Thursday Night Preview: Can New York Seal A Spot?

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Two NFC East rivals.  A trip to the playoffs on the line.  What more could you want on a Thursday night to start the Christmas weekend of football?  The Giants travel to Philly to face the Eagles in what should be a great battle all night.  With so much intrigue in the matchup, let’s dive into the major headlines.

Can Carson Wentz Turn It Around Against This Giants Defense?

The Eagles narrative hasn’t been great as of late.  They started out 3-0, and many were on the Carson Wentz hype train.  Blowing out the Steelers and downing the then-undefeated Vikings were important wins in what many fans believed could spell a playoff season.  But, the Eagles have lost five in a row, and Wentz hasn’t been as efficient as he was to start out.  There are many factors that have gone into this, from a rougher schedule to mechanics to receiver drops.  In reality, the Eagles weren’t a playoff team from the start.  Their defense has been good, especially at home, but Carson Wentz just hasn’t had a lot of weapons emerge for him this season.

If the Eagles are looking to end 2016 on a positive note, this is not the team they wanted to run into.  The Giants have been red hot on defense as of late, most notably in allowing seven points to the Cowboys. SEVEN.  With all three levels coming together at the right time, it will be tough to move the ball against the Giants.  The key for the Eagles tonight is for the running game to emerge like it did last week against a very good run defense in Baltimore.  Ryan Mathews got the ball 20 times and went over 120 yards against the Ravens.  It is a must to get him going once again, so the Giants have to be honest and respect the run.  Carson Wentz needs the run game to open up the offense and let his arm and athleticism take over.  Wentz has the arm to make throws all over the field.  But, with his receivers not playing up to their potential lately, it will be hard to move the ball against the secondary featuring Janoris Jenkins (UPDATE: he is out tonight with a back injury), Landon Collins, Eli Apple, and DRC.  Wentz will have to take what they give him, and that means a lot of check downs, especially to Darren Sproles and Zach Ertz.  If the Giants have any weakness, it’s on the second level, where guys like Ertz and Jordan Matthews can make it tough for the Giants.  But, this will be a big challenge.

Can the Giants Find Something Offensively Tonight?

Many expected the Giants to be offensively spectacular this season, but Eli and company haven’t lived up to expectations.  The running game hasn’t gotten going all season.  The offensive line has struggled against better defensive lines.  Luckily, Odell Beckham has been at Eli’s disposal all season long, and his splash plays have often closed games out for the Giants.  Now, it’s time for the Giants to find it heading into the postseason.  There have been bright spots this season.  Paul Perkins had 11 carries for 56 yards last week against the Lions, and he will need to continue to find holes for the 30th rushing offense to gain any traction.  Also, Eli needs to utilize his other weapons.  Odell Beckham isn’t the only talented wide receiver on the roster.  Sterling Shepard had some very productive games early in the season, and was a great target in the red zone.  He does need to be in the slot, so his productivity does rely on Beckham and Cruz producing outside, but when he’s used, he doesn’t disappoint.  Will Tye isn’t the most productive tight end the Giants have had, but he can be effective in short and intermediate routes.  Eli will need to utilize everything he has to neutralize the Philly pass rush.

X-Factors

Giants: Damon Harrison

“Snacks” will need to continue to perform the way he has done in the past several weeks if the Giants are able to knock off the Eagles on the road.  He has been one of the best run stopping defensive tackles for a few years now.  His presence in the middle will be key to stuffing Philadelphia’s run game and making Philly one-dimensional.  Also, he can get interior pressure as a pass rusher.  Carson Wentz does well when he can extend plays and get out of the pocket, and it will be up to the Giants front to keep him in the pocket.  Harrison will be a big part every down to stopping the Eagles tonight.

Eagles: Darren Sproles

The guy who can do it all.  Darren Sproles has been effective on offense and special teams his entire career.  The Eagles need to get him as many touches as he can handle.  He doesn’t specialize in running between the tackles, so counters and toss plays will be where he can thrive.  On third down, he becomes very dangerous coming out of the backfield as a receiver.  If the Eagles can get him lined up against a linebacker, they will win that matchup every time.  Don’t forget about Sproles as a returner either.  If he does indeed return punts tonight, the Giants will have to be exceptional on punt coverage.  Sproles has the quickness to make guys miss, and the breakaway speed to turn a return into six points. The Giants will need to find him on the field all night.

The Prediction

The Giants have been red hot, and although they’ve only won in two of their last seven trips to Lincoln Financial, I think they will grind out a victory in a way we haven’t seen them do this season.  It’s time for Paul Perkins to emerge as the feature back for the Giants.  If the Giants can pave any hole, it will be up the middle.  Getting north and south to create manageable second and third downs is important for New York to sustain drives, and even though Philly’s defense is tough, their pass rush on the other side of the ball will neutralize Carson Wentz and company.  Even with Janoris Jenkins out, the receivers won’t have much luck against that secondary.  The Eagles defense will keep this close, but this is a different Giants team than in years past.

Giants 20, Eagles 16

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