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Giants prepare for showdown with Eagles

Brandon Jacobs runs the ball in the first

Brandon Jacobs runs the ball in the first half against DeMarcus Ware and Keith Brooking of the Dallas Cowboys at Giants Stadium. (Dec. 6, 2009) Credit: Getty Images

What's at Stake:

If the Giants win, they will be tied with the Eagles and perhaps even the Cowboys (who play the Chargers earlier in the day) for first place in the NFC East. And since they hold a head-to-head tie-breaker with the Cowboys, they’d be in great position to make the playoffs with three games to go.

If the Giants lose, they will essentially drop out of the race for the NFC East, two games behind the Eagles with three to play and the Eagles holding a tie-breaking sweep over them. But they’d still be in the running for a wild card, especially if the Cowboys also lose. If that’s the case, they’d be a game behind Dallas for a playoff spot with a much easier schedule remaining.

3 players the Giants have to stop:

WR DeSean Jackson has scored six of his eight TDs this year on plays of 50 or more yards, including a 54-yard reception against the Giants in the first meeting. That quick strike – a one-play drive -- came by way of a disturbing breakdown in the secondary. Jackson is returning from missing a game with a concussion, but he’s been cleared to play as a receiver and punt returner.

TE Brent Celek had 61 receiving yards and a TD against the Giants last time out, and the Giants have had difficulty slowing down tight ends in recent weeks. They have given up 82 yards and a TD to Tony Gonzalez, 53 yards to Tony Sheffler and a career high 153 yards to Jason Witten in the last three games. Celek is on par with all of them as far as production.

CB Asante Samuels had a tone-setting interception early in the first game between the teams, jumping a route against Travis Beckum. He has seven picks this year, the most by an Eagle since 1989. The Giants can’t afford turnovers, and need their receivers to do a better job of running precise routes and fighting for the ball against the aggressive play-making Eagles secondary.

3 Giants who have to play well:

Eli Manning won’t only be throwing passes against the Eagles, he’ll likely be doing it against the wind and cold of Giants Stadium. That hasn’t been a good matchup for Manning in the past, most notably in last year’s playoff loss. If he starts floating passes around the field, it’ll be a long night for the Giants.

Corey Webster has had a shaky couple of games, allowing three TDs against the Cowboys. He was even beaten by rookie Jeremy Maclin in the first game against the Eagles. He knows he’s been struggling, but the Giants think he’s still their best cover player. He’ll need to play like it against the speedy, opportunistic Eagles flock.

Jonathan Goff played well last week in his debut at middle linebacker, but against the Eagles he’ll need to ramp it up even more. The Eagles will be without Brian Westbrook, but they have LeSean McCoy in the backfield and he’s a player who can cut and find open gaps. Goff’s job will be to make sure all of the gaps are closed and McCoy has nowhere to go.

The wild card

The Giants have sacked Donovan McNabb only twice in their last four games, both of them coming in the last meeting. They’ll need to find a way to get in his face in this game. Look for the Giants to use their “floating front” of wandering defenders to confuse the Eagles’ o-line. And watch for Clint Sintim, a linebacker who played a pass-rushing defensive end with his hand down last week and came away with his first career sack.

Why the Giants win:

It’s hard to imagine the Giants playing worse than they did in the first game against the Eagles, so things have to get better, right? If they can limit the big play capabilities of the Eagles, who have scored 14 touchdowns of more than 20 yards, the most in the NFL, then they should be able to stay within striking distance at the end. Eli Manning doesn’t need to throw 30 passes, but he needs to have the ones he does throw be under control against the winds. Winning the turnover battle will be critical for the Giants.

Why the Giants lose:

You know that confidence that the Giants have when they face the Cowboys? That’s how the Eagles feel when they face the Giants. The Eagles have won the last three meetings and are the only team to beat the Giants in the playoffs in the last three seasons. If the Giants give up the same amount of passing yards they did last week against the Cowboys – 379 – they won’t be able to overcome it.

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