The Eagles are banged up. They suffered five more injuries in Sunday’s loss to the Ravens and will likely be without all five players — running back Miles Sanders, tight end Zach Ertz, defensive tackle Malik Jackson, tackle Jack Driscoll and safety K’Von Wallace. The Sanders and Ertz losses could be the most significant. Backup running backs Boston Scott and Corey Clement haven’t done well when called upon this season, although the sample has been small. Ertz’s production has been down, but with Dallas Goedert still out, the Eagles will have to rely on Richard Rodgers and some guy named Jason Croom as their top two tight ends.
But there may be some important reinforcements. Lane Johnson is expected to return and would obviously more than cancel out the Driscoll injury at right tackle. Wide receiver DeSean Jackson could finally be back from a hamstring strain. And cornerback Avonte Maddox could be healthy enough to start at cornerback again.
The Eagles have done well on Thursday nights under Doug Pederson, having gone 5-0. The Giants should offer a reprieve after two games against tough opponents. They scraped past Washington for their first victory of the season Sunday, but they are lacking in several key areas. Quarterback Daniel Jones is still developing, but not at a fast enough rate. He’s a turnover machine and Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has long owned young, unproven quarterbacks. Schwartz’s unit has uncharacteristically struggled in the red zone this season, but the Giants are among the worst inside the 20 and have scored touchdowns on only 25% of their possessions. Edge: Eagles.
The Giants' defense has kept them in a few games and managed to slow a potent offense like the Rams a few weeks back. It also surrendered 36 and 37 points to the 49ers and Cowboys over the last month. The strength of their unit is up front. Leonard Williams, Davlin Tomlinson and Dexter Lawrence have been particularly stout against the run. Center Jason Kelce has done a remarkable job keeping the Eagles' offensive line from falling apart, but if Jamon Brown has to start at right guard again, quarterback Carson Wentz could be in for another long night.
But if the protection holds up, Wentz should have opportunities downfield. The Eagles have schemed up open receivers the last few weeks, but drops have hurt them. Jackson should help in that regard. And Travis Fulgham can’t be labeled a fluke. He gives Wentz the kind of receiver he can throw the ball up to with confidence. I think this could be the night the struggling quarterback puts it all together. He has shown enough signs the last month that he’s close to looking like the Wentz we’ve become accustomed to.
Could the Eagles lose? Of course. They have done little to be given the benefit of doubt. The Giants have as much to play for as they’re only a game back in the division. But the Eagles, despite the injuries, have more talent and more depth and should have enough to win.
Prediction: Eagles 24, Giants 19
The Eagles aren’t in a position to look down on anyone, even the Giants, especially with Miles Sanders and Zach Ertz missing.
My case for them winning isn’t built on any great talent disparity. It’s based on the importance of this game, for a team whose hopes for the season are built around “well the NFC East is terrible, so why not?” Lose this, I don’t know where you go. I guess you could still say nobody is likely to get very far ahead before the Eagles get some key pieces back and somehow run the table, but that sounds ridiculous, when you really think about it.
Carson Wentz has somehow managed to produce points against the Steelers and the Ravens the last two weeks, playing with guys who ought to be wearing nametags. The Giants' defense is pretty good up front, not so good behind that. Unless the offensive line dissolves into chaos, Wentz ought to be able to move the ball against a team that is giving up a 70.8 opposing passer completion percentage.
The Eagles' defense ought to get good pressure on Daniel Jones. Giants are scoring 16.8 points per game. If they get to 30 against the Eagles, like the Ravens did, well, that would be a problem.
Prediction: Eagles 23, Giants 17
The expected returns of right tackle Lane Johnson and wide receiver DeSean Jackson, and the probable returns of cornerback Avante Maddox, linebacker Duke Riley and safety Marcus Epps isn’t quite the cavalry riding to the rescue of an under-attack wagon train. But it’s close.
While the Giants may be 1-5, the prospect of facing them in a short week with Brett Toth and his 17 offensive snaps worth of experience at right tackle, and without running back Miles Sanders, and without both of their stud tight ends, would’ve been cause for concern.
There still are enough key people missing from the Eagles' lineup to make this a game they definitely could lose. But I don’t think that will happen. The next chapter of the Eagles' season begins Thursday night at the Linc.
Carson Wentz finished Sunday’s close-but-no-cigar loss to the Ravens on a high note, completing 7 of his last 10 passes and looking like Larry Csonka (look him up, kids) on a 40-yard fourth-quarter run.
With Johnson back, and Jordan Mailata doing a solid job at left tackle, and Jackson joining Travis Fulgham and John Hightower to provide additional speed on the outside, and the Giants not having any exceptional cornerbacks, the Eagles should be able to score points. Maybe a lot of them.
And the Eagles' pass rush should be able to make life miserable for Giants quarterback Daniel Jones, who has spent a larger percentage of his dropbacks under pressure this season than any passer in the league. He led the league in fumbles last year, and who knows, even the Eagles might be able to force a couple of turnovers in this game.
Only two things can cost the Eagles a win Thursday night: 1) letting Jones become a stick-mover in the run game; and 2) losing yet another turnover battle. I don’t think either will happen.
Prediction: Eagles 31, Giants 20
Let’s get this out of the way early: The Eagles are a flawed football team and flawed football teams are never a sure thing going into any game, even one against the 1-5 New York Giants, who are without their best player.
That said, the Eagles have shown enough signs of life the last two weeks to believe they’ll take care of business Thursday night. Their defensive line should get constant pressure on the fumble-prone Daniel Jones. He had two fumbles and an interception against the Eagles last December and there’s a good chance those struggles continue Thursday. The second-year player has been one of the most pressured quarterbacks in the NFL, and he’s completing just 47.3% of his passes when under duress, which is in the bottom third of starting QBs.
Offensively, an Eagles attack that has managed to put up points against elite defenses in each of the last two weeks should be able to do so against the Giants. The Giants are the second-worst defense the team has faced, according to Football Outsiders' defensive efficiency metrics. The worst was the Bengals, but Carson Wentz has emerged from his slump since that game. The team may be without several weapons, now including Miles Sanders and Zach Ertz, but the return of Lane Johnson should bring stability back to the offensive line and afford Wentz enough time to make things happen.
The Eagles will need this win if they hope to salvage the season after an abysmal start. They’ve shown enough fight against good teams in the last two weeks to convince me they’ll do enough to get their second win of the season, even though it’s been somewhat difficult to gauge the team’s outlook heading into games this year.