By Matt Szczypiorski, Sports Talk Philly Contributing Writer
About a month ago, I declared that the Eagles season would be over with a loss to the Miami Dolphins. Boy was I wrong.
Morale was certainly low after that dreadful loss to the lowly Dolphins. However, the Eagles have proved everyone wrong since, including me.
After the Birds biggest win of the season against the disappointing Dallas Cowboys, they find themselves in the driver’s seat in the NFC East.
It’s simple: win, and you’re in. Lose, and fate is out of your hands. If the Eagles were to break our collective hearts and lose to the lowly Giants, they would need the Cowboys to lose at home to Washington in order to make the playoffs.
As much as I do love me some chaos in the last week of the regular season, I’d rather the Eagles avoid any and all things chaotic this week. A stress-free blowout of the Giants in New York would be ideal.
Unfortunately for us fans, the Eagles are allergic to blowouts. So, this game will likely be unnecessarily close, much like the week 14 match-up between these two teams.
Eagles Offense vs. Giants Defense
The Eagles offense has really hit their stride over the last few weeks. Ever since their dreadful performance in the first half against these same Giants, they’ve looked kind of, almost, maybe a little bit how we expected them to look in the beginning of the season.
Carson Wentz, man what else can you say about him at this point. Everyone and their mother called him out and begged for him to take this offense on his shoulders and lead them to the promised land. He’s done just that, and then some.
Not only has he made this rag-tag group of skill players look competent, he’s made them look, dare I say, good. That’s the true sign of a great quarterback. If a quarterback can make the guys around him better, he’s great. Bottom line. End of story.
Not to gush over Wentz, but I just can’t say enough about how well he is playing. So, here are some stats that prove how well he is performing.
Wentz is 250 yards away from being the first QB in NFL history to throw for 4,000 yards while having no WR over 500 yards for the season.— Victor Williams (@ThePhillyPod) December 27, 2019
Truly remarkable. #Eagles
Another player that has really stepped up the last couple of games has been rookie running back Miles Sanders. We are starting to see why the team was so high on Sanders coming out of training camp. Since Jordan Howard has been out, Sanders has really taken advantage of his opportunity. He is now seventh in the entire league in all-purpose yards. It’s time that he starts getting mentioned in the offensive rookie of the year race.
The aforementioned Jordan Howard is finally slated to return this week after being out since week 11 with a neck stinger. Even with Howard set to return, Pederson announced that Sanders would still be getting the majority of the touches. Therefore, I’d expect Howard to take on the 2017 LeGarrette Blount role of being the bruising, downhill runner in short yardage situations.
Doug Pederson says he doesn’t think much has to change with the offense upon Jordan Howard returning.— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) December 26, 2019
“Miles Sanders has been the hot hand and we want to keep that going.”#Eagles
Unfortunately, the divine laws of the 2019 Eagles season mean that when one player returns from injury, another player must be sacrificed. This week, that is the Eagles most consistent weapon, tight end Zach Ertz. With Ertz already declared out of Sunday's game, Dallas Goedert should face another heavy workload.
If last week was any indication, he can certainly be relied on. His nine receptions for 91 yards last Sunday led the team, and he displayed every aspect of his talents. Jump ball, running after the catch and even his blocking abilities were on full display. Expect the ball to be in #88’s hands often this week.
Greg Ward Jr. had another productive game last week, and he will continue to be the Eagles go-to at the receiver position. Nelson Agholor has been ruled out for the third straight week with a knee injury. Ward has thrived in his absence and is making a strong case to remain on the Eagles roster into next season. Ward has been far more productive than Agholor this season, all while making $8.5 million less.
The Eagles offensive line has also been playing well of late, as Wentz was sacked just once last week. Other than the all too frequent Jason Peters false start, they haven’t been flagged for any penalties. There is also a chance they could be getting right tackle Lane Johnson back from an ankle injury this week, as he is listed as questionable. Expect Johnson to do anything he has to do to get on the field on Sunday.
The Giants defense is just as putrid as it was three weeks ago. They gave up 35 points to the Washington Redskins last week. Both Dwayne Haskins and Case Keenum carved up their secondary.
The Giants defense is giving up the fourth most points in the league, 27.8 points per game. They are also giving up the seventh-most passing yards per game, 263 yards per game. Therefore, expect the Eagles and Doug Pederson to be dialing up the pass plays. Wentz will likely throw the ball at least 30 times.
Injury Report: Eagles at Giants
Eagles Defense vs. Giants Offense
The Eagles defense absolutely balled out last weekend against Dallas. Holding the number one offense in the league to just three field goals is no small feat. Dak Prescott surely didn’t play his best game, but some of that credit belongs to the Eagles defense. Some of that credit also belongs to the Cowboys receivers' hands as well as Jason Garrett’s ineptitude.
Anyway, the Eagles defense really stepped up in a big situation. They’ll need to play well again this week against the Giants if they want to be playing next week. The Giants offense isn’t that good, but they have some key players that can change a game in an instant.
Giants quarterback Daniel Jones is a rookie with a lot of upside. He played great last week, albeit against a putrid Redskins defense. He had 350 yards and an astounding five passing touchdowns, a fantastic performance for a rookie.
Do I think he can replicate that success against the Birds defense? No. Well, at least I hope not. One thing is for sure: at this point in their respective careers, Jones will certainly give the Giants a better chance to win than Eli Manning.
The Giants also have an all-pro caliber talent at running back. Saquon Barkley can change a game any time he touches the football. While the Eagles were able to hold Barkley to just 66 yards in their first match-up, he has really hit his stride in the last two weeks. He’s surpassed 100 rushing yards in each of the last two games, and had 279 all-purpose yards last week in his best game of the season.
No question about it, if the Eagles are to win this game, they will need to neutralize Barkley. I’d rather take Barkley completely out of the game and have the defense make someone else beat them.
The Giants receivers are a solid bunch, as they certainly all have talent. The problem for them has been staying on the field. Golden Tate is a great possession receiver with great run after the catch ability. Sterling Shepard is similar, but with less big play potential. Then there is Darius Slayton, the rookie from Auburn who torched the Eagles for two long touchdowns in week 14. He is their big play threat.
Both of those long touchdowns for Slayton were against Ronald Darby. Good news for the Eagles: Darby isn’t playing. Hopefully that means no big plays or egregious missed tackles.
Ronald Darby’s season is over— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) December 24, 2019
Rasul Douglas and Sidney Jones will play in his spot https://t.co/j1m0BEsUtC
The Giants offensive line is their offense’s biggest downfall. They have an extremely tough time in pass protection, evidenced by the Giants game plan in week 14 against the Eagles. They wanted to get the ball out of the quarterback’s hands quickly, which is actually a good plan against the Eagles defensive line.
Fortunately for the Eagles, the Giants kind of got away from that game plan in the second half, and the Eagles also found a way to adjust. Don’t be surprised if the Giants begin the game with a similar strategy as their last match-up with Philly.
I think the Eagles defensive game plan for this week is simple: make Daniel Jones beat you. Sure Jones looked great last week against a bad defense, but he has looked pedestrian at best against average defenses. If the Eagles play the way they did last week, Jones could be in for a long afternoon.
It is entirely plausible that the Eagles could suffer a huge letdown after the big win last week, just to lose this week to the Giants and see the Cowboys in the playoffs. That situation would epitomize everything that has been the 2019 Philadelphia Eagles. Hope for the best, expect the worst.
The key to this game will be exactly what it was last week: play great defense, and have long possessions on offense. Even if the Eagles don’t score on a possession, avoiding a three and out is huge as it gives the defense an opportunity to catch their breath on the sidelines. I think that this played a decent role in the defense’s performance last week.
The Eagles cannot afford to start slow this time around against the G-men. With what’s at stake, combined with the fact that it is a road game, it would be much tougher to come back if a similar situation were to unfold as the first match-up. I don’t think that will happen.
Eagles win, 27-17. The Eagles get off to a strong start on both sides of the ball, an unforeseen circumstance for the 2019 Eagles, as they score on their first possession and force a Giants punt. The Giants hang around throughout the game, but never enough to take the lead at any point in the game.
Carson Wentz has another extremely efficient performance, with no turnovers and a multitude of elite-level plays. Miles Sanders has another huge game, going well over 150 all-purpose yards and scoring another touchdown.
Dallas Goedert has a similar game to last week, leading the team in both targets and receptions. Philadelphia Mayor Greg Ward Jr. is once again productive from the slot and he scores another touchdown. Jordan Howard is limited in his role, but he gets the job done when provided the opportunity.
An outcome that seemed far-fetched just four weeks prior now comes to fruition. The Eagles are going to the playoffs, and Carson Wentz will get a chance to play in front of the home playoff atmosphere that he has only seen from the sidelines.
Time: 4:25 p.m.
Radio: 94.1 FM WIP
Online: NFL Gamepass