EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Joe Judge has a football coach's proclivity for tunnel vision.
The results in Week 6 of the NFL season left the Giants with as good a chance as any of their rivals to win the NFC East title. The Giants were the only one of its four members to win last week. Current leader Dallas is 2-4, while the other three teams all have one victory. That includes the 1-5 Giants, who are in a stretch in which they play five division games in six weeks. They can move closer to the top when they visit the 1-4-1 Philadelphia Eagles Thursday night in Lincoln Financial Field.
But Judge, as coaches are wont to do, is fixated only on the next opponent. Nor is he discussing the division race with his players.
"I don't really get into those kinds of things," Judge said. "Our goal every week is to be 1-0, and right now, our goal for this week is to be 1-0. But we have a division opponent, a rival, so that's all of our focus right now."
"All these divisional games are big, and I think guys understand that," quarterback Daniel Jones said. "Guys have an awareness as to where the division is and the standings. But we're focused on this week. We're focused on this game and it being a big divisional game. It's important for that reason. Guys are locked into that and excited to get out there."
Short-week games always present a physical challenge and both the Giants and Eagles are missing key players to injury. The Giants have lost one of their young linebackers in each of the last three weeks, first Oshane Ximines, then Lorenzo Carter and this week Tae Crowder, who scored the go-ahead touchdown against Washington on a 43-yard fumble return but joined the others on injured reserve this week. The Giants apparently have a chance to get back wide receiver Sterling Shepard, who missed the last four games with turf toe but returned to practice yesterday.
Philadelphia finished its 30-28 loss to Baltimore Sunday with only two projected offensive starters, quarterback Carson Wentz and center Jason Kelce, on the field. And coach Doug Pederson said they were playing hurt. Philadelphia has lost its top wide receivers (though at least one might return tomorrow), tight ends and running back and is playing backups at four offensive line positions.
When Pederson was asked how he viewed his team's record in light of the numerous injuries and inconsistent performances, he said, "That's right where we should be - 1-4-1."
Judge views the Eagles through a different prism.
"This is a very good team," Judge said. "This is a very, very explosive and capable team. They're loaded on defense up front. They can really affect your running game, get after your passer. They have really aggressive and opportunistic defensive backs on the back end. They do a great job of stripping and punching at the ball creating turnovers. Offensively, whether it's the run game with explosive runs, the pass game, and that's throwing to the running backs, the tight ends or the receivers. They do a great job of that. They have a two-headed monster at the quarterback position with how they're using Jalen (Hurts) and getting him involved in the game. Carson can make throws anywhere down the field and he can extend plays and make plays down the field like we've seen time and time again, especially this last weekend with his legs. It doesn't matter who has the ball in their hands. Every player on this offense is explosive, every player on their defense plays with great effort, energy and technique."
Judge is also quick to credit Pederson, who has led the Eagles to three playoff berths, two division titles and a victory in Super Bowl LII in his first four seasons.
"I think it's important to really study Doug and what he's done throughout his tenure there," Judge said. "One thing he's done a phenomenal job of every year is they've always had to make a lot of personnel moves. They've been nicked up and banged up and they plug and play guys, whether it's the bigs up front or whether it's the skill players. They find a great way of really balancing out developing their players and getting them ready for game action. They don't have too much of a drop off no matter who's in the game. They're a very explosive team who can score points, and they're very good on third down, two minute and the red area, so we have to be very good in situational football this week."
The Giants also need to end a couple of streaks to defeat the Eagles. They have lost seven consecutive games and 11 of the last 12 to Philadelphia and six in a row in Lincoln Financial Field.
But with the NFC East there for the taking, it's the perfect time to assert themselves against their longtime rivals.
"Our division is winnable," said defensive back Logan Ryan. "We have to go out here and win some games in our division to put us in a position at the end of the year to strike. That's what we're doing week in and week out. You prepare hard to put yourself in position to win the game. At the end of the game, I think three or four games this year have come down to the final drive. Our record can swing either way. We found a way to win last week. We need to find a way to win this week. It's probably going to be a close game. I'm looking forward to the opportunity of that."
"I don't think anyone in the division needs any motivation to play anyone else in the division," Judge said. "This is a big Thursday night game. Obviously, we haven't had a chance to play the Eagles yet this year. It'll be a big atmosphere for us right there.
"I've told the players from the very beginning of the season, it's a long year. If you get too focused on looking down at the end stretch at this point right here, you don't see the light at the end of the tunnel. We have to keep grinding week by week, but the focus stays on going 1-0 each week. No matter what happened last Sunday, we need to come in with the same mindset to improve as a team, to improve individually, which will lead to our collective rise, and then to be able to match up our opponent and just play well for 60 minutes on Thursday night."
View rare photos of the historic rivalry between the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles.
*The Giants declared two players out of the game tomorrow in Philadelphia because of injuries: wide receiver C.J. Board (concussion) and defensive back Adrian Colbert (shoulder). Board, who has started three of the last four games, will be inactive for the first time this season. Colbert will miss his second straight game and fourth of the year.
*Tae Crowder was placed on injured reserve with a hamstring injury. Dave Mayo is expected to take his place at inside linebacker.
*Rookie cornerback Darnay Holmes is questionable with a neck injury. He was limited in practice today.
The Giants held a walkthrough Wednesday, so player participation was estimated.
*Six Eagles will miss the game: T Jack Driscoll (ankle), TE Zach Ertz (ankle), DT Malik Jackson (quad), WR Alshon Jeffery (foot), RB Miles Sanders (knee), S K'Von Wallace (shoulder)
*Since 2009, the Giants are 4-6 in Thursday night games, including 2-5 on the road. They are 0-2 against the Eagles on Thursday night, losing on the road in 2016 and at home two years ago.
Philadelphia is 4-0 on Thursday night under Pederson.
*The "Bud Light Giants Gameday" radio pregame show will begin at 6:50 p.m. on WFAN 660 AM/101.9 FM and will stream live on Giants.com, the Giants mobile app, and "Giants TV" streaming app.
"Giants Postgame Live" presented by Mercedes-Benz can be heard immediately after the game - also on WFAN 660 AM/101.9 FM and streaming on Giants.com, the Giants mobile app, and "Giants TV" streaming app.
*The Giants have launched "A Giant Hero" campaign, presented by Quest Diagnostics, in which fans can nominate frontline workers for their efforts during the coronavirus pandemic. Simply fill out the form at Giants.com/gianthero and provide a description of how this person is a hero in the community. Submissions will be accepted from Tuesday, October 13, through Friday, October 23.