By Curt Macysyn
One team played for the division lead last week, and one team finally got its first victory of the 2013 NFL campaign. If in the preseason, you predicted that the team that would finally win its first game in Week 7 would be the New York Giants, you would have been laughed off of your bar stool. Equally as laughable would have been the suggestion that the Philadelphia Eagles would be 2-0 in the NFC East and playing the Dallas Cowboys for the division lead in Week 7, but that’s exactly what happened.
The last time these teams met just three weeks ago in the Meadowlands, Philadelphia won the turnover battle and the game 36-21. The Eagles Michael Vick injured his hamstring in the first half and left, giving backup quarterback Nick Foles the ball for the rest of the game. Foles and the Birds took full advantage of three fourth quarter interceptions by Eli Manning to come back against New York for a 36-21 victory. Foles threw two touchdown passes in second half, and the win snapped a three-game losing streak for Philadelphia.
The following week, Foles and the Eagles defeated the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31-20 to put themselves squarely in front of the Dallas Cowboys for the division lead. But Foles got hurt, and third string QB Matt Barkley could not jump-start the offense in a 17-3 loss to Dallas on Sunday, dropping the Eagles to 3-4 on the season. Eagles head coach Chip Kelly reported that Foles received a concussion against Dallas, and Michael Vick took the first team repetitions at practice on Tuesday – signalling that Vick will most likely start against the Giants.
All-Pro running back LeSean McCoy still leads the league in rushing with 685 yards on the ground, three touchdowns and a gaudy 4.9 yards per carry average. McCoy averages 97.9 yards per game this year, which leads the second best running back, Adrian Peterson, by more than 12 yards per game. Wideout DeSean Jackson is only 19th in number of receptions with 37 catches, but he is fourth in the NFL with 610 receiving yards, a testament to his big play ability. Jackson has five touchdown catches to his credit this year.
Controversial wide receiver Riley Cooper has 18 catches on the season, while steady Jason Avant has caught 22 passes this year. Giant-killer Brent Celek has only 12 receptions for less than 100 yards, but two of the 12 catches were for touchdowns.
Kicker Alex Henery is a perfect 10 for 10 on field goals inside of 40 yards, but he has converted only 50 percent (4 for 8) of field goals from 40 yards and beyond.
Linebacker DeMeco Ryans has been a solid pickup for the Birds. The former Houston Texan has 60 tackles on the season, two sacks and an interception. The last time the Giants saw Mychal Kendricks, he was intercepting Eli Manning to set up a fourth quarter Eagles touchdown in the Meadowlands. Kendricks also has 44 tackles to his credit this season.
Edge rusher Connor Barwin leads the team with three quarterback sacks, as the Birds have a total of 15 QB sacks this season. Former Baltimore Raven, Cary Williams, a free agent pickup shares the team lead with two interceptions. Cornerback Brandon Boykin also has two interceptions on the year, including a pick of Eli Manning
Matchup-wise the Birds are 31st in the league in yards allowed via the pass, giving up 311.6 yards per game through the air. If New York can get adequate pass protection for Manning, look for the Giants to expose the Eagles secondary. Philadelphia only gives up a shade over 100 yards rushing per game (101.1). New York will be without David Wilson again, and may also be without Brandon Jacobs again, so that matchup favors Philadelphia. Newly signed veteran Peyton Hillis and rookie Michael Cox performed adequately against the Vikings and may be called upon to do so again this week.
Punter Donnie Jones averages 45.5 yards per punt, which is good for 15th in the NFL. Jones has a net average of 38.8 yards per kick, which ranks him in the bottom third of the league.
Cornerback Cary Williams led the Eagles with 11 tackles last time they faced the Giants. DeMeco Ryans only had three tackles versus New York on October 6, his lowest output of the season.
The Giants lead the overall series 83-76-2, but the Eagles have won nine of the last 11 contests.
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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.