EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants' best revenge tomorrow would be to walk out of Lincoln Financial Field with the same record as the Philadelphia Eagles.
That the Giants would be in that position seemed unlikely on Oct. 11, when the Eagles ran away from them in a 34-13 victory in MetLife Stadium. It appeared improbable just two weeks ago, when the Giants were 1-7 and the Eagles 4-4 coming out of the bye for both teams. Since then, the Giants have won two games and the Eagles have lost two.
The rematch will be played tomorrow in Lincoln Financial Field. The Giants have been asked all week about exacting payback against their longtime rivals. After all, the game last month was really the only one this season in which they did not have a chance to win in the fourth quarter. And it was their fourth consecutive loss to Philadelphia.
But retaliation is not their motivation. It is instead the NFC East standings. If the Giants win, they will tie the Eagles at 4-7 and sit just two games behind co-NFC East leaders Dallas and Washington with five games to play.
Which is why coach Pat Shurmur dismissed the notion that the Giants will take the field seeking payback for what happened six weeks ago.
"No, I'm just saying it like I see it," Shurmur said. "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."
Both teams have changed significantly since that first meeting. The Giants came out of the bye with a renewed determination to run the ball, and rushed for 260 yards in victories against San Francisco and Tampa Bay. Rookie Saquon Barkley ran for 209 of those yards. Eli Manning completed 17 of 18 passes last week vs. the Buccaneers. New right guard Jamon Brown has solidified an improved offensive line. And the defense forced a season-high four turnovers last week.
"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 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."
Philadelphia has had to reach deep into its depth chart because of injuries to the secondary. Of the five defensive backs who started for the Eagles against the Giants last month, only safety Malcolm Jenkins will be in uniform tomorrow. Ronald Darby is on injured reserve (as is safety and Ronald McLeod), and Jalen Mills (foot), Avonte Maddox (knee/ankle) and Sidney Jones (hamstring) have all been declared out of the game.
"It's definitely nicked up," Eagles coach Doug Pederson said of his secondary. "We got some guys that got banged up in the game against New Orleans (where they lost last week, a 48-7) and just trying to keep things together with the guys that we have. We're getting some guys healthy, but at the same time, it's just tough when you lose Ronald Darby for the season, who is your starting corner. It's a tough situation to be in. We're not going to make any excuses for it. It is what it is. We embrace it, and we still have to go play."
Among those who could see significant playing time are Cre'Von LeBlanc, Chandon Sullivan and DeVante Bausby, who have played in a combined six games this season.
If Shurmur is excited contemplating the prospect of that group covering Odell Beckham, Jr., he's hiding it well.
"There's tactics and strategies," Shurmur said. "Certainly, you can double someone, and we see it all the time. They doubled Odell last time we played them – they'd either cloud him or if it was man-free, Malcolm Jenkins would double him. That's why it's important that other guys come alive. There's ways to still get him the ball, certainly when he's in a one-on-one scenario, but that's why it's a team. If they choose to take one player away, then the other guys got to come alive."
"At some point, you just got to say they're professionals, too, and the next guy up applies to every team," offensive coordinator Mike Shula said. "I think you have to maybe look at certain matchups, but also you can kind of look at it too much and spent too much time doing that instead of just concentrating on what you want to get done, and having your quarterback make good decisions, regardless of trying to maybe force it in here or there. But they've got good players and they've got good depth, so we've all been where all of a sudden you're playing a team with a lot of injuries and you think you're going to have a good day. We've been on the other side of that, too, where we've had some guys injured and other guys have stepped up and played really well."
Beckham caught six passes for just 44 yards in the first meeting, so he is taking nothing for granted.
"To be honest, it's hard to do a scouting report on them right now, because of the amount of injuries that they have," said the Giants' leading receiver, Odell Beckham, Jr. "Mills with the foot. Darby with the ACL. It's a lot going on right now. That's kind of more up to the coaches, and what they game plan, and how they're going to attack DBs, if they're going to attack the DBs, whatever we're going to do. Just find a way to win. We got a good opportunity here to win, even though we watched the Saints beat the Eagles like that, you can't really ever take this team lightly. This is Philly, and they always play their best against us, I feel like."
For many reasons, the Giants would like to change that narrative tomorrow.