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Strong Giants, Eagles not at full strength

Mario Manningham

Mario Manningham Credit: Getty Images

For two teams battling for NFC East supremacy Sunday, the Giants and Eagles are awfully banged up.

But don’t expect that to stop either team from diving headlong into the nastiness of this New Jersey Turnpike rivalry. In fact, with the squad’s major injuries coming on opposite sides of the ball, one might consider the 9-4 division co-leaders on an even footing, primed for a typical Eagles-Giants afternoon of head banging.

The Eagles will have a weakened defensive middle following the loss Sunday of linebacker Stewart Bradley (dislocated elbow) for the remainder of the regular season, at least, and versatile defensive lineman Brandon Graham (torn ACL) for the rest of the year.

Giants wide receivers Steve Smith’s and Mario Manningham’s respective hamstring and hip flexor injuries from Monday’s win over Minnesota will probably sideline them for Sunday and reduce Eli Manning’s passing options; recent signings Michael Clayton and Devin Thomas are poised for significant time.

Still, the Eagles retain their big-play ability with Michael Vick, DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy on offense, and the intact Giants defense has played shutdown football over the last two games.

It all balances out, which was just fine with Giants coach Tom Coughlin. Since losing to those Eagles 27-17 on Nov. 21, his team has ripped off three straight wins while outscoring opponents 76-30 despite the injuries.

“When we came away from there with a loss, we made the resolve that we needed to get ourselves going,” Coughlin said. “We needed to put some wins together to have the opportunity to play the Eagles again and be in the position we’re in.

“First place is at stake, and both teams have given themselves the opportunity to play for the lead," Coughlin added. "It’s of huge significance. It’s the kind of games you want to be playing in the middle of December.”

Preferably with all your weapons. But that’s not the case for either the Giants or the Eagles.

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