|by Ryan Messick
While it’s not officially a battle for the NFC East title, the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants play for first place today at the new Meadowlands in East Rutherford, N.J., and the winner will have the inside track on the division crown. The victor will also continue pursuit of a first-round bye in the playoffs, while the loser will just hope to get into the post-season in a competitive NFC conference. Both teams come in at 9-4, with Philadelphia having won the first meeting 27-17.
“We all know the magnitude of the game,” said Eagles quarterback Michael Vick. “We know it’s a big one. Where else would you want to be? What other position would you want to be in?”
Certainly not the one across the ball from him. Vick’s been incredibly tough to defend, which is a big part of the reason the Eagles lead the league with 402.8 yards per game. The Birds are second in the league in scoring offense, averaging just under 29 points per game. Philadelphia is sixth in the league in passing offense and fifth on the ground. No other team is ranked sixth or better in both categories.
The Giants know how to defend though, with some impressive rankings of their own. New York’s defense is second overall, second against the pass, fifth against the run and tied for second in sacks. They’ve also injured six quarterbacks, and know how to get to the passer. Osi Umenyiora is tied for second in the league among defensive ends with 10 sacks, while Justin Tuck is tied for seventh with 8.5. No other team has two of the top 10 defensive ends.
The Giants aren’t too shabby on offense either, sitting fourth in total yards, fourth in rushing yards and 12th through the air. Their 25.3 points per game are good for seventh in the NFL. Turnovers have been New York’s Achilles heel this season, but they’ve improved since their loss to Philadelphia. Before that game, the Giants were averaging 2.9 turnovers per game. Since, they’ve given it away just 1.3 times per contest. That’s critical against an Eagles defense that thrives on turnovers.
Philadelphia’s defense is only 11th in yards given up and 20th in points allowed, but the Birds are tied for second in the league with 30 turnovers. Asante Samuel is the key cog in the turnover machine though, as he leads the league with seven interceptions despite missing four games with injuries. Samuel is questionable for today’s game, as he’s still recovering from a knee sprain. The cornerback picked off Eli Manning twice in the earlier meeting.
Turnovers might be the key, as the Eagles are second in the league at +15 while the Giants are tied for 15th at -2. The Eagles forced five turnovers in the first meeting, and hope they can put together a similar performance and grab a commanding lead in the NFC East.
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