Eli Manning is fielding different questions these days. That's what winning back-to-back games and breathing life back into the season does for a starting quarterback.
Instead of being asked about his future as he was at the beginning of the month, he opened Wednesday's media availability talking about rookie standout Saquon Barkley. Instead of trying to explain what went wrong, he was asked what has gone right.
Manning and the Giants look to extend their winning streak to three games this week when they travel to Philadelphia, home of the defending Super Bowl champions. While the Giants have won their past two games, the Eagles lost theirs, including a 48-7 defeat at the hands of the Saints. Five weeks ago, it was Philadelphia routing the Giants, 34-13, at MetLife Stadium on a Thursday night. Things have changed since then in a muddled NFC East, which has all four teams within three games of each other and all playing in the division in Week 12 (Cowboys host the Redskins on Thanksgiving Day).
"Obviously we're playing better football right now," Manning said. "We're finishing drives, we're – I think after a short week, we had some guys banged up [for the first Eagles game] with Evan [Engram] and Rhett [Ellison] at the tight end position, so I think also just with some receivers that we added since then. I think we're running the ball better than we did, so I feel like we're playing better football, but we got to continue doing that. They're a good team, they're a good defense, they've got a good front four and they're a little banged up in the secondary, but they'll have a good plan and we've just got to go execute."
Meanwhile, the Eagles are answering the other types of questions this week. Quarterback Carson Wentz is coming off a 19-for-33 performance with 156 yards, no touchdowns and three interceptions. His 31.9 passer rating was the lowest of his 37 career starts. Since the first leg of the season series with the Giants, Philadelphia has averaged just 17 points in four games, three of which were losses.
Nevertheless, Pat Shurmur, who spent many of his coaching years in Philadelphia as the team's tight ends coach (1999-2001), quarterbacks coach (2002-08), offensive coordinator (2013-15) and interim head coach (2015), said it is the same offense that won Super Bowl LII and is still hard to defend. And the Giants made it even harder on themselves last time around with self-inflicted wounds. Manning threw an interception on the opening drive of the mid-October meeting in Giants territory, and the Eagles turned it into a touchdown.
"Last time we played them, I know exactly why they beat us," Shurmur said. "We didn't do anything that you need to do against any type of team to win. We turned the ball over, we gave them big plays, we just didn't play well enough to beat any team, so we have to fix that. That's more about us. Going back to it, we can't turn the ball over, pick-six early in the game. We did a lot of things where you go, 'Now I see why we didn't [win].' That's more about us and less about them."
While there is a little buzz in the division despite the Eagles having the Giants' number in recent years, this game isn't about payback. It's about owning the 1-7 start and trying to improve one week at a time.
"No, I'm just saying it like I see it," Shurmur said when asked if revenge will be a motivational source this week. "That game got away from us. We played a really good team and we didn't play well, and we got smacked. They need to know that, so that we can worry about doing the things well that we didn't do well in that game. That's more of the deal. I don't get into all the payback things. We're going to play this team twice a year and maybe in the playoffs if we're both in the playoffs, so as we go, we've got to approach each time we play them with the mindset we have to do what we have to do to win that game."
And they will do it with some new pieces.
The last time they played the Eagles, guard Patrick Omameh, defensive tackle Damon Harrison and cornerback Eli Apple were starters. Omameh has since been released, while Harrison and Apple were traded. Spencer Pulley and Jamon Brown have also taken over as the starting center and right guard, respectively.
"Yes, we're a much different team in a lot of ways," Shurmur said. "We found a way to have two good team victories the last two weeks, so we're doing some things as a team better, not near good enough yet, but we are different. We have some new faces in there certainly, so yeah, we are different. They're different. That's why this is fun. Even though you play a team twice a year, if you play them early and you play them late, they can be two different scenarios really. I'm looking forward to it."
*Defensive end Kerry Wynn remains in the concussion protocol and did not practice on Wednesday. "So we'll just have to see where that takes us through the week," Shurmur said.
*The NFL announced Barkley as the NFC Offensive Player of the Week for his three-touchdown performance in the Giants' 38-35 victory against the Buccaneers. He rushed for 142 yards on 27 carries, both season highs.
"I think he's improved every week and I think he's a guy who wants to be great, wants to get better," Manning said. "There's something he thinks he can improve on, whether it's just in a route or in protection or the way he's running, he takes the coaching well and I thought he just ran with a little more sense of urgency and just hitting the holes hard and you can see it and it paid off. He had his best game."
*The Giants will hold a compressed walk-through before practice on Thursday morning. Players will be out of the facility by noon and coaches an hour later. Shurmur will be among the millions gathered around the TV watching Cowboys vs. Redskins, who lead the division but will be starting a new quarterback in Colt McCoy after Alex Smith suffered a gruesome leg injury last week. McCoy was a third-round draft pick by the Browns in 2010. A year later, Shurmur began his first stint as an NFL head coach in Cleveland.
"I'm a football fan, so when games are on, I watch them," Shurmur said. He added: "I worked with Colt McCoy. I was a young head coach and he was a rookie quarterback. We spent a lot of time together. I think we grew up together in a lot of ways. Colt's getting the opportunity to start with the Redskins, so I'll watch him with interest."
Another game that has drawn a lot of interest was the Rams' 54-51 victory over the Chiefs on Monday night. Shurmur was asked if it was indicative of where the game is heading. It was the first game in NFL history in which both teams scored 50 points or more.
"There's probably a lot of different ways you could go with that," Shurmur said. "Certainly scoring over 100 points a game, if that's the way it works, that's great, unless you coach the defense. If you're the one that scores 51 not 54. … I don't know, I think each game plays out differently. You had a game the other night where you had two really good young quarterbacks that are playing. They have explosive players around them, but on the flip side when you're talking about defense, Aaron Donald – there were strip sacks, fumbles for touchdowns, so there was some defense involved in that scoring. I'm sure TV loved it, I wasn't awake for the end of it, but I could tell by the time I went to bed it was going to be a high-scoring [game]."
View the Eagles projected starters for this Sunday's game