The banged-up Giants will need to restore their pride and stake their claim for NFC East supremacy against the soaring Eagles on Sunday night if they’re to remain among the NFL elite (8:20 p.m., NBC).
Michael Vick’s eye-popping, six-touchdown performance in Washington last Monday removed any lingering doubt about his abilities in a post-prison career. Philadelphia (6-3) dominated the Redskins’ league-worst defense to stand out in an NFC looking for a leader.
When they've been completely healthy, the Giants (6-3) have overcome their turnover woes (25 for second worst in the NFL) to remain competitive behind their top-ranked defense. But with injuries depleting Big Blue's receiving and offensive-line depth, its offense could struggle to match Philly’s electricity at Lincoln Financial Field.
Shy from the spy
The most impressive statistics in Vick’s resurgence involve his improved accuracy and efficiency: a league-high 115.1 rating, a career-best 62.7 percent completion rate and no interceptions in 153 passing attempts. If the Giants rely on a defensive spy to neutralize Vick’s mobility, they will also be sacrificing a defender against the Eagles’ speedy receivers and one of the league’s top passers.
Taking what he’ll give
Eli Manning has thrown 13 interceptions this season and is on pace to eclipse his previous career high (20), set in 2007. Although Manning’s 66.1 percent completion rate is also a career best thus far, he can’t afford to be inaccurate against the opportunistic Eagles. The Philadelphia defense leads the NFL in interceptions (16), and Manning has thrown two picks or more in five games this season.
Third down’s the charm
In what shapes up to be a defining clash in this matchup, the Giants are the best at ending drives on third down while Philadelphia’s 44.4 percent third-down conversion rate is fifth-best in the NFL. With the Giants tied for the league high in first downs (208), Big Blue’s best strategy on offense against the quick-scoring Eagles will be to grind the clock’s gears to marginalize Philly’s playmakers.
The Eagles’ third-ranked offense can rack up yards in bunches, but it has an affinity for giving them away, too. Philadelphia also ranks third in offensive penalties, with 78 flags for 687 yards. The G-Men will need every opportunity to exploit Philly’s lack of discipline and swing the momentum in their favor on hostile ground.