3FTO: Eagles @ Giants, Week 5
It can only be described as a treat when you have a 1-3 team traveling to take on a 0-4 team and there are playoff implications. That is the extremely rare scenario that will take place this week when the Eagles head 90 minutes up the Jersey Turnpike to play the winless Giants. With the NFC East in an extremely sad state this year, it is very possible that eight wins could make you the division champ, hosting a playoff game. However, even winning eight games seems like a lofty goal for these two teams, with both coming off of humbling Week 4 performances.
Philadelphia lost their third straight game and while losing in Denver is hardly something to be alarmed about, it was the ease with which Peyton Manning operated that made the Eagles effort so disheartening. Philadelphia needs to rekindle the fire they displayed in the opening Monday night thrashing of the Redskins to get their season back on track. A win Sunday would make the Eagles 2-0 in division games and provide some hope for the rest of the season.
The first month of the 2013 season could not have been worse for the New York Giants. They have the worst scoring differential in the NFC and have given up the most points in the conference. Combine that with an offense that has scored a total of seven points and turns the ball over a lot, and you have the recipe for an 0-4 start. Despite all of that, a win on Sunday could land the Giants within one game of first place and potentially turn their season around. The team that earns a much needed win will most likely be the one which wins these key matchups.
LeSean McCoy vs. Giants Run Defense
After one month of play there is one certainty about Chip Kelly’s offense and that is the running game is a force to be reckoned with. Led by running back, LeSean McCoy the Eagles are averaging 198.2 rushing yards per game, nearly 50 yards more than the second highest team. McCoy has dazzled with his exciting running style, forcing 17 missed tackles on 78 carries and another four missed tackles on his seven pass receptions. Most of McCoy’s damage has come when running behind the left side of the line, which features left guard, Evan Mathis. Mathis has a run blocking grade of +13.5 this season, by far the highest among all offensive linemen. Philadelphia may have to increase McCoy’s workload this week, since the opening week win against Washington when he had 31 carries, McCoy hasn’t topped 20 rushes. Going against a New York defense that is currently ranked 28th against the run, expect the Eagles to ride McCoy.
Although they rank 28th in the league at stopping the run, the Giants have some elite run defenders on their team. Defensive ends, Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul rank 2nd and 5th respectively in Run Stop Percentage, and ex-Eagle, Mike Patterson has the highest run stop percentage among defensive tackles in the league. However, the linebackers are another story. None of the Giants starting linebackers rank in the top 10 in run stop percentage at their position and middle linebacker, Spencer Paysinger is 22nd. Outside linebacker, Keith Rivers has been credited with just four tackles on the 77 running plays that he has been on the field for. If New York has any hope at containing McCoy they will need a big performance from this group.
Eli Manning vs. Eagles Secondary
It will be the second straight week that the Eagles are facing a Manning and after what Peyton did to them a week ago, they will gladly welcome a contest against a struggling Eli. Manning’s rough start has been widely discussed, but if there is a team to get well against, it is the Eagles. Philadelphia has allowed an average of 325 yards per game through the air, second worst in the entire NFL and quarterbacks have a 107.2 rating against them. A lot of Eli’s struggles have come when facing pressure, and he has faced a ton of it. He has been pressured 76 times already this season and is on pace to be pressured more than any quarterback since we began keeping track. When pressured, Manning is just 25 of 56 with 2 interceptions and has taken 12 sacks. Another result of Manning’s lack of time is the decrease in his ability to throw deep. In 2012, Manning completed 27 passes more than 20 yards down the field, eight of which resulted in touchdowns with only three interceptions. So far this season, Manning has attempted 20 passes more than 20 yards down the field, completing five of them and had four of them intercepted, already exceeding his 2012 total.
Manning will try to get on track against an Eagles secondary that was overhauled in the offseason and scrutinized ever since. Starting cornerbacks, Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams have been decent. Fletcher is third in the NFL with 21.7 coverage snaps per reception and Williams is 19th on that same list, but has committed some costly penalties. The true deficiency in the secondary is at safety, where Nate Allen and Patrick Chung have both struggled. They rank 53rd and 76th respectively in cover snaps per reception among safeties and have been victimized numerous times. When throwing at these safeties, quarterbacks have a QB rating higher than 144, an astronomical number, so maybe this is the week that Eli gets his deep passing game back?
Trent Cole and Fletcher Cox vs. William Beatty and Kevin Boothe
After analyzing the record setting pace that the Giants offensive line is allowing pressure and the impact that it has on the play of Eli Manning, I would be remiss to not include this matchup. This will be the battle to protect Eli’s backside and will be pivotal to the Giants’ offensive success. The New York offensive line is banged up and could shake things up, but it seems fairly certain that William Beatty will start at left tackle and Kevin Boothe will start at left guard, setting the stage for a battle against Eagles outside linebacker, Trent Cole and defensive end, Fletcher Cox. All 120 of Cole’s pass rushing snaps have come from the right side, meaning he will draw Beatty on his pass rushing attempts. In his first season as a 3-4 outside linebacker, Cole ranks 19th in Pass Rushing Productivity, generating 13 total pressures on 120 pass rushing opportunities. Beatty has been dreadful so far this season, ranking 58th in Pass Blocking Efficiency among offensive tackles, surrendering a league high 24 total pressures, including nine last week alone.
Lining up next to Beatty is Kevin Boothe, who has also struggled to protect Manning. Boothe ranks 23rd among guards in Pass Blocking Efficiency and his task this week is to block Eagles right defensive end, Fletcher Cox. After playing his rookie season as a defensive tackle, Cox made the switch to 3-4 defensive end. He currently ranks 12th in Pass Rush Productivity among 3-4 ends, generating 11 pressures and two sacks on 138 pass rushing opportunities. If Beatty and Boothe can slow down Cole and Cox allowing Manning time to pick on the Eagles secondary, it will be a good day for New York, if not you can expect to see more Manning struggles under pressure.
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