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Below are 10 things to know about how the Eagles’ offense matches up with the Giants’ defense.
1. If you’re looking for hope that the Eagles can rebound from three straight losses, turn your attention to this side of the ball. The offense is averaging 458.8 yards per game (second) and 6.9 yards per play (first). Football Outsiders has the Eagles ranked as the No. 5 overall offense. The problem? Those numbers aren’t translating into points. The Eagles are putting up 24.8 points per game, which ranks 12th. But Chip Kelly thinks they’re close to busting out. A penalty here, a botched snap there. When Kelly looks at his offense, he sees minor, fixable mistakes and a unit that’s getting closer to reaching its potential.
2. The Giants, meanwhile, are allowing a league-worst 36.5 points per game, the worst mark in the NFL. But the numbers are a bit deceiving. Keeping teams off the scoreboard is difficult when your offense is turning it over four times per game. Football Outsiders has the Giants ranked 22nd – 23rd against the pass and 19th against the run. On the first 10 drives against Kansas City, the Giants forced five punts, came away with three turnovers and gave up one touchdown and a field goal. The Giants are a depleted group, but there is still some talent on that side of the ball.
3. The Eagles are the best rushing team in the NFL. LeSean McCoy leads all backs with 468 rushing yards on the season. Among the 39 players who have notched at least 30 carries, only Ben Tate (6.7) has a higher YPC average than McCoy (6.0). The read option continues to be a major weapon for this offense. According to my charting, the Eagles have run it 63 times for 476 yards through four games and are averaging 7.6 yards per play in those instances. It’s worth noting that Michael Vick has handed the ball off on 57 of 63 read-option plays. But his threat as a runner is certainly helping out. The Eagles’ offensive line is doing a great job of run blocking. And Kelly called for the unbalanced look with Jason Peters and Lane Johnson on the same side quite a bit vs. the Broncos. Opponents are averaging 3.9 yards per carry vs. the Giants (12th).
4. Vick is completing 55.1 percent of his passes (31st). Despite all the talk of this being a high-percentage, get-the-ball-out-quick offense, the Eagles are hitting on a lot of plays downfield in the passing game. Vick is averaging 9.15 YPA, second-best in the NFL. And he’s hit on 23 plays of 20+ yards, tops in the league. Vick threw two interceptions in Week 3 against Kansas City, but has not been picked off in the Eagles’ other three games. The Giants, meanwhile, are limiting opponents to 6.8 yards per attempt (10th). But teams are completing 65.6 percent (24th) of their attempts against New York, and the Giants have allowed a league-high 10 touchdown passes.
5. The Giants are once again a 4-3 team, but are dealing with some injuries up front and have a league-low four sacks on the season. Defensive tackle Linval Joseph has been ruled out with an ankle injury. Former Eagle Cullen Jenkins is questionable with a knee injury. Defensive tackle Shaun Rogers is dealing with a back issue, but is probable. The Giants will use a rotation that includes Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck, Mathias Kiwanuka and former Eagle Mike Patterson. Pierre-Paul has one sack in his last 11 games. He had offseason back surgery and dealt with a knee issue last week, but is probable. He’ll often go up against Jason Peters, who has not played as well the last two weeks after a great start to the season.
Tuck turned 30 in March and has just 9.5 sacks in his last 31 games. He’ll often set up at LDE opposite Lane Johnson, but all the Giants’ defensive linemen move around. Johnson has struggled in pass pro all year, but specifically in the last two games. The rookie should be a much better player in Week 17 than he is now. But the Eagles are hoping for some improvement to show on Sunday.
Todd Herremans showed improvement last week against Denver. Aside from some isolated miscues, Jason Kelce has played well. And Evan Mathis has probably been the team’s most consistent lineman. He seems to be in the middle of every big run play the Eagles produce.
6. The Giants’ linebackers are Mark Herzlich (middle), Keith Rivers (SAM) and Spencer Paysinger (WILL). Paysinger played for Kelly at Oregon.
Asked if Kelly’s NFL offense is similar, he said (via the team’s Web site): “There are some similarities. Some of the runs are still the same, some of the pass concepts are still the same, but for the most part, they have changed things up. Like I said, I’ve been gone for three years, they’ve had a chance to evolve the playbook a little bit more. But, for the most part, it’s still a shadow of itself.”
7. According to Football Outsiders, the Giants rank 21st against opposing tight ends. Brent Celek has seven catches for 131 yards, including four of 20+. He had the big drop in the red zone against the Broncos. Zach Ertz has five catches for 112 yards. Three have gone for 20+, and he’s averaging 22.4 yards per reception. James Casey had his first catch as an Eagle last week. As McManus has pointed out, Eagles tight ends have a combined zero catches in the red zone through four games. Don’t be surprised if Kelly switches up his personnel groupings inside the 20 this week.
8. Given how banged-up the Giants are in the secondary, the Eagles should be able to hit on big plays in the passing game all day long. Cornerback Corey Webster (groin) is doubtful. Aaron Ross (back) is out. So is Jayron Hosley (hamstring). The likely starting corners are third-year player Prince Amukamara and Trumaine McBride, who’s been on four different teams in the last four seasons.
The Broncos and Chiefs played man coverage with a single high safety for much of the game against the Eagles. Not sure the Giants have enough talent to do the same. DeSean Jackson is seventh in the league with 393 receiving yards. Among the NFL’s top-30 receivers (in terms of yards), only Torrey Smith is averaging more yards per catch (Smith is at 20.7; Jackson at 18.7). Smith is the only receiver with more plays of 20+ yards (he has 11; Jackson has eight).
9. The safeties are Antrel Rolle and Ryan Mundy. Rolle has started 52 straight games for the Giants since 2010. Mundy started five games in four seasons with the Steelers before signing with the Giants. Aside from Jackson, Eagles receivers have had a tough time getting open. Among the 84 players who have been targeted at least 15 times, Cooper ranks 72nd according to Football Outsiders’ numbers. His catch rate (receptions per targets) is 44 percent. Cooper has done a good job as a downfield blocker, but offers little else. Jason Avant had one catch for 7 yards last week and has 12 for 146 on the season.
10. On average, opposing offenses are starting drives at their own 32.48 yard line against the Giants. That’s 31st in the league. The Giants are the only team with a worse special-teams ranking than the Eagles, per Football Outsiders. The Eagles are scoring touchdowns 41.7 percent of the time on red-zone trips, 28th in the league. The Giants are 28th in red-zone defense, allowing opponents to score touchdowns 75 percent of the time. …The Eagles are seventh in third-down offense, converting 44.2 percent of the time. The Giants are last in third-down defense, allowing conversions 50 percent of the time.