This week is the Eagles home opener. They debut at Lincoln Financial Field after two straight road dome games with outcomes that were decidedly diametrically opposite (and not at all the same). Whenever the Eagles and Giants face off, the game has meaning – usually like a well-funded, surprisingly organized, public paying for tickets, each team wearing uniforms type of street brawl. While this one is not going to be any kind of Miracle at the Meadowlands it should at least be a fun grudge match with the Giants coming to South Philly.
Week One was a tidy 31-13 slugfest in St. Louis against a Rams team with talent who needs another year of aging before they become contenders. Steven Jackson exposed the Eagles defensive weakness, the dome exposed the inexperience of the retooled offensive line and the Eagles pass rush exposed the vulnerability of Rams QB Sam Bradford to a public mugging. Week Two as we all witnessed along with a national TV audience was the NFL’s version of a broken pinball machine, lacking only a giant “TILT” display at midfield (see Jerry Jones for that).
In the GeorgiaDome with 70,000 people in attendance (and 30 million more watching on TV) there is a certain element of circus in the proceedings. Then again, it is the NFL so it is supposed to be a spectacle. Three rings of offense, defense and special teams aimed to entertain everyone, offering young and old something to see. Michael Turner (21-114 rushing with TD) got most of that on one 61-yard breakout and went 20-for-45 yards the rest of the day. Whether that spectacle features a 66-point display or bone-crunching hits of questionable legality or both quarterbacks being tossed around like ragdolls (in Vick’s case he was tossed into Todd Herremans and suffered a concussion), this is the NFL. That can stand for anything you like but in this case it could be morphed into either No Falcons Loss or No Falcons Left (Behind).
Eagles lost 35-31 in a game that they led 31-21 by the end of the third quarter. DeSean Jackson was hurt as were Michael Vick, Brent Celek, Trent Cole, Jason Babin and Kurt Coleman. Bruised pride was more the case for the likes of Casey Matthews, Todd Herremans and Dominuque Rodgers-Cromartie. 11 penalties for 77 yards didn’t help but mostly it was the Eagles offense going 0-for-4th Quarter while Atlanta rolled up 14 points in the final period.
The New York football Giants (1-1) are marching into the “Linc” on Sunday coming off a short week and a Monday Night win against those very familiar St. Louis Rams. The Eagles have won 6 straight against the Giants – including December’s New Miracle at the New Meadowlands (which effectively ended the Giants playoff hopes and secured the Eagles postseason spot). While the Eagles may be banged up, the Giants squad is somewhere between a M*A*S*H unit and a zombie nightmare. Osi Umenyora may or may not be healthy enough to make his 2011 debut but it will not preclude him from trading “Your Momma’s So Fat” barbs with LeSean McCoy or most of the Eagles fans on Sunday. Football brings out the best in people!
Primary focus will be on Michael Vick, who left the Falcons game with a concussion and spitting blood from biting his tongue in the process. Vick will be subject to a battery of tests and triple redundant evaluation throughout the week. Initial prognosis was good offering asymptomatic diagnosis but these problems often manifest 7-10 days after incident. At this point, Vick remains about a 50-50 chance of playing, pending further evaluation. If Vick can’t go, the Eagles find themselves thin at QB. Veteran backup Vince Young has been healing a hamstring strain, which is why sophomore Mike Kafka found himself seeing action against Atlanta.
Kafka has been practicing with the first team most of the week which would suggest that Young will serve as the primary backup with Vick as the emergency third-stringer (Jason Avant would be third string if Vick is prevented from suiting up). Doug Pederson is the QB coach if things get desperate. Fans may recall that last season’s Eagles home opener resulted in Kevin Kolb (concussion), Stewart Bradley (concussion) and fullback Leonard Weaver (torn ACL) all being taken off the field. Michael Vick may see some action in relief but only if he is cleared by team (and independent) doctors to play. Like it or not, that will likely be a game-time decision.
Expectation would be that both teams will employ a “Next Man Up” philosophy which has become the battle cry of the modern NFL. Eli Manning may be missing Domenik Hixon (ACL) but that just means Mario Manningham (questionable to play) and someone else with an 80-something number (Hakeem Nicks) will contend with the Bermuda Triangle of Asante Samuel, Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
Philadelphia’s receiving corps of Jackson and Maclin (13-171, 2 TD) now adds former Giant Steve Smith as well as the apparent re-emergence of TE Brent Celek. Should New York focus too much on those receivers, LeSean McCoy (217 yards, 6.6 YPC over two games) will run rampant on, over, around and through the Giants defenders. Do not think that Andy Reid and Marty Mornhingwig will be too conservative this week with the offense no matter who sits at the controls. Actually having Mike Kafka (7-9, 72 yards in 4th quarter last week) starting would force the Eagles to install a more balanced game plan designed to rely less on Vick’s “escapability” and more on a pass-rush attack. Offensive balance is a foreign concept on Planet Reid.
The Giants’ biggest problem (at least on offense) last season was turnovers. The team’s 42 giveaways in 2010 led the NFL, as did Eli Manning’s 25 INT. Thus far in 2011, the Giants only have two giveaways (both INT) but against an exciting pass rush and strong secondary, the Giants will need to take VERY good care of the football. Manning still has capable RB Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs along with third-year receiver Hakeem Nicks. After years of stability on the offensive line, there are some new G-Men up front that have allowed Manning to be sacked 7 times thus far (tied for fifth-most in the NFL). That’s not good news for Manning as he lines up opposite a defense that is second in the league with 9 sacks, eight of which have come from a four-man rush. Most notably would be Cullen Jenkins who has been a beast in his first two games as an Eagle and don’t forget Trent Cole still works for Philly.
While they still sport a formidable front four, the New York Giants defense has serious question marks on the back seven. At LB, both Jonathan Goff and Clint Sintim are out for the season. Rookie Greg Jones starts in the middle. First-round pick Prince Amukamara is on the mend until midseason while Terrell Thomas is out for the year. That leaves Aaron Ross and Corey Webster at CB, with Michael Coe and Brian Williams in reserve. Kenny Phillips and Antrel Rolle are nothing special at safety but neither are on crutches so that is promising considering the alternatives.
Under the guidance and tutelage of Jim Washburn, the Eagles “Wide 9” defensive scheme has been reinvented both in personnel and philosophy. A rotating corps of linemen attack upfield relentlessly - while leaving the defense vulnerable to the running game (which it already was due to inexperience at LB). Through a two-game sample size, the Eagles have allowed over 10 yards per rush on runs up the middle (31st in the NFL).
After a disappointing fourth-quarter letdown in Atlanta, expect the defense to be ramped up for a bounce back performance. Special attention will be paid to the linebackers, who have heard some consternation about their performance thus far. Washburn and Juan Castillo have reshuffled Jamar Chaney back to the MLB spot, flanking him with Matthews and Fokou. Finally, it’s important to note that the Giants lack a high-quality option at tight end (Kevin Boss), a position that has given the Eagles fits in recent years. Case in point would be last week’s starmaking effort against Future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez.
In what is probably an ill-advised move, Giants Antrel Rolle bragged to a New York radio station (WFAN) early this week that he’s “shut down DeSean Jackson one-on-one before … I don’t know why I wouldn’t be able to do it again.” It may not necessarily be a wise move to provoke Jackson, the league’s preeminent deep scoring threat, especially for a defense that has allowed 11 pass plays of over 20 yards thus far in 2011. Do we have to bring up the game-winning punt return from December 2010?
Then again what would Giants-Eagles be without the trash talk? Simply a football game. Can’t start a fight at the tailgate party over that!
This will be a black and blue (and green) slugfest, emblematic of the 1970s and 1980s battles when there was a disparity between the two teams. It should also be a statement game to prove that such a disparity still exits – to the Eagles favor. The Eagles and Giants may both be 1-1 on the young season but those records will look very different when these two teams meet again in December.
EAGLES 24 GIANTS 14
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About the Author
Written by Christopher Rowe
Contributing writer Comcast Sports, NY Times contributing stringer 1996-2000, Contributing writer Yahoo Sports (2001 World Series). Contributing writer Newsday Long Island (1992-1994, Jets Training Camp) and Newak Star Ledger. Freelance Copywriter, Editor/Founder Atlantic Times Weekly (1993-2003) fantasy football magazine, produced screenwriter and general humorist. Hofstra University grad, Marist College honorary alum, Salesian; Purveyor of the Value and Valor of Philadelphia Eagles 1960 NFL Championship; Adrent believer that Eagles could have won Super Bowl XV...and Super Bowl XXXIX...plus modern decade of Eagles 5 NFC Championships... Believer in the Broad Street Bullies and the 1983 Sixers... Witness to Philadelphia Phillies World Series championships 1980 & 2008, Suffered Phillies first pro sports team to reach 10,000 losses,witnessed "1980 Cardiac Kids," 1983 "Wheeze Kids," 1993 "Macho Row" and many, many, many not-so-memorable seasons in-between... until the Philadelphia Baseball Renaissance of 21st Century, Five NL East division titles 2007-2011, 3 NLCS appearances 2008-2010, 2 consecutive World Series berths 2008 & 2009. 2008 World Champions of baseball [miss ya Harry and Richie]; "collector" of MLB ballparks (42 stadiums including 15 which are gone); Fantasy Football & Baseball player since 1992. Always a sports fan... Tenui Nec Dimittam Contact me firstname.lastname@example.org