When the Eagles run
The Eagles had one of their best rushing games of the season in their Oct. 12 win over New York, and the Giants have not been much better stopping the run since. This could be another good game for Pro Bowl running back LeSean McCoy, who averaged 4 yards per carry in the last two games and had 149 rushing yards in the first meeting against the Giants. McCoy has 1,220 yards this season and is 90 yards from the second-best rushing total of his career. Darren Sproles was productive running the ball last week, and Mark Sanchez even held on to the ball for some carries.
The Giants have the NFL's 30th-ranked rush defense. Their top run defender is defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins. Former Eagles Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson also have key roles. The Giants will miss starting linebacker Devon Kennard. He likely will be replaced by Conestoga High alumnus Mark Herzlich. The Giants' top tackler is George Washington High product Jameel McClain.
When the Eagles pass
The Eagles kept Sanchez as the starting quarterback this week. He was effective last week in the loss to Washington before throwing a costly interception late in the game. Sanchez will try to get his record as an Eagle back to .500, and he has a good matchup to do so. The Giants are No. 17 in the NFL in pass defense and have allowed the fourth-most yards per attempt.
Jeremy Maclin had his worst game of the season against the Giants in the first meeting, and he has not been the same receiver since Sanchez took over. He has 1,269 yards this season and is 141 yards away from breaking Mike Quick's single-season team record. With 82 receptions, Maclin is nine catches from breaking Brian Westbrook's team single-season receptions record.
Tight end Zach Ertz put his name into the record books last week with his 15-catch outing while playing 78 percent of the snaps. The Eagles liked the matchup against the linebackers last week. This week will be a good gauge of whether Ertz can play more regardless of matchup; he played only 42 percent of the snaps in the first game against New York.
The Giants have lost some key pieces in their secondary this season. Former Eagles cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will draw Maclin. They do not have much depth behind him, with Chykie Brown and Zack Bowman the other top options. Safety Antrel Rolle is a stalwart.
The top pass rushers are Hankins and Jason Pierre-Paul. Pierre-Paul has 101/2 sacks, but he struggled against Jason Peters in the first meeting.
When the Giants run
The Giants rank No. 22 in the NFL with 101.8 rushing yards per game. They were held to 86 yards and 3.6 yards per carry in the first game against the Eagles, although they also missed starter Rashad Jennings. Jennings is back this week, but Andre Williams is questionable with a shoulder injury. Jennings has 607 rushing yards this season. Williams has 678 yards. The Giants have been carried by their passing game in recent weeks, and the Eagles' rush defense is better than their pass defense, so this is likely not a matchup that the Giants will look to exploit.
The Eagles kept Washington to 3.4 yards per carry and have allowed opponents over 4 yards per carry only once in the last five games. The top rush defender has been Fletcher Cox, who was snubbed in the Pro Bowl balloting.
When the Giants pass
This is the matchup Eagles fans should worry about most. Giants quarterback Eli Manning and rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. have been scorching in recent weeks. Manning has completed 64.1 percent of his passes this season with 29 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He is 19 yards from his fourth 4,000-yard season. Since throwing five interceptions on Nov. 16, Manning has passed for 11 touchdowns with only one interception. That has coincided with the emergence of Beckham, whom Eagles coach Chip Kelly considered the top wide receiver in the draft.
After missing the first four games, Beckham has become a household name. He has 79 catches for 1,120 yards and 11 touchdowns in 11 games. During the last three games, Beckham has averaged 10.3 catches, 140.3 yards, and two touchdowns. That could cause nightmares for an Eagles defense that has struggled against top receivers.
The Giants lost Victor Cruz for the year in the first meeting against the Eagles. Reuben Randle has been inconsistent as the other starting receiver, although he's coming off a 132-yard performance. Tight end Larry Donnell can cause problems if the Eagles defense does not account for him.
The spotlight will be on the Eagles secondary. Bradley Fletcher was benched last week and is questionable for Sunday with a hip injury. If Fletcher does not start, Nolan Carroll will likely get the nod. Beckham can play on both sides, so Cary Williams will also see him on Sunday. Eagles safeties Malcolm Jenkins and Nate Allen will also help in coverage.
The key for the Eagles will be generating a pass rush. They had eight sacks against Manning in the first meeting. Right tackle Justin Pugh, a Council Rock South alumnus, had his worst game of the season that day. Pugh must block Barwin, who has 141/2 sacks this season. Trent Cole is expected to play after missing last week's game with a broken hand.
Darren Sproles made his first Pro Bowl and has been the NFL's top punt returner this season. The Giants have struggled in punt coverage, but their kick return coverage is among the best in the league. The Giants have been middle-of-the-pack in the return game and have not scored a touchdown in that area. Eagles kicker Cody Parkey, missed two key field goals last week. Giants kicker Josh Brown has missed only two field goals.
Neither team can make the postseason, but the Giants are the hotter team. They have won three in a row and have averaged 32.3 points while allowing only 15.7 points during that span. The Eagles have lost three consecutive games, allowing 29.7 points against their 21.7 points per game. Kelly is eager to finish the season with a win and ruled out playing any reserves for the purpose of evaluation. The two teams have split the matchup in each of the last three seasons.