Who will win this NFC East showdown?
The NFC East very well could be the best division in football with all four teams above .500 and the Cowboys boasting the best record in the conference. When it’s all said and done on Sunday, though, at least one team will fall back to the .500 mark. That’s because the Giants and Eagles are squaring off with second place on the line.
The Eagles will make the short trip to MetLife Stadium for the teams’ first meeting of the season (1 p.m. ET on FOX). The Giants are fresh off of a bye, but they’ve struggled offensively this season, despite having Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr.
Philadelphia has looked like the better team through eight weeks, but we’ll see if that’s actually true Sunday. I believe it will be, and here are three reasons why.
Getty Images Getty Images
Brandon Graham will wreak havoc on the right side of New York’s line
Whether it’s Marshall Newhouse or Bobby Hart starting at right tackle for New York, Brandon Graham is going to dominate. Graham has played extremely well through seven games, recording four sacks and a forced fumble. He’s emerged as one of the best 4-3 defensive ends in the league.
Last week against the Cowboys, Graham had 11 pressures, which is the most for any edge defender this season. He’s also the highest-graded edge player through eight weeks, per Pro Football Focus. No matter whom he’s lined up against, he’s caused significant problems for the quarterback.
The right tackle position has been a trouble spot since Newhouse went down with an injury, and it will continue to be an issue on Sunday. If Graham has his way with either Newhouse or Hart, Eli Manning will struggle to remain poised and clean in the pocket.
The Giants won’t win the turnover battle
New York is 28th in turnover differential, coming into this game with a minus-7 mark. The Giants have taken the ball away just seven times in seven games, and that’s including last week’s four picks of Case Keenum and the Rams. Bottom line: They don’t force turnovers to give the offense extra positions. It’s been their Achilles’ heel all season despite revamping the defense with Janoris Jenkins, Eli Apple, Olivier Vernon and Damon Harrison.
Philadelphia, on the other hand, doesn’t turn the ball over. The Eagles have given it away just seven times, tied for the ninth fewest in the league. This could spell a recipe for disaster, given the way Carson Wentz and the Eagles protect the ball. In order for the Giants to produce offensively, they’ll need to create turnovers and give Eli Manning extra possessions.
If the Giants can’t pick off a pass or two, or knock the ball out of Ryan Mathews’ or Darren Sproles’ hands, they won’t win this game. The defense has to step up.
Associated Press Matt Ludtke
New York is one-dimensional on offense
Part of the reason New York needs to force turnovers is because the offense is so very stagnant. Despite having Eli Manning, Odell Beckham Jr., Victor Cruz and Sterling Shepard, the Giants are 21st in the league with 2,527 yards of total offense. For a team that talented and that stacked at wide receiver, that’s unacceptable. They’ve become one-dimensional since RB Shane Vereen’s Week 3 injury.
And let’s not forget, he still leads the team in rushing (147 yards) despite missing the past four-plus games. That just goes to show the lack of depth they have behind him at running back. Since Vereen went down, they have yet to rush for more than 78 yards in a game, totaling just 117 in the past three contests. There’s no excuse for that — even if their running backs are underwhelming.
The Eagles, who are great against the run, won’t need to sell out to stop the Giants’ non-existent ground game, which means they won’t be fooled by play-action. Their linebackers can sit back and play the pass while the defensive line shuts down Rashad Jennings, Orleans Darkwa and Paul Perkins. There won’t be much room to run, forcing Manning to throw it more than he should.
USA TODAY Sports Bruce Kluckhohn