By Phil Thompson
Here are my 5 keys to the game on how the Eagles can beat the Giants this week:
-Yes the Eagles should win this football game, and yes if they do they are right back in the division hunt, but you can’t get cocky. The Giants are a wounded team this year, and have looked basically awful this season, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t a threat. This is still a team that has a very good (overall) veteran quarterback, and three good playmakers on offense in Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks and David Wilson. Defensively Jason Pierre-Paul may be struggling up front, but the rest of that group: Justin Tuck, Linval Joseph, Cullen Jenkins, Mike Patterson are playing pretty well. Yes other areas on their team (the OL and back 7 on defense) are struggling big time, but if they improve to just below average levels look out. The Eagles can win this game, they just can’t afford to get too confident that they will be at 2-3 after Sunday.
–Eli Manning has a lot of interceptions so far, and while he deserves his fair share of the blame, the offensive line can’t be ignored for their part in the matter. Manning has seen himself under nearly constant pressure, even beyond the 14 sacks he’s taken. The Eagles need to get their top pass rushers on the field as much as possible and find various blitz packages to keep him under fire. Not only should that lead to multiple sacks and at least one turnover, but it will also help ensure that his completion percentage is low.
-This sounds redundant, but this isn’t pressure on the quarterback, this is pressure on the team due to the scoreboard. The Eagles need to use their up tempo, high powered offense to force the Giants into bad situations. The Eagles need to jump out ahead and put the Giants offense in a position where they feel like they need to throw the ball to stay in it. Not only would this help allow the pass rushers to pin their ears back, but it means that once again the Giants would be forced to abandon their game plan. New York wants to have a balanced offense (particularly in a game like this where they want the Eagles offense on the sideline), where they can establish their rushing attack and play their style of football. Here the Eagles can not only dictate the game when they have the ball, but if they can jump out to a lead it will force New York to scrap their plans.
-The Giants secondary wasn’t ever going to be a top group this year, but since the preseason they have gotten worse and worse, and are one of the weakest units in the league. The Giants have suffered multiple injuries in the secondary and lost perhaps their best player safety Stevie Brown for the year. The Eagles may be a run first team, but Philly should attack this secondary early and often to try to jump out to a quick lead. This is a game that the Eagles need a wide receiver and/or tight end to step up opposite DeSean Jackson. The Eagles could also look to utilize LeSean McCoy in routes spread out wide. Regardless how they do it, the Eagles need to get some big plays down the field and that should help open every thing else up.
-The Eagles for all their positives this season have done a poor job of playing “mistake-free football”. Now of course you can’t eliminate every single mistake, but you can definitely cut down on them. The Eagles have had too many penalties, blown assignments, missed field goals and turnovers during their first four games. They have to do a better job of limiting these mistakes, and if they can they will greatly improve their chances of winning in general. When you are facing a team like the Giants that you should beat it, you can’t afford to make any crucial mistakes that turn the tide of the game.
Penalties are the thing the Eagles should have the easiest time cutting down on. Currently the Eagles are 7th in the league in penalties with 31, and it has cost them 254 yards. That is 7.75 penalties a game and 63.5 yards they are losing each week. Considering they’ve only had 25 penalties for 197 yards committed against them, that is a big gap they are forced to make up.