Here are 15 things to know about this weekend's Eagles-Giants matchup:
1. It's no exaggeration to say that Eli Manning is having a career year. His 63.1 completion percentage, 8.4 yards per attempt and 97.0 QB rating will all be career bests if they hold up. And he's been great in the fourth quarter too, with a 116.5 QB rating, which is second to only Alex Smith (117.6). The big plays have been there for Manning. Only Aaron Rodgers (9.73), Matt Schaub (8.49) and Tom Brady (8.42) have a higher YPA number. And Manning has a 106.1 QB rating on third down. The Eagles' defense, meanwhile, has allowed 17 passing touchdowns, tied for fourth-most.
2. Manning was 26-for-40 for 311 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions against the Niners. When I was re-watching the game, I was impressed with several of his throws. He made a perfect pass to Mario Manningham for 13 yards on 3rd-and-8 with pressure up the middle. Manning made a beautiful throw to Victor Cruz for 36 yards on 3rd-and-7. He beat a six-man blitz with a 13-yard touchdown to Manningham in the back of the end zone. And he beat another blitz with a 32-yard touchdown to Hakeem Nicks. On the Giants' final drive, Manning hit Manningham for 18 yards with pressure in his face on 4th-and-6. And he later converted another fourth down. However, Manning's final pass was batted down by Justin Smith, with the Giants' drive stalling in the end zone.
3. One key with Manning has been fewer interceptions. Last year, he averaged one INT every 21.6 attempts. This year, he's averaging one every 40 attempts. Manning threw a bad ball last week, looking for Cruz, on one of the turnovers. But the second one was probably on Manningham. He got lucky on one deep pass that he forced to Nicks, but the 49ers defensive back couldn't keep his feet in bounds for the pick. In the teams' first meeting, Manning completed 16 of 23 passes for 254 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions against the Eagles. By the numbers, it was his best game of the year.
4. One issue in the first matchup was the Eagles' inability to get to Manning. The defensive line had three sacks, but just two hurries. In other words, there wasn't consistent pressure. Overalll, on the season, Manning has been sacked just 16 times. According to Football Outsiders, the Giants' offensive line has the eighth-best sack rate. In the first meeting, the Eagles blitzed Manning on seven of 26 passing plays, or 26.9 percent of the time. Manning was 2-for-6 for 92 yards (and one sack) against the Eagles' blitz, but two of his four touchdowns came against extra pressure. The Eagles blitzed a lot last week against the Cardinals, but I doubt they will continue that against the Giants.
5. The Giants' most-targeted receiver last week was Cruz. Manning went his way 11 times, completing six for 84 yards. Cruz is the Giants' best deep threat, with a team-high 11 catches of 20+ yards. He's also tied for the team lead with 40 catches and leads New York with 672 yards receiving. Cruz, of course, killed the Eagles in the first game with three catches for 110 yards and two touchdowns. Manningham was targeted 10 times, catching six balls for 77 yards last week, although he tok some heat for not laying out on what could have been a huge catch down the stretch. And Nicks, when healthy, is an elite talent. He has been dealing with a hamstring injury but appears to be healthy. He's got 40 catches for 616 yards on the season.
6. Giants tight end Jake Ballard has come on strong. He's averaging 16.5 yards per catch and has 11 catches of 20+ yards, which is more than Jeremy Maclin (10) and DeSean Jackson (8). The Eagles, however, have greatly improved their defense against tight ends. Per Football Outsiders, they're the best team in the league at covering opposing tight ends, allowing just 39.8 yards per game.
7. On the ground, it looks like Ahmad Bradshaw will once again be sidelined and it'll be Brandon Jacobs and D.J. Ware sharing the backfield duties. Jacobs is averaging just 3.2 yards per carry; Ware 3.4. Jacobs had 18 carries last week, compared to nine for Ware. In the first meeting against the Eagles, Giants running backs combined for seven catches, 95 yards and two touchdowns. According to Football Outsiders, the Eagles rank 29th in covering opposing running backs in the passing game.
8. Defensively, it all starts up front with the Giants. New York has 30 sacks (tops in the league) and is fourth in sack rate. Jason Pierre-Paul has 9.5 sacks and has probably been the Giants' best defensive player. Osi Umenyiora has seven. Pierre-Paul will mostly be lined up against Jason Peters, but I noticed against San Francisco, he was inside at times, including at least once across from the right guard. That means you, Danny Watkins. He can stop the run too. Last week, Pierre-Paul tackled Frank Gore for a loss on 2nd-and-1. And on another run play to the right, he hustled across the field and dropped Gore for a loss again. Justin Tuck is playing injured and has just two sacks. He was a non-factor in the first game and indirectly accused Todd Herremans of targeting his neck. Umenyiora had a couple big plays last week. He put a hit on Smith to force an incompletion on third down and also had a sack. Other defensive linemen who will be in the mix: Chris Canty, Linval Joseph, Dave Tollefson and Rocky Bernard.
9. At linebacker, it looks like the Giants will be without Michael Boley, who was injured against the 49ers. A key play last week came when 49ers tight end Vernon Davis ran free for a 31-yard touchdown because of a blown coverage by the Giants. According to reports out of New York, linebacker Greg Jones, who was filling in for Boley, was to blame on the play. Mathias Kiwanuka had some good moments against the run last week, including one play where he dropped Gore for a loss. He also has 3.5 sacks on the season. But 49ers tight ends combined for nine catches and 109 yards against New York. In other words, Brent Celek could once again be a factor, although the Eagles might need him to stay in to block.
10. In the secondary, cornerback Aaron Ross is listed as day-to-day with a quad contusion. Braylon Edwards beat him for a 21-yard gain on a play last week where the Giants blitzed five. Corey Webster had an interception on a ball that bounced off of Ted Ginn's hands. The 49ers also threw at Webster three times in the red zone on one series, but came up empty on all three attempts. Overall, opponents have a 79.4 QB rating against the Giants (11th-lowest). New York’s given up 33 pass plays of 20+ yards, tied for seventh-most. Football Outsiders ranks their pass defense at No. 12. Safety Kenny Phillips made some nice plays last week, including breaking up a pass for Davis. Rolle has graded out poorly in pass coverage, according to Pro Football Focus' numbers.
11. The Giants are allowing 4.6 yards per carry, which ranks tied for 22nd, but Football Outsiders ranks them 10th overall against the run. LeSean McCoy has averaged 5.99 yards per carry in five career games against the Giants. Overall, he leads the NFL with 35 runs of 10+ yards and is tied for the league lead (with Adrian Peterson) with 10 rushing touchdowns. McCoy is averaging 7.1 yards per carry in the fourth quarter, tied for tops in the NFL. Last week, Kendall Hunter was the 49ers' most effective running back with 40 yards on six carries, including a 17-yard touchdown. Kiwanuka, Pierre-Paul and Jones were all blocked on the play.
12. The Giants blitzed Vick on 10 of 26 dropbacks in the first meeting, or 38.5 percent of the time. Last week, Alex Smith made several good throws against the Giants' blitz, completing a 15-yarder, a 21-yarder and a 26-yarder against extra pressure. If Vince Young starts, my guess is the Giants will be blitzing a lot, but they'll also have a plan to make sure he doesn't do a lot of damage with his legs.
13. The Giants have the sixth-best red-zone offense in the NFL, converting on 59.06 of their trips inside the opponents' 20. The Eagles are 22nd at 45 percent. New York is 13th in red zone defense, allowing touchdowns 48.48 percent of the time. The Eagles, once again, are last at 69.23 percent.
14. The Eagles are tied for last in the league, averaging 2.3 giveaways per game (21 overall). The Giants are 12th at 1.4 per game (13 overall). The Giants are tied for fifth, averaging 2.1 takeaways per game (19 overall), while the Eagles are tied for 14th (14 overall).
15. Football Outsiders has the Eagles' special teams unit ranked 14th. The Giants are 18th. The Eagles' kickoff coverage unit is second, but their punt return unit is tied for last.
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