The bigger challenge for the Giants this week is the Eagles’ defense, not the offense.
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction - The Eagles’ defense is great up front, but their secondary has too many holes for the defense to be the bigger challenge this week. Carson Wentz is playing quarterback at a high level with 300 yards passing in the last two games. He has five touchdowns and only one interception in his three games back from injury. The Eagles’ offensive line is one of the best units in the league, and even without Jay Ajayi, their run game needs to be respected. They have two receiving threats at tight end who challenge the middle of the field in Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert, and two wide receivers in Nelson Agholor and Alshon Jeffery who can win outside. The Eagles’ offense is legit.
DAN SALOMONE: Fact - The Giants scored 18 points against the last-ranked Saints defense and 31 against the stout Panthers, so who knows what will happen when the Eagles’ top-10 defense comes to town. Part of me wants to say “fiction” based on what the Giants did offensively against the Eagles last season, but seeing names like Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham and Michael Bennett on the other side gives me pause. Meanwhile, Philadelphia’s offense has not scored more than 23 points this season. Bad weather could also add to the challenge of playing the Eagles’ championship defense.
LANCE MEDOW: Fiction - On paper, the Eagles’ defensive numbers look far more impressive than the offensive stats. Philly ranks second in the NFL against the run (allowing just 66 yards per game), fourth in third down defense (opponents are converting just 30% of the time), tied for fifth in red zone defense (opponents are scoring touchdowns 40% of the time) and seventh in scoring defense (allowing 21 points per game). The Eagles also have one of the deepest defensive lines in the league that has a knack for getting after the quarterback. Despite all those attractive traits, I still think the offense is the bigger challenge mainly because the Giants offense has a strong recent track record in solving the Philly defense at home, averaging 28 points per game in the last four contests.
Carson Wentz is getting more and more comfortable each game since he returned from last year’s ACL injury, Zach Ertz is one of the best tight ends in the NFL and has given the Giants headaches in the past, the Eagles’ top wideout Alshon Jeffrey recently returned from injury and despite the loss of Jay Ajayi to a torn ACL, Philly still has the ability to run the ball effectively with Wendell Smallwood and Corey Clement. The Eagles offense is slowly returning to full form and that’s what makes that unit more dangerous.
Carson Wentz puts more stress on the opposing front seven than the secondary.
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction - Wentz has not run nearly as much in his three games back as he did before he tore his ACL last season. He isn’t keeping the ball on read options, and is scrambling to throw the ball a lot more than he is to run it. There’s no doubt that his mobility makes it even more challenging for defensive fronts to get to him, but it’s his ability to throw the ball that will be the difference maker in the game. He loves to target the intermediate and deep portions of the middle of the field, challenging opposing safeties and linebackers.
DAN SALOMONE: Fact - Coach Pat Shurmur said Wentz creates “flat chaos” when he runs around and locates a player downfield. That puts tremendous stress on a secondary, but the best way to alleviate it is by winning in the trenches. Pressuring while containing is the toughest thing about facing big, athletic quarterbacks like Wentz. The front seven has its hands full.
LANCE MEDOW: Fiction - If Carson Wentz wasn’t coming off an ACL injury, I’d probably say fact, but since he returned from injury, he’s not running with the ball nearly as much as he had his rookie year. Wentz has logged 10 carries in three games compared to 14 at this time last season. That doesn’t mean he’s not as mobile. It just means he’s looking to avoid the type of hits that led to his injury. That’s why I think the Giants’ secondary has a bigger challenge because Wentz’s arm strength hasn’t diminished and he doesn’t shy away from the deep ball. Coverage down the field will be extremely important in this game.
The best position in the NFC East is quarterback.
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction - I have to go edge rusher here. The Eagles have Brandon Graham and Michael Bennett. The Cowboys have DeMarcus Lawrence. The Redskins have Ryan Kerrigan. The Giants are missing Olivier Vernon, but when healthy he is an excellent player in his own right. Dak Prescott isn’t playing well enough right now, whether because of his lack of receivers, game planning or his own poor play, for me to give the nod to the quarterback position.
DAN SALOMONE: Fiction - What is the only position that is nearly as tough and important to find in the NFL? Left tackle. And the NFC East lineup includes Trent Williams (six Pro Bowls), Jason Peters (nine Pro Bowls, Super Bowl champion), Tyron Smith (five Pro Bowls) and Nate Solder (two-time Super Bowl champion). It doesn’t get much better than that.
LANCE MEDOW: Fact - I think it’s close between quarterback and running back but I’ll give the signal callers the edge. The division isn’t full of Pro Bowl quarterbacks, but I think it’s fair to say every team has some stability and proven players at that position with Alex Smith, Dak Prescott, Carson Wentz and Eli Manning. All four quarterbacks are completing at least 62 percent of their passes and have thrown for more touchdowns than interceptions in the first quarter of the season. At running back, before Jay Ajayi suffered a torn ACL Sunday, you could have made a very strong case for that position with Ezekiel Elliott, Adrian Peterson and Saquon Barkley rounding out the division, but the Eagles have some question marks at that position in terms of how they will split up the workload and produce consistently out of the backfield.
New York sports fans would rather share a cab with a Boston fan than a Philadelphia fan.
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction - SLAM! This might be the toughest fact or fiction of all time. Yankees-Red Sox is the biggest rivalry in any sport in any of the markets, so that quickly gives the edge to Boston. Knicks-Celtics is a bigger rivalry than Knicks-Sixers. Giants-Eagles is a great rivalry, but some Giants fans would argue Dallas is a more hated opponent. Jets fans would probably consider the Patriots their biggest rival. Mets-Phillies is a rivalry but is nothing compared to Yankees-Sox. In the NHL, Rangers-Bruins and Rangers-Flyers is comparable. Besides, the Boston area has a ton of championships in the last 15 years, as opposed to Philadelphia, which only has a couple. Sadly, Boston has the bragging rights at the current time, except when it comes to Giants-Patriots. It’s not good. Avoid Boston fans at all costs, especially after the Red Sox made it clear on Tuesday night that they are a better team than the Yankees. Ugh.
DAN SALOMONE: Fact - The resident Midwesterner is probably not the best person to ask for this one. But based on my last 10 years in the Northeast, I think there is a better chance of someone being thrown out of the cab if a Philly fan is involved. Maybe all the winning they’ve done up in New England has smoothed some edges, but the Philadelphia rivalry seems more personal and alive. The proximity certainly adds to that, but either way, no one is getting a five-star rating after that cab ride. Not even the driver.
LANCE MEDOW: Fact - The timing of this statement isn’t ideal since the Yankees just lost to the Red Sox in the ALDS, but I still think New York sports fans would choose to mingle with a Boston fan over a Philadelphia fan every day of the week and twice on Sunday. If you look across the sports landscape, there’s much more substance to the New York-Philly rivalry versus New York-Boston. Giants-Eagles, Mets-Phillies, Rangers-Flyers and Knicks-Sixers have all provided for heated division battles, whereas the same can be said for really just Jets-Patriots and Yankees-Red Sox. The Rangers and Bruins aren’t in the same division and it’s not as if the Knicks and Celtics have provided for a balanced rivalry in recent history. The Philadelphia fan is extremely unique and I’ll leave it at that.