The Eagles kick off the day, night New York doubleheader tomorrow afternoon against the Giants at 1 PM. Although the game does not carry the same import as the evening contest, the two football rivals are vying for the early lead in the NFC East. It is the second of 3 consecutive division games, and will likely be the hardest hitting.
With the Giants having lost two in a row, and still smarting from last year's playoff exit at the hands of the Eagles in their own yard, they will surely be looking to make a statement tomorrow. The Eagles have been a little bit bi-polar this season, which makes it difficult to project which version will show tomorrow. They have had some large margin wins, an improbable upset loss to the Raiders, a resounding loss to the high powered Saints and last week's "enough to win" performance in Washington.
The teams come into the game with some recent strengths and weaknesses going head to head against one another. The Giants boast a huge pass rush, while the Eagles have been struggling to protect Donovan McNabb. Conversely, the Eagles have been effective hitting on some long strikes, while the Giants secondary has been torched. Each could exploit the other in a big way, possibly accentuating more of an all or nothing type game when the Birds have the ball.
On the flip side of the ball, Eli Manning has been great against lesser competition, but has been erratic when under pressure. The Eagles also had success against him last year by keeping a strong pass rush in his face all day long. The Giants have a pair of talented running backs, so it is likely they will try to neutralize the Eagles rush and keep the heat off Manning by handing the ball off a good portion of the day.
With the offensive line a little healthier, the Eagles should be able to buy enough time for McNabb to get the ball down field. Brian Westbrook will most likely sit out after suffering a concussion last week, so LeSean McCoy will be heavily tested as a runner and blocker. Look for the Eagles to use Leonard Weaver in that role, and then hit him on screen plays coming out of the backfield. Overall, McNabb will likely throw a lot of screens to his running backs and Jeremy Maclin, use Brent Celek in the middle of the field and then try to exploit the Giants suspect secondary with a couple long strikes to DeSean Jackson and Maclin.
The addition of linebacker Will Witherspoon will greatly aid the Eagles ability to contain the Giants running game. His quickness also helps with putting pressure on Manning. Sean McDermott will take a page from last year's playoff game by putting the heat on Manning and challenging him to make deep throws to the outside part of the field, where his arm strength can sometimes be exposed.
I expect the Eagles to continue the lack of offensive consistency that we have seen, but still be able to hit on some big plays. On defense, they should be able to force some turnovers. At the end of the day, I expect to see the Eagles to feed off the electric atmosphere in Philly and move ahead of the Giants in the NFC East.