The postseason doesn't begin for months, but for the Eagles, the playoffs will essentially kick off this Sunday, when the Giants play host to a potential season-ruining divisional matchup. After two consecutive losses, one of which was a defeat at the hands of the John Skelton-led Cardinals (yes, that's right), the Birds have their backs against the wall with seven weeks remaining in the regular season, and for a realistic chance of even gaining postseason consideration, Philadelphia must unleash a dominance that hasn't been seen thus far in 2011 and rattle off a 7-0 record to close the year. Their improbable journey will start this weekend in a prime time showdown with New York, which is coming off a tough loss of its own.
The Giants have taken a fairly large lead in the NFC East with a 6-3 record, and even passionate Eagles fans would be labeled delusional if they don't admit the Big Blue are looking pretty good. Eli Manning has garnered more comparisons to the elite quarterbacks of the league this year than in seasons past, Ahmad Bradshaw and Hakeem Nicks have been explosive at times when healthy, and the Giants' injury-riddled defense has stepped up thanks to a monstrously effective pass rush led by Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck, and Jason Pierre-Paul. Despite sloppy play against Seattle earlier in the year, New York has been potent, and the team could take a big step forward in wrapping up the East with a win over the Eagles this week.
The Eagles have won six of their last seven games against the Giants, with their most recent victory coming in 2010's famous Miracle at the New Meadowlands performance, and the rivals tend to play each other closely, fighting to the finish. If that's the case on Sunday, Philadelphia might find itself on the losing end, because it's struggled mightily in the fourth quarter this season, but either way, Sunday night's matchup figures to provide plenty of thrills, especially if the Eagles are without one of the most explosive offensive weapons in quarterback Michael Vick, who has yet to practice this week because of broken ribs.
As Week 11's Eagles-GIants clash draws closer, here are a few key questions and players to watch:
Eagles-Giants Key Questions:
- >Can the Eagles find success with Vince Young at quarterback? Michael Vick is one of the toughest players in the league, but all indications are that Vick won't be in action on Sunday, despite the importance of the Eagles' game vs. New York. Vick hasn't practiced this week due to a pair of broken ribs, and Young has prepared as if he's going to start. The offense might be simplified with Young at the helm, but likely not too much, as the former first-round pick spent plenty of time leading his team while in Tennessee.
- Will the Eagles' offensive line be able to slow down the Giants' pass rush? The Giants defense was bombarded by injuries prior to the season, but the defensive line has stepped up in a big way to help New York wrangle opponents. The Eagles' offensive line has been better than usual in recent weeks, but the unit will face quite a challenge in the Meadowlands this weekend. Starting defensive ends Osi Umenyiora and Jason Pierre-Paul have combined for 16.5 sacks, while Justin Tuck remains a talented part of the rotation who has time to turn around an inconsistent season.
- Can the Eagles step up in the leadership aspect of the game? This season, the Eagles have seemingly blown a countless amount of leads in the fourth and final quarter of games, with player leadership coming under fire as part of the problem. If the Eagles manage to go into New York and take a lead, it will be important for the team to step up and show a true will to win, especially when a victory is needed so badly. Against a highly-regarded Giants team, it could be tough, but if there's ever a time to turn things around, it is this Sunday.
- QB Vince Young: Assuming he starts at QB, Young could be the key to the Eagles' offensive success.
- RB LeSean McCoy: If Young starts, McCoy could (and should) see an increase in carries.
- WR Jason Avant: With Jeremy Maclin's status up in the air, Avant might need to step up in the WR corps.
- QB Eli Manning: He can be a turnover machine, but he can also be a game hero for the Giants.
- TE Jake Ballard: Ballard has established himself as a safety net for Manning down the field.
- DE Jason Pierre-Paul: The leading defender for New York in terms of sacks, he's been dominant as a rusher.