Giants offense vs. Eagles defense
Giants quarterback Eli Manning was supposed to be a star by now, but he clearly isn't. In fact, he's nothing more than an average quarterback with a below-average passer rating of 74.2, thanks to a league-leading 17 interceptions.
Manning, however, does seem to be at his best in the fourth quarter. He has led New York to seven fourth-quarter comebacks in his career, including one last week during New York's 21-16 win over Chicago at Soldier Field. Seven of Manning's 17 touchdowns have come in the fourth quarter, and his passer rating is a more-than-respectable 86.3 in the final 15 minutes.
At the moment, Manning doesn't have a lot of healthy weapons. Wide receiver Plaxico Burress has a sore ankle and knee, and leading rusher Derrick Ward was lost for the season to a broken leg in the game against the Bears. Brandon Jacobs will return as the starter at tailback after missing two games with a hamstring injury. Tight end Jeremy Shockey has a strained abdominal muscle.
The Eagles' defense did just fine in the first meeting between the teams, holding the Giants to 212 total yards. Safety Quintin Mikell made his first career start in that game and led the Eagles with 10 tackles. Mikell, who has started five games at free safety and two at strong safety, returns to start at strong safety after missing two games with a sprained knee ligament.
Giants defense vs. Eagles offense
This matchup was the problem for the Eagles in the first meeting. As coach Andy Reid put it Friday, "They whipped our tail the last game, and we know that." The Giants tied an NFL record with 12 sacks, including six by Osi Umenyiora, who abused second-year offensive tackle Winston Justice on his way to flattening quarterback Donovan McNabb. The good news for the Eagles is that Tra Thomas will be responsible for blocking Umenyiora today, and the Giants' talented defensive end has only one sack in six career confrontations with the Eagles' veteran offensive tackle. The Giants, thanks to that first meeting, lead the NFL with 44 sacks, including nine each from defensive ends Justin Tuck and Michael Strahan.
The Eagles did play the first game without star running back Brian Westbrook and tight end L.J. Smith, both of whom will be on the field today. The big question for the offense is how McNabb will perform after missing the last two games with a sprained right ankle and swollen right thumb. The Giants could be without linebacker Antonio Pierce, who was slowed by an ankle injury last week against the Bears.
Rookie Ahmad Bradshaw has been a solid kick returner for the Giants, averaging 23.9 yards per return. The Eagles, with the combination of J.R. Reed and Correll Buckhalter, have shown improvement in the kickoff return game in recent weeks. Neither team has had a good year covering kickoffs. The Eagles are ranked 23d; the Giants are 30th. Lawrence Tynes, in his first season as the Giants' kicker, has hit 18 of 21 field-goal attempts. Jeff Feagles, 41, is one of the best punters in NFL history. Eagles punter Sav Rocca, 34, is one of the best Australian Rules Football players in NFL history.
The Giants are 5-1 on the road, including five straight victories since a season-opening loss at Dallas. The Eagles are 2-4 at home and one loss away from having a losing record at home for the first time in Reid's nine seasons. Not sure what that all means, but it's interesting.