Losing isn’t an option for the 5-7 Eagles. They need to run the table in the next four weeks, starting with Monday night’s game against the 2-10 Giants.
A breakdown of the game, including scouting report, key matchups, keys to the game and, of course, a prediction:
When Eagles run the ball
The Eagles had a 45.1 run-play percentage in their first nine games, including 52.0 in back-to-back wins over Buffalo and Chicago. But that balance has gone to hell since Jordan Howard got hurt. In the last three games without him, their run-play percentage has been 30.9. Rookie Miles Sanders had a season-high 17 carries last week against Miami, and averaged 4.9 yards per carry. But the Eagles ran the ball just 19 times overall and seven times in the second half. Just four of 16 first-down plays in the second half were run plays, which is a waste of one of the league’s best offensive lines. The Eagles apparently were worried about overworking Sanders, and recently-signed Jay Ajayi, who tore his ACL last year, is essentially playing on one leg. But what is Boston Scott, chopped liver? Sanders is averaging 5.7 yards per carry over the last five games. The Giants are fifth in opponent rush average (3.9 yards allowed per carry). They’ve held their last three opponents to 2.7 yards per carry. They are tied for the fifth best first-down opponent rush average in the league (3.8).
When Eagles throw the ball
Carson Wentz has thrown the ball 170 times in the last four games, which is the most in a four-game stretch since his rookie year. He has an 83.9 passer rating in those four games. For the season, he’s 18th in passing (90.0), 30th in yards per attempt (6.5) and 24th in completion percentage (62.4). Those aren’t franchise-quarterback kinds of numbers. The early-season loss of DeSean Jackson took away Wentz’s only legitimate vertical threat on the outside. Wentz and Alshon Jeffery don’t have a lot of chemistry, but Jeffery had his most productive game with Wentz last week, catching nine passes for 137 yards, one touchdown and nine first downs in the loss to the Dolphins. Ten of Jeffery’s 16 targets were on throws of 11 or more yards, and he caught eight of those. In his previous nine games, Jeffery had nine catches on 20 targets at that distance. Zach Ertz has 70 catches, which is the most by any tight end in the league. But he hasn’t had a third-down reception in five of the last seven games. The Giants’ Janoris Jenkins is one of the league’s better corners, but rookie DeAndre Baker has struggled. He’s given up six TDs and has allowed 18.2 yards per catch. The Giants are middle of the pack in sacks per pass play.
When Giants run the ball
Saquon Barkley’s second NFL season isn’t going quite as well as his first when he rushed for 1,307 yards. He was sidelined for three games earlier this season with a high ankle sprain, and hasn’t been the same player since he returned. In his last six games, he’s averaging just 3.1 yards per carry. In the Giants’ 34-27 Week 10 loss to the Jets, Barkley was held to one yard on 13 carries. Part of it is the ankle, and part of it is the Giants’ offensive line, which isn’t very good. The average run-blocking grade of their five starters this season, according to Pro Football Focus, is 55.7. By comparison, the average grade for the Eagles’ five starters is 76.9. The Eagles had no answer for Barkley last season. In their two games against him, he rushed for 231 yards and two touchdowns and averaged 8.9 yards per carry. The Eagles are eighth in opponent rush average (4.0). They held the Dolphins to 24 yards on 12 first-down carries Sunday. But in their previous seven games, they gave up 5.4 yards per carry on first down. That can’t happen Monday night.
When Giants throw the ball
It looks like Eli Manning will make his 31st career start against the Eagles Monday night, rather than rookie Daniel Jones, who is nursing a high ankle sprain. Manning started the first two games of the season before the Giants decided to go with their first-round pick. Manning, who will turn 39 next month, had a decent 92.4 passer rating last season, including a 66.0 completion percentage. But his touchdown percentage – one TD pass per 27.4 attempts – was one of the lowest of his career. The one thing the Giants lose with Manning replacing Jones is mobility. Eli is strictly a pocket passer who gets the ball out quickly. Jones was averaging 6.2 yards per carry, and his 19 rushing first downs were tied with Seattle’s Russell Wilson for the fourth most in the league among quarterbacks. Eagles corners Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills had a bad-awful day against Miami. They were targeted a combined 14 times and gave up 10 catches for 203 yards and 3 TDs. The Giants don’t have an outside threat like the Dolphins’ DeVante Parker, but they hope to get their leading receiver, TE Evan Engram, back this week. He’s missed the last three games with a foot sprain. Slot receiver Golden Tate (concussion) also should be back. Tate has 36 catches in seven games.
Jake Elliott missed his first field goal attempt of the season Sunday – a 49-yarder against the Dolphins. But his 94.4 accuracy rate (17-for-18) still is the third best in the league. Elliott has a 70.7 touchback percentage overall on kickoffs, but just 60.7 at home. P Cam Johnston is seventh in both gross (46.9) and net (42.5) average. He’s put 17 of his kicks inside the 20, but only five of his last 27. Greg Ward has returned punts the last two games since being promoted from the practice squad. He has just one return (minus-3 yards) and three fair catches thus far. Giants PK Aldrick Rosas was 32-for-33 on field goal attempts last season, but has missed four of 14 attempts this year, including 42- and 43-yarders two weeks ago in a five-point loss to the Bears. P Riley Dixon is sixth in gross average (47.0) and fifth in net (42.8). The Giants’ coverage teams have been very good, holding opponents to 5.8 yards per return on punts and 16.6 on kickoffs. Ex-Eagle WR Golden Tate handles punt returns for the Giants. He’s averaging 11.5 yards per return.
By the grace of God and the ineptness of the Dallas Cowboys, the Eagles still have a chance to win the NFC East and advance to the playoffs. Motivation should count for something Monday night, right?
Prediction: Eagles 24, Giants 17
Eagles RT Lane Johnson v. Giants LB Markus Golden: Golden, who has 7 ½ sacks, is the Giants’ best pass-rusher. But Johnson has neutralized edge-rushers a lot better than Golden.
Eagles defensive front seven v. Giants RB Saquon Barkley: Barkley averaged 8.9 yards per carry in two games against the Eagles last year. But he hasn’t been the same this year since returning too soon from a high ankle sprain. Eagles are eighth in opponent rush average (4.0).
Eagles WR Nelson Agholor v. Giants CB DeAndre Baker: With the Giants’ top corner, Janoris Jenkins, likely to shadow Alshon Jeffery, Agholor should get some opportunities against struggling rookie Baker.
Keys to the game
Stop Saquon. Giants running back Saquon Barkley is averaging just 3.1 yards per carry since returning from an ankle injury. The Eagles need to keep him under control, particularly on first down, so they can tee off on Eli Manning on third-and-long.
Third down success. The Eagles are sixth in third-down offense and the Giants are 22nd in third-down defense. They converted seven of their first 10 third-down opportunities v. Miami, by came up empty on their last four, which could’ve kept the ball away from red-hot Ryan Fitzpatrick.
A Wentzian game. The Eagles have their backs to the wall and their quarterback needs to step up have a big game. That means multiple touchdown passes, minimal turnovers and maybe even a couple of rushing first downs when they need them.