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10 things to watch for against the Eagles

Posted Jan 2, 2016

Here are 10 storylines to follow as the Giants face the Eagles on Sunday

1. COUGHLIN’S GOALS FOR SEASON FINALE

With all the outside noise this week, coach Tom Coughlin began his Wednesday press conference by stating a couple goals for his team heading into the season finale against the Eagles, who are also 6-9 and eliminated from postseason contention.

“One of which,” Coughlin said, “was that our preparation and our focus be as good as it’s been all year long in this, our last game of the year, even despite all the things that are going on on the outside.”

The other is to have all three phases -- offense, defense, and special teams -- play together.
“It’s been rare this year that this happened, and I’m very disappointed in that,” Coughlin said.

“But all three phases play their best game, and that we not beat ourselves. And that we win the last game of the 2015 season here at home against a divisional foe. If that could happen—beating Philadelphia—then we would have split with all three of our divisional foes.”


2. EAGLES RELIEVE KELLY OF COACHING DUTIES

In advance of their season finale against the Giants, the Eagles announced Tuesday that head coach Chip Kelly had been relieved of his duties by owner Jeffrey Lurie. Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, who was the head coach of the Cleveland Browns from 2011-12, will serve as Philadelphia’s interim head coach for Sunday’s game. Ed Marynowitz, vice president of player personnel, was also released.

Kelly went 26-21 in three regular seasons with the Eagles, winning 10 games in each of his first two years before going 6-9 in 2015. In Kelly’s first year, the Eagles won the NFC East title but fell to the Saints in the first round of the playoffs. It was his only postseason appearance. Kelly finishes his tenure 4-1 against the Giants.


3. GIANTS INJURY REPORT
Out: S Craig Dahl (concussion), OT Marshall Newhouse (concussion), S Cooper Taylor (concussion)
Questionable: WR Dwayne Harris (back/shoulder), DE Jason Pierre-Paul (ankle)

4. EAGLES INJURY REPORT

Out: WR Seyi Ajirotutu (ankle), DT Bennie Logan (calf), CB Byron Maxwell (shoulder)
Questionable: CB Jaylen Watkins (shin)
Probable: OT Dennis Kelly (ankle), K Caleb Sturgis (right hamstring)


5. ODELL RETURNS FROM SUSPENSION

After scoring more than 30 points in their previous two games, the offense managed just 17 last week without second-year wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who was serving a one-game NFL suspension. Beckham, who has 91 catches for 1,396 yards and 13 touchdowns, returns to the field this week.

“It was tough,” Beckham said. “It was tough just not being able to be here with my teammates. I think sometimes you’re so fortunate to be able to do this and you may take it for granted like, ‘Oh, I don’t want to go into work today.’ And just having some time off, being able to sit back and you really miss this, you miss being here and I’m definitely happy to be back.”


6. BIRTHDAY BOY ELI CHASES HISTORY

Quarterback Eli Manning turns 35 on Sunday, and while he lost the only other game on his birthday to the Vikings in the 2009 regular-season finale, he has a chance to make history on this one. Manning needs 16 completions to surpass Fran Tarkenton (3,686) for 10th place on the career completions list, and three touchdowns to tie Y.A. Tittle’s single-season franchise record of 36, which he set in 1963.


7. JENNINGS KEEPS RUNNING
Beginning with the Dolphins game in Week 14, running back Rashad Jennings has turned in his best performances of the season in the last three games. He has 262 in that stretch after having just 431 in the first 12 games of the season. Jennings also added 62 receiving yards last week, 50 of which came on one play.

8. SPECIAL TEAMS BATTLE

Part of Coughlin’s goal for all three phases was to prepare for Philadelphia’s elite special teams outfits. The Eagles rank in the top seven in punt return (11.4 yards per return), punt coverage (5.1), and kickoff coverage (20.7).

9. DRAFT ORDER IMPLICATIONS
Big Blue is currently No. 10 in the draft order, but that number could fluctuate greatly by the end of Week 17 with 13 teams within one game of a 6-9 record, including six clubs with exactly six wins. Strength of schedule, conference records, and division records are used as tiebreakers. The Giants drafted starting left tackle Ereck Flowers with the No. 9 pick this past April, and star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. was taken the year before at No. 12.

10. LONDON OR SEATTLE CALLING?

Last month, the NFL confirmed three games in the 2016 UK International Series, one of which may include a return trip to London for the Giants. St. Louis, which is locked into third place in the NFC West, will “host” the same-place finisher from the NFC East in Week 7 of the 2016 season. That means the loser of Sunday’s game between the Giants and Eagles will finish third in the NFC East and need to get their passports ready. The winner will finish second and travel to Seattle next season, as dictated by the league’s scheduling formula.

The Giants are no stranger to London, where they kicked off the International Series in 2007 with a 13-10 victory over the Dolphins at Wembley Stadium. It was the first regular-season NFL game played outside North America as the Giants went on to win the Super Bowl that year.