Here are Daily News staff predictions for today's huge game between the Eagles and the Giants at the New Meadowlands Stadium:
I'm picking the Eagles here, because they've matched up pretty well with the Giants ever since Steve Spagnuolo left for St. Louis. There are plenty of good reasons not to - New York is at home, playing really well offensively and defensively. Jamar Chaney is the Eagles' middle linebacker, not Stew Bradley, who might have played his best game of the season last month against the Giants. And while it looks as if DeSean Jackson and Asante Samuel will play for the Eagles, it isn't clear either will be full strength.
The way things tend to go in Eagles Nation, you'd think maybe the Birds would lose this game, sending the entire region into a panic, then beat the Vikings and Cowboys for an 11-5 season and a playoff berth, probably a wild card, which would mean going on the road.
But I don't know whether the Giants are as good as they seem to think they are. I've read quotes from there this week that the Giants "should have won" the earlier matchup. Didn't look that way to me. Yeah, the Eli Manning fumble was a stroke of blind luck, but Eagles receivers dropped two touchdown passes and a really iffy pass-interference penalty set up a New York touchdown at a time when the Giants were doing nothing offensively. And how often will Asante fumble away an interception?
The Eagles have passed a lot of gut checks lately. I have to figure they'll pass this one, which they know is the most important so far.
Prediction: Eagles 27, Giants 26.
This almost is a flip-a-coin game. You can make a pretty good case for either team winning or losing.
Last week, I said the Eagles had to win the turnover battle and neutralize the ground game to beat Dallas. They split turnovers, 2-2, including a key late interception by Dimitri Patterson, and did a very good job shutting down Cowboys running backs Felix Jones and Tashard Choice, even after losing middle linebacker Stewart Bradley to a dislocated elbow early in the second quarter.
Pretty much the same thing applies Sunday. They must win the turnover battle and they must stop the Giants' red-hot running game.
The first, I think they'll do. The Giants lead the league in giveaways, thanks largely to Eli Manning's 19 interceptions. But Mike Vick can't afford to get careless with the football against Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck, who have forced 13 fumbles.
Whether they can slow down the Giants' ground game is the big question. Bradley's replacement, Jamar Chaney, will have a target on his back as the Giants' finally healthy offensive line tries to get to the second level to take him out. But they must get past Eagles defensive tackles Antonio Dixon and Mike Patterson first, and they're playing as well as any DT tandem in the NFL right now.
If the Eagles can slow down the run, they will win. I don't think they'll hold New York to 61 yards again, but I think they'll keep the Giants under 120, which will be good enough.
Prediction: Eagles 20, Giants 17.
Ed Barkowitz: Giants, 23-17
Bill Conlin: Eagles, 13-10
Marcus Hayes: Eagles, 28-20
John Smallwood: Eagles, 20-17
Vegas Vic: Eagles, 28-24
1. Eagles RT Winston Justice or King Dunlap vs. Giants LDE Justin Tuck: Tuck had three sacks in first meeting. He has 8 1/2 overall to go with three forced fumbles. Justice missed last week's game with a knee injury, and had his share of problems with Tuck the first time when he was healthy. Advantage: Giants
2. Eagles WRs DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin vs. Giants CBs Corey Webster and Terrell Thomas: Jackson and Maclin have combined for 27 catches, 473 yards and three TDs in the last three games vs. Giants. Advantage: Eagles
3. Eagles MLB Jamar Chaney vs. Giants RBs Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw: Chaney, a seventh-round rookie, is making his first NFL start, in place of injured Stewart Bradley. Jacobs and Bradshaw have combined for 419 rushing yards in the last two games. Advantage: Giants
To read the full scouting report, click here.
NFC PLAYOFF PICTURE
Entering Week 15, no NFC teams have clinched a playoff spot. Four teams can this week:
Atlanta clinches a playoff spot with:
ATL win or tie OR
NYG loss or tie OR
CHI loss or tie OR
GB loss or tie
Chicago clinches NFC North division with:
CHI win + GB loss
New Orleans clinches a playoff spot with:
NO win + TB loss or tie + NYG loss or tie OR
NO win + TB loss or tie + CHI loss or tie OR
NO win + TB loss or tie + GB loss or tie OR
NO tie + TB loss + GB loss OR
NO tie + TB loss + NYG loss + CHI loss
New York Giants clinch a playoff spot with:
NYG win + CHI loss + GB loss + TB loss + NYG clinch strength of victory tiebreaker over TB