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How the Eagles and Giants match up for Thursday’s NFC East clash at the Linc

Ready or not, the Eagles begin a key three-game stretch against NFC East opponents. Can the Birds overcome all those injuries?

Eagles wide receiver Travis Fulgham couldn't make this catch in the end zone Sunday against the Ravens.
Eagles wide receiver Travis Fulgham couldn't make this catch in the end zone Sunday against the Ravens.Read moreYONG KIM / Staff Photographer

The injury-battered Eagles begin three straight games against NFC East opponents Thursday when they host the Giants at the Linc.

Here’s how things match up:

When the Eagles run the ball

The Eagles will be missing their top running back Thursday. Miles Sanders injured a knee in Sunday’s loss to the Ravens and won’t be available. Sanders is averaging 6.1 yards per carry, the highest average in the league among running backs with at least 50 carries. The Eagles rushed for 194 yards against the Ravens on Sunday. But 114 of those yards came on two runs: a 74-yarder by Sanders and a 40-yard scramble by Carson Wentz.

Against a Giants defense that is fifth in the league in opponent rush average (3.7), they’re going to be hard-pressed to establish the run without Sanders, who has 71 of 88 rushing attempts by Eagles RBs in the last five games. Boston Scott and Corey Clement barely played in Weeks 4 and 5. Scott played 35 snaps Sunday after Sanders got hurt but had just two carries for four yards.

» READ MORE: Eagles’ injury woes a three-year trend after medical staff shakeup

Wentz needs to continue to be a chain-moving part of the run game. He has 15 rushing first downs this season, just six fewer than last season and the third most in the league among quarterbacks, behind only Kyler Murray (23) and Cam Newton (20).

After giving up 276 yards to the Steelers and Bears in their first two games, the Giants have held their last four opponents to 3.3 yards per carry. That includes the 49ers (2.7) and the Rams (2.5). The Rams rushed for 191 yards against the Eagles in Week 2. The Giants are third in opponent rush average on first down. The Eagles are 30th in first-down rush average (3.3). Scott has averaged 2.1 yards per carry on 12 first-down carries.

EDGE: Giants

When the Eagles throw the ball

Wentz took one of the worst beatings of his career vs. the Ravens. He was sacked or hit on 18 of his 46 dropbacks. He was under pressure on 51% of his dropbacks but still managed to rally the Eagles from an 18-point, fourth-quarter deficit and come within a failed two-point try of sending the game to OT. He completed seven of his final 10 passes for 74 yards and a TD after completing just 14 of his first 30 attempts.

Playing behind an injury-ravaged offensive line, Wentz has been sacked a league-high 25 times already. His 58.7% completion rate is the worst in the league. His nine interceptions are two more than he had the entire 2019 season. His receiving corps, like his offensive line, has been hit hard by injuries. He might get DeSean Jackson back this week, which would help.

» READ MORE: History favors the Eagles on Thursday against the Giants. It’s the Doug Pederson way. | Mike Sielski

The one consolation from the injuries has been the progress made by two young receivers, Travis Fulgham and fourth-round rookie John Hightower. Fulgham, called up from the practice squad earlier this month, has 18 catches for 284 yards and three TDs in his first three games. He has a 69.2% catch rate in those games. Wentz connected with Hightower on a 50-yard completion Sunday.

The Giants have two good safeties in veteran Logan Ryan and Jabrill Peppers, but their corners aren’t very good. They are 23rd in opponent passer rating (100.8), 29th in opponent completion percentage (.709) and 21st in opponent yards per attempt (7.5), despite a pass rush that has the league’s 11th-most sacks (15). Defensive end Leonard Williams and linebacker Kyler Fackrell each have three.

EDGE: Eagles

When the Giants run the ball

Like the Eagles, the Giants will be missing their top RB. Saquon Barkley suffered a season-ending ACL injury in Week 2. They signed ex-Falcon Devonta Freeman right after Barkley went down. He is averaging just 3.2 yards on 51 carries but had his two most productive performances the last two weeks, rushing for 61 yards on 18 carries in Sunday’s win over Washington and 60 yards on 17 carries a week earlier vs. Dallas.

The Giants are 30th in the league in rushing (87.8) and 23rd in rush average. Their leading rusher through six games is QB Daniel Jones, whose 204 rushing yards on 27 carries represent nearly 40% of the Giants' ground production. The Giants have just 13 runs of 10 yards or more, fifth fewest in the league. Jones has seven of them. Ten of Jones' 27 runs have produced first downs, so the Eagles need to account for him. Maybe not as much as Lamar Jackson on Sunday, but their front four needs to be disciplined with its pass rush. The Giants also have used Jones on read-option plays.

» READ MORE: Fans are back at the Linc for Eagles home games. Here’s what you need to know.

The Eagles are 21st in run defense (125.5) but tied for eighth in opponent rush average (4.1). They gave up 182 rushing yards to the Ravens, but 108 of them were by Jackson. They have been very effective against opposing RBs, holding them to 3.3 yards per carry.

It’s been misdirection plays vs. wide receivers, and Sunday, Jackson’s elusiveness, that have given them trouble. The Eagles have yielded a league-high 10 rushing touchdowns, including eight in the red zone. Last year, they gave up 10 rushing TDs in the red zone the entire season.

EDGE: Eagles

When the Giants throw the ball

Losing Barkley was a blow to not only the Giants' run game but the passing game as well. He had 143 receptions in 2018-19. The Giants might get their top wideout, Sterling Shepard, back Thursday, which would be a huge boost to their offense. Shepard suffered a toe injury in Week 2 and has been on injured reserve.

Jones, in his second NFL season, is 31st in the league in passing (71.0) and has thrown just three touchdown passes in 201 pass attempts. He’s 29th in yards per attempt (6.1) and 26th in completion percentage (.612). Speedy Darius Slayton has been the Giants' most effective receiver. He has a team-high 25 catches and three TDs and is averaging 16.2 yards per catch. In two games vs. the Eagles late last season, Slayton had nine catches for 204 yards and two TDs. So they know how dangerous he can be. He already has had two 100-yard receiving games this season, including an eight-catch, 129-yard performance vs. the Cowboys. Ex-Eagle Golden Tate is Jones' favorite third-down target. Ten of Tate’s 19 catches have been on third down.

» READ MORE: The secrets of Travis Fulgham’s wild and unlikely journey to the Eagles | Mike Sielski

The Eagles this year have been playing primarily man coverage, which could present some running opportunities for Jones. They are 24th in opponent passer rating (103.4) and 25th in opponent completion percentage but are fourth in sacks with 21. The Eagles use primarily a four-man rush to get pressure on the quarterback. They blitzed Jackson just once on 30 pass plays. In their last three games, they’ve blitzed on just 10.4% of their opponents' pass plays.

The Eagles moved Jalen Mills back to safety Sunday, and he spent much of the game covering Ravens tight end Mark Andrews. He held Andrews to two catches for 21 yards. Mills likely will be primarily responsible for Giants tight end Evan Engram.

EDGE: Eagles

» READ MORE: At the NFL trade deadline, the Eagles must protect Carson Wentz and target the offensive line | David Murphy

Special teams

Jake Elliott has made 7 of 10 FG attempts this season. He missed a 52-yarder in the Eagles' two-point loss to the Ravens. He also missed a 53-yarder vs. Washington in Week 1, and a 57-yarder vs. Pittsburgh in Week 5. Punter Cam Johnston is second in gross average (50.9) and fourth in net (44.9) yardage.

Because of the distance he’s been getting on his punts, 19 of 27 have been returned. The Eagles are 13th in punt coverage (6.5). In the Eagles' first four games, Johnston had 19 punts. Just four resulted in opponent drive starts at the 35-yard line or better. In the last two games, he’s had eight punts. Five have had drive starts at the 35 or better.

» READ MORE: At the NFL trade deadline, the Eagles must protect Carson Wentz and target the offensive line | David Murphy

Greg Ward has been handling punt returns with Jalen Reagor out. He has dependable hands but is averaging just 4.9 yards per return.

Giants kicker Graham Gano has made 15 of 16 FG attempts this year, and has missed just 4 of 62 FG attempts over the last three seasons. His only miss this year was a 57-yard attempt vs. Chicago in Week 2. He has since made 15 in a row, including four from 50-plus yards. Punter Riley Dixon is 20th in gross average (45.1) and 17th in net (40.9).

But the Giants are fourth in punt coverage (4.9). Just seven of Dixon’s 18 attempts have been returned. He’s put nine inside the 20. Tate is handling punt returns for the Giants. He’s averaging 10.0 yards per return. The Giants are averaging 11.4 yards per return overall.

EDGE: Giants


The Eagles are coming off their most physical game of the season in which their franchise quarterback got sacked or knocked down 18 times, and now have to play again on three days' rest. Oh, well, at least it’s at home.

EDGE: Giants


Eagles 27, Giants 17

Key matchups

Eagles DEs Derek Barnett and Josh Sweat vs. Giants LT Andrew Thomas: Thomas, the fourth overall pick in the April draft, has struggled. He’s already given up four sacks and 31 total QB pressures. Barnett and Sweat could make this a long night for Thomas. ADVANTAGE: Eagles

Eagles WR Travis Fulgham vs. Giants CBs James Bradberry, Ryan Lewis, and S Jabrill Peppers: Fulgham has 18 catches and three TDs and is averaging 15.8 yards per catch in his first three games with the Eagles. ADVANTAGE: Eagles

Eagles OTs Jordan Mailata and Lane Johnson vs. Giants OLBs Markus Golden and Kyler Fackrell: It appears that Johnson, who missed last week’s game with an ankle issue, will return, which will give the line a big boost. Mailata continues to impress on the other side. ADVANTAGE: Eagles

Keys to the game

A complete performance from Carson. Wentz finished strong against Baltimore, completing seven of his last 10 passes after a 14-for-30 start. He needs to put four solid quarters together Thursday night. In the Eagles' last five games, he’s thrown just one touchdown pass in the first half. One.

Don’t let Daniel run. Jones is the Giants' leading rusher. He’s not Lamar Jackson, but he can move the chains with his legs. The Eagles need to keep him contained.

Turnover time. The Eagles are 31st in turnover differential (minus-7). They have just five takeaways, including only two interceptions, in their first six games. Jones led the league in lost fumbles as a rookie.