Zach Ertz is a bigger challenge than Fletcher Cox for the Giants on Sunday.
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fact - Do I have to choose? I am going to go with Ertz here, but this should not in any way diminish the threat Fletcher Cox poses to the Giants offense. He is a game-wrecker at the three technique and will be a huge challenge for the Giants’ new offensive line combination, which has been playing well. Ertz is the Eagles’ No. 1 option on offense, and a threat in all areas of the field. He is a target on third downs for key conversions and as a big-play threat in the middle off the field. He can find holes in zones and beat man-to-man coverage with good route-running. Plus, he has size, strength and quickness. It is not hard to argue he is the best tight end in football right now. The Giants secondary has struggled defending the middle of the field, and has allowed a lot of chunk plays in recent weeks. Ertz will challenge them in both ways.
DAN SALOMONE: Fiction - The thing that could throw a wrench in all of the good feelings around the Quest Diagnostics Training Center is if the Giants don’t win at the line of scrimmage in Philadelphia. As coach Pat Shurmur said this week, the thing that “stirs the drink” for the Eagles is their defensive front, making Fletcher Cox the rod. Things can go south quickly at Lincoln Financial Field, and the main reason is usually the opponent’s inability to keep Eagles defenders out of the backfield.
LANCE MEDOW: Fact - The last few weeks, the Giants have had to go up against versatile tight ends and this week is no different. Zach Ertz leads the Eagles in receptions (77), receiving yards (804) and receiving touchdowns (five). He has 31 more catches and 349 more yards than the next closest player (Nelson Agholor). On top of that, Ertz ranks third in the NFL in receptions and 14th in receiving yards. Ertz is, by far, the Eagles most lethal weapon in the passing game because he plays like a big receiver, a tough matchup for any opposing defensive player, regardless of position. While Fletcher Cox is having a solid season and is one of the best defensive tackles in the league when it comes to getting pressure on the quarterback, Ertz is on a whole other level.
If the Giants can’t rush for 100 yards, they will not win the game.
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fact - As I wrote about in “Cover 3” earlier in the week, the Giants’ formula for winning has to start with running the football. Last week they started using a lot more 21, 12 and even 22 and 13 personnel on early downs with Eli Manning under center. They ran a bunch of play-action and traditional inside zone runs in those personnel groupings. It worked because Saquon Barkley was consistently gaining 4-6 yards on his runs, and only had one negative run the entire game. Manning only had to throw the ball 18 times. If the Giants get into a game where they trail and have to go into a mode where they are throwing it 30-40 times, the Eagles defensive front will take over the game and the team will likely lose. Despite the Eagles having a banged up secondary, this is how the Giants have to play.
DAN SALOMONE: Fact - Last year, the Eagles had the top rushing defense in the NFL and went 13-3 en route to their first Super Bowl title. This year, they are 12th and 4-6. But this is more about what running the ball can do for the Giants’ offense. It opens up the play-action so Eli Manning can hit some plays down the field. The Giants need to run the ball to come away with a win on the road in a rivalry game, and people better look out because Saquon Barkley said he is just now starting to see the game better. Also, don’t forget that wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard have added nice chunks to the rushing totals in back-to-back games.
LANCE MEDOW: Fiction - In Week 6, the Giants ran for 147 yards against the Eagles and they still wound up losing, 34-13, and in Week 10 in San Francisco, the Giants collected 97 rushing yards and won, 27-23. Based on those numbers, I don’t think how many rushing yards the Giants produce automatically indicates a win or a loss. The number of carries, yardage per carry, how effective the run game is on first and second downs, as well as in the red zone, are much more important than total rushing yards. The Giants absolutely have to run the ball effectively, but if they get 98 yards, does that mean they won’t win? There’s so many other factors that will come into play that could easily cancel out an effective run game.
Big Blue will force multiple turnovers for the third consecutive game.
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fact - The Eagles have been a little sloppy with the football this season. They have 16 giveaways, more than all but six teams in the NFL. Their pass protection has not been as consistent, and Carson Wentz has been a little careless throwing some late and inaccurate passes into tight windows. He has five interceptions in his last five games. There should be more opportunities for the Giants to make plays on the football this week, and they are going to have to in order to win the game.
DAN SALOMONE: Fiction - I don’t know how many times the Giants can go to that well after facing two of the most turnover-prone teams in the NFL. Yes, Philadelphia is tied for the seventh-most giveaways this season, but you know the importance of taking care of the ball is being stressed down there right now. The Eagles have watched film and saw the Giants have six interceptions in the past two weeks. The Giants need to focus on limiting the big plays and then pick their spots on forcing some turnovers.
LANCE MEDOW: Fiction - For the third straight game, the Giants are facing a team that ranks in the bottom five of the league in turnover differential. The Eagles are minus-nine (16 turnovers, 7 takeaways) and they’ve had at least two turnovers in six of their 10 games. That trend is very promising for the Giants, but the Eagles are coming off a game in which they trailed from start to finish, lost 48-7 and turned the ball over three times. I think Philly is going to look to pound the ball and test the Giants’ run defense as opposed to the secondary, like the Bucs did. It’s also important to keep in mind, nine of the Eagles’ 16 turnovers came in the first five games of the season with just seven in the last five, including three in the last game.
The Giants should be most thankful for their offensive line the past two weeks.
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fact - SLAM! At the start of the season, my refrain about the offensive line was that it only had to be good enough for the team to function efficiently. It didn’t have to dominate, only block well enough for Pat Shurmur to call the game how he wants to have a chance to get the playmakers the ball and score enough points to win games. They’ve done that the last couple of weeks. A lot of pundits want to give Jamon Brown all the credit, and surely he deserves some for how he has solidified right guard, but Nate Solder has played two of his best games of the year the prior two weeks as well. They are getting the job done, and that’s something to be thankful for.
DAN SALOMONE: Fiction - As we embark on this holiday season, the Giants must remember it is better to take than give. Some stats are week-to-week or year-to-year, but there is one that always translates to winning: turnover differential. The Giants are minus-6 in their seven losses and plus-8 in their three wins, including six interceptions to no giveaways in the past two weeks. Be thankful the Giants have not been in the giving mood.
LANCE MEDOW: Fiction - The offensive line has certainly played its best football the last two weeks, but if the team should be most thankful for any one thing, it’s the presence of Saquon Barkley. His playmaking ability is on another level and the scary part is he’s getting more and more comfortable each and every week as his workload has increased. Barkley has collected at least 100 total yards in nine of 10 games and 10 total touchdowns. He’s also created something out of nothing several times a game. I rest my case.
Know Your Opponent: Eagles Playmakers
View the Eagles projected starters for this Sunday's game