The Eagles are expected to be back at full strength at running back Sunday with the return of Jordan Howard, who has missed the last six games with a stinger. Rookie Miles Sanders has averaged 4.7 yards per carry in the last five games, including a 122-yard performance two weeks ago against Washington. It will be interesting to see how the Eagles integrate Howard back into the offense given the way Sanders has been playing. It’s likely that Howard will do much of the first-down heavy lifting. He was averaging 4.5 yards per carry on first down before his injury. Sanders has been most productive on second and third downs. He’s averaging 6.0 yards per carry the last six games on second/third downs. Just two running backs with more than 25 carries are averaging more -- Derrick Henry (7.4) and the Giants’ Saquon Barkley (6.2). The Giants have a good run defense. They’re fifth in opponent rush average (3.9). In their last six games, they’ve allowed just 3.3 yards per carry. Tackle Dalvin Tomlinson anchors a big, physical front that helped hold Sanders to 45 yards on 15 carries in Week 14.
The Eagles’ injured receiving corps, which already was missing its top three wideouts, suffered another blow Sunday when tight end Zach Ertz suffered a fractured rib. Ertz is Carson Wentz’s go-to guy. His 88 receptions rank second among NFL tight ends. In addition, rookie wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside injured his foot in the Cowboy game. With Ertz limited, the Eagles’ other tight end, Dallas Goedert, stepped up and had the best game of his career, catching nine passes for 91 yards and a touchdown. In the last three games, Wentz has a 104.5 passer rating, including a 70.6 completion percentage, six TDs and no interceptions. He has a 133.3 fourth-quarter passer rating in those three games. The Eagles have become predominantly a 12-personnel offense. They’ve used 12-personnel 48.5 percent of the time this season, and have used 13-personnel another six percent of the time. Goedert has been extremely effective on screens. He’s averaging 6.4 yards after the catch, which is the sixth-highest average among the league’s tight ends. WR Greg Ward, who was promoted from the practice squad five weeks ago, has been a season-saver for the Eagles. Eight of his 11 catches in the last two games have produced first downs. The Giants are 29th in opponent passer rating (102.4) and 28th in opponent completion percentage (67.1). CBs Sam Beal and DeAndre Baker both have had their problems on the outside, and nickel corner Corey Ballentine has given up three TDs in the last two games.
Saquon Barkley is coming off his best game of the season, a 189-yard rushing performance vs. Washington. A week earlier, he had rushed for 112 yards and two touchdowns vs. Miami. In the Giants’ last six games, The Eagles did a good job against Barkley in Week 14, holding him to 66 yards on 17 carries. Barkley is more of a perimeter threat than the Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott, whom the Eagles held to 47 yards on 13 carries last week. They also have to deal with the mobility of rookie quarterback Daniel Jones, who didn’t play in the Week 14 meeting. Jones is averaging 6.0 yards per carry and has 20 rushing first downs. The Eagles are third in run defense (88.0) and seventh in opponent rush average (4.0). They’ve allowed more than 101 rushing yards just once in the last eight games (174 to Seattle in a Week 12 loss). They’re tied for 12th in first-down run defense, allowing 4.1 yards per carry. But over the last four games, they’ve held opponents to 2.8 yards on first down. They held Barkley and the Giants to 3.3 in Week 14.
Daniel Jones, who missed the Giants’ Week 14 game against the Eagles with an ankle injury, will start Sunday. The rookie is coming off his best performance of the season. He threw for 352 yards and five touchdowns vs. Washington last week. In his last six starts, he’s thrown 17 TDs and just four interceptions. His biggest problem has been fumbling. He has a league-high 16 fumbles and 10 lost fumbles. He’s also been sacked 34 times in 446 pass plays (once every 13.1 pass plays). A key for the Eagles will be taking away his first read and forcing him to hang on to the ball long enough for their pass rush to get to him. WR Darius Slayton had five catches for 154 yards and 2 TDs vs. the Eagles in Week 14, but has just two catches for 31 yards in the last two games. Sterling Shepard has been targeted 17 times the last two games and has 15 catches for 187 yards and a TD. Jones was 10-for-11 for 107 yards and 2 TDs on third down vs. Washington. The Eagles are fourth in third-down defense, but have given up nine touchdown passes on third down, which is tied for the eighth-highest total in the league. The Eagles lost one of their starting corners, Ronald Darby, to a season-ending hip injury Sunday. He’ll be replaced by either Rasul Douglas or Sidney Jones, who had a game-saving end-zone pass-breakup against the Cowboys.
Jake Elliott was the league’s last perfect field-goal kicker this season, going 12 games before his first miss. But he’s missed four of his last eight attempts. In his defense, none of the misses -- from 47, 49, 53 and 55 yards -- were gimmes. But his ability to make those is why the Eagles gave him a big contract extension. Eagles P Cam Johnston and Giants P Riley Dixon have almost identical numbers. Johnston is seventh in net average (42.6) and Dixon is ninth (42.3). Johnston has put 25 of 64 attempts inside the 20 and Dixon 26 of 63. Giants PK Aldrick Rosas is 11-for-16 on FG attempts, including 1-for-5 from 40-plus. He missed a 53-yarder last week vs. Washington and missed 42- and 43-yarders vs. Chicago in Week 12. Eagles PR Greg Ward has returned just five of 29 attempts since replacing Boston Scott. He’s averaging just 4.2 yards on those five returns. The Eagles’ coverage units have been pretty dependable. In the last 12 games since giving up that 101-yard kickoff return to the Lions’ Jamal Agnew, they’ve held opponents to 21.2 yards on kick returns and 6.0 yards on punt returns. In the first game between these teams, just two of Johnston’s eight punts were returned (for 11 yards) by the Giants. The Giants have used both ex-Eagle Golden Tate and wide receiver Da’Mari Scott on punt returns. Tate is averaging 10.3 yards on seven returns, Scott 7.0 on five returns.
The Giants have won two in a row and have scored 77 points in those two wins. They managed to beat the Dolphins, which was something the Eagles failed to do. The fact that the Giants can spoil the Eagles’ playoff hopes gives them a little something extra to play for.
Prediction: Eagles 30, Giants 23
Eagles defensive front seven vs. Giants RB Saquon Barkley: The Eagles held the Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott to 47 yards on 13 carries last week and need to be equally as effective against Barkley, who rushed for 189 yards and a TD and had another 90 receiving yards and a TD vs. Washington last week.
Eagles DE Derek Barnett/Vinny Curry vs. Giants LT Nate Solder: The Eagles need to get pressure on fumble-prone rookie QB Daniel Jones. Solder has given up a team-high 11 sacks and 51 pressures. Curry has four sacks in the last four games, including two vs. Solder and the Giants in Week 14.
Eagles TE Dallas Goedert vs. Giants S Antoine Bethea: Zach Ertz, who suffered a significant rib injury last week, may or may not play. Even if he does play, he’ll be limited. Goedert came up big last week vs. Dallas (9 catches, 91 yards, 1 TD) and needs to come up big again this week.
Grab the lead. In Week 14, the Eagles spotted the Giants a 17-3 halftime lead before battling back and winning in overtime. It was one of eight games in which they’ve trailed at the half, and one of only three that they managed to win.
Third-down defense. The Giants converted just 2 of 12 third downs vs. the Eagles in Week 14 and were 0-for-6 in the second half. The Eagles are fourth in the NFL in third-down defense and have held their last three opponents to a 25.0 third-down success rate. The Giants are 18th in third-down offense, but converted 8 of 14 in last week’s win over Washington.