Last weekend led to a lot of movers and shakers in the NFL. Between upsets and lopsided games, the rankings saw a general overhaul across the board. The Eagles dropped quite a few places after their disappointing loss to the Cowboys and the Broncos lost their place at the top after having a comfortable twelve point lead on second place to open the rankings. You can find Brandon's rankings here, but let's break it down below:
|24||New York Jets||-9.232||26|
|31||New York Giants||-25.934||31|
As we can see, Andy Reid can still field an impressive team when he has a defense. That doesn't necessarily sound like a powerful statement, but when you consider that the Browns routinely field a good defense and are still not very competitive says something about Reid as a coach. The rest of the league shuffled all over the place, including the Eagles, who dropped six spots down to twenty. This seems to be in line with the rest of the sports writers around the web.
What to make of that? Well, the defense improved in pretty much every category, which is encouraging considering how good the Cowboys' offense actually is. The offense imploded as everyone saw, but I have a hunch that this was more or less a fluke. That's saying a lot (and a possible discredit to the Cowboys' defense), but quarterback play that terrible is simply not the norm for this team. I expect them to rebound against a still-awful Giants defense next week. Speaking of which...
Scouting the Enemy
It seems only a few weeks ago that I was writing this section about the Giants... Oh, right. Because I was. This is unusually close for division games, but not unheard of. The Giants have improved slightly since the last time the Eagles played them, with an emphasis on slightly. (Confession: I'm glad that they beat the Vikings on Monday, because now they have the monkey off their back and can go back to losing). So where should the Eagles excel on Sunday when they meet the Giants again?
Pass Blocking. The Giants actually have a somewhat respectable run defense (3.7 YPC allowed) and they did a good job of stopping McCoy last time. However, their pass rush is virtually nonexistent as they are only forcing 0.9 sacks per game. The Eagles give up 2.7 sacks per game, so expect the Giants to get some pressure. But overall, Vick should have a decent pocket to throw from on Sunday.
Pass Defense. Eli Manning is trying to prove to the world that he is colorblind as he routinely throws to the opposing jerseys (5.88% interception rate). He's also only averaging 6.7 yards per completion, which is mediocre in today's passing league. The secondary has been up and down by getting decent play from Boykin and Fletcher but less-than-desirable performances from their safeties. Even so, expect the Eagles to win the battle through the air on this one as Vick retakes his place as the starting quarterback.
Third Downs. While the Giants have improved in this area, they are still near the basement in third down conversions (32.97%). The Eagles' defense has also improved in this statistic since last time but are still mediocre, giving up 41.05% of third downs. On the other side of the coin, Philadelphia's offense is relatively consistent on third downs (41.75%) while New York is absolutely terrible by giving up 47.22% of opponents' third downs. The Eagles should have no problems sustaining drives on offense and should see some success getting off the field on defense.
While division games are always a tough test, there is no reason for the Eagles not to rebound from last week's debacle against the Cowboys. Chip Kelly seemed extremely embarrassed at his unit's performance on Sunday and is probably letting them have it in practice this week. I can see this game being close, just because it is the Giants, but I would be very surprised (and even more disappointed) if they continue their home losing streak this Sunday.