Three keys for the Giants to come away with a victory over the Eagles on Thursday night:
1. Protect Eli. No Giants quarterback has completed more passes (72) or thrown for more yards (800) in a single season against one opponent than Eli Manning vs. Philadelphia in 2017. They were also the highest totals for any quarterback against any team last season. And in his case, the opponent was the eventual Super Bowl champions with a top-five defense. He was sacked just once in those games. One sack is also all the Giants gave up last week against another talented front in Carolina, where the offense broke through with 31 points and five passes of 25 yards or more (after having just three in the first four games).
“[The protection was] much better,” coach Pat Shurmur said in his weekly interview with Giants.com. “I thought our guys fought hard and I was pleased that as a group we protected better.”
The Eagles’ defense comes into MetLife Stadium ranked 10th in total yards allowed per game (343.2), 22nd against the pass (276.8), second against the run (66.4) and seventh in scoring (20.8). Their front includes include three-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and newcomers Michael Bennett (three Pro Bowls) and Haloti Ngata (five Pro Bowls).
2. Win the red zone. The Giants and Eagles are in the middle of the pack when it comes to the red zone, each converting just over 50 percent of their trips into touchdowns. Defensively, both sides excel inside the 20. Big Blue is third (36.8 percent) while Philadelphia is tied for fifth (40.0) in the league. With what could be a wet night in East Rutherford, the red zone is where the chess match will get interesting between two head coaches with ties dating back to 1999, when Doug Pederson was quarterback and Shurmur was an assistant under Andy Reid with the Eagles.
“I always followed his career and he and I have always talked, whether we see each other at the Combine, whether we’re playing against him, now coaching against him, have a really good relationship,” Pederson said. “I think it’s a tribute to Coach Reid, Coach Shurmur being a former coach and myself as a former player and eventually working for Coach Reid, and just having guys go on to be coaches. I’ve got a lot of respect for what he’s done and what he’s been through and followed his career, and I think he’s done a great job over his career, and he’s going to continue to be successful.”
3. Keep it tight. The tight end position could very well decide the outcome of this important NFC East clash on Thursday. The Eagles use their tight ends more than any team with Zach Ertz having the highest snap count among skill players on Philadelphia’s offense, and rookie Dallas Goedert close behind in third. Joshua Perkins even gets in there for three-tight sets.
“I think the new player Goedert and then certainly Zach Ertz, who I was with, are two very, very fine pass-catching tight ends, but they also do the other things necessary to play the position,” said Shurmur, who prior to the Vikings spent three seasons as the Eagles’ offensive coordinator in his second stint with the organization. “They’re willing blockers. When they’re asked to pass protect, they do that well, and they obviously have a real good feel for how to utilize them and get them the ball.”
Meanwhile, the Giants could get back their dynamic tight end in Evan Engram, who missed the last two games with a knee injury and was limited in the short week of practice (so was Rhett Ellison with a foot injury). “I think you burn the ships on every game,” Shurmur said when asked about the possibility of giving Engram another week off because their next game won’t be until the following Monday. “So whoever can play, plays.”