The New York Giants and the BIG BLUE Battle For The NFC East


Two weeks ago I wrote an article about the “New York Giants And The Roman Numeral V.” Five has been a recurring number throughout the Giants’ season and this week is no exception. The Philadelphia Eagles have won five straight games against the G-Men. They have also won their last 5 consecutive games. Big Blue looks to end these streaks on Sunday.

By now, most readers know that Steve Smith is out for the season. After being sidelined with a pectoral injury for four weeks, Smith returned back to action against the Minnesota Vikings. He was targeted 3 times but only caught 1 pass for 12 yards. The Giants have gone 2-2 in his absence. Being down a Pro Bowl receiver certainly doesn’t help matters much for a team that has had to grapple with injuries all year long. Can they pull out their biggest win of the season without Steve Smith? Let’s crunch some numbers and find out.

First and foremost, Eli Manning will have to try and keep his passes out of Philadelphia’s hands. Second, the Giants receiving team will have to run their routes the way they were designed, without wavering, and win the battles against a pretty decent Eagles secondary. Here is the Eagles’ defense under the microscope:

  • Overall Defense: Ranked 12th (327.8 yards per game)
  • Pass Defense: Ranked 17th (2,916 yards – 224.3 per game
  • Rush Defense: Ranked 11th (1,346 yards – 104.3 per game)
  • Sacks: Ranked 10th (33.0)
  • Interceptions: Ranked 1st (22)
  • Tackles: Ranked 32nd (LAST Place – 753 combined)

Asante Samuel leads the NFL in interceptions with 7 on the year. He picked off two of Eli Manning’s passes in the first meeting of the season. Stewart Bradley also intercepted one off of Manning. Bradley has a dislocated elbow and will not be playing this Sunday. As for Samuel, he suffered a knee injury against the New York Giants and has been out ever since. He had a full practice on Wednesday but was limited Thursday. Samuel hopes to play this Sunday but his track record in practice this week indicates a possible setback. If Asante Samuel is deemed out for Sunday’s game it would be a tremendous advantage for the Giants.

Samuel is not the only threat that the Eagles’ secondary presents. Quintin Mikell, often underrated, has one less pass deflection (15) than Troy Polamalu and is the #2 ranked Safety in this area. He also has 2 interceptions, 1 forced fumble and 1 TD. Mikell was one assist short of being the leading tackler for the Eagles when last they played the Giants. Dimitri Paterson recorded 6 solo tackles and 1 assist against the G-Men, has 4 interceptions and 1 TD on the year thus far.

The Eagles defense have given up 82 points in the last three games. They have only allowed 2 rushing TD’s since playing the NY Giants. It is easy to deduce that their weakness is in the secondary. The stats don’t lie. How will the Giants offense matchup?

Steve Smith was injured prior to the first game against Philadelphia. While the New York Giants are a better team with him on the field, they are still capable of establishing a passing game without him. Eli connected with 9 different receivers in the last game. Hakeem Nicks and Derek Hagan were the primary targets. Hagan was targeted 9 times with 3 receptions for a total of 10 yards. However, that was Hagan’s first game coming off of a COUCH, never mind a bench. The week prior, he was home watching the game from his living room.

Since then Derek Hagan has become more established in the offensive scheme. He has had 10 receptions for 96 yards in the subsequent games. There are a few things to take note of regarding the last game, about who the Giants were and who they are now. Turnovers were a major factor in the last game. The Eagles scored three times off of four NY Giants turnovers. The defense held them to a field goal in each instance. Eli Manning leads the NFL in interceptions.

The running game, or lack thereof, was another issue. Three NY GIants rushed for a total of 61 yards. One of those rushers was Eli Manning who had 2 attempts for 22 yards, (who can forget “the slide”) more than twice what Brandon Jacobs produced. Jacobs rushed 5 times for 10 yards. Ahmad Bradshaw had 12 attempts for 29 yards. There were no rushing touchdowns on the day. The G-Men have established a running game over the last few weeks, an impressive one at that. In the last three weeks, the two headed running back of “Brandon Bradshaw” have recorded 555 rushing yards and 6 TD’s.

The Eagles defense is stronger against the run then they are the passing game. As you can see from the stats above, their run defense is not impenetrable. When last these two teams met, the Giants were missing their two Pro Bowl offensive linesman, David Diehl and Shaun O’Hara. Diehl returned to the playing field on Monday night against the Minnesota Vikings. Shaun O’Hara has been practicing. Tom Coughlin said, “Shaun is pretty much doing everything but we’re calling it (practice) limited.” If O’Hara plays on Sunday it is possible that coach Coughlin will keep Rich Seubert in the Center position. With even ONE of these guys back in the lineup, it will make the offense better for it.

Mario Manningham practiced Thursday and did not have any limitations, according to the Eagles’ injury report. The Giants list him as limited. In an interview I did with Osi Umenyiora he said, “There really isn’t such a thing as limited.” Whatever the case, Manningham insists, “I’ll be good for Sunday.” This, of course, is encouraging news given the fact that Manningham was projected to miss this Sunday’s game due to a hip flexor injury. He sat out for Wednesday’s practice. M+M has been the primary deep target this season, even with a healthy Nicks and Smith on the field.

Hakeem Nicks returned last week, one week earlier than anticipated, from a compartment syndrome injury. He was the leading receiver in that game. Anyone who watched the game may have seen him hobble a few times after a reception. The good news is that he is no longer listed on the injury report. This means that his practices have been going well and he is considered to be at 100% capacity. Nicks is just 104 yards away from hitting the 1,000 yard mark.

Philadelphia will come into the Meadowlands with the league’s #1 ranked offense. The Giants offense is ranked 4th. There are two significant differences between Michael Vick and Eli Manning. Mobility and turnovers. Otherwise, the two match up fairly well.

    Eli Manning:
  • Passing Yards: 3,169 (Ranked 11th)
  • TD’s: 24 (Ranked 5th)
  • INT: 19 (Ranked 1st)
  • Sacked: 13 (Least sacked in the NFL)
  • QB Rating: 86.1 (Ranked 18th)
    Michael Vick:
  • Passing Yards: 2,513 (Ranked 20th)
  • TD’s: 15 (Ranked15th)
  • INT: 4 (Least amount in the NFL)
  • Sacked: 25 (Ranked 15th)
  • QB Rating: 104.3 (Ranked 2nd)

Vick sat out three games this year after taking a big hit from the Washington Redskins. His stats would reflect a little differently had he played in those three games. However, I doubt he would be leading the league if he hadn’t missed them.

The New York Giants’ offensive line is the top ranked line in the league. The Eagles offensive line is ranked 26th, six places from the basement. This explains why Eli Manning has only been sacked once in the last 6 games and why Vick has been sacked 25 times this year, 3 from Justin Tuck alone. Vick has been sacked 15 times in the last three weeks. Tarvaris Jackson was put on IR on Thursday. That makes the head count for the “QB Killers” at #7. Vick came up limping a few times during the last game against Big Blue. His offensive line will not be able to hold back the defensive storm of the G-Men all day and he just may find himself as victim #8. The Giants were able to limit Vick’s mobility and keep him to two touchdowns on the day.

The Eagles have a very talented receiving team and a potentially dangerous running back in LeSean McCoy. McCoy will most likely hit the 1,000 yard rushing mark this weekend. He is 28 yards off of that mark. Antrel Rolle, Terrell Thomas, Corey Webster and Kenny Phillips will have their hands full. Philadelphia’s receiving roster are almost as talented as the NY Giants, before the injuries sidelined most of them. Pick a poison, Jeremy Maclin, Brent Celek, DeSean Jackson, Jason Avant – these guys can make any coaches stomach upset, not just Tom Coughlin’s. They key to limiting their success will depend on how successful the Giants’ front seven are at getting to the QB…and they SHOULD be quite successful the way they have been playing.

Let’s take a look at the defensive numbers for the NY Giants:

  • Overall Defense: Ranked 2nd (281.1 yards per game)
  • Pass Defense: Ranked 2nd (2,417 yards – 185.9 per game
  • Rush Defense: Ranked 5th (1,237 yards – 95.2 per game)
  • Sacks: Ranked 10th (39.0)
  • Interceptions: Ranked 13th (14)
  • Tackles: Ranked 14th (872 combined)

The Big Blue Wrecking Crew defense has continually improved this season. Right now, they are on fire! Since the first meeting with the Eagles, the New York Giants defense have only given up 30 points, 10 points in the last two games. Their pass rush has left a trail of injured QB carnage behind them. Michael Vick has a BIG BLUE bullseye on him and he WILL get hit.

Last, and definitely least, special teams. This has been an area of difficulty for the Giants all year long. It appears that, punter Matt Dodge, has pulled himself together. The G-Men couldn’t afford an earlier Matt Dodge playing in a game of this magnitude. But the problems still linger. Last week we saw a 96 yard kickoff return from Lorenzo Booker. The touchdown was nullified by an illegal block above the waist call committed by Jasper Brinkley. There have been many a Giants fan’s hair pulled out this season due to the play of Matt Dodge, but he is no longer the problem. The problem is plain and simple, TACKLING! If the Giants can’t wrap these guys up then any opposing team they face will produce big return numbers.

Basically, the team with the best defensive performance on Sunday will be the sole owner of the NFC East and control their playoff destiny. Philly’s defense is a little banged up at this point in the season. The New York Giants defense is healthy and on a steady incline in performance.

Kevin Gilbride will have to plan a smart game of Giants football and the Boys In Blue will have to execute. It shouldn’t be too difficult a task to establish a running game against the Eagles. Jacobs and Bradshaw have had great success running the ball lately, particularly on the left side of the field. This matches up well against the Eagles as their left side is their weak point, both on the line and in the secondary. Gilbride will have to give them different looks and keep those Birds guessing.

Can the Giants have an aerial attack without Steve Smith? Yes indeed. Can they effectuate a running game? Absolutely. Can they limit Michael Vick and an injured DeSean Jackson? Oh yes. All they will need to do is not play “mistake football”, as Eli Manning calls it. The two things that the New York Giants will need in order to achieve this great feat is a solid outing from special teams and a mistake free game from Eli Manning. Everyone else seems to be doing their job quite well.

In the last game, the Eagles committed 10 penalties for 119 yards. That’s more than double what the Giants had. The G-Men will have to play smart, protect the football and keep the pressure on. Philadelphia are known for their dirty play. This year alone there have been over $100K in fines given out by the NFL amongst the Eagles, Samuel being fined the most. It is going to be a hard hitting game between the two biggest rivals in the NFC East. The battle for first takes place this Sunday at 1pm in the Meadowlands. This one will not be for the faint of heart!

**Photos provided by Giants.com**

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Tags: Ahmad Bradshaw Asante Samuel Brandon Jacobs Derek Hagan DeSean Jackson Giants, New York Giants, Popular, Featured, Justin Tuck Justin Tuck LeSean McCoy Mario Manningham Michael Vick Minnesota Vikings New York Giants Osi Umenyiora Philadelphia Eagles Steve Smith Tarvaris Jackson Tom Coughlin Washington Redskins