Scouting Eagles vs. Giants

Tight end Brent Celek could see some passes his way.
Tight end Brent Celek could see some passes his way. (Staff)
Posted: October 07, 2013

After three losses to AFC West teams, the Eagles return to the NFC East in a different state than they left following a season-opening win over the Redskins. The Eagles still have an opportunity in the NFC East, where the combined records through four weeks are 4-12.

This is also Chip Kelly's introduction to the Eagles-Giants rivalry. The two franchises have had memorable moments over the years, and Kelly's arrival adds another chapter.

"I'm very aware of the rivalry between the Giants and the Eagles," Kelly said. "You notice there's a history in the game; there's Herm Edwards picking up the fumble, DeSean Jackson's punt return. There's a lot of history."

Kelly also pointed to the Giants' two Super Bowl titles in five seasons and the string of NFC East titles the Eagles put together in the 2000s. In 2006, Giants coach Tom Coughlin tried to add Kelly to his staff as a quality-control coach.

A win over Coughlin would push the coach that Kelly deemed a future Hall of Famer to 0-5 this season. An Eagles loss would be Kelly's fourth straight defeat, and would squander any residual NFC East momentum from the win over the Redskins last month.

When the Eagles run

The Eagles have the NFL's No. 1 rushing offense, and this could be a game in which they build on those stats. The Giants have the No. 28 rushing defense and allow 122.5 yards per game. It doesn't help them that Linval Joseph, their top defensive tackle, has already been declared out. Former Eagles defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins, the other starter, is questionable. The Giants will turn to former Eagles stalwart Mike Patterson, veteran Shaun Rogers, and rookie Johnathan Hankins. The Giants linebackers are underwhelming, with former Conestoga star Mark Herzlich manning the middle. Look for LeSean McCoy to have another big game, and the Eagles want to mix Bryce Brown and Chris Polk into the lineup, too. Whether there's enough carries to go around remains to be seen, but this week the Eagles might want to feature the run. The Eagles must improve in the red zone, where they've too often settled for three points when needing seven. If they can avoid penalties and have positive runs on early downs, then those third downs might become more manageable.

Edge: Eagles

When the Eagles pass

In past years, the Eagles would worry about the Giants' pass rush. But the Giants have mustered just four sacks this season, and Jason Pierre-Paul has not played up to his past standards. The Giants are also going to miss Aaron Ross and Jayron Hosley, two key backup cornerbacks. Corey Webster, a starting cornerback, is doubtful. This could also be an advantageous matchup. Michael Vick needs time, so the offensive line must play better this week. The Eagles are also waiting for a complementary target to DeSean Jackson to emerge. This is a week when tight ends Brent Celek and Zach Ertz could be more involved in the passing game. Ertz is a potential weapon for the Eagles, but the team is remaining patient with the second-round pick. With the Giants' underachieving pass rush and inconsistent back seven, the Eagles don't appear to be significantly threatened when they want to pass the ball.

Edge: Eagles

When the Giants run

The Giants have the No. 30 rushing offense in the NFL, which particularly vexes coach Tom Coughlin. He likes running the ball, but second-year starter David Wilson has yet to have a big game. Wilson is the type of rusher who could hurt the Eagles, though, because of his speed and big-play ability. He's struggled with fumbles and has not had more than 13 carries in a game this season. He's a former first-round pick with talent who is always a play away from a signature run. The Eagles need to make sure they don't let him loose, especially when their nickel defense is on the field. The Eagles allow 121.8 rushing yards per game, so it's not as if their rush defense is particularly worrisome for opponents. One underachieving unit will have a better game on Sunday.

Edge: Even

When the Giants pass

This is the area where the Giants have the biggest advantage, and the Eagles must make sure it's not the difference in the game. The Eagles allow 325 passing yards per game, making them the second-worst pass defense in the NFL. Safety Patrick Chung is questionable, but the Birds struggled even when he played the first three games. If Chung returns on Sunday, he might be in a rotation. The Eagles have been beaten on yards after the catch this season, and Victor Cruz is particularly adept at that aspect of the game. Cruz is also a deep threat, and fellow wide receiver Hakeem Nicks is always a threat. Quarterback Eli Manning throws an accurate deep ball, and he's capable of unleashing a big game despite inconsistencies this season. The big worry for the Giants is their depleted offensive line, which will miss two starters. Manning has already been sacked 14 times this season and has nine interceptions. Fletcher Cox and Cedric Thornton need to be strong interior rushers; that's where the Giants line is most susceptible. The Eagles struggle forcing turnovers and getting to the quarterback, so they must take advantage of those weaknesses. But the Eagles' own weakness is a struggling secondary, and Manning and his receivers might be too much to stop.

Edge: Giants

Special teams

Both teams are struggling. The Eagles allowed two special-teams touchdowns last week, and kicker Alex Henery has missed a field goal in three consecutive games. The Giants allowed a punt return for a touchdown last week, and their kicker, Josh Brown, has missed two consecutive field goals.

Edge: Even

Intangibles

Both teams badly need a victory. The Giants are 0-4 and a season with high hopes would get even uglier with a loss. The Eagles' hype from an electric opening-night performance has deflated. After nine years of knowing what to expect from the Eagles, Coughlin must adjust to a new Eagles system. He also has a roster ravaged by injuries. It'll be nice for the Giants to return to MetLife Stadium, where they have lost their lone home game this season after going 6-2 at home in 2012.

Edge: Even

Predictions

Zach Berman: Giants 31, Eagles 30

Jeff McLane: Eagles 31, Giants 24

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