The Giants will try to stop a two-game skid and end the year with an impressive performance when they host the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday in the 2012 regular-season finale. Losses the last two weeks in Atlanta and Baltimore have dropped the Giants to 8-7. They remain alive for an NFC wild card berth, but must beat Philadelphia to have a chance. The Eagles are 4-11 and have lost 10 of 11 games since defeating the Giants, 19-17, on September 30. That was Philadelphia’s eighth victory in the last nine games between the teams (including one postseason game). The Giants lead the regular-season series, 80-73-2, and the postseason series is tied, 2-2. The Eagles have won both meetings in MetLife Stadium. Offense
The Eagles are ranked 12th in the NFL with an average of 356.5 yards a game. They are 11th in the league in rushing (117.6) and 14th in passing (238.9). Despite those rankings, Philadelphia is 27th in the league in scoring with an average of 18.2 points per game. The Eagles have lost an NFL-high 22 fumbles and their 36 giveaways (which have led to 133 opposing points) and minus-23 turnover differential are both the league’s second-worst figures (Kansas City is at 37 and minus-25). Philly has at least one turnover in 13 of 15 games this season; the exceptions were the victory over the Giants and a loss to Atlanta.
The Eagles joined the Carolina Panthers and St. Louis Rams as the only teams that did not have a player selected to the Pro Bowl.
Injuries have forced Philadelphia’s offensive coaches to constantly shuffle their lineup this season. Left guard Evan Mathis is the only offensive player to start all 15 games. Since they last played the Giants, the Eagles have put wide receiver DeSean Jackson, tight end Clay Harbor and right tackle Todd Herremans on injured reserve. Their leading rusher, LeSean McCoy, missed four games with a concussion. Tight end Brent Celek (concussion), wide receiver Jeremy Maclin (groin), fullback Stanley Havili (hamstring) and tackle King Dunlap (knee) have been among the players with injury issues.
The Giants will face a familiar foe in Michael Vick, who will be the Eagles’ starting quarterback for the first time since a loss to Dallas on November 1, when he suffered a concussion. Rookie Nick Foles started the previous six games, but he broke a bone in his hand in a loss last week to Washington and was placed on injured reserve. Vick has a knack for spotting and hitting secondary targets and he is always a threat to tuck the ball under his arm and demoralize a defense with his running ability. His Achilles heel has been ball security; Vick threw nine interceptions and lost five fumbles before he was hurt. Veteran Trent Edwards will be Vick’s backup.
McCoy has rushed for 795 yards, including a season-high 123 in the victory over the Giants three months ago. He is an explosive and elusive back whose quick change of direction can corkscrew a defender. Rookie Bryce Brown started when McCoy was sidelined and has run for 546 yards and a team-high four scores. Brown runs to the edge quickly and has good vision, but he has also been plagued with ball security issues, losing three of four fumbles. Dion Lewis is a shifty 5-8, change-of-pace back who scored on a 17-yard touchdown run last week vs. Washington. Another back, Chris Polk, has missed the last seven games with turf toe.
With Jackson sidelined, the No. 1 wide receiver is Maclin, who leads the Eagles with 65 catches and six touchdowns. Maclin has had five or more receptions in seven games. Maclin has outstanding athletic ability, quickness and speed that make him a factor on short, intermediate and deep routes. Riley Cooper has been the other starter since Week 10. He is a powerful strider who is a reliable possession receiver, particularly in the red zone. The third wideout is Jason Avant, who most often lines up in the slot. Avant is usually the receiver Philadelphia quarterbacks target in clutch situations. He is also a punishing blocker. Rookie Damaris Johnson is a 5-7 speedster who has 18 catches and is a feisty blocker despite his size. Marvin McNutt, another first-year player, also gets some snaps.
Celek lines up all over the formation and is the team’s second-leading receiver with 54 catches. He is a very athletic receiving tight end who is most effective in space. Evan Moore spent the first 14 games of the season with the Seattle Seahawks, was released and signed by the Eagles on December 20 and played vs. the Redskins after only two practices with his new team. Moore, who lined up at both tight end and fullback, is a good backside blocker who quickly locates and hits his target.
The Eagles like to run to the edges, a tactic made possible by the offensive line’s aggressive zone blocking schemes. Despite several changes, the line has played well as a group, particularly in the run and screen games.
Since first facing the Giants, the Eagles have replaced right guard Danny Watkins and left tackle Demetress Bell. The new starters are Jake Scott and Dunlap. Scott, a nine-year veteran who was signed on November 12, formerly played in Indianapolis under current Philly line coach Howard Mudd, so he is familiar with the Eagles’ blocking schemes and is perfect for what they do. Scott has started 136 consecutive games in which he’s played. Mathis has been Philadelphia’s best and most durable lineman, despite playing with an ankle injury. He is an aggressive player who can grab and control defenders with his strong upper body. Dunlap is a large tackle who works better in the run game. Dennis Kelly is a rookie 6-8 left tackle who quickly gets his hands on defenders. The center is Dallas Reynolds, another first-year pro, who has shown promise but has performed inconsistently, particularly on shotgun snaps. Defense
Philadelphia has allowed an average of 339.6 yards per game, which is ranked 14th in the NFL. The Eagles are 22nd against the run (122.4) and 11th vs. the pass (217.2). They are 26th in scoring defense, allowing 26.8 points a game.
The defense has a different look from the first time the Giants saw the Eagles. Coach Andy Reid fired defensive coordinator Juan Castillo on October 16 and replaced him with secondary coach Todd Bowles, who had never before been a coordinator. On December 3, defensive line coach Jim Washburn was fired and replaced by Tommy Brasher, who had held the same position with the Eagles in 1985 and again from 1999 until 2005. In 2011, Washburn had brought the Wide 9 defensive line scheme to Philadelphia. It was scrubbed after his departure. The Eagles have intercepted only three passes in the last 13 games.
Defensive end Jason Babin was released on November 27 – and is still tied for the team lead with 5.5 sacks. Tackle Mike Patterson is on the reserve/non-football injury list with viral pneumonia.
Despite their absences, Philadelphia has a formidable front four. Left end Brandon Graham has four sacks and 13 pressures in the last four games. Although a bit undersized at 268 pounds, Graham plays with uncommon energy, speed and range. On the right side is Trent Cole, whose 3.0 sacks are misleading. He has been credited with a team-high 38 quarterback hurries. Cole is a dominant, violent player who succeeds with powerful upfield movement. Cullen Jenkins is a quality every-down defensive tackle who beats his opponents with strength and athletic ability. Rookie Fletcher Cox leads the defensive line with 56 tackles and is one of three players with 5.5 sacks. He is an explosive athlete with all kinds of pass rush moves. But Cox suffered a concussion last Sunday vs. the Redskins, didn’t practice Wednesday and his status for the Giants is uncertain. Derek Landri and rookie Cedric Thornton are the backup tackles and Phillip Hunt and first-year pro Vinny Curry are the reserve ends.
The Eagles have restructured their linebackers in the three months since they last saw the Giants. DeMeco Ryans is still in the middle, where he leads the team with 146 tackles (114 solo). Ryans is an instinctive player who plays with good strength against the run. Former weakside backer Akeem Jordan has been benched and replaced by rookie Mychal Kendricks, who was on the strong side. The new strongside backer is Jamar Chaney. Kendricks has the best cover speed among the Philadelphia linebackers. However, he missed practice Wednesday with a concussion. Chaney is better against the run. Rookie Ryan Rau is a productive backup and Casey Matthews is used in the Eagles’ goal line package.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha have started every game at left and right cornerback, respectively. The former has a team-high three interceptions and uses an extra gear when closing on the ball. Asomugha has not played at the rarified level he did in previous seasons, but is still an outstanding bump-and-run corner who defends slants well. Rookie Brandon Boykin covers the slot receiver in the nickel. The dime back is Curtis Marsh. Free safety Nate Allen did not start last week for the first time this season. He was replaced by Colt Anderson, who had made his first starts the previous two weeks at strong safety. Anderson sees a play unfold right away and is an attacking run defender. The other starter is Kurt Coleman, who has good straight line speed and is aggressive to insert against the run. Special Teams
Alex Henery has made 27 of 30 field goal attempts and scored 105 points. Punter Mat McBriar, who made his Eagles debut vs. the Giants in September, has a 47.0-yard gross average and a 36.6-yard net average. Boykin is averaging 22.7 yards on a team-high 42 kickoff returns, but with McCoy’s return to the lineup, Bryce Brown returned kickoffs last week and is expected to do so vs. the Giants. Damaris Johnson has a 12.0-yard punt return average, including a 98-yard touchdown. Jordan leads the team with 15 special teams tackles, but according to statistics released by the Eagles, Anderson’s 165 special teams points (tackles, blocks, first hits, fumbles forced and recovered) are 20 more than anyone else on the team. The Eagles have struggled in coverage. Their punt team is ranked 30th, allowing an average return of 13.6 yards, and the kickoff team is 22nd, surrendering an average of 24.6 yards on 40 returns.