By Paul Dottino
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So how well will the Giants deal with prosperity?
They have constructed a three-game winning streak that has them alone atop the NFC East with a modest 3-2 record, and they’re staring at an opportunity to knock off an archrival — the mediocre Philadelphia Eagles (2-3) — at Lincoln Financial Field on Monday Night Football.
Well, not so fast. The picture isn’t as bright as it could have been, thanks to the Giants’ long injury list. They had 11 players on the report last Thursday and, although most of those players have at least a decent chance to play on Monday night, it’s unknown how effective they will be or how long they might be able to last in the game.
Here are three key matchups to watch:
1. Giants MLB Jon Beason vs. Eagles QB Sam Bradford:
Actually, this could just as easily be identified as Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo vs. Eagles head coach Chip Kelly, but we’ll stick with these two players since they are the quarterbacks on the field for their respective units. Philly’s uptempo offense means Beason’s biggest challenge is to get the right calls out quickly. The Eagles’ primary goal is to get into the defense’s head and cause it to make mistakes when it hustles to the line.
In short, the Giants must stay true to their instructions, execute cleanly and NOT get preoccupied or buy into what the Eagles are attempting to do. Bradford has a strong arm and, when given time, he can get into a good rhythm and even hit a long pass. However, he also has been known to be erratic and will force the ball to the outside, leading to interceptions.
2. Giants RB Shane Vereen and TE Larry Donnell vs. Eagles’ linebackers:
The Giants, who were 26th in rushing at 91 yards per game through Week 5, are unlikely to run the ball well against the Eagles, who ranked third in the league by allowing just 3.5 yards per rush. So that means it’ll be up to the offense to work the clock with a controlled passing attack.
QB Eli Manning ought to be able to get the ball to Vereen in the flat and on checkdowns and to Donnell in various short routes because both players can win their battles against Philadelphia’s linebackers. The corners often press at the line in man coverage, allowing the safeties to assist the linebackers. That means Vereen and Donnell need to be aggressive in trying to gain yardage after the catch if the Giants are going to sustain long drives.
3. Giants’ back seven vs. Eagles’ short passing game:
This is a very generic category because a number of different players could fit into this equation, although the basic facts are as plain as day. Philadelphia prefers the short passing game — RBs DeMarco Murray (18 catches) and Darren Sproles (16) are Bradford’s favorite targets after WR Jordan Matthews (30). However, TEs Zach Ertz (15) and Brent Celek (five) may become more of an issue, considering the Giants had allowed a league-high 37 receptions to tight ends through Week 5.
The Eagles will try to isolate any one of these players against one of the Giants’ linebackers whenever possible, and sometimes the safeties will come into play, too. Either way, these defenders need to stay on top of the Eagles, break up their passes and reduce yards-after-the-catch opportunities in order to short-circuit long drives.
PREDICTION: Eagles 23, Giants 13