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Preview: Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants Fight for First Place

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Philadelphia Eagles LogoBefore this season started, few Philadelphia Eagles fans thought the Birds would be vying for first place against the New York Football Giants in Week 11. Amid the “quarterback controversy” and the loss of franchise quarterback Donovan McNabb, many thought the Eagles’ young team would need time to rebound. Nevertheless, the Eagles stand tied with the Giants at 6-3, looking to a home matchup this weekend that could give them the first place spot for the first time all season.

LAST WEEK…
The Eagles are coming off a 59-28 whomping of the Washington Redskins, a deserved redemption after the Skins came to Philly and took quarterback Michael Vick out of the lineup for the following three weeks. The Giants, on the other hand, are coming off a disappointing loss to the 2-7 Dallas Cowboys. Some people are guessing that the Giants were looking ahead to the Eagles and weren’t prepared for the Cowboys to come out and play. I tend to lean toward an inflated ego more than unpreparedness because there is still a sense of pride in the Giants that would keep them from not respecting the Cowboys enough to not prepare. The teams are still division rivals and, before the season started, the Cowboys were picked as contenders for the Super Bowl. Knowing that they have this talent and just haven’t been using it correctly, I think the Giants simply thought it would be a cake-walk. There also might be a luck factor, considering quarterback Eli Manning managed to accumulate 373 yards in the surprising loss.

LOOKING AHEAD…
The Giants will be a worthy test to Vick. Him and DeSean Jackson have become the NFL’s top duo, as Vick always seems to find his hands, and Vick has also been more than capable of running the ball himself. But when facing the Giants’ defense, Vick may have to adjust his game plan.

One way to do this is to find Brent Celek. Vick’s style of play has allowed receivers like Jackson and Jeremy Maclin to shine and Celek to get lost in the shuffle. Sunday night may prove to be a revisit to last season’s stellar performance by Celek. Especially if the defense plays their safeties deep, like the Redskins did last week, at an attempt to prevent long balls by Vick, Celek may be able to break free through the middle on short passes and get room to run. However, we already have proof that game plan didn’t work very well for the Skins.

The Giants will have to choose between rushing and passing, because Vick can hurt teams in both facets of the game. He currently has a 115.1 passer rating and leads all quarterbacks in rushing. It seems as though the Giants’ defense will be on the attack against Vick, trying to add as much pressure as possible.

“We haven’t had that type of monster to deal with this year … He’s going to burn you one way or the other. … I’ll be going [all] out after him rather than sitting back  and letting him pick us apart. He has a tendency to make some mistakes when you get after him.” — Giants’ defensive end Justin Tuck

The Giants will have to put up quite a fight to get to Vick, as he hasn’t made many mistakes as of late. Also, not having a sack in their last two games doesn’t bode well for the Giants’ defensive line.

Several things could happen this weekend when the Eagles take on the Giants at home. The Giants could still be in a funk from last week’s loss to the Cowboys and see the downturn of their season. On the other hand, the Eagles could walk in overconfident after their annihilation of the Redskins last week. The Giants’ defense, which ranks first in lowest yards per game for opponents, could find a way to contain Vick, or Vick will continue his tear of the NFC East and dominate the field.

One thing to consider about the Giants is their five-game winning streak before last week’s loss to the Cowboys was against teams with a combined 19-26 record. Left on their schedule is another matchup with the Eagles, two games with the Redskins, and games against the Minnesota Vikings, Jacksonville Jaguars and Green Bay Packers. The Eagles’ remaining schedule features two games with the Cowboys and one game each with the Chicago Bears, Houston Texans and Minnesota Vikings, as well as one more against the Giants.

Even after this weekend, there is still a lot of football to be played and the Eagles and Giants might even trade first place once or twice before the end of the season. Based on their schedules, this game could also be the turning point for each team, for better or worse.