Friday, January 9, 2009

RUMBLE IN THE JUNGLE: GIANTS VS. EAGLES PREVIEW

EAGLES (10-6-1) @ GIANTS (12-4): Oh! So now after an unimpressive victory against the Vikings, the Eagles are suddenly this year's version of the 2007 New York Giants. Nothing could be more ridiculous.

Sure there are some parallels: Coach Andy Ried has come under fire for his teams under achieving performances, just like Tom Coughlin did a year ago. Philadelphia fans are ready to run Donavan McNabb out of town, just the way Giant fans were ready to run Eli Manning out of town a year ago before winning the Super Bowl. But to go so far as to claim that an Eagles team that lost to the Redskins three weeks ago, an Eagles team that forgot the overtime rules in a tie against the Bengals at mid-season, an Eagles team that allowed a bad Minnesota Viking team to hang around for three and a half quarters of last weeks wild card game is as hot as the Giants were last year is a total joke. The Eagles are playing good football, but they are not the hottest team in the NFL, that distinction belongs to the San Diego Chargers.

The Eagles have been playing well, mostly because of the superior play of the Eagles defense, and the inspired play of Brian Westbrook. Westbrook rushed for 936 yards in the regular season, had 402 yards receiving this year for a grand total of 14 touchdowns. He has been great and is the main reason that the Eagles are here today.

Defensively, the Eagles were third in the NFL in total defense, allowing only 274.3 yards per game, and have allowed their opponents to convert only 32 percent of their third downs. That is a deadly proposition for Eagle opponents, especially teams that have to rely on the running game like the Giants.

A silent weapon that the Giants will have to keep track of is receiver DeSean Jackson, who led the team with 912 yards receiving and 440 yards on punt returns. He is very fast, and would create a huge field position advantage for Philadelphia if he is allowed to. Expect Giants punter Jeff Feagles to punt away from Jackson.

For the Giants to have success they have to exercise some recent demons. The Giants offense has been exposed because of the loss of Plaxico Burress, and have had no choice but to rely more on the legs of Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward. Against Carolina in week 16, the pair rushed for over 250 yards as the Giants came back to beat the Panthers. The Giants will have to hope that Jacobs and Ward will have similar success against the Eagles tough defense. If their running game is nutrilized by Philadelphia it will be a long day for Eli Manning.

Defensively, expect the Giants to go hard after McNabb. McNabb does not run as well as he used to; he is a bit overweight and is really a pocket passer now as a result. If the Giants can get in his face like they did in a 2007 game when the sacked McNabb nine times in a game, the Giants should be ok.

Expect to see a heavy dose of Brandon Jacobs in this game. He is healthy now, after taking the last two weeks off, so his legs should be fresh. If Jacobs gets going in this game, the Eagles will be cooked. Don't be suprised if the Giants come up with something to corrale Westbrook. Maybe the Giants put an extra man in the box up front, or even put a spy on him. Remember the Eagles have been playing well, but they are not the hottest team in the league. PICK: GIANTS 24, EAGLES 10.

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