Thursday’s game may not be technically be a ‘must-win’ for the Eagles, but for the majority of fans, their excitement for the rest of the season hinges on Thursday’s outcome.
A loss would put the Birds at 1-5-1 and last place in the dreadful NFC East. With how tough the remaining schedule is for the Eagles, losing games to clearly inferior opponents — even if they’re division rivals — cannot happen. Winning the rest of their matchups with NFC East opponents would more than likely secure a division title, as sad as that sounds.
There are a few things to watch for in this Thursday night matchup, so let’s jump right into it.
2 of the most turnover prone QBs take center stage
Both Carson Wentz and Daniel Jones have turned it over at least once in every game so far this season. Wentz has 11 total TOs (9 INTs, 2 fumbles lost), while Jones has 9 (6 INTs, 3 fumbles lost).
Over the past three weeks, Wentz has looked much better than he did in the first three games of the season. He has 7 total TDs, 4 total TOs, a QB rating of 80.6 and a completion percentage of 57.9 over his last three outings. They’re still not great numbers, but they’re improvements over what we saw early on this year. The next step is cutting the turnovers out of his game. The Giants rank 15th in the league in takeaways with 8.
The Eagles, on the other hand, have been terrible at forcing turnovers this season. They’re 27th in the NFL in takeaways with just 5 — 3 of them coming in the game against San Francisco. This feels like a game where the Eagles defense can wreak havoc and force Jones into some bad decisions. New York has given up the 8th most sacks this season with 17. The Birds are 3rd in the league in sacks with 21, so expect consistent pressure on Jones.
Whichever QB can play the cleaner game will come out victorious.
The Giant Killer: Boston Scott
Boston Scott has been relatively quiet this season, and in the lone game he started, he didn’t impress. He rushed 9 times for just 35 yards in Week 1.
Scott hasn’t lived up to expectation this season, but he’ll have the opportunity to turn it around against the Giants with Miles Sanders sidelined, a team he torched last season. In the two games Scott faced New York last season, he combined for 39 touches, 266 total yards and 4 touchdowns.
If Lane Johnson is back in the lineup — he’s currently questionable — that’ll only help Scott and this rushing attack.
If Scott brings his A game, he’ll be a key factor in a Birds victory over the Giants.
Jalen Mills vs. Evan Engram
The Eagles have been brutal against opposing tight ends this season. They’ve allowed 6 touchdowns, 376 yards and an average of 6 receptions per game to tight ends. But, if you take out George Kittle’s 15 reception, 183 yard performance out of the equation, the numbers don’t look nearly as bad. Without the Kittle game, the Birds have allowed 5 touchdowns, 193 yards and an average of 4.2 receptions per game to tight ends.
Facing Mark Andrews last week, one of the better tight ends in football, Schwartz’s defense only allowed 2 receptions for 21 yards to him. Thanks in large part to Jalen Mills covering him.
I’ve come down hard on Mills this year, but he’s clearly the Eagles best option when trying to slow down opposing tight ends. According to Pro Football Focus, Mills finished last Sunday’s game against Baltimore with the second highest grade on the defense (71.8).
Evan Engram, while always having the potential to be a great tight end in today’s NFL, has yet to put it all together. This season, Engram has 20 catches for 177 yards and no touchdowns. The Giants will more than likely try to target Engram just because the Eagles haven’t been great against tight ends this year, but Mills should be capable enough to contain him.
Darius Slay vs. Darius Slayton
Darius Slayton has been by far the best weapon for the Giants this season. He’s recorded 25 receptions for 406 yards and has the only 3 touchdown receptions on the year for New York. No other starting receiver on the team even has an average of 10 yards per reception on the year.
Slayton also torched the Eagles in two games last season. He posted a stat line of 9 receptions for 204 yards and 2 touchdowns. Having Darius Slay shadow him should help slow him down. Ronald Darby was the one covering Slayton for the most part last year. We all know Slay is on a different level than Darby.
Truthfully, the Giants don’t have any other player besides Slayton that strikes fear in opposing defenses. Jones will look his way a ton, and it’s up to Slay to make sure Slayton isn’t the reason the Eagles lose this game.
The Eagles simply can’t lose this game against New York. Going down 0-2 against the worst division in football can’t happen if the Eagles hope to make the playoffs this year. Like I said at the beginning, this game isn’t technically a ‘must-win,’ but it’s hard to be hopeful for the rest of the season if they drop the ball against New York.
With their backs against the wall, again, I think the Eagles pull out this victory over an inferior Giants squad. I’ll go 31-20, Birds.