8:20 PM EST, NFL Network – Line: Eagles -3, Over/Under: 44.5
Bitter division rivals face off tonight in the Meadowlands as the New York Giants host the reigning Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles, form MetLife Stadium, in a matchup featuring two teams dangerously close to hitting the proverbial panic button. After securing their first Lombardy Trophy in Franchise History, the Eagles (2-3 2nd in NFC East) have stumbled through the first quarter of their title defense, losing back-to-back to games for the first time since 2016. Needless to say, the healthy return of Carson Wentz (67.2%, 304.7 Y/G, 6.16 NY/A, 5 TD, 1 INT, 49.4 QBR) hasn’t been the remedy that Doug Pederson and his Staff had hoped, for what ails Philadelphia runs far deeper than the play they’ve received under Center. In fact, Wentz has exceeded expectations since returning to action in Week Three after a long road of rehabilitation following a heartbreaking ACL Tear that sidelined him throughout his team’s Super Bowl run. The third-year Quarterback has performed well in spite of the past two losses, throwing for over 300 Yards with a pair of Touchdowns while completing well over 65.0% of his Attempts in each defeat, though the Offense that he’s been charged with piloting has looked like a shell of it’s 2017 predecessor. Through five contest, Pederson’s charges are averaging just 20.6 Points (25th Overall) on 386.8 Total Yards (20th Overall), including 276.0 Yards through the air (19th Overall) on 5.7 Net Yards per Attempt (27th Overall), along with 110.8 Yards on the ground (16th Overall) on 4.4 Yards per Carry (11th Overall). Granted, those numbers, particularly the yardage, may not seem like a problem, but as usual, the devil is always in the details, folks; in addition to struggling to stretch the field at a disappointing 5.70 Net Yards per Attempt (though that is admittedly a bit weighted due tot eh play of Nick Foles), the Eagles have found themselves o the wrong side of Turnover Differential (Minus-4), while proving to be very inefficient in two areas that they were excellent in a year ago, Third Down Conversion Rate (37.7%) and Red Zone Touchdown Percentage (52.6%), ranking Twenty-Third and Eighteenth respectively. To put things into proper perspective, the finished the 2017 campaign Plus-11 in Turnover Differential, Eighth on Third Down (41.7%), and tops in the league when they reached the Red Zone (65.5%). So what’s been the problem on this side of the football for Pederson & Co. you ask? Well, it’s been many factors, with the departure of Assistant Coaches such as former Offensive Coordinator Frank Reich (now the Indianapolis Colts’ Head Coach) and Quarterbacks Coach John DeFilippo (now the Minnesota Vikings’ Offensive Coordinator) certainly playing a role, along with a serious rash of injuries that have really robbed this unit of some significant pieces. Mike Wallace (Shin) landing on Injured Reserve has taken away one of their few vertical threats, while Jay Ajayi’s (45 CAR, 184 YDS, 4.1 Y/R, 3 TD) Torn ACL threatens to decimate an underachieving Rushing Attack. This could really be an issue moving forward for Philadelphia, who despite welcoming back 35-Year Old veteran Tailback Darren Sproles for tonight’s contest, are dangerously thin in the Backfield, with a banged up Corey Clement (27 CAR, 112 YDS, 4.1 Y/R, 1 TD) and Wendell Smallwood (25 CAR, 150 YDS, 6.0 Y/R, 1 TD) expected to shoulder the load. This lack of balance was on full display in last weekend’s 21-23 defeat at home to the Minnesota Vikings, a rematch of last year’s NFC Championship Game, a matchup that the Eagles absolutely owned 38-7 back in January. Trailing 3-20 late in the Third Quarter, the Hosts managed to make things interesting in the final stanza, though it was simply a case of too little too late for the defending champs. Philadelphia grounded out Eighty-One Yards on just Seventeen Carries, while converting just 2-of-9 Third Downs, with the Vikings coming after Wentz thanks to their abandonment of the run, sacking him three times and forcing a fumble to boot. Perhaps a meeting with the Giants will turn things around for this team, for they’ve taken each of the past three meetings with Big Blue, and seven of the last eight overall.
Meanwhile, as bad as things have been of late for the Eagles, they could always be worse, for they could find themselves in the position of the Giants (1-4, 4th in NFC East), who five games into what was supposed to be a step in the right direction from last year’s train-wreck, are once again in the cellar of the NFC East. New York underwent major changes in the Offseason, with a new General Manager in the form of Dave Gettleman, (thankfully) a new Head Coach in the form of Pat Shurmur, along with a new Defensive Coordinator in the guise of James Bettcher, and a new face of the franchise named Saquon Barkley, whom they selected with the No. 2 Overall Pick in the NFL Draft coupled with the healthy return of All-Pro Receiver Odell Beckham Jr. However, the transition to this brand new era in Gotham City has been slow to pick up steam thus far, with the Offense stumbling out of the gate once more thanks to a lack of balance and (surprise, surprise) poor Pass-Protection, and a Defense that is trying to adapt to a new scheme. But hey, all everyone seems to keep pointing at is the Offense, so let’s start there, shall we? After his overly-derided predecessor was finally put out of his misery, Shurmur’s hiring was lauded by the fan base, for the longtime Playcaller is one of the most respected at his position in the coaching ranks, though this particular unit has proven to be a tough nut to crack for the offensive maestro. New York has averaged just 20.8 Points (23rd Overall) on 363.2 Total Yards (25th Overall), while sorely lacking balance in the act of gaining 287.6 Yards through the air (17th Overall) on 6.4 Net Yards per Attempt (17th Overall), but mustering a scant 75.6 Yards on the ground (28th Overall) on 3.9 Yards per Carry (23rd Overall). Frankly, the playcalling hasn’t changed much, for at just 19.6 Attempted Carries, the G-Man rank next-to-last in the league. Again, the Offensive Line has been a mess, with Gettleman and Shurmur quickly parting ways with turn-style Offensive Tackle Ereck Flowers, putting an end to the former First Round Bust’s tenure with the franchise. However, Starting Center Jon Halapio (Ankle) has already landed on Injured Reserve, while Flowers’ replacement, Chad Wheeler (Hand) had to leave last weekend’s 31-33 loss at the Carolina Panthers prematurely, and is Questionable for tonight’s contest with the Eagles. It’s disappointing to say the least, for this Position Group, received quite a makeover in the Offseason, and their struggles have created a negative ripple-effect across the Offense as a whole, diminishing the impact made by Barkley (102 Touches, 582 Total YDS, 5.7 Y/T, 5 TD), and most notably Beckham (39 REC, 462 YDS, 11.8 Y/C, 1 TD). Of course, the often outspoken Receiver made waves with his interview earlier in the week openly chastising the playcalling, and most notably the play of his Quarterback Eli Manning. Granted, Manning’s (71.7%, 276.2 Y/G, 6.18 NY/A, 6 TD, 3 INT, 55.2 QBR) play has left a lot to be desired thus far, with many lamenting the Two-Time Super Bowl MVP’s eroding poise in the Pocket doing little but hold back the talented playmakers that surround him. With that said, Manning is now 37-Years Old, and at this point of his career, it’s unreasonable to believe that he’s going to be able to make much happen behind an Offensive Line that has allowed him to be sacked a whopping sixteen times already, or in other words, on a staggering 7.9% of his dropbacks, which would be by far and away a career-worst for the veteran Signal-Caller. Before last Sunday’s trip to Carolina, he had suffered at least Three Sacks in all but one of the previous four outings, including SIX in a 13-20 primetime loss at the Dallas Cowboys. However, there may be reason for optimism after all, for in the aforementioned defeat to the Panthers, Manning turned in easily his best performance of the year, completing 22-of-36 Attempts for 326 Yards, with a pair of Touchdowns and Interceptions, all the while taking just One Sack in leading the visiting side back from an 11-Point Deficit to take a late 31-30 lead with just 1:06 left to play. Unfortunately, Panthers Kicker Graham Gano drilled a shocking 63-Yard Field Goal as time expired, halting any momentum their opponent managed to create.