Despite the Eagles perceived struggles, the 1-4 Giants enter this matchup as the more desperate team—making this the second week in a row that a Philly team in bad need of a win runs into an opponent that needs it more. A loss on Thursday pretty much ends whatever hope is left for New York, so they’re essentially fighting for their season.
The Giants played the Eagles tough twice last season, and I’m anticipating a similarly tight game on Thursday. If the Birds can win these three matchups then they’ll win the game:
1. Odell Beckham Jr. vs Jalen Mills & Ronald Darby
The struggles of the Eagles secondary have been well documented, and Mills’ struggles in particular. And there aren’t many players who will put stress on an opposing secondary like OBJ.
Both Mills and Darby will figure to split this assignment, and I don’t reasonably expect either of them to be able to handle it without help. The Eagles have kept a safety over top of Odell in the past, and considering the last few weeks I fully expect them to use that tactic again.
Throughout his career Beckham has been an Eagle-killer, and the best chance the Giants have at getting their second win is if he’s able to continue that trend. Obviously the Birds won’t be able to shadow OBJ with a safety all night, and if the Giants can take advantage of the one-on-one opportunities—which is likely as long as Eli can recognize them—then Mills and Darby are in for another long day.
2. Our run defense vs Saquon Barkley
Saquon has finally provided the Giants a balance to OBJ that has created a challenge for opposing defenses. Do we load up the box to stop Barkley? Or use an extra DB to put a lid on Beckham?
Fortunately for the Birds, their porous secondary makes that decision easy. They can’t possibly afford to let Odell loose on the heavily overmatched Mills, Darby, Graham, and Maddox.
The offensive line for the Giants has struggled to create running lanes for Barkley, and that’s a perfect matchup for the Eagles league-best rush defense. Truth be told, the Birds don’t need any extra defenders in the box to stop this running game, as the defensive line should dominate the line of scrimmage all night.
The bigger concern with Barkley may ultimately be in the screen and passing game, where duties will mostly fall to Hicks and Bradham (bonus matchup).
3. Eagles running game vs Giants front seven
The Giants give up the sixth most rush yards per game at a clip of 4.6 yards per carry. Suffice to say, this is where their defense needs to be exploited.
The question is whether or not Doug Pederson will seize on this and pound the rock. Despite his commitment to a 50-50 run-pass balance in 2017, Doug has ventured back to his pass happy roots, a la Andy Reid.
Over the past five games Pederson has called a pass play on 64% of snaps. Part of that can be attributed to game flow, but that isn’t the full story. Doug hasn’t shown the same commitment to running the ball as he did last season.
The offensive line still continues to get push in the run game. And since Wentz’s return, the backs have been able to produces 4.7 yards per carry, which shouldn’t change with Ajayi on the IR.
Wentz can no doubt carry this team to a win throwing the ball 60 times per game, but that obviously doesn’t mean that he should. The Eagles and Doug Pederson need to rediscover their commitment to winning on the ground—not just against the Giants, but for the rest of the season.