Giants-Eagles Preview

Giants-Eagles PreviewEither the New York Giants will prove they are clearly the class of the NFC, or the Philadelphia Eagles will show they are true contenders in the conference.A road win over a surging Eagles squad

Giants-Eagles Preview

Either the New York Giants will prove they are clearly the class of the NFC, or the Philadelphia Eagles will show they are true contenders in the conference.

A road win over a surging Eagles squad on Sunday night would further eliminate any doubt that the Giants go into the second half of the season as the favorites to get back to the Super Bowl.

Many already consider New York (7-1) to be the favorite, being the defending champion and having the best record in the NFC. However, the Giants have played a relatively easy schedule — the eight teams they’ve faced have a 27-40 combined record.

Granted, New York dominated Dallas last Sunday in a 35-14 home win, but that came against a slumping Cowboys team missing star quarterback Tony Romo. Starting with this matchup against the NFC East rival Eagles (5-3), who have won three straight, not one of the Giants’ final eight opponents currently has a sub-.500 record.

“We are trying to improve every week. We have a lot of drive in us,” quarterback Eli Manning said. “We know that we have a tough road ahead of us and it is matter of we have to keep playing at a high level.”

The only other NFC team with fewer than three losses is Carolina at 6-2. A win Sunday would give the Giants a two-game NFC East lead over Washington and a three-game edge over Philadelphia and Dallas, not to mention a 3-0 division record.

“I think they are as good as they’ve ever been,” said coach Andy Reid, whose Eagles are 0-2 in division games. “They are playing very well as a team both offensively and defensively. You would think that their defense lost a little bit with the retirement of Michael (Strahan) and the injuries, primarily Osi (Umenyiora), but I don’t see that. I see other guys have stepped up.”

Defensive ends Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka have combined for 11 1/2 of the Giants’ NFC-leading 30 sacks, clearly making up for the absences of Strahan and Umenyiora. New York had 15 sacks in sweeping last season’s two meetings with Philadelphia, including an NFL record-tying 12 in a home win in Week 4.

The Giants’ only loss in their last four games at Philadelphia came in a 2007 wild-card playoff game.

“Philly is my favorite road stadium because the fans absolutely hate everybody that moves in an opponent’s jersey,” Tuck said. “I kind of like being hated.”

The Eagles are second in the NFC with 27 sacks and will look to keep the pressure on Manning after he succumbed to it last week. The Super Bowl MVP lost two fumbles, was sacked four times, had an interception returned for a touchdown and threw for a season-low 147 yards against Dallas.

Manning has a 78.5 quarterback rating over the past four weeks, failing to throw for 200 yards once. He was averaging 258.0 through the first four games while posting a 102.2 rating.

Part of the problem may be the lack of chemistry with controversial receiver Plaxico Burress, held to nine catches for 73 yards in the last three games.

Another member of the receiving corps, David Tyree, won’t play this season after the Giants placed him on injured reserve Wednesday. A hamstring problem kept Tyree on the sidelines this season after it was his memorable Super Bowl catch that keyed the Giants’ drive to the game-winning touchdown.

“The medical people say he was not ready,” coach Tom Coughlin said. “He actually took it very well.”

The inconsistent passing game hasn’t mattered much because New York’s rushing attack has been outstanding, leading the league with 5.2 yards per carry and ranking second with 162.6 per game behind bruising back Brandon Jacobs.

He’ll face an Eagles run defense which has allowed only two opponents to rush for more than 90 yards.

Philadelphia’s own ground game is in much better shape with Brian Westbrook back in the lineup the last two weeks after missing two of three games due to injury. He’s rushed for 354 yards and three TDs in his last three games versus New York.

Donovan McNabb, though, has not had the same kind of success versus the Giants, losing his last three starts against them, and will be looking for better protection in this season’s series. McNabb has been sacked just three times during Philadelphia’s three-game win streak and is coming off one of his best games, going 28-of-43 for 349 yards with two TDs and one interception in last Sunday’s 26-7 win at Seattle.

“We got things rolling at the right time,” McNabb said. “We started the season off the way that I thought that our team was able to play throughout the year. We kind of hit a wall a little bit, we lost games that we should have won. What you are seeing now is a team that has learned from those mistakes and being able to capitalize on those opportunities in the up and coming weeks.”

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