When Eagles run the ball

The Eagles lost leading rusher Jay Ajayi for the season. Ajayi tore his ACL in Sunday's loss to the Vikings. It appears they will get Corey Clement (quad) back Thursday, but Darren Sproles (hamstring) will miss his fifth straight game. Losing Ajayi is a big blow. Nearly half of his team-high 45 rushing attempts came on first down, when he was averaging 5.7 yards per carry. Clement, who settled into a valuable third-down role last season, now figures to split the rushing workload with Wendell Smallwood, who has averaged an impressive 6.7 yards per carry in the last three games. The Eagles have run the ball on just 39 of 131 plays in their last two games (29.8 percent), and seven of those runs have been by QB Carson Wentz. Ajayi's loss could tilt that run-pass imbalance even further. The Giants are 27th in run defense (124.4 yards per game) and 25th in opponent rush average (4.6 per carry). But they held the Panthers to 3.8 yards per carry Sunday. They've given up 130-plus rushing yards in three of their five games.

EDGE: Eagles

Jason Kelce (left) does his best to keep the Vikings’ Jaleel Johnson away from Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz.
MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer
Jason Kelce (left) does his best to keep the Vikings’ Jaleel Johnson away from Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz.

When Eagles pass the ball

Carson Wentz has a 99.6 passer rating in his three starts. He has completed 67.2 percent of his attempts, has thrown two touchdown passes in each of the last two games, and hasn't thrown an interception in his last 100 attempts. That's the good news. The bad news is that his situational numbers – third down and in the red zone – aren't anywhere close to where they were last year, when he led the league in passing in both those areas. He has a 44.4 completion percentage on third down and has been sacked four times in 31 third-down pass plays. He's completed just 10 of 21 passes in the red zone. Tight end Zach Ertz's 41 receptions, including 20 in the last two games, are the third most in the league. But he also hasn't been very productive on third down (just six third-down receptions) or in the red zone (one TD). The Giants are hoping to get their top pass-rusher, Olivier Vernon, back. He missed the first five games with an ankle injury. Without him, the Giants have just six sacks. Even without a rush, however, the Giants have an 82.7 opponent passer rating.

EDGE: Eagles

When Giants run the ball

The Eagles will have to contain Penn State product Saquon Barkley.
Bill Kostroun / AP
The Eagles will have to contain Penn State product Saquon Barkley.

Even with the addition of first-round pick Saquon Barkley, the Giants have averaged just 19.6 rushing attempts, second fewest in the league. That's mainly had to do more with circumstances – playing from behind much of the time – than design. They ran the ball just 16 times against Carolina and 15 the week before against New Orleans. When Barkley has run the ball (he has 71 carries), he's been very good. He's averaging 4.3 yards per carry with three TDs and has six runs of 15 yards or longer. Only three other RBs in the league have more 15-plus-yard runs than Barkley. The Giants are averaging just 3.11 yards per carry on first down, the third-lowest average in the league. The Eagles have one of the league's top run defenses. They are second in rushing yards allowed per game (66.4) and second in opponent rush average (3.4). In their last four games, they've held teams to 2.6 yards per carry on first down. They have allowed a league-best 3.2 rushing first downs per game.

EDGE: Eagles

When Giants pass the ball

Eli Manning's protection hasn't been very good. He has been sacked 16 times and has been forced to get the ball out quickly, which, much to the chagrin of Odell Beckham Jr., has resulted in a lot more checkdowns than downfield throws. Still, Manning has a 71.7 completion percentage, and Beckham has three 100-yard receiving games. But OBJ is averaging a career-low 11.8 yards per catch and finally caught his first touchdown pass Sunday. Barkley is going to pose problems for the Eagles in the passing game. He already has 31 catches, including two TDs, and is averaging 8.8 yards per catch. Sterling Shepard has faced the Eagles four times and has had a touchdown catch in each game. The Eagles have just eight sacks in their last four games. Kirk Cousins completed 81.1 percent of his throws against them Sunday, and Marcus Mariota completed 69.8 percent the week before. They have just three interceptions, only one in the last three games.

EDGE: Giants

Special teams

Punter Cam Johnston leads the NFL in punting with a 50.7-yard gross average. He is third in net average (43.5). Johnston has put eight of his 24 punts inside the 20, but he needs to cut down on his touchbacks — he has a league-high five. Place kicker Jake Elliott has converted 8 of 10 field-goal attempts, including his last seven. He also has 19 touchbacks on 22 adjusted kickoffs (doesn't include Sunday's onside kick). His 86.4 touchback rate on kickoffs is the best in the league. The Eagles' coverage units have been solid. They're 11th in punt coverage (6.5) and tied for first in kickoff coverage (16.0 on just three returns). Giants kicker Aldrick Rosas is nursing a sore quad, but the Giants hope he'll be able to kick Thursday. He has made all 11 of his field-goal attempts, including a 53-yarder in Sunday's loss to the Panthers. Punter Riley Dixon is seventh in gross average (48.0) and ninth in net (42.0). Beckham handled punt returns against Carolina. He had a muff that Carolina recovered for a touchdown.

EDGE: Eagles

Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) looks to pass against the Panthers in the first half.
MIKE MCCARN / AP
Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) looks to pass against the Panthers in the first half.

Intangibles

The Giants lost 10 games last year, but their two losses to the Eagles were by a total of eight points. Manning threw for 800 yards and six touchdowns against the Eagles in those two games, and he had Beckham for only one of them.

EDGE: Giants

Prediction

Eagles 31, Giants 30

Key matchups

— Eagles CBs Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, and Sidney Jones vs. Giants WRs Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard: In the last two games, opposing QBs have completed 75 percent of their passes and had an 8.1-yards-per-attempt average against the Eagles. The underrated Shepard has four TD catches in four games vs. the Eagles.

ADVANTAGE: Giants

— Eagles TE Zach Ertz vs. Giants S Landon Collins: Ertz is third in the NFL in receptions with 41. In two games vs. Collins and the Giants last season, he had 14 catches for 111 yards and 2 TDs.

ADVANTAGE: Eagles

— Eagles LBs Jordan Hicks and Nigel Bradham vs. Giants RB Saquon Barkley: Barkley is a dual threat. He has five TDs as a rusher and receiver. He is averaging 4.3 yards per carry and also has 31 catches and an 8.8-yards-per-catch average.

ADVANTAGE: Even

Hot and Not

Hot

Eagles: TE Zach Ertz. Has 20 receptions in the last two games for 222 yards and one touchdown. Thirteen of those catches produced first downs.

Giants: WR Sterling Shepard. Has 20 catches for 232 yards and two TDs in the Giants' last three games.

Not

Eagles: OT Lane Johnson. For the second week in a row, the All-Pro right tackle gave up a game-changing sack in the Eagles' loss to the Vikings.

Giants: Offensive line. The unit has given up 16 sacks and is ranked 31st in the league in sacks allowed per pass play.