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10 Things To Watch For

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Giants vs. Eagles: 10 things to watch for

1. Back in it? As Giants fans enjoyed their Thanksgiving meals, they saw the NFC East get just a little bit more interesting. The Cowboys defeated the NFC East-leading Redskins, and now both sit at 6-5. That makes Sunday's matchup between the Giants (3-7) and Eagles (4-6) in Philadelphia all the more important. Big Blue is trying to erase the 1-7 start with back-to-back wins while the defending Super Bowl champions have lost their last two, including a 41-point defeat last week in New Orleans. Coach Pat Shurmur has embraced the buzz because they are "playing this thing just the way you have to play it" by taking it one week at a time after the worst-case scenario played out in the first half.

"That's what we do as coaches and players, that's why we're in this for the competitive spirit of this with the goal of winning each game," he said. "And then we'll let everyone that does the math add it up at the end."

2. Too close for comfort. If watching the Eagles win their first Super Bowl wasn't hard enough for Giants fans last year, they are on the verge of seeing Philadelphia pull even in the all-time rivalry, which dates back to 1933. The Giants, who lost the first leg in Week 6, have a hold on the all-time series lead by just one game (85-84-2, including 2-2 in postseason). The Eagles have taken 16 of the past 20 overall meetings, including four in a row at Lincoln Financial Field.

3. Easy Eli. Quarterback Eli Manning is on pace to set the franchise record for best completion percentage (69.0) in a season, and his passer rating (96.6) would be third in Giants history, trailing Y.A. Tittle's 104.8 in 1963 and Charlie Conerly's 102.7 in 1959. Statistics can be deceiving as quarterbacks are judged by wins and losses, but Manning and the Giants are on a little run right now. That was the idea Shurmur had in mind when he told the two-time Super Bowl MVP that he would be the starter coming out of the bye week. Since then, Manning is 2-0 with five touchdowns to no interceptions. His 155.8 passer rating last week was his highest in a game in which he played all four quarters, and the 94.4 completion percentage was tied for the third-highest in a single game in NFL history (minimum 15 attempts).

4. O-line leading the way. The story of the last two weeks has been the play of the Giants' offensive line. Coinciding with the arrival of former Rams player Jamon Brown at right guard, the current unit has come together quickly after seeing plenty of changes in the first half of the season. It faces a stiff test this week against Philadelphia's defensive front, which stirs the drink for the defense. "I think the last two games, it's been their best games," Manning said of the offensive line. "And obviously there's just been a lot of turnaround at the offensive line from right tackle to right guard, centers, that whole right side and new players and it's been different combinations. So finally for the last couple of weeks just had that same combination and those guys working together and working well and they're passing things off and doing some good things so they can keep playing that way, the run game, pass game should help us out."

5. Eagles hurting in secondary. The Giants have been mostly healthy since their bye week. Defensive lineman Kerry Wynn (concussion) is the only player on the team to appear on this week's injury report and has been ruled out for Sunday. Philadelphia is a different story. The secondary has been set back by injuries, leaving the lineup an uncertainty other than veteran safety and co-captain Malcolm Jenkins. The list includes cornerbacks Ronald Darby (injured reserve) and Jalen Mills (will miss third game with a foot injury), who were starters in their first meeting with the Giants in October. Fellow cornerbacks Sidney Jones (hamstring) and Avonte Maddox (knee/ankle) have also been ruled out for the game while Rasul Douglas (knee/ankle) is questionable.

"To be honest, it's hard to do a scouting report on them right now, because of the amount of injuries that they have," wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. said. "Jalen 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."

6. Player of the Week. In a week dominated by talk of the Rams and Chiefs playing in the first game in NFL history in which both teams scored 50 points or more, rookie running back Saquon Barkley was named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week. He became just the second Giants rookie to win the award, which was instituted in 1984, joining tight end Jeremy Shockey (Week 17 of the 2002 season). Barkley ran 27 times for 142 yards, both career highs, and had three total touchdowns last week. In his Week 6 game against the Eagles, he had a career-high 229 yards from scrimmage (130 rushing, 99 receiving).

7. The difference. Only two teams have a worse turnover differential than the Eagles (minus-9) heading into Sunday, and the Giants beat them both the past two weeks. The 49ers are minus-15 while the Buccaneers dropped to minus-23 after turning it over four times against the Giants last week. The Giants are plus-8 in their three victories this season and minus-6 in the seven losses. 

8. Special in Philly. Special teams play can get lost even in the best of seasons, but performances by players like returner Corey Coleman, kicker Aldrick Rosas, and punter Riley Dixon are hard to overlook. Coleman sparked the Giants with a 40-yard kickoff return that led to an opening-drive touchdown for the Giants in Week 11. In the game before that, he broke a 51-yarder following a 49ers touchdown drive coming out of halftime. Coleman stopped the momentum, and the Giants capitalized on the field position with a touchdown of their own. Meanwhile, Rosas has the fourth-best field goal percentage in the NFL (95.2), and Dixon is seventh in net punting average (41.4 yards).

9. Number 17? There have been 16 Super Bowl champions who failed to make the playoffs the following season, three of which were Giants teams. The Eagles, who went 13-3 last year to clinch the No. 1 seed, are trying to avoid becoming the 17th. Additionally, there has not been a repeat NFC East champion since Philadelphia won four in row from 2001-2004.

10. Names that end with the letter Z for 1000, Alex. Zach Ertz leads all NFL tight ends with 77 catches, 10 more than Kansas City's Travis Kelce and 22 more than Atlanta's Austin Hooper, who have even played one more game than the Eagles' star. Meanwhile, quarterback Carson Wentz may be coming off the worst passer rating of his career (31.9), but the former second overall draft pick is still completing nearly 70 percent of his passes in his eight starts this season with 15 touchdowns to six interceptions, three of which came last week. What separates Wentz is his ability to throw on the move.  

"Wentz does a really good job not only of executing in rhythm, but if he can slide it out of the pocket, I call them 60-yard check downs," Shurmur said. "He does a really good job, he remains a passer all the way until he crosses the line of scrimmage, so it's super important that we stay in coverage because guys running free downfield, he'll see them all the way until the last moment before he starts to run. That's really what makes their offense tick."

Keep an eye on these five players as the Giants take on the Eagles Sunday in Philly

Dan Salomone

Managing Editor,

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