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Brookover: Giants win close games, Eagles do not

It was less than seven weeks ago when the Eagles played the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. What happened that day and what has happened since perfectly depict the delicate balance of the NFL.

It was less than seven weeks ago when the Eagles played the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. What happened that day and what has happened since perfectly depict the delicate balance of the NFL.

You could have argued going into the Nov. 6 game between the 4-3 teams that the Eagles were better. You'd have won that argument, too. The Eagles defense had 22 sacks, ranking second in the NFL. The Giants had nine, the second-lowest total in the league.

The Eagles had allowed the fourth-lowest point total, ranked 10th in scoring themselves, and had a hot, young quarterback in Carson Wentz. At that point of the season, Wentz was every bit as much a rookie of the year candidate as Dallas' duo of Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott.

The Giants defense ranked 10th in points allowed but had scored the seventh-lowest point total in the league. Eli Manning was playing just OK and the Giants running game was the worst in football.

Even the outcome - a 28-23 New York victory - did not make you feel much differently about the two teams. The Giants turned two first-quarter Wentz interceptions into touchdowns, but the Eagles were the better team after that, finishing with 141 more yards. The game ended with the Eagles 17 yards away from the winning score.

There was no way to know then that the Eagles would win only one more time ahead of Thursday night's NFC East rematch with the Giants at Lincoln Financial Field. And there was no way to know that the Giants would lose only once in that same stretch.

So why have the teams gone in opposite directions? Why are the 10-4 Giants on the verge of making the playoffs and why are the 5-9 Eagles counting the days until the season ends?

It's a question with several answers, but a good place to start is by looking at New York's ability to win tight games and the Eagles' inability to do the same.

Ten of the Giants' 14 games have been decided by seven points or fewer. The Giants are 8-2 in those games. Six of the Eagles' games have been decided by seven points or fewer and they've lost all of them.

"Obviously they are finishing games better and that's something we are still learning how to do," Wentz said after practice Tuesday.

Some of that probably has to do with Wentz's being a rookie quarterback and Manning's being a 13-year veteran. Manning has led the Giants to five fourth-quarter comebacks this season, giving him 30 for his career. Only Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Dan Marino, John Elway, and Joe Montana have more, according to

Wentz has one fourth-quarterback comeback, and his 69.5 fourth-quarter passer rating is the second worst among quarterbacks who have started all 14 games, according to Stats. The Eagles' problems in close games, of course, go beyond the quarterback.

Manning has a proven playmaker in Odell Beckham Jr.

Wentz has Dorial Green-Beckham. Yes, a cheap shot, but you get the point.

The Giants have a dominant defense that has allowed 13 points in the last two weeks against Dallas and Detroit and the third-lowest point total in the league. The Eagles have a defense that has surrendered an average of 27.8 points in the last five games.

Beckham, in fact, pointed to his team's defense when asked why the Giants have been so successful in tight games.

"It's tough to score on this defense . . . and if you can't put points on the board you aren't going to beat anybody," Beckham said. "Last year we weren't finding ways to win those close games . . . and now we're doing it."

The Giants, with an awful defense, went 3-8 in games decided by seven points or fewer a year ago, so maybe there is hope for the Eagles a year from now. It would not hurt their cause if they could beat the Giants on Thursday, especially since New York needs a win to clinch a playoff spot.

"We've beaten ourselves in a lot of games and for next year we've got to start the new trend of not beating ourselves," defensive end Brandon Graham said. "We haven't won against an NFC East opponent this year, and that hasn't happened since I've been here."

All the numbers since the Eagles' November loss in North Jersey indicate that the Giants are the much better team going into Thursday's game, but Graham still believes his team is every bit as good.

"Yep, I believe that," he said. "I believe we can go out there and dominate if we just take it one play at a time."

There's really no reason to believe that as another disappointing season comes to a close for the Eagles, but there was little reason seven weeks ago to believe the Giants would show up in Philadelphia three days before Christmas with a 10-4 record.