cris Collinsworth did a good job of showing the chess match between Manning and the Cardinals' defenders. Arizona would bring linebackers and defensive backs up to the line, Manning would point them out as potential blitzers, and then they would drop back into coverage, leading to confusion for the Giants' offense. Think Sean McDermott will follow that blueprint?
** The Giants threw the fade to rookie Hakeem Nicks unsuccessfully down near the goal line. Nicks has TDs in four straight games. Three of those have been plays of 35 yards or more.
** The Eagles better be ready to wrap up the Giants' receivers or they will pile up yards after the catch.
** Tight end Kevin Boss had four catches for 41 yards. Don't be surprised if the Giants involve him more Sunday, given the Eagles' struggles against tight ends this season.
Giants on defense
** I thought the Giants' defense played well for the most part. They really got no favors from New York's special teams. The three Cardinals touchdown drives were set up by short fields and went 46, 55 and 20 yards, respectively.
** I say it every week, but LeSean McCoy has to hold on to the football. The Giants got two turnovers on fumbles by the Cardinals running backs. You can be sure that they'll be looking to strip the ball out of McCoy's hands every time he touches it.
** Last week, Donovan McNabb completed just seven passes to wide receivers against the Redskins. That won't get it done this week. The Giants' linebackers did a very good job of limiting the damage in the passing game by the Cardinals' running backs and tight ends.
** The Cardinals did have success on one inside screen to fullback Jason Wright for a touchdown. Reminded me of that shovel pass we've seen Andy Reid use inside the 5 for so many years. Do they break that out on Sunday?
** Cornerback Terrell Thomas took some chances against the Cardinals. That could mean big plays for the Giants, or big plays for the Eagles. Somehow I have a feeling that he's going to be involved in one or two plays that will make a difference.
** Mathias Kiwanuka has sacks in three of the Giants' last four games. Looked like they lined him up both at DE and inside against Arizona.
** The Cardinals ran the Wildcat on one play with DB Antrel Rolle taking the snap from the shotgun and throwing to a wide open Larry Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald couldn't make the catch, and Arizona was called for a penalty on the play, but the Giants were fooled. Do the Eagles try to pass from the Wildcat this week?
When the Giants have the ball, I think they're going to be able to move it on the ground effectively. Manning and company have the ability to hit on some big plays if their protection can hold up. Can the Eagles' defense continue to force turnovers, or will it get beat by the Giants' receivers? Offensively, the Eagles have looked out of rhythm, and they'll almost definitely be without Brian Westbrook. I need to see them move the ball consistently against a good defense before believing that they're capable of doing so. Give the Giants a slight edge, but like I said, it will come down to which team makes those one or two big plays.
Prediction: Giants 23, Eagles 17
We'll quickly run through the rest of this week's picks.
Last week: 6-6-1
RAVENS (-3) vs. Broncos (MC's Pick of the Week; he's catching fire at 5-2 on the season)
BROWNS (+13) at Bears
BILLS (+3.5) vs. Texans
49ERS (+13.5) at Colts
JETS (-3.5) vs. Dolphins
LIONS (-4) vs. Rams
COWBOYS (-9.5) vs. Seahawks
RAIDERS (+16.5) at Chargers
JAGUARS (+3) at Titans
PACKERS (-3) vs. Vikings
CARDINALS (-10) vs. Panthers
FALCONS (+11) at Saints