Good evening Giants enthusiasts! Welcome to Week 14 in the NFL!
I'm Chris Mascaro and I'll be bringing you all of tonight's live game action, as the Giants (7-5, 4-2 home), the third place team in the NFC East (a game behind Philly and Dallas), take on the first-place Philadelphia Eagles (8-4, 4-2 road) at Giants Stadium.
Last week, the Giants earned their first season sweep of the Cowboys since 2004 with a 31-24 victory. Brandon Jacobs scored a rushing TD and had a 74-yard receiving TD. But coach Tom Coughlin knows there is plenty of work yet to be done.
Said the coach about how long the Giants celebrated the Dallas win: "About an hour."
The Giants have lost five of their last seven, but two of those wins have come the last three weeks against Atlanta and Dallas (both wins were at home).
Meanwhile, the Eagles have won three straight after 34-7 demolition of the Falcons. Michael Vick scored a rushing TD and threw for another — they were his first scores since 2006.
All three Philly victories have come without the services RB Brian Westbrook, who will miss tonight's game with a concussion/ankle injury (LeSean McCoy will fill in yet again as the starter). The Eagles will get back receiver DeSean Jackson, who missed last week's game with a groin injury.
With that, let's get to today's keys to the game...
1. Plaxico who? With five catches tonight, Steve Smith will hold the Giants' single-season record for receptions in a season. Amani Toomer currently holds the record with 82 in 2002, which is the lowest mark of any team in the league.
The Giants are 9-9 without Plaxico Burress since last season, but Smith has filled in admirably as the Giants' go-to guy with 979 yards (eighth in the league) with five receiving TDs.
*Smith led the Giants with seven catches, but his long was only 19 yards and he dropped a key pass in the end zone in the first half.
2. Can the Giants get back into the NFC East chase? Absolutely. With the Dallas loss earlier today, the Giants can make it a three-team race for the division with a win tonight. The Giants already have the tiebreaker against Dallas via the sweep. If the Giants beat Philly, they will be tied with a split of the season series. The second tiebreaker is conference record -- Philly would be 7-3 with a loss and the Giants would be 6-3 with games left against Washington, Carolina and Minnesota.
As far as the wild card, the Packers improved to 9-4, so it looks as if the second-place team in the NFC East will be competing with Atlanta (6-7) for the final playoff spot.
*Not only did the Giants lose their fourth straight game to the Eagles, they also remain a game behind Dallas for the final wild-card spot with three games to play. They trail the Eagles by two games for the division, plus Philly holds the tiebreaker over them, meaning they won't repeat as NFC champs.
3. Can the Giants' secondary hold the Eagles' receivers? Probably not. In addition to Jackson's return, Jeremy Maclin (foot) and Brent Celek (thumb) will play tonight. Although the Giants are eighth in the league in passing yards allowed with 2,388 yards, they have allowed 21 passing TDs (tied for 24th in the NFL), so expect Donoan McNabb and company to light up the scoreboard this evening despite the inclement weather.
*Wow, where do we begin? Okay, first, Jackson tied an NFL record with his seventh and eighth TDs of 50+ yards in a season. He had a 72-yard punt return and a 6-yard receiving TD to tie a mark shared by Elroy Hirsch and the Bears' Devin Hester. Next, the Eagles were 7 of 11 for 218 yards and a TD on passes of 15+ yards. Next, the 83 total points were the most ever in a Giants-Eagles game. Next, the two teams combined for 886 yards. Next, Michal Vick scored rushing TDs in consecutive weeks for the first time since 2002. Next, Jackson gave coach Andy Reid a side bump after his second TD. Get the point?
Here is the weather report from East Rutherford, where it has stopped raining and the temperature is in the high 40s. It's a tad breezy, with winds about 9-11 mph, but not too bad.
Here are the tonight's inactives, and some other musings from the stadium from our Giants beat report, Mr. Tom Rock.
Finally, here are a few notes on tonight's game:
-The Eagles, who finished last season 11-7-1 (including playoffs), were 5-5-1 on the road in 2008, including two wins at Giants Stadium.
-The last time these two teams played (Week 8 in Philly), Donovan McNabb threw for 240 yards and three TDs in a 40-17 blowout of the Giants. The Eagles lead the series 12-7 since 2001, and have won three of the last four at Giants Stadium.
-The Giants are fifth in the NFC in points scored coming into this week with 303 (behind New Orleans, Minnesota, Green Bay and Philadelphia). They have allowed 285 through 12 games, which is 13th best in the conference (only Detroit, Tampa Bay and St. Louis and have allowed more).
-The Eagles have scored 327 and allowed 235 points through 12 games. They are 7-2 against the rest of the NFC and 3-1 in the division.
-The Giants are 3-1 against NFC East opponents. They beat the Redskins 23-17 Week 1 and the Cowboys 33-31 Week 2 and 31-24 last week, but dropped a 40-17 decision at Philly Week 8.
-The Giants last home victory over Philadelphia was Week 4 of the 2007 season, a 16-3 decision.
-McNabb, who's thrown 16 touchdowns and six INTs, is 11th in the league in passer rating coming into this week at 94.7. He's completed 61 percent of his passes (19th in the league), and his 7.83 yards per attempt are ninth in the NFL (Manning averages 7.72 per attempt).
-The Eagles are +12 in turnover margin (third in the league behind Green Bay and New Orleans), while the Giants are -1, which is tied for 15th best with Atlanta and Houston.
-Jacobs rushed for just 39 yards on 13 carries last week (although he also scored on a 74-yard catch and run). Jacobs, who hasn't rushed for more than 67 yards since Week 8 against Philly, is 14th in the league with 722 rushing yards. But he's averaging just 3.86 yards per carry, which is the lowest of any player in the top 20 save Detroit's Kevin Smith (3.46) and Indianapolis' Joseph Addai (3.66).
Okay, that's all for now. But we've got plenty more to talk about this afternoon, so let's get the conversation going in the chat box above! And be sure to vote on the poll questions.
I'll be back after each quarter with updates.
We're about 15 minutes from Sunday Night Football on NBC!
End of the 1st Quarter: Eagles 14, Giants 3
Eagles' first scoring drive: 6 plays, 67 yards, 3:32
Scoring play: Celek 8-yard pass from McNabb (Akers kick) ... it was Celek's seventh TD reception and McNabb's 17th TD toss.
Key play: Vick 32-yard pass to Jackson on 2nd-and-4 from the Giants' 39.
Eagles' second scoring play: Sheldon Brown 60-yard fumble return (Akers kick).
Giants' first scoring drive: 15 plays, 77 yards, 7:13
Scoring play: Lawrence Tynes 26-yard FG (it was his 25th made FG of the season).
Key play: Jacobs 2-yard run on 4th-and-1 from the Eagles' 29-yard line.
Players who impressed for the Giants:
-Steve Smith is one catch away from tying Toomer's single-season Giants' record.
-Kevin Boss caught two passes for 21 yards.
Players who struggled:
-Barry Cofield jumped offside on the Eagles' first drive.
-Vick's first play of the game was a 32-yard pass to DeSean Jackson down to the Giants' 7.
-Jacobs has run for just 27 yards on six carries, but he did convert on his fourth-down run.
What to watch for in the second quarter: Can the Giants stop the Eagles' passing game? They've completed three passes for 46 yards.
End of the 2nd Quarter: Eagles 30, Giants 17
Giants' second scoring drive: 5 plays, 83 yards, 3:12
Scoring play: Hakeem Nicks 68-yard pass from Manning (Tynes kick) ... it was Nicks' sixth TD and Manning's 21st passing TD.
Key play: Quintin Mikell's illegal hands to the face penalty on a 3rd-and-11 from their own 16, gave the Giants a first down.
Eagles' third scoring drive: 12 plays, 75 yards, 6:25
Scoring play: Akers 20-yard FG (it was his 26th made FG of the season).
Key play: Vick 5-yard run on 3rd-and-3 from the Giants' 37.
Eagles' fourth scoring play: Jackson's 72-yard punt return (Akers kick). Jackson has returned two punts for a TD this season and has seven TDs of 50 or more yards.
Giants' third scoring drive: 8 plays, 67 yards, 2:39
Scoring play: Bradshaw 3-yard run (Tynes kick) ... it was his fifth TD of the season.
Key play: Bradshaw 17-yard run on 3rd-and-1 from the Eagles' 42.
Eagles' fifth scoring drive: 8 plays, 70 yards, 1:20
Scoring play: Vick 1-yard run (kick blocked) ... it was his second rushing TD of the season.
Key play: Jackson 44-yard catch deep right from McNabb on 3rd-and-20 from their own 32.
Players who impressed for the Giants:
-Nicks dropped two passes on consecutive plays. But on the third, he caught a pass over the middle, slipped a tackle and rushed 68 yards for his sixth TD of the season.
-Osi got to McNabb at the end of the half, but McNabb just got his arm forward to make it an incomplete pass ... or so we thought. Apparently the play was ruled a fumble, but it was blown dead after nobody recovered the ball.
Players who struggled:
-Bryan Kehl couldn't take Vick down on a 3rd-and-3 from the Giants' 37. Vick slipped the tackle and picked up a first down.
-Steve Smith dropped a pass in the end zone.
What to watch for in the second half: Can the Giants climb back from their early hole?
Here are some halftime stats for your viewing pleasure...
McNabb: 9 of 16 for 142 yards, TD
Vick: 1 of 2 for 32 yards; 2 carries, 6 yards, TD
Jackson: 3 receptions, 92 yards; punt return TD
Celek: 4 catches, 60 yards, TD
Sheldon Brown: fumble return TD
Akers: 1 of 1 FGs; 3 of 3 XPs
Cole: forced fumble
Manning: 10 of 18 for 168 yards, TD
Bradshaw: 10 carries, 51 yards, TD
Jacobs: 8 carries, 38 yards; lost fumble
Nicks: 2 catches, 86 yards, TD
Smith: 4 receptions, 55 yards
Tynes: 1 of 1 FGs; 2 of 2 XPs
Boley: 5 tackles
End of the 3rd Quarter: Eagles 37, Giants 31
Giants' fourth scoring drive: 11 plays, 74 yards, 5:42
Scoring play: Jacobs 1-yard run (Tynes kick) ... it was Jacobs' sixth TD of the season.
Key play: Boss 23-yard pass from Manning on 1st-and-10 from their own 40.
Giants' fifth scoring drive: 2 plays, 59 yards, 1:19
Scoring play: Hixon 61-yard pass from Manning (Tynes kick) ... it was Hixon's second TD and Manning's 22nd.
Key play: Hixon's 12-yard punt return to his own 41.
Eagles' sixth scoring drive: 1 play, 60 yards, :15
Scoring play: Jackson 60-yard pass from McNabb (Akers kick) ... it was both players' second TD of the night. Jackson has eight TDs of 50+ yards on the season, tying an NFL record.
Key play: Quintin Demps 30-yard kick return to his own 40.
What to watch for in the fourth quarter: Can the Giants pull into a three-team tie in the NFC East?
Bradshaw: 14 carries, 55 yards, TD; 4 catches, 46 yards
Jacobs: 15 carries, 60 yards, TD; lost fumble
Nicks: 4 catches, 110 yards, TD
Smith: 7 receptions, 74 yards
Tynes: 1 of 1 FGs; 5 of 5 XPs
Boley: 10 tackles
Vick: 1 of 2 for 32 yards; 3 carries, 11 yards, TD
Jackson: 6 receptions, 178 yards, TD; 79-yard punt return TD
Celek: 5 catches, 64 yards, TD
Sheldon Brown: fumble return TD
Weaver: 9 carries, 33 yards, TD; 1 catch, 8 yards
Akers: 1 of 1 FGs; 4 of 4 XPs
Trotter: 8 tackles
Cole: forced fumble
Okay, that's all for tonight's game. Please check back above for updates on my pregame keys to the game. Thanks to all for coming out!