By Curt Macysyn
The Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants usually have more at stake when these teams get together. But with the Giants still winless (0-4), and the Eagles just a game better (1-3), a win on Sunday only means the victor won’t be in the NFC east basement. These two teams have played 162 times, including playoffs, and the Giants have the edge (76-84-2) against their division rivals.
Last season, the Giants ushered out the Andy Reid era in Philadelphia with a 42-7 rout of the Birds at the Meadowlands in the 2012 finale for both teams, but the Eagles have inflicted their fair share of pain on New York as well.
Most notably, DeSean Jackson’s 65-yard punt return that gave Philadelphia a 38-31 comeback win as time expired in 2010.
For older fans, the first Miracle in the Meadowlands was a defining moment, as the Eagles Herman Edwards scooped up a Joe Pisarcik fumble, as the Giants were simply trying to run out the clock, handing the Eagles an improbable 19-17 win in 1978.
Typically these teams have had strong defensive histories, but that does not appear to be the case this season. The Eagles are giving up almost 447 yards per game, the most in the NFL. Not to be outdone, the Giants have surrendered the most points in the league with 146, so a defensive battle most likely is not in the works. A win for the G-men would tie them with Philadelphia, as New York looks to regain relevancy in the NFC East. An Eagles win would drop the Giants further into the division cellar and push Big Blue to an unsightly 0-5 record.
FLY EAGLES FLY
Statistically, the Eagles offense may be the most balanced in the NFL, as Philadelphia trails only Denver in total yards per game. The Birds have accumulated 1,835 yards of total offense in four contests, with 260.5 yards per game coming via the pass. But Philadelphia also leads the league in rushing with an average of 198.3 yards on the ground so far in 2013.
The Eagles rushing attack begins with LeSean McCoy who leads the NFL in rushing with 468 yards on the ground so far this year, while scrambling quarterback Mike Vick has picked up 228 yards via the rush. Vick’s rushing total is good for 18th in the entire league. In comparison, the Giants David Wilson has 130 yards on the ground, which ranks Wilson 39th in the NFL overall.
Philadelphia’s aerial attack was dealt a big blow in the preseason when receiver Jeremy Maclin tore his ACL in July and was lost for the year. Sixth year receiver DeSean Jackson has 21 receptions on the year for 393 yards and two touchdowns. Jason Avant and Riley Cooper have 12 and eight receptions respectively, and tight end Brent Celek has hauled in only seven of Vick’s passes with one score.
The Birds offensive line includes first-round draft pick Lane Johnson, who starts at right tackle. Left tackle Jason Peters returns this year after missing all of 2012 with a ruptured Achilles tendon, and starting guard Todd Herremans missed the second half of last season with a foot injury. The Giants are averaging one sack per game, so if the defensive line cannot make progress against the Eagles, then it will speak volumes about the unit.
LACK OF DEFENSIVE WEAPONS
Statistically, the Eagles are last in the NFL in yards per game, the silver and green defensive unit gives up an average of 446.8 yards per game. And except for the Giants, the Eagles have allowed the most points per game in the league. Statistically, the Giants improved in giving up “only” 31 points to the Kansas City Chiefs, but still are last in the league by giving up 36.5 points per game.
Meanwhile, the Eagles surrendered 52 points to the Denver Broncos, the most points that Denver has ever scored in its 54-year history. Ironically, it was the most points given up by an Eagles team since a 62-10 defeat to the New York Giants in 1972.
Most disappointing to the Eagles brass must be the lack of production from defensive linemen Trent Cole and Fletcher Cox. Cox was the Eagles first round draft pick in 2012, and the duo, together with Mychal Kendricks, was supposed to be the hub that head coach Chip Kelly could build a defense around. Cole has zero sacks on the season.
Overall, the unit is led by veteran linebacker DeMeco Ryans, who has 36 tackles in four games. Free agent cornerback Cary Williams (Baltimore Ravens) was supposed to solidify a defensive backfield that lost its two starting corners from last year (Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Nnamdi Asomugha). But Williams has been inconsistent, and the defense as a whole has only two interceptions on the season.
The Giants Eli Manning leads the NFL in interceptions with nine, and he also lost two fumbles for good measure in the loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. The Giants offense will look to exploit the Eagles defensive weakness, if the offensive line can protect Manning.
New York Giants defensive linemen Mike Patterson and Cullen Jenkins previously played for the Eagles, and both were released earlier this year by the Birds. The Giants scooped up the two players in free agency, and both ended up on the final roster. Patterson’s play in the pre-season allowed the G-men to cut 2011 2nd round pick Marvin Austin.
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Curt Macysyn has been covering the New York Football Giants for the past two seasons for Examiner.com. Born and raised in northern New Jersey, Curt has followed and covered the New York Metropolitan sports scene for 35 years. He attended Seton Hall Prep School in South Orange, NJ and is a graduate of Rutgers University, New Brunswick. His work can be found on Examiner.com.