The Eagles can’t lose this. Can they? In a way, it would be the truest iteration of their 2019 personality, a fitting ending for the team that somehow lost to Detroit at home and at Miami in front of a pro-Eagles crowd. But in recent weeks, we’ve seen more of the personality of the 2018 and 2017 Eagles, who won when they absolutely had to.
I think the Eagles are better offensively than they were Dec. 9 when they needed overtime to beat the Giants at the Linc. But the Giants seem to be better offensively, as well. They’ve scored 36 and 41 points the last two weeks. Saquon Barkley is healthier.
A few weeks ago, I would have said facing rookie quarterback Daniel Jones instead of Eli Manning would be a plus for the Eagles, since Jim Schwartz is at his best when he has a chance to harass and flummox a rookie QB. Then the Dwayne Haskins game happened. Maybe the rookie QB has to be willing to play like a rookie QB. That was not the case with Jones last week vs. Washington, when he completed 28 of 42 passes for 352 yards, with five touchdowns and a 132.1 passer rating.
But, end of the day, the Eagles have to do this, and the Giants really aren’t playing for anything, even Pat Shurmur’s job, you have to think that decision has been made. Taking the Eagles, not feeling like it’s a cinch.
Prediction: Eagles 33, Giants 27
The Eagles are no longer the underdogs. They have a one-game lead in the NFC East heading into a season finale most expect them to win. Unlike last year, they don’t need for another team to lose to punch their ticket into the postseason. I wonder how the Eagles will react to their front-runner status. I wonder if Sunday could be a letdown after the climatic victory over the Cowboys.
But that’s a narrative built upon variables that have little to do with what actually happens on the field. That doesn’t mean I think the Eagles have a clear advantage in terms of personnel, scheme and coaching. Their offense is battered. While some of the turnover has injected life into the unit, the expected absence of tight end Zach Ertz will hurt. Lane Johnson is unlikely again, as well.
The Eagles defense rebounded yet again last week, but the cornerbacks are always susceptible. Daniel Jones has greater upside than Eli Manning, although Jim Schwartz typically confounds rookie quarterbacks. Saquon Barkley is the X factor for the Giants. He seems to be rounding into pre-ankle injury form. The Eagles’ open-field tackling has to be as sound as it was against Dallas.
All that being said, the Eagles have more on the line than the playing-out-the-slate Giants. They have the coaching advantage. And I’m not going to make the same mistake two weeks in a row after I essentially chose Jason Garrett over Doug Pederson. It’ll be close, but a hot Carson Wentz delivers another victory down the stretch.
Prediction: Eagles 24, Giants 23
It’s not that hard to paint a scenario that has the Eagles losing to the Giants on Sunday. Don’t be deceived by the Giants’ 4-11 record.
They’ve won two in a row and had a 17-3 lead on the Eagles three weeks ago before losing in overtime.
The Eagles had Lane Johnson then. They probably won’t have him Sunday. They had Zach Ertz that day. They probably won’t have him Sunday. They had Ronald Darby that day. They definitely won’t have him Sunday.
The Giants didn’t have rookie quarterback Daniel Jones that day. They will have him Sunday, a week after he threw five touchdown passes against Washington.
The Giants aren’t a stick-a-fork-in-them team. Their back-to-back wins, including one over a Miami team that the Eagles couldn’t beat, have given them a purpose. They’re psyched about the prospect of crushing the Eagles’ playoff hopes.
But Carson Wentz is playing some of the best football of his career at the moment and he doesn’t seem to care who he’s throwing the ball to. Miles Sanders is playing at Pro Bowl level. Jordan Howard is expected back.
Jim Schwartz’s defense can’t have the slip-ups it had in the first half of the first Giants game when it gave up 154 yards and two touchdowns to Darius Slayton. His front four needs to have a big game and harass Jones and maybe force a turnover or two. And the whole defense needs to do the same kind of job on Saquon Barkley that it did on Ezekiel Elliott last week.
Prediction: Eagles 30, Giants 23
The Eagles can't lose this game, can they?
They will be the team with everything to play for in the regular-season finale. The New York Giants are headed home for the offseason no matter the outcome, but the Eagles have a playoff berth on the line. As we all know, Pat Shurmur is capable of getting a team ready to win a meaningless game in Week 17, though.
The Giants are playing better since the last time these two teams met. They are winners of two straight games against the Miami Dolphins and Washington. Saquon Barkley is looking like last year’s budding star; he had 189 rushing yards and 90 receiving yards last week at FedEx Field. Daniel Jones is back, and he threw five touchdowns last week.
Still, I'm not sure any of this matters. I don't think the Eagles will roll, but they are also on a winning streak, they have a running back surging at the right time in Miles Sanders, and Carson Wentz is playing at a high level. If they can jump out to an early lead and bottle up Barkley like they did with Ezekiel Elliott last Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys, they'll walk out of MetLifie Stadium with a win.
Zach Ertz’s absence is concerning, but I think it will come down to the Eagles’ defensive front keeping the Giants’ offense uncomfortable by containing Barkley and taking advantage of Jones’ fumbling problems. If the defense holds up well enough, Wentz, Miles Sanders, and Dallas Goedert should be enough to make a difference.