Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire
The Eagles host the Giants this Sunday night with first place in the NFC East on the line
It was a testament to how close the Eagles came to the playoffs that they were able to beat the Giants last year without their starting QB. Vince Young will not be remembered as a quality addition but he was able to lead the birds to what at the time appeared a crucial win over their division rivals. Even in the first game the Giants weren't exactly dominant, as a big fourth quarter ended up making the game appear more comfortable than it was. Let's break down the units to decide who has the advantage.
Eagles' pass protection against the Giants' pass rush
I think it would be untrue to say the Eagles have been unlucky so far with injuries this season but suffering so many on the offensive line is a big worry for the team. With both Jason Peters and King Dunlap out, Reid will have to start Demetress Bell at left tackle. There was some hope he'd picked up the system but that didn't look like the case in the game with Arizona. Bell had the unenviable task of blocking Calais Campbell. I should say trying to block Campbell really because he rarely did it successfully, allowing seven pressures (all statistics via PFF). Everyone knows the guy he's going against in Jason Pierre-Paul who has been dominant thus far. This is about as big a mismatch as you can imagine. Inside the Giants actually don't have the most dynamic pass rushers. Linval Joseph is a good player but hasn't quite got it going in 2012 and Evan Mathis should fancy his chances. On the other side Rocky Bernard is stout at the point of attack but doesn't generate a ton of penetration. Dallas Reynolds must improve from Week 3 but he shouldn't have as tough a time this week. Along with Danny Watkins, who did surprisingly well against Darnell Dockett, the two should be able to combine to keep Vick clean. Surprisingly Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora have been through four games and Todd Herremans probably fancies he can handle them one on one.
Confidence level - 3/10
Eagles' passing game against the Giants' pass defense
It starts on the outside where, while the Eagles' are getting healthier, the Giants are incredibly banged up. Rookie nickel Jayron Hosley is out with an injury while Michael Coe is also questionable. Prince Amukamara and Corey Webster will likely be the starters and they'll have to face Desean Jackson and a returning Jeremy Maclin. Surprisingly Webster has really struggled thus far in 2012 as he's been targeted consistently by opposing quarterbacks. Amukamara meanwhile had a difficult rookie season but looks improved in year 2. Still he's hardly been tested which will likely change Sunday night. The Giants may well go back to their three safety package in the nickel with Will Hill coming in. Jason Avant has a lot of veteran savvy and will be a tough cover for the rookie. With Keith Rivers also out the Giants will go with a trio of Michael Boley, Chase Blackburn and Mathias Kiwanuka in base with Jacquian Williams coming in in the nickel. Boley and Williams will both likely be tasked with covering LeSean McCoy and I think Perry Fewell will be happy with that considering both players have the athleticism to cover the elusive running back. Brent Celek will be a more difficult proposition as, even if he plays, Antrel Rolle really struggles in coverage. Kiwanuka and Blackburn are also better coming forward so the Eagles' brass should look to get the big tightend involved early and often. The final player who needs mentioning is Kenny Philips. He's the Giants' most underrated player and is adept both in zone and man. Michael Vick should look to avoid him if possible.
Confidence level - 8/10
Eagles' running game against the Giants' run defense
Demetress Bell is not only poor in pass protection, he's also missed a number of blocks in the ground game. The Eagles should probably just avoid running left as JPP will probably blow anything up that comes his way. Although Joseph is a good player, Mathis is rarely bested in the ground game where his expert technique lets him get the better of more talented players. It wouldn't be a bad idea run behind him. Reynolds didn't really have much to do in the run game against Arizona because the Eagles hardly handed the ball off but he held his own in that department and showed some potential there in the preseason. On the right side Watkins will likely have a tough time with Bernard can occupy double teams and keep his linebackers clean. This matchup could go a long way in deciding the success the Eagles' have running the ball. Finally although Tuck hasn't generated the pass rush he normally does he's still been good against the run. His battle with Herremans, who also creates holes in the ground game, should be fascinating to watch.
It will also be interesting to see how successfully the birds' TEs and FB block. Neither Boley nor Kiwanuka have played especially well against the run so far but Celek and Clay Harbor haven't exactly lit it up in the blocking department either. Stanley Havili meanwhile has done a really nice job lead blocking while Blackburn has looked like anything but the block shedder he was in 2011. Perhaps a slight advantage Eagles.
Confidence level - 6/10
Giants' pass protection against the Eagles' pass rush
The loss of David Diehl was actually a blessing in disguise for the Giants. He's been one of the worst offensive lineman in the entire league the past few years. The fact it coincided with the return of William Beatty makes it even better as he's looked very impressive since coming back from injury. Trent Cole is a tough test for any tackle however and, even though he hasn't been at his best, he should still get the better of the former second round pick. Moving inside Kevin Boothe has been a stabilising force since he entered the lineup but he'll likely be fearing a matchup with Derek Landri. Just like Cole, Landri hasn't recreated the form he showed in 2011 but he's still made a good number of plays. At center David Baas remains a disappointing free agent signing as he gives up far too much pressure than he should for a player at his position. Completing the interior trio RG Chris Snee looks rejuvenated. He's been by far the Giants most consistent lineman. It will be interesting to see what he can do against the dangerous duo of Cullen Jenkins and Fletcher Cox. Both men know how to get after the quarterback. Finally to the right side where backup tackle Sean Locklear fills in for the injured Diehl. He's a decent veteran protector but hasn't seen a pass rusher of Jason Babin's quality in a while.
Confidence level - 6/10
Giants' passing game against the Eagles' pass defense
I saw the Eagles' winning this game as unlikely until I heard Hakeem Nicks was going to miss the game. With Nicks out the Giants will feature Victor Cruz, Domenik Hixon and Ramses Barden. The former killed the Eagles in 2011 with a pair of big games but the secondary is improved with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie playing so well. The difficulty will be covering Cruz when he moves into the slot as rookie Brandon Boykin struggled against the Cardinals. If the Eagles choose to keep their two elite guys on the outside, Cruz should have another big day. Still if that's the case both Nnamdi Asomugha and DRC should fancy their chances against Hixon and Barden who aren't the most talented of receivers.
I'm fascinated to see Martellus Bennett matched up with MyChal Kendricks, Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman. Kendricks and Allen are good in coverage but they'll be tested by Bennett who looks a changed man with the G-men. Coleman still looks like he struggles in man coverage so the Eagles should avoid matching them up as much as possible. Jamar Chaney also gets his first start in a while and, with the return of Ahmad Bradshaw, I expect the Giants to try and isolate that matchup. Finally Demeco Ryans will likely see his fair share of Bennett, a pretty even contest, and he should have no trouble with Bear Pascoe or Henry Hynoski.
Confidence level - 5/10
Giants' running game against Eagles' run defense
New York absolutely tore up Carolina on the ground in Thursday Night football but the Eagles' defensive line and linebackers are much more talented. Although he hasn't really shown it yet, Trent Cole is pretty difficult to block in the run game. Beatty also looked dominant against the Panthers so either man could gain the upper hand on the other. Inside Boothe, Baas and Snee will have to deal with Landri, Jenkins, Cox and Ryans. Only Snee is a good run blocker out of that group and Boothe has really struggled. The Eagles interior trio will like their chances of stopping Bradshaw and Brown. On the right side Locklear has never really been a good run blocker and Babin looks improved in that department. Expect the latter the continue his good season against the run.
At the second level while Bennett has greatly improved as a receiver he looks to have lost a little in the run blocking department. That's good news for Kendricks who should be able to get the better of him. Chaney is the most concerning player in the Eagles front 7 as I've seen nothing to show he's improved against the run. Hynoski will likely have been pleased to see his name on the team sheet.
Confidence level - 7/10
I thought the Eagles had the advantage is most categories against the Cardinals and then they proceeded to get blown out. This game I see as being more even although I can see the offense moving the ball if they can block JPP. On defense Cruz becomes the key man and the tackling will need to be good with both backs able to break tackles. The Eagles have enough talent to win, it's just a matter of execution.