NFC East

5 matchups to watch as Eagles visit Giants in Week 17

5 matchups to watch as Eagles visit Giants in Week 17

The Eagles (8-7) are coming off a big 17-9 win over the Cowboys and will face the Giants (4-11) coming off a shootout overtime win over the Redskins. 

With a win, the Eagles would clinch the NFC East. 

Let’s get to the matchups: 

Daniel Jones vs. Jim Schwartz 

When these two teams played in Week 14, the Eagles faced Eli Manning. But now Jones is healthy again and is coming off the best game of his young career. Against the Redskins, Jones completed 28 of 42 passes for 352 yards, 5 touchdowns and no interceptions. He was great. 

“Like a lot of rookie players he has his ups and downs, but he's playing his best late in the season,” Jim Schwartz said. “I don't know if it had anything to do with sort of — a lot of times rookies can get in there and take a step back. He took a step back for a couple weeks, watched; sometimes that benefits guys.”

Since taking over as defensive coordinator in Philly, Schwartz is 5-1 against starting rookie quarterbacks (Dak Prescott x2, C.J. Bethard, Mitchell Trubisky, Luke Falk, Dwayne Haskins). The only loss came to Prescott back in 2016. But Haskins was pretty good against the Eagles a couple weeks ago, throwing for 261 yards and two touchdowns. 

Saquon Barkley vs. Eagles’ linebackers 

Schwartz said he thought Barkley looked like he was 100 percent in the last meeting between these two teams, but it didn’t look like it to me. But Barkley definitely looked healthy against Washington last week. 

In that game, he rushed for 189 yards and a touchdown and added another 90 and another touchdown as a receiver. That was his second straight game going over 100 rushing yards. 

The Eagles finally handled Ezekiel Elliott last week, but now they face another tough challenge. Tackling will be key. 

“He is a guy you always need to know where he is, you need to account for him both in the run game and pass game,” Schwartz said. “And in the run game, you have to account for all of your gaps. He is a guy that can spin. He is a really good spin move guy and can break contain, so it's not just your interior guys. Your edges have to hold up well against him.”

Darius Slayton vs. Eagles’ corners 

In the last meeting between these two teams, Slayton went off for five catches for 154 yards. Both of his big plays came on Ronald Darby’s side in that game. Darby is done for the year after being placed on IR earlier this week. So expect Slayton to work against Jalen Mills or Rasul Douglas, two guys who aren’t known for their speed. 

Both of Slayton’s touchdown catches in that game went for 35-plus yards. On the season, the Eagles have given up 17 pass plays of 35-plus. Just five teams have given up more and the top number in the league is 20. 

Golden Tate vs. Avonte Maddox 

The Eagles held Tate in check a few weeks ago, when he had just one catch for 11 yards. But he’s now coming off a 96-yard game against Washington. And even though he wasn’t great against Miami in the previous week, he did have a 51-yard touchdown catch. He’s 31 but Tate can still hurt a defense. 

I thought Maddox had what was arguably his best game of the season last week against the Cowboys. Cre’Von LeBlanc didn’t play in that game so it looks like this is Maddox’s role going forward. This will be an important matchup to watch against a team that certainly has its fair share of offensive weapons. 

Carson Wentz vs. Giants' pass defense 

This has been a very good month for Carson Wentz. In December (including the first Giants game), Wentz has completed 68 percent of his passes for 1,220 yards, 9 touchdowns and one interception. He has a rating of 101.7 in the month. 

Among players with at least 50 passing attempts this month, Wentz ranks fifth in passer rating behind Drew Brees, Ryan Tannehill, Lamar Jackson and Jimmy Garoppolo. He’s also fourth in passing yards and tied for fourth in touchdowns. For a guy who hasn’t been able to play much in the last couple Decembers, Wentz has been very good this month. 

The Giants have given up 263.1 passing yards per game this season, which ranks them 26th in the NFL. The Giants have a pretty stout front that has allowed just 3.9 yards per carry, but they’re susceptible to the passing game. 

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2019 NFL playoff picture: The entire NFC East really, really, really sucks

2019 NFL playoff picture: The entire NFC East really, really, really sucks

The Eagles have won one game since the first week of November, and they’ve lost exactly half a game to the first-place Cowboys in the NFC East standings.

The Cowboys lost their third straight game Thursday night, falling to the Bears, 31-24, in Chicago.

This definitely helps the Eagles although not quite as much as you might think.

Here's why:

The Cowboys fell to 6-7 after a 3-0 start. The Eagles are 5-7 with a game Monday night against the 2-10 Giants at the Linc.

But even with Dallas losing Thursday night, the Eagles still have to beat the Cowboys head-to-head and win their three other games to guarantee that they win the NFC East.

That’s because the Cowboys can still lose to the Eagles and finish 8-8 overall and 5-1 in the NFC East if they beat the Rams next Sunday and the Redskins on the final day of the season.

But even with a win over the Cowboys, a loss in any of their other games — to the Giants home and away or the Redskins — would leave the Eagles 8-8 overall and 4-2 in the division.

The Eagles easily win the common opponents tiebreaker with the Cowboys, but that doesn't come into play unless the teams are tied overall, head-to-head and in division record.

But the Cowboys' latest loss does help the Eagles in that if the Cowboys lose to either the Rams a week from Sunday or the Redskins on Dec. 29, the Eagles could afford to lose one of their remaining games and still win the division at 8-8 if they beat the Cowboys head-to-head, since in that scenario the Cowboys would finish 7-9.

The website, which provides percentages for teams to reach the playoffs based on changeable variables, had the Eagles with a 34 percent chance of winning the NFC East before the Cowboys-Bears game. That would have gone down to 26 percent if the Cowboys won. Instead it increased to 41 percent. 

If the Eagles beat the Giants Monday night, their chances increase to 47 percent. 

It's been so long since either of these teams won a game it seems silly to even talk about the playoff picture. 

But somebody has to win the NFC East. 

We think?

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Eagles face old foe Eli Manning on Monday night

Eagles face old foe Eli Manning on Monday night

One more time against Eli.

It sounds like the Eagles will be facing Eli Manning on Monday night and not Giants rookie Daniel Jones.

Manning, 38, was benched earlier this season for the rookie. He hasn’t played since Sept. 15.

This might be good news for the Eagles, who have dominated Manning for a while now. Or maybe it isn’t. It’s honestly hard to tell.

But Manning has lost his last five starts against the Eagles. His last win against them came on Nov. 6, 2016. And the Eagles are 9-1 against Manning in the last five years. They’ve had his and the Giants’ number for a while now.

Overall, Manning’s career record against the Eagles is 10-20. He has 52 touchdowns, 34 interceptions and a passer rating of 84.2. He’s also been sacked 60 times in 30 games.

While many Eagles fans have probably and rightfully checked out of this season, the Eagles still have a chance at making the playoffs, but they pretty much need to win out. The Giants are 2-10 and haven’t won since Sept. 22. They won back-to-back games in Jones’ first two starts and have lost eight games since.

But nothing has looked easy for the Eagles this year, so they can’t take Manning lightly, even though he’s about to turn 39, hasn’t played in months and hasn’t beaten the Eagles in years.

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