Thursday, October 29, 2009

Giants: Eagles game preview

It's not time to give up on the season because of the current two game losing streak, though there are some worrying signs contained in these losses. For one thing, these are 2 of only 3 teams that the Giants have played with winning records so far this year. The other team Giants have played with a winning record is the Cowboys and that was before they got their Miles-Austin-generated mojo back, which they seem to have last week against Atlanta. Overall, Giants are 1-2 against teams with winning records and their 4 other wins came against teams with a cumulative record of 5-23. Are the Giants good enough to clean up against the weak teams and not good enough to beat the good teams? As the season unfolds, we will get a much better view of this question.

The Eagles game this weekend looks interesting, because the Eagles are a tough team to figure out. On the one hand, they have big weapons on offense and DeSean Jackson seems to be stepping forward as one of the best big play WRs in football. On the other hand, their OL is somewhat questionable and they had that awful loss against the Raiders two weeks ago. It is true that their OL was banged up against the Raiders; they had some OL-men come back healthy against the Redskins and won fairly easily 27-17. But if you look under the covers of that victory, it was an unusual offensive performance. They got two big plays out of Jackson, a 67 yard end around and a 57 yard pass play. Those two plays account for 124 yards, essentially half of the 260 yards of total offense that they gained. The rest of the offense was only 138 yards on the other 51 plays that they ran for a ridiculously meager average of 2.7 yards per play. Sometimes, if the opposing defense is pressing, blitzing and gambling you have to be patient and wait for the big play, so statistics can be somewhat deceiving. But that wasn't the case here - Redskins have a good defense and except for those two big plays, they completely shut down the Eagles offense. The other 13 points were a direct result of Redskins turnovers; one an INT returned for a TD and two fumble recoveries that the Eagles turned into FGs. The rest of the night the offense was rather unproductive and some of McNabb's passes looked like a throw from a baseball outfielder to nab a runner at home plate - intentionally bouncing about5-10 feet in front of the intended target. McNabb should be called out by PETA, like his teammate Michael Vick was, because McNabb killed a lot of worms on the Lincoln Financial Field turf. Put it this way: if Eli had been throwing passes like that, the media would be up in arms about what a bad, inconsistent passer he is. My point: the way to beat the Eagles (or at least contain their offense) is to try to take away big plays for DeSean Jackson, keep McNabb in the pocket and make him try to beat you with many short passes. Giants do have to watch out for Celek in the middle of the field, he is a good pass-catching TE. Eagles WRs are fast, but they are not physically imposing; not as big as Colston on New Orleans or Boldin and Fitzgerald on Arizona, so the mismatch against Giants safeties may not be as worrisome.

On defense, the Eagles are good against the run and there is no reason to think that they won't use the same strategy that they used to beat the Giants last year; and that the Cardinals and Saints used the last two weeks. Load up to stop the run in the early downs and blitz Eli like crazy in passing downs. Giants WRs are talented and will have some good games this year, but they are young and they will also have some bad games. The Cardinals counted on Giants WRs dropping the ball if they got open and it worked for them; Eagles will do the same because that's what they always do. There's not Dawkins back there at S and the Giants may have to hit some big plays on the Eagles to balance things out. As bad as the Giants offense looked against the Cardinals, if Manningham had caught that perfect pass from Eli at the 2 yard line and if Bradshaw had not fumbled with 3 minutes left in the game, the Giants may have actually pulled the game out and we might not be as worried about the offense this week.

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