The New York Giants have regrouped since losing to the Philadelphia Eagles last month, winning three straight to forge a tie atop the NFC East. Beating Philadelphia, though, has proved to be a problem for New York.
The Giants will be out to end a five-game skid against the Eagles on Sunday in a matchup that will likely decide the division title and possibly propel the winner to a first-round bye for the playoffs.
These teams enter with 9-4 marks, with Philadelphia beating New York 27-17 at home Nov. 21. The Eagles have the top offense in the NFL at 402.8 yards per game, and the Giants are fourth at 385.4. They are the two best rushing teams in the NFC, as New York averages 148.1 yards to Philadelphia’s 146.1.
"I’ve always said the records really don’t matter when these two teams get together," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "Like I’ve also said, I think it’s kind of neat that both teams are in a position where the game is important this late in the season. It’s a tribute to both teams and how they’ve played."
Last month’s loss triggered a change for New York that has been instrumental in its win streak. Brandon Jacobs replaced Ahmad Bradshaw as the starting running back, and the duo has helped the Giants amass 545 yards for a per-carry average of 6.1 the last three games. Both went over 100 yards with one touchdown in Monday’s 21-3 win over Minnesota.
Philadelphia limited New York to a season-low 61 rushing yards last month.
"Yeah, I mean, their run game is pretty ridiculous," Eagles defensive end Darryl Tapp said. "They have two capable backs. So that’s really something we have to focus on, but you really can’t shy away from playing defense as far as the pass goes."
The Giants, tied for the league lead with 39 sacks, are the only team to hold Michael Vick without a touchdown pass when he has played an entire game this season. Vick threw for 258 yards and ran for 34 and one score in the earlier meeting, and he leads the NFC with a 104.3 rating.
"Michael is playing great football," Giants quarterback Eli Manning said. "He’s exciting to watch whether it’s running, scrambling, or throwing the ball, he’s playing at a very high level. Our defense has a great challenge. That’s why offensively we have to move the ball, get first downs, keep our defense off the field, and get some points."
Manning has produced mixed results, throwing for 24 touchdowns and a league-leading 19 interceptions. Two of the picks were by Asante Samuel in the last matchup, and that’s been a recurring theme of late.
In his last four games against the Eagles, Manning has been intercepted seven times – four by Samuel. The Pro Bowl cornerback leads the league with seven and has returned to practice after missing the last three games with a knee injury.
"He’s just got a great feel out there," Manning said. "He reads the patterns, he reads the quarterback, he jumps things. They let him roam a little bit and do his own thing at times, and he does a great job of taking educated risks."
Manning will be without Pro Bowl receiver Steve Smith, who is out for the season due to a knee injury suffered Monday. Hakeem Nicks returned to action last week after missing two games and had seven catches for 96 yards, while Mario Manningham should be available despite a hip injury.
Philadelphia’s top receiver, DeSean Jackson, missed practice Wednesday with a sprained left foot he sustained in last week’s 30-27 victory at Dallas. Jackson caught four passes for a career-high 210 yards – the most in NFL history for a player making four catches or fewer and third-most receiving in franchise history.
"We think he’s going to be OK here," Reid said, "but we’ll just see how it goes."
The Eagles also got a career-high 149 yards rushing last week from LeSean McCoy, who had a go-ahead 50-yard TD run with 4:25 left last month against New York. The Giants had allowed an average of 143.0 yards on the ground over the three games prior to limiting Adrian Peterson to 26 yards on 14 carries Monday.
If the Giants win their final three games, they will earn at least the No. 2 seed in the NFC. The same holds true for the Eagles if Chicago loses one of its final three.
"We all know the magnitude of the game," Vick said. "We know it’s a big one. Where else would you want to be? What other position would you want to be in?"
The Eagles have not won six in a row over the Giants since a 12-game run from 1975-81.