First I wanna start with a little teaser. Yesterday I actually previewed this Sunday night's game in a phone interview with NBC Sports' Chris Collingsworth as part of their "Sunday Night Blogger" show. They have not yet posted it, but he had some interesting things to say about Kevin Curtis, Westbrook, McNabb, and especially Jevon Kearse. As soon as they put the show up, I will post the link here.
Also the Eagles will release their official injury report today, but over in the diaries SixersShawn Has some good info on that front.
So the real burning question going into this week will be whether either of those performances by those previously struggling units were real. Certainly you can look at what the Eagles have done over the past couple years with mostly this same personell and believe that this offense is for real. The Giants ont he other hand have struggled defensively for a quite a few years now and it's going to take more than one good half to silence their critics.
Eagles on offense
Reid & Morningwheg will face a familiar foe in former Eagles LB coach and current Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnulo. He was brought in by the Giants to transform them into a more Jim Johnson-Eagles style attacking D. So far injuries and lack of personnel in the secondary have made Spagnulo's job rather difficult. The Giants defense is the 3rd worst in the NFL giving up 32.3 points a game. Their pass rush has been anemic with just 4 sacks, which is 5th from bottom in the league. That lack of pass rush combined with what many Giants fans will tell you is a lack of talent the secondary has the Giants ranked as the 4th worst D against the pass. The Eagles will no doubt look to exploit this after their aerial explosion last week. Like they did against Detroit, expect the Eagles to keep and extra TE or RB in to give McNabb time to attack the Giants' secondary downfield. In fact, I'd expect you'll see the Eagles going deep in their first drive.
As always, if he's ready to go expect a healthy dose of Brian Westbrook... but I think after the heavy amount of touches he's gotten in the first two weeks and the fact that he's been banged up both weeks, I'd expect Andy to have a shorter leash on him. Even late into the blowout last week Westbrook was still in the game getting a good amount of touches. I think that if the Birds get up early on the Giants we'll see more Buckhalter & Hunt than we did last week.
For the Giants defense to plan is probably going to be very simple. They are going to throw the house at Donovan Mcnabb. If they can't pressure him and force him to move around test that knee even further, they are likely to get picked apart. Obviously if the Eagles can contain the blitz #5 will have plenty of opportunities for big plays, but if the Giants can get to him early we could see much of that confidence and swagger from last week drain away.
The Giants offense comes into this game ranked 10th in the NFL and playing better than most probably expected. With Eli Manning's struggles last year and the loss of Tiki Barber, it could have spelled doom for that offense this year. But at 24 points a game they're getting the job done. Before the season it looked like Brandon Jacobs would be carrying the load in place of Tiki Barber, but thanks to an injury a virtual unknown in Derrick Ward has stepped into that role and performed rather well. Ward was a 7th round pick of the Jets in 04 and up until this year had very few opportunities to prove himself, but he's seized his opportunity this year by rushing for about 90 yards a game and catch 4 or 5 passes a game. He has yet to find the end zone, but he's more like Tiki Barber than Brandon Jacobs was ever likely to.
For their part, the Eagles defense has been a big surprise especially against the run. Their run defense is ranked 4th best in football giving up just 71 yards a game. If they can continue to stuff the run and force the Giants to throw the ball, they could also force QB Eli Manning to make mistakes. Manning has been his usual up and down self this year and looks to be on pace for a similar season to what hes done the past few years. He has an impressive 6 TDs but a disappointing 4 INTs so far. That puts him on pace for his average year of TDs in the mid 20s and INTs in the high teens. WR Plaxico Burress has been the recipient of 5 of Manning's 6 TDs so far this year and is tied for the NFL lead in that category. Burress' size and speed has always given the Eagles fits and if he's healthy could do so again Sunday night. Same for Jeremy Shockey who has had some big games against the Birds. As is always the case, pressuring Manning will be key. As we've seen in past Eagles/Giants matchups when Eli gets pressure is when he makes mistakes. That's how you neutralize Burress & Shockey. If the Eagles can create pressure with their front four and lay off the blitz, they can afford to put more double coverage on Shockey to help out first year starting SAM Chris Gocong.
The Giants have done a good job protecting Manning so far this year. He's been sacked just 4 times, while the Eagles defense comes into this game with a league leading 14 sacks. This game should be a huge test for both the Giants' offensive line and the Eagles pass rush.