EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –** Geoff Schwartz is excited to play in his first Giants-Eagles game.
"I missed both games last year (because of injury)," said Schwartz, the seven-year veteran guard who is in his second Giants season. "Going to Philly, I've only been there once, and it's a hostile place. These games have a little more intensity, and they're fun to play in."
Few NFL games bring the heat generated by Giants vs. Eagles. The NFL and the networks have learned that true enmity results in good ratings. When the teams meet Monday night in Philadelphia, it will be the eighth time in nine years they will square off in prime time. The teams reside less than two hours apart and try to gain an advantage in the always-competitive NFC East in their twice-yearly skirmishes.
"There's definitely a level of nastiness that can get involved where you have to watch it, because things can start to escalate fast with tempers and anger," said defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins, who played two seasons for the Eagles before joining the Giants in 2013. "It's really intense. The players, organizations, and even the fans are in close proximity, and really don't like each other."
The stakes and the incentive for each team will be customarily high in the next chapter in their 82-year competition. And for the Giants, the situation is eerily similar to what they encountered a year ago. They have a three-game winning streak and a 3-2 record, and they're heading to Lincoln Financial Field for a night game. Those same circumstances were in place last year when the Giants lost, 27-0, a defeat made worse by the season-ending knee injury suffered by Victor Cruz.
The loss in Philadelphia sent the Giants on a seven-game tailspin. They also lost to the Eagles in the season finale and have dropped three of four in the series since Chip Kelly became Philadelphia's coach.
As the Giants filed into their locker room last week after a dramatic victory over San Francisco, Jenkins mentioned the similarity between last year and this to coach Tom Coughlin, who then addressed it briefly in his post-game speech to the team.
"It's something that was in my mind," Jenkins said. "Once we started 0-2, I'm like, 'Okay, this is a third straight year here that we had started 0-2.' We finally got a win, then when we won another one, it kind of made me think back to last year. This is the same pattern we had last year, when we lost the first two, then we came back and we had just gotten above .500, then we had a bad streak that just kept tumbling. So it was something in the back of your mind. You're thinking, 'If we get to this, we need to make sure what happened last year doesn't happen again."
The Eagles entered that 2014 game with a 4-1 record. They are now 2-3 and are one of three teams trailing the Giants by one game in the division standings.
Keep an eye on these five players as the Giants face the Philadelphia Eagles this Monday Night
"You have to have respect for Philly and what they do," linebacker Jon Beason said. "Obviously, they started off rocky (0-2). It's a long season, peaks and valleys. But the skillset is there. I expect them to be extremely confident going into this game, coming off a big win (over New Orleans), where it looked like they got it going. We've got our hands full, man. It's going to be a tough game and it should be - it's the Eagles, it's at their place, great crowd because they literally hate us. And you love it. So a lot of respect there, but we've just got to go in there and be prepared, understand what they're trying to do and we should know them well by now."
Eli Manning will make his 12th start in the Linc, including one in the postseason. He knows the fans will be in a frenzy Monday night, and what the Giants must do to combat that.
"It'll be loud, they'll be fired up, they're going to be rocking," Manning said. "We've got to do our job and we've got to go out there and play smart, handle the crowd noise, hopefully get off to a fast start and try to calm them down."
The key, Manning said, is "everybody has to understand who they're blocking. They do a lot of twisting, the offensive line has to pass things off, running backs got to know who they're responsible for. Everybody has to know they're accounted for and that's half the battle. Now you've got to block them. So I've got to do a good job of getting the ball out on time. We've got to do a good job blocking, and I've got to do a good job protecting the football."
That is a daunting task, because the Eagles are tied for second in the NFL with 13 takeaways, despite their losing record.
And Manning might not know who he's throwing to until he takes the field for warmups. Cruz will miss his sixth consecutive game this season with a calf strain. Odell Beckham Jr. and Rueben Randle each suffered a strained hamstring in the dramatic victory last week over San Francisco. Randle practiced this week, and Beckham will likely test his leg before the Giants must decide on their game-day inactive players. It's likely Dwayne Harris, Geremy Davis and Myles White will be Manning's targets, as they were late in the game last week.
"We're going to play with who's out there," offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo said. "You have to have a plan available, for lack of a better way to say it, for everything. If you're short in one area, you have to make sure you're backed up in another."
As always, nothing will be held back in a Giants-Eagles game.
"I think the significance of your divisional games is well-known and well-stated," Coughlin said.
"I think the excitement of playing within the division is always there. At this point in the season, with the teams all bunched up like they are, this is a big game."
It always is.
- Philadelphia quarterback San Bradford was the No. 1 overall selection of the 2010 NFL Draft by the St. Louis Rams, who were then coached by current Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.
In two seasons playing for Spagnuolo, Bradford started all 26 games in which he played. Bradford was 8-18.
This year, Bradford has completed 62.3 percent of his passes, and thrown for 1,281 yards, eight touchdowns and six interceptions.
"I have to say, he's a good football player," Spagnuolo said. "We believed in him when we took him in 2010, I still believe in him now, and I think he's really kind of finding a groove here, unfortunately for us. I always felt he was a very accurate thrower and he still is. The day we went to work him out in Oklahoma, and that year we worked out a bunch of quarterbacks, but I wasn't the only one that was impressed by it, but it was as impressive a quarterback workout that I'd been to … especially throwing the long ball. I mean every single long ball he threw was just right there, so that's a concern and he can still do that. I think they're doing a good job with him."