PHILADELPHIA — The Giants’ quest to do the impossible and win out in their final eight games continues Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field, where Big Blue hasn’t won since 2013.
But the Giants (3-7) have won two straight, while the banged-up Philadelphia Eagles (4-6) have lost two in a row and seem ripe for an upset in front of their frustrated fans.
Pat Shurmur’s team also sees a tightened NFC East after the Dallas Cowboys (6-5) leapfrogged into first place on Thursday with their Thanksgiving Day win over Washington (6-5). And with games remaining against both the ‘Boys and Washington, the Giants believe they have a chance.
Here are three keys to winning on Sunday and keeping those hopes alive.
1. KEEP THE EAGLES’ OFFENSE ONE-DIMENSIONAL
Two eye-opening stats courtesy of Saints coach Sean Payton, via Peter King’s ‘Football Morning in America’ column for NBC: 1) The Eagles are 1-12 when quarterback Carson Wentz plays and Philly allows more than 26 points, and 2) Wentz has an 0-9 record when he passes for between 308 and 364 yards. These stats support what is evident to the naked eye: when the Eagles struggle to run the ball, they’re not the same offense or team. And Philly is not punishing defenses on the ground anywhere close to last season’s Super Bowl squad. The Eagles are averaging only 98.2 yards rushing per game (25th in NFL) compared to last year’s 132.2-rush yards-per game clip (third in NFL).
The Giants’ defense, though, has been ghastly against the run, allowing the opponents’ top back to average 5.7, 5.9 and 5.9 yards per carry, in their last three games, and surrendered a TD to each: Washington’s Adrian Peterson (26, 149, TD), the Niners’ Matt Breida (17, 101, TD) and the Bucs’ Peyton Barber (18, 106, TD).
Josh Adams, an undrafted rookie out of Notre Dame, is the Eagles’ latest hope in the backfield. Something has to give.
2. ATTACK EAGLES’ SECONDARY BUT AVOID TURVERS
Philly’s secondary is decimated by injuries. The Eagles will be without at least four of their top five corners in Ronald Darby (torn ACL, injured reserve), Jalen Mills (foot), Sidney Jones (hamstring) and Avonte Maddox (knee/ankle). And Rasul Douglas (knee/ankle) is questionable. And LB Jordan Hicks (calf) is out, too. But Eli Manning still has to make sure that when he pushes the ball down the field, he doesn’t put the ball up for grabs.
Manning has not played a clean game against the Eagles since Oct. 12, 2014. He has turned the ball over at least once in eight straight games against Philly, which is part of the reason the Giants have lost eight of their last nine vs. the Birds.
Manning has 15 TD passes to 13 turnovers (12 interceptions, one fumble) in those eight games for a stunning 1.25-to-1 TD-to-INT ratio, even worse than Manning’s career 1.5 TD-to-1 INT ratio (352 TDs, 234 INTs). I write about this every time these teams play: the Eagles often anticipate and jump Manning’s throws and play him aggressively. Shurmur and Manning have to use that aggressiveness to their advantage by countering with play-calling and decision-making .
The Giants haven’t turned the ball over in their last two games, the first time they’ve done that since Dec. 23-30, 2012, against the Ravens and Eagles. Manning turned the ball over at least once in six of the Giants’ eight games before the bye but stayed clean against San Fran and Tampa. That needs to continue if the Giants are going to win this game.
3. WIN THE BATTLE UP FRONT & ATTACK
The Giants’ new offensive line pass protected well against the Niners two weeks ago (one sack allowed) and then made huge strides in the run game against the Bucs last Sunday (163 yards rushing, 5.3 per carry). Now it’s time to test how far they truly have come against a formidable Eagles D-line led by Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham. Right guard Jamon Brown has made a huge difference for the Giants in his first two games since being claimed off waivers from the L.A. Rams, but all five O-linemen will need to play their best game of the season Sunday if Manning and the Giants are going to pull off the upset and continue an improbable run.
THE INJURY REPORT
GIANTS: DL Kerry Wynn (concussion) is out.