WHEN THE EAGLES HAVE THE BALL
Nick Foles’ re-introduction to the starting quarterback job comes Sunday against the league’s worst-ranked defense. It’s overseen by Giants interim coach Steve Spagnuolo, a former Eagles assistant who learned under Jim Johnson. That means you can expect Foles to be under pressure, and he’ll need to show he can handle the blitz. “That’s something that we’ve prepared for,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. “I wouldn’t think it would be anything crazy, but at the same time, we’ve got to be prepared for any area of the field, basically, any down, ready for pressure.” The left side of his offensive line will be in focus. Guard Stefen Wisniewski is questionable with an ankle injury, and the Eagles would likely turn to Chance Warmack if Wisniewski cannot play. Halapoulivaati Vaitai must block Olivier Vernon, too. Lane Johnson will draw Jason Pierre-Paul on the right side. Don’t expect Pederson to make big changes to the offense with Foles at quarterback; he’ll remain aggressive. The key for Foles will be to avoiding turnovers when under pressure.
Tight end Zach Ertz returns after missing last week with a concussion. Alshon Jeffery was sick earlier this week, but he’ll play and try to take advantage of a Giants secondary that is missing top cornerback Janoris Jenkins. Torrey Smith is coming off his best game of the season and Nelson Agholor is on a hot streak, so the Eagles should be able to move the ball against the 31st-ranked pass defense that’s allowing 265.7 yards per game. Brandon Dixon and Ross Cockrell started last week at cornerback; Voorhees native Eli Apple is a former first-round pick who’s had a rocky second season.
It would make sense for the Eagles to trust their ground game against the 31st-ranked rush defense, which is allowing 130 rushing yards per game. Jay Ajayi averages 7 yards per carry and has seen his playing time increase in recent weeks. LeGarrette Blount and Corey Clement will still be involved, but Ajayi has been the most effective running back and can hurt a defense without imposing linebackers. Their top tackler is safety Landon Collins, who is doubtful with an ankle injury. Defensive tackle Damon Harrison is a good run stopper in the middle of the defense, but the Eagles should be able to move the ball against this defense.
WHEN THE GIANTS HAVE THE BALL
Eli Manning might be quarterbacking against the Eagles for the final time in a Giants uniform. Manning, who was benched for one game this season, is starting his 27th regular season game against the Eagles and it’s coming during a miserable season for the Giants offense. Their 24 points against the Eagles in Week 3 were their most this season, and they’ve topped 17 points just once in the past seven games. In Week 3, the Eagles needed to worry about Odell Beckham Jr. That’s not the case Sunday, when the Giants will lack offensive firepower at the skill positions. Games against the Giants used to require the Eagles to play in nickel or dime packages every down, but the Giants don’t have the same threats on the perimeter. Manning’s top target is rookie tight end Evan Engram, who has 55 catches for 623 yards. Safety Malcolm Jenkins will likely draw that assignment. Sterling Shepard will be their best wide receiver.
The Giants’ offensive line is in worse shape than Week 3, too. Justin Pugh, a Council Rock South alum, went on injured reserve this week. Ereck Flowers starts at left tackle for the Giants and will be tasked with blocking Vinny Curry and Derek Barnett. Bobby Hart gets the Fletcher Cox assignment at right guard, with an undrafted rookie Chad Wheeler trying to block Brandon Graham and Chris Long at right tackle. The Giants have allowed 29 sacks this season.
Their running game isn’t much of a threat, either. Orleans Dwarka leads the group with 580 yards, and rookie Wayne Gallman is getting more playing time. They total only 90.1 rushing yards per game this season, which ranks 28th in the NFL. The Eagles still have the top-ranked rush defense even after Todd Gurley gashed them last week, but the Giants don’t have a Gurley-like player in their backfield. Joe Walker will return to the lineup to play base defense, although Walker wasn’t necessarily a difference-maker for the Eagles before his two-week injury.
Pay attention to the Eagles on special teams Sunday. They signed Bryan Braman to help bolster the group after recent struggles, and they will need to play better entering the postseason.
That’s how many NFC East titles the Eagles won in franchise history after clinching the division last Sunday. Eight of those division titles have come since Jeffrey Lurie purchased the team in 1994. The Eagles have now won the NFC East in 2017, 2013, 2010, 2006, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 1998, and 1980. Recent history is not in favor of the Eagles winning next year – there have not been back-to-back winners since the Eagles won every year since 2001-2004. All four teams have won the division since that run.
Zach Berman: Eagles 27, Giants 16
Jeff McLane: Eagles 23, Giants 17
Les Bowen: Eagles 20, Giants 16
Paul Domowitch: Eagles 27, Giants 13