It seems hard to believe, but the city of Philadelphia could wake up Tuesday morning to a beautiful new reality. If the Philadelphia Eagles get their first division win of the season on Monday night, they will be in first place in a wide open NFC East.
Yes, this placement is largely a technicality - the Cowboys are on a bye this week, so a New York Giants loss would put them in the lead - but who cares? After an abysmal 1-3 start to the season, the Eagles are still in it. To improve to 3-3, head coach Chip Kelly's squad will need to do what it has always done to the Giants.
Since joining the Eagles in 2013, Kelly is 3-1 against the Giants, and has outscored Tom Coughlin's group 104-62 in those four games. The Eagles' lone loss came in the nightmare 2013 game started by Michael Vick, who should never have returned from an hamstring injury to play that game. Matt Barkley finished the game and, well, it didn't go so well. But last season the Eagles shut out the G-Men 27-0 and took home the dub by a score of 34-26 in the season finale.
To get the win on Sunday, the Eagles should follow some of the blueprints that have made them so successful against the Giants in the past.
Bend, but don't break, on defense
The Eagles are wearing their black jerseys again on Monday night, but they don't need a repeat of #BlackSunday to win again this year. Excluding last year's shutout win, the Eagles defense has kept up with the Giants offense and prevented the Giants from running away with the game.
The largest lead the Giants have had over the Eagles during the Chip Kelly era has been 15 points, and that was in the Eagles' lone loss. In the other three games, the Giants' largest lead has been only seven points, and New York held the lead for a combined 10 minutes and 43 seconds in those games.
This year could be a different version of that same tune. Unlike recent years, the Eagles defense is far and away the best unit on the team, with the offense showing sporadic signs of life. Even with the Giants offense playing well of late (seventh in yards per game and total passing yards), the Eagles' dominant front seven should be able to slow down the Giants' lackluster run game, creating opportunities for the Eagles' playmaking pass 'D'.
Get the tight ends involved
Last season, the Eagles' three main tight ends, Brent Celek, Zach Ertz and James Casey, caught a combined 93 passes for 1,101 yards and six touchdowns. Of those numbers, 12 catches, 169 yards and four of those touchdowns came against the Giants. Those stats aren't staggering (if anything, they indicate that the tight ends should be fed more in general). But that touchdown number is worth noting, especially considering the way the Eagles have been playing recently.
One of the biggest things the Eagles have changed during this young season is the amount of two tight end sets they're using. The Eagles have used Celek and Ertz for more than half the offense's snaps in three of the last five games, and that could continue Monday night.
Meanwhile, the Giants' linebackers are hurting. Jon Beason is questionable with a concussion, while backup Devon Kennard is out and Jonathan Castillas is questionable. Ertz and Celek have gotten more looks over the past few weeks, and they could do some serious damage this Monday.
Pass, pass, pass
The Eagles' run defense has taken another step forward this year. Through five games, they are allowing the 10th-fewest yards per game on the ground this season. Unfortunately for the Eagles, only the Falcons are giving up less on the ground than the Giants. New York is allowing 80.6 yards per game, and has given up the third-fewest total yards (403).
Meanwhile, the Giants are allowing about 385 passing yards per game, and will be without starting corner Prince Amukamara and could be without backup corner Trumaine McBride. That would leave former Eagle Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie starting on the outside with either Jayron Hosley or a safety.
It doesn't take a rocket surgeon to figure out what the Eagles should do here.
The key for the Eagles is, as always, to stop shooting themselves in the foot. The drops are still a concern, as is Bradford's inconsistency - his 63.2 completion percentage has him tied with the reanimated corpse of Matt Hasselbeck for 21st among all qualifying quarterbacks. The Eagles were able to make some positive things happen last week against the Saints, but two interceptions in the end zone won't fly in a big division game.
The Eagles will also need a repeat performance from Josh Huff, and will need its other receivers to step up. The last time these two teams met, Jordan Matthews went off, catching eight passes for 105 yards and a score. He's certainly capable of another performance like that, and frankly, it's time he did.
In a division game that could help position the Eagles in a good spot for the rest of the season, remembering what helped beat the Giants in previous years could very well contribute to what would be the biggest win of the season.