The Eagles will have their original starting offensive line in place for the first time since the fourth game of the season, with Lane Johnson back at right tackle and Allen Barbre at left guard. That could help an offense that has not scored more than two touchdowns since Week 3. The offense will be challenged by a Giants defense that ranks 15th in the NFL, but is third in the NFL in points allowed. The Giants allowed only 13 combined points in the last two weeks.
The Eagles totaled 443 yards against the Giants in a Nov. 6 loss without Johnson, including 364 passing yards by Carson Wentz. However, Wentz threw two interceptions that day. He threw interceptions in each of the last five games. His top target against the Giants was tight end Zach Ertz, who has 25 catches for 271 yards in three December games. Top receiver Jordan Matthews is questionable with an ankle injury, but is expected to play. Matthews needs 208 yards during the final two weeks to reach 1,000 yards.
Giants Pro Bowl cornerback Janoris Jenkins has a back injury that has limited him. Former Eagle Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Eastern High alumnus Eli Apple give the Giants two other formidable cornerbacks. The Eagles must be aware of Pro Bowl safety Landon Collins, who has five interceptions this season. The pass rush will miss Jason Pierre-Paul, who is not expected to play. Olivier Vernon, who has 81/2 sacks, will give left tackle Jason Peters a busy night.
The Eagles had success rushing last week, when Ryan Mathews gained a season-high 128 yards. The Eagles will be challenged by the NFL's sixth-ranked rushing defense, which is anchored by tackle Damon Harrison in the middle of the line.
Darren Sproles will return after missing Sunday's game with a concussion. He will resume his normal duties, and it will be helpful to have him as a receiving back and for his blocking ability. Byron Marshall will be the No. 3 running back. The Giants limited the Eagles to 3.8 yards per carry in the first meeting.
Fourth downs were a major difference in the November loss. The Eagles went 1 of 4 on fourth downs, and were only 3 of 15 on third downs.
The Giants have a Super Bowl-winning quarterback and one of the best wide receivers in the NFL, but they don't have a prolific offense this season. They are ranked 27th with 320.6 yards per game and 24th with 19.4 points per game. However, they are outstanding in close games.
Eli Manning's only four-touchdown game this season came against the Eagles. Two of those touchdown passes went to Odell Beckham Jr., who was limited to only four catches and 46 yards against the Eagles. "Missed opportunities," Beckham said about the first game, although the Eagles wished he would have missed the end zone. Beckham has 85 catches for 1,173 yards and 10 touchdowns. Sterling Shepard and Victor Cruz are also dependable targets, but Beckham is the player who needs to draw the most attention.
Look for the Eagles to continue rotating Nolan Carroll, Leodis McKelvin, and Jalen Mills at cornerback. Safeties Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod, both Pro Bowl alternates, need to have good a game against Manning. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz wants McLeod to show the physicality he exhibited earlier this season.
Because of Manning's quick release, it's difficult to sack him. He has been sacked 20 times this season, and the Eagles were able to get him only once on Nov. 6. They had five sacks in the last two games, but they need more from the edge rushers. The strength of the Giants offensive line is in the interior; the tackles are vulnerable, giving hope to Brandon Graham, Connor Barwin, and Vinny Curry.
The Giants rushed for only 54 yards against the Eagles in the first meeting, and their 81.2 rushing yards rank third-worst in the NFL. It helps when they have left guard Justin Pugh, a Council Rock South graduate. The Giants average nearly 40 more total yards per game in the nine games Pugh played than in the five games he missed, and they had one of their best rushing performances of the season last week with Pugh.
The Giants have not allowed a punt return touchdown this season, although Darren Sproles' 66-yard return in the first game was the longest against them all season.
That was the year the Giants last swept the Eagles in the season series. The Eagles need to beat the Giants on Thursday to prevent a sweep this year. In recent years, the Eagles have had the edge in the matchup. They swept the Giants in 2009, 2010, 2014, and 2015, and won 13 of the last 17 games. But the NFC East has not been kind to coach Doug Pederson, who has yet to win a division game. The Giants last won at Lincoln Financial Field in 2013.
Zach Berman: Giants 21, Eagles 19