By Paul Dottino
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This may be the most challenging portion of the Giants’ schedule, and not just because they need to grind out some wins against some of their most difficult opponents.
Coach Tom Coughlin and Co. are schedule to have three prime time games in the next four weeks, beginning with Sunday night’s home matchup against the agitated Philadelphia Eagles, who they already knocked off at The Linc on Sept. 25, 29-16. The logistics of keeping a team in its rhythm against the likes of the Eagles, Saints, Packers and Cowboys will not be easy, although the Giants catch a break in that their only road trip will keep them on the East Coast in New Orleans.
For the time being, the Giants are focused on the Eagles in a game that either will tighten the NFC East race like a knot (thanks to the resurgent Cowboys) or pretty much knock out the high-priced Philadelphia Dream Team out of contention.
Here are the Giants’ three matchups to watch:
1. Giants’ front seven vs. Eagles RB LeSean McCoy. The Giants did a strong job of bringing down San Francisco’s Frank Gore when they hit him last weekend, but McCoy is a different sort.
McCoy doesn’t so much power through tacklers as much as he does run past them, juke them and flat out race past them. He’s got terrific balance, speed, vision and cutback ability – that’s why he’s been able to run for 906 yards (5.5 avg.) and 10 touchdowns this season. In fact, the critics in Philly are angry that McCoy does not touch the ball more than he does, given quarterback Michael Vick’s recent struggles.
The Giants’ defense cannot afford to get caught out of their gaps nor can they allow McCoy to change direction and attack an empty lane on the back side.
2. Giants’ front four vs. Eagles QB. Vick (two broken ribs) has yet to practice this week, although most of the Giants expect him to try to play on Sunday. Fair enough, but he’s clearly hurting and the defense must take advantage of this by hitting him hard and early.
Should the Eagles make a change, Vince Young likely will get the call since he’s been taking first-team snaps at practice. Young hasn’t started a game in a year and is 0-for-1 with an interception this season. In his previous two seasons with the Titans, he had 20 TD passes against only 10 INTs, so nobody truly knows if he’ll be more like the mistake-prone passer he was earlier in his career or if he’ll be more efficient, should he play. Young, like Vick, is an athletic, mobile quarterback who will tuck the ball away and take off.
Regardless of who is calling the signals, the Giants’ front four needs to maintain its rushing lanes and collapse the pocket while getting pressure in the quarterback’s face so he cannot step up and take off.
3. Giants LT William Beatty and RT Kareem McKenzie vs. Eagles RDE Trent Cole and LDE Jason Babin. Beatty missed Thursday’s practice because of a sore back, but backup Stacy Andrews (who’s always been a right tackle) said he expects Beatty to play.
Cole has fought injuries and been limited to five sacks this season, but he’s a dangerous speed rusher off the edge. Babin leads the Eagles with nine sacks, although he also tops the team with nine penalties (five for offside/encroachment) and he’s shown little interest in stopping the run.
Whether it’s establishing a solid running game or the offensive line being physical, the Giants cannot afford to allow these pass rushers to get in a groove. The 49ers got a bit too much pressure on Eli Manning last week and prompted him into making some bad throws – Carlos Rogers had two interceptions and the Niners could have had a third.
PREDICTION: Giants 27, Eagles 20
PREDICTION RECORD VS THE SPREAD: 3-6
Your prediction for Giants-Eagles? Let ‘er rip in the comments below…