The New York Giants will play the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday Night Football in a game far more meaningful than it ought to be. Despite each team only having one victory on the season, the winner of this matchup will find themselves at least tied for first place in the NFC East if the Dallas Cowboys lose to the Washington Football Team on Sunday. With Dallas apparently in a tailspin following quarterback Dak Prescott‘s season-ending injury, their thumping at the hands of the Arizona Cardinals Monday night, and unnamed players calling out their coaching staff, you could argue whoever prevails Thursday night will be division front runners.
The Eagles’ offense enters this game dealing with plenty of injuries, as seems to be their annual state of affairs. Their offensive line and receiving core are missing multiple starters, and now pro bowl tight end Zach Ertz is out with a high-ankle sprain. Running back Miles Sanders will also miss the game with a knee injury. The good news for Philadelphia is wideout DeSean Jackson appears set to return, and tight end Dallas Goedert could play Thursday as well after being removed from injured reserve.
Philadelphia started their season woefully with losses to Washington and the Los Angeles Rams and a tie against the Cincinnati Bengals. They’ve picked it up the last three weeks, beating the San Francisco 49ers and losing close contests to two AFC powers in the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens.
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That uptick in the Eagles’ quality of play has occured hand-in-hand with quarterback Carson Wentz‘s own improvements. The fifth-year starter was terrible those first few games, throwing six interceptions to just three touchdowns. Over the last three weeks, he’s thrown five touchdowns to three interceptions. Wentz has admirably kept his team in games against tough opponents with mostly second-string offensive talent around him.
Philadelphia, despite their flaws, is probably the best (or least bad) team in the NFC East right now. If Big Blue can pull out a victory on the road, they can put themselves in realistic playoff contention heading into November.
Here’s an overview of everything you need to know ahead of Thursday’s game, followed by a prediction for the final score.
Where and When
Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on Thursday at 8:20 p.m. EST/5:20 p.m. PST
Most Concerning Matchup: CB Darius Slay vs. WR Darius Slayton
New York’s passing offense has been pedestrian at best this season. Any success it’s had has involved Slayton. The second-year wideout leads the team with 25 receptions for 406 yards. All three of quarterback Daniel Jones‘ touchdown throws have gone to Slayton.
The Eagles acquired Slay in a major offseason trade and immediately gave him a three-year, $50.5 million contract extension. The former Detroit Lion is still one of the best cover corners in football. He’ll be assigned to Slayton all game. Sterling Shepard may play as he’s scheduled to come off injured reserve, so he would at least provide Jones another quality target in the short to intermediate levels. If Slay can effectively shut down Slayton, though, Big Blue can kiss any chance of an explosive aerial attack goodbye.
Most Promising Matchup: DL Leonard Williams vs. OG Nate Herbig
Thanks to the rash of injuries along the Eagles’ offensive line, Herbig, a 2019 undrafted free agent out of Stanford, has been pressed into starting left guard duty. The book on the 334-pounder coming out of college was he’s a decent run blocker, but his lack of agility and athleticism makes him poor in pass protection. If the Giants can stop the run on early downs and force Philadelphia into must-pass situations, Williams should be able to use his superior length and athleticism to hound Wentz and maybe get a sack or two.
According to Pro Football Focus, Wentz leads the NFL in turnover-worthy plays. The Giants need to generate interior pressure to force him into making critical mistakes. Williams has been New York’s best disruptor on the defensive line. The onus is on him to get in the backfield and wreak havoc.
Keys to Victory
The defensive line is the best unit for each of these teams. New York’s needs to outplay Philadelphia’s. The quarterbacks in this game are mistake-prone and getting very little help from their teammates. The pass rush that puts the opposing quarterback into peril and can force errant throws or fumbles will likely win the game.
On offense, the Giants need to exploit the Eagles weak linebacker group by using tight ends Evan Engram and Kaden Smith over the middle of the field. This should serve the secondary purpose of getting the ball out of Jones’ hands quickly to neutralize Philadelphia’s pass rush.
Final Score Prediction: Eagles 24 – Giants 20
The Giants’ offense is extremely limited. They struggle mightily to produce explosive plays and are inefficient in the red zone. It’s hard to predict more than 20 points for this team in any game.
The Eagles’ offense has woken up the last two weeks. They scored 29 points against Pittsburgh and 28 points against Baltimore. Those defenses are as good or better than New York’s.
The G-Men will keep this game close as they often do. They just lack the offensive firepower to outscore even a depleted Eagles squad.