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NFL Preview - Philadelphia (9-4) at N.Y. Giants (9-4)
By Shawn Clarke, Contributing NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - Former Quiet Riot lead vocalist Kevin DuBrow bellowed in the early 1980's hit "Metal Health" that he's got the boys to make the noise.
It's unknown if New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin has ever listened to the heavy metal band, but he could attest to DuBrow's sentiments when he peers over his roster to see such bruisers as Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw.
New York's running back tandem looks to unleash pain on Philadelphia's suspect defense this Sunday in a galactic NFC East matchup with the Eagles at New Meadowlands Stadium. First place in the division will be on the line between the rivals, both of whom are 9-4 on the season, and the Giants are aiming for a measure of revenge after a 27-17 loss in Philadelphia on Nov. 21.
New York has lost the last five games in this series, but has won three in a row overall since that defeat.
Jacobs took back the starting job from Bradshaw a few weeks ago and has ripped off back-to-back 100-yard performances with three rushing touchdowns over that span, including 116 yards and a score on 14 carries in Monday's 21-3 win over Minnesota at Detroit's Ford Field. The game was scheduled to be played in Minneapolis on Sunday, but inclement weather in the Twin Cities that damaged the Metrodome roof forced the NFL to move the site and the time of play.
The lull didn't seem to both Bradshaw either, as he ran for 103 yards on 11 touches with a 48-yard touchdown run.
With Eagles starting middle linebacker Stewart Bradley out for Sunday's game -- and possibly the year -- with an elbow injury and rookie Jamar Chaney now calling the plays, the Giants have to feel hopeful about their chances of success. Coughlin, however, knows there's work to be done regardless who is on the opposite side of the football.
"There are a lot of clear objectives here, one of which is that offensively we've got to get going, we've got to do our job, we've got to hold the ball, we've got to move the ball, we've got to be able to run the ball against a very good defense," said Coughlin, whose defense also has a tough challenge in containing Eagles versatile quarterback Michael Vick and explosive wideout DeSean Jackson.
New York boasts the No. 2 pass defense in the NFL and is rated second in total yards allowed. Those numbers won't mean anything if the Giants fail to prevent the big play which has been Philadelphia's motto ever since drafting Jackson a few years ago.
The Giants' quartet of defensive backs -- Corey Webster, Terrell Thomas, Kenny Phillips and Antrel Rolle -- must play tighter than a snare drum to keep the Eagles from stretching the field, since a win coupled with losses by Chicago, Green Bay and Tampa Bay will clinch a playoff berth for the G-Men.
The Eagles are first in total yards produced this season with an average of 402.8 per game and have ripped off wins in five of their last six contests to remain atop the NFC East standings. Vick has taken over the NFL world with his athleticism and newly-minted patience in the pocket, but the Giants set the blueprint for at least containing the former No. 1 overall draft pick in the first matchup.
Vick, who has said many times that he's never had so many weapons to choose from with this current offense, will be playing in probably the most important game of his career since leading the Atlanta Falcons to the NFC Championship Game back in 2004.
"We all know the magnitude of the game," Vick stated. "We know it's a big one. Where else would you want to be? What other position would you want to be in? [We're] playing against a good team, so we're going to have to be at our best. We're going to need each and every day this week, as far as our preparation and getting to play a good football game. Come Sunday, it's going to have to be lights out on both sides."
Philadelphia's defense has to be concerned that a rookie will be relied on to make adjustments on a whim, but Chaney played well in last week's 30-27 victory at Dallas. He logged seven tackles in place of Bradley and had the chance to work with the first team for a full week. Even though this is not an ideal game in which a head coach would thrust a rookie into, Eagles head coach Andy Reid is not one to doubt the talents of any of his players.
Reid said it will be a great challenge for Chaney, who not only has to crack down on the New York running backs, but keep up with emerging Giants tight end Kevin Boss in certain packages. Chaney is also about 20 pounds lighter than Jacobs.
Getting to quarterback Eli Manning is very important for any defense, especially for Eagles All-Pro defensive end Trent Cole. He has been held sackless in each of the past two games and owns just two in the last five, but leads the team with nine on the season.
The Giants hold a 79-70-2 edge in a regular-season series with Philadelphia that dates back to 1933, but have lost four straight such matchups to the Eagles since earning a 36-31 victory in Philadelphia in 2008. Last season, the Eagles prevailed by a 40-17 margin when the teams met at Lincoln Financial Field in Week 8, and took a 45-38 decision when the clubs squared off at Giants Stadium in Week 14.
Including a 23-11 triumph over New York in the 2008 NFC Divisional Playoffs, the Eagles have won five in a row over the Giants, and are 3-0 as the visitor over that stretch.
The teams have split a total of four postseason matchups all-time. In addition to Philadelphia's 2008 win, the Eagles were also a 23-20 home victor in a 2006 NFC Wild Card Playoff, while the Giants posted a 20-10 verdict at the Meadowlands in the 2000 Divisional Round and a 27-21 win in a 1981 NFC First- Round Playoff at Veterans Stadium.
Reid is 14-12 against New York all-time, including a 2-1 mark in the postseason. Coughlin is 8-9 versus Philadelphia for his career, with two of the wins dating back to his tenure with the Jacksonville Jaguars, and is 7-9 in head-to-head bouts with Reid.
WHEN THE EAGLES HAVE THE BALL
One week after accounting for six touchdowns in a win at Washington on a Monday night in mid-November, Vick (2,513 passing yards, 17 TD, 4 INT) passed for 258 yards and rushed for 34 more and a score in a victory versus the Giants at Lincoln Financial Field on Nov. 21. After not throwing an interception for seven straight games, he has been intercepted in the last three, including twice in Sunday's win in Dallas. Vick is second on the team in rushing yards, gaining 483 on 82 carries with seven rushing scores, but his explosiveness was harnessed somewhat by New York's disciplined defense in the teams' earlier meeting. Since he sometimes gets anxious in the pocket, Vick tends to bounce around before opening his body for a shot by the defense. He has been sacked 10 times in the last four games, but may get starting tackle Winston Justice back in the lineup Sunday. Justice has been bothered by a knee injury suffered in a win over Houston a few weeks back and was replaced by King Dunlap for the Dallas game. He is listed as questionable for this weekend. While Jackson (42 receptions, 972 yards, 6 TD) and Jeremy Maclin (57 receptions, 831 yards, 8 TD) take care of business by catching passes, running back LeSean McCoy (972 rushing yards, 7 TD) has arguably been the team's offensive MVP. McCoy leads all NFL backs with 70 catches and ran for a career-high 149 yards at the Cowboys.
New York has one of the best defenses in the NFL and knows it will be put to the test again when the Eagles invade the Meadowlands. While the Eagles are first in the NFL in yards accumulated, the Giants are rated No. 2 in both yards allowed and passing yards. Expect to see Vick establish a timely rhythm with his receivers early, especially with Jackson. Thomas (77 tackles, 1 sack) leads the Giants with five interceptions, while Webster (45 tackles) and safety Deon Grant (58 tackles, sack) are tied with three apiece. New York had three passes defensed but no picks in the first encounter with Vick, who was sacked three times -- all by defensive end Justin Tuck (60 tackles), who has nine sacks on the season and plays with a mean streak. The vocal leader of the defense is second on the team in sacks behind end Osi Umenyiora (40 tackles), who has taken down quarterbacks behind the line of scrimmage 10 times in 2010 and is probably hoping Justice returns for the Eagles this week. Umenyiora abused the Philadelphia lineman a few years ago at Giants Stadium to the tune of four sacks, but complimented Justice for being a good player postgame. The Eagles haven't been using tight end Brent Celek as much, but the New York linebackers still have to be aware of what Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg will scheme for.
WHEN THE GIANTS HAVE THE BALL
The key to New York's recent success can be attributed to both Jacobs and Bradshaw punishing opposing defenses. Bradshaw (1,116 rushing yards, 8 TD) has eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark in rushing for the first time in his career and fumbling has been his only weakness. He has already lost five this season after losing just two in his previous three as a pro. The Giants are fourth in the NFL with 148.3 rushing yards per game and probably can't wait to sink their teeth into Philadelphia's walking wounded on the defensive side. The Eagles are 11th against the run this season, yielding an average of 103.5 yards per contest. New York rushed for 213 yards against the Vikings, the team's highest total on the ground since posting 220 yards versus Oakland on Oct. 11, 2009. It was only the second time in history the Giants had two running backs eclipse the century mark in rushing yards in one game, with Jacobs and Bradshaw doing it back in 2007. The Giants are 7-0 when Bradshaw hits the 100-yard mark in rushing. Manning (3,169 passing yards, 24 TD, 19 INT) started his 100th consecutive regular season game on Monday and suffered a huge loss when wideout Steve Smith (48 receptions, 3 TD) was placed on injured reserve with a knee injury this week. Smith will undergo surgery, leaving Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham and Boss as the primary targets.
The Eagles registered just one sack in last week's win, as defensive end Darryl Tapp (18 tackles, 3 sacks) posted his third of 201. Tapp is expected to see more time with rookie end Brandon Graham out for the year with a torn ACL in his knee. As an insurance policy, the Eagles brought back former defensive end Derrick Burgess, who was selected by Philadelphia in the third round of the 2001 draft and spent four seasons there, this week. During his time in Philadelphia, the 32-year-old appeared in 29 games with 15 starts and helped the Eagles reach the Super Bowl in 2004, where they eventually lost to New England. Burgess signed with Oakland as a free agent the following offseason and started six of 16 games for New England in 2009, registering five sacks and 35 total tackles. While Reid may not be concerned about the inexperience of Chaney (19 tackles), he may feel a bit apprehensive with the health status of cornerback Asante Samuel (23 tackles), who has missed three straight games since a knee injury suffered versus the Giants last month. He had two picks and a fumble recovery in that meeting. Samuel, who leads the NFL with seven interceptions, was back at practice this week, however, and is expected to play.
Neither defense would be a good fit for owners, but there's plenty of production to go around on offense. Starting with the Giants, Manning lost Smith for the season this week but still has Nicks and Boss to throw to. Jacobs and Bradshaw have been New York's 2010 version of thunder and lightning and are poised to pound the ball down Philly's throat.
Vick, Jackson, Maclin and McCoy sounds much like a law firm, and they will state their case Sunday. Whether the verdict will be success remains to be seen, however, for one of the more potent offenses in the league.
Playing against the Giants at home in December is a difficult task the Eagles are all too familiar with. New York has a chance to clinch a playoff spot with a win and some help around the league and will take care of its own business with a decisive victory on Sunday, ending a five-game slide in the series and setting the framework to claim one of the top seeds in the NFC.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Giants 26, Eagles 17
12/16 17:58:06 ET
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