3TFO: Eagles @ Giants, Week 17
This Sunday will add a weird new chapter to one of the NFL’s oldest and most bitter rivalries. In what will likely be the end of Andy Reid’s 14-year tenure, the winningest coach in Philadelphia Eagles history would love to say goodbye by defeating the New York Giants, a team who’s been the victim of so many of his biggest wins.
This will also mark the end of Michael Vick’s career in Philadelphia, a roller coaster path to redemption that carried as much promise as it did disappointment. I imagine Reid calling Vick into his office earlier this week, breaking the news about Nick Foles’ broken hand, and quipping, “What do you say Mike, do you want to break the Giants’ hearts again, for old time’s sake?”
As for New York, Tom Coughlin has the challenge of recovering from two confidence-shattering losses while motivating his troops for a game that could mean nothing, or everything, to their season. If the Giants are looking for some precedential hope for a playoff berth, they should look across the field at the other sideline. The 2008 Eagles came up one yard short of sending a Week 16 game against the Washington Redskins into overtime, and were left for dead heading into the season’s final weekend. But a couple of games broke just the way they needed them to, and a resounding 41-3 home win against the Dallas Cowboys launched Philly into the playoffs. Two weeks later they went on the road in the Divisional Round and upset, you guessed it, the New York Giants.
Will the Eagles send off Reid and Vick in style? Or will the Giants, playing for pride or playoffs, not go gentle into that good night? Here are three matchups that could decide Sunday’s outcome.
Michael Vick vs. Corey Webster
If the Giants’ season indeed ends on Sunday, the search for answers will undoubtedly lead them to Corey Webster’s fall from grace. His clutch play last season helped New York survive an August injury to Terrell Thomas, but his play this year has been unbecoming of a franchise cornerback. It may seem like teams are specifically targeting Webster, as the Baltimore Ravens did 14 times last week. But that’s not the case, as he’s faced 92 passes this season versus 98 at this point in 2011. The difference is that, while Webster allowed a 54.6% completion rate, 895 yards, and five touchdowns in 20 games last season; he’s already allowed 62.0%, 973 yards, and eight scores this year. After a respectable 1.19 Yards Per Cover Snap last year, Webster’s 1.83 mark this year is the highest for any NFL cornerback with over 250 coverage snaps.
Vick has had a bit of success against Webster in the past, throwing for 191 yards and three touchdowns into his coverage in four starts as an Eagle. However, much of that damage came at the hands of DeSean Jackson. In the four games since Jackson was placed on injured reserve with fractured ribs, Jeremy Maclin has 331 yards and two touchdowns, and Jason Avant has stepped up with 326 yards and a +6.2 grade in the passing game. When Vick does his pre-snap reads, you can be certain that he’ll note which of his receivers is lined up against Webster.
Brandon Graham vs. David Diehl
Reid abruptly released Jason Babin because he wanted to see if Brandon Graham could develop from a depth spot into an every-down playmaker. It was a wise move, as Graham has tallied five sacks, two hits, and 12 hurries since then (despite being stonewalled by Maurice Hurt last week). On the season, Cameron Wake is the only 4-3 DE with a higher grade than Graham’s +28.7, and none have a higher Pass Rushing Productivity score than Graham’s 17.7 mark. And while Babin had a reputation for being a bit of a one-trick pony, Graham is the complete package with a 10.6 Run Stop Percentage that ranks third among those at his position with over 100 snaps in run defense.
Graham has lined up at left defensive end for 96.3 percent of his snaps this season, meaning that right tackle David Diehl will be the one tasked with slowing him down. Diehl’s troubles last season have been well documented on PFF, as the Giants won the Super Bowl in spite of his sieve-like pass protection. Competing for playing time with Sean Locklear may have pushed him to rebound this season, but he regressed back to his 2011 form against the Ravens last week. Diehl surrendered three hits and four hurries and was generally overwhelmed by the Ravens’ pass rush. Diehl’s low point came with 3:38 left in the second quarter, when Paul Kruger completely spun him around for a hit on Eli Manning that could have been a sack-fumble if the Ravens had challenged it. Diehl could hit the chopping block this offseason, and bouncing back against Graham may help convince the Giants to bring him back for an 11th season.
LeSean McCoy vs. Giants Defensive Line
Eagles fans only wish that Reid were always as committed to the running game as he’s been in his last two seasons against the Giants. In three meetings since 2011, LeSean McCoy has rushed 70 times against New York for 364 yards and a touchdown, eluding 11 tackles and collecting 44.8 percent of those yards after contact. His most success in Week 4 came running to the right, where he averaged 7.0 yards on 14 carries versus 2.8 on nine rushes to the left. However, right tackle Todd Herremans has since been placed on IR and right guard Danny Watkins hasn’t played meaningful snaps since Week 6. In their stead, Dennis Kelly and Jake Scott have collected -5.2 and +1.1 run block grades, respectively.
The Giants’ pass rush has been overstated and underwhelming this season, but their defensive line has held its own against the run. Jason Pierre-Paul’s 27 run stops are the third-most of any 4-3 DE, and Justin Tuck’s 7.5 Run Stop Percentage is ninth-best among those with over 200 run defense snaps at his position. On the inside, Linval Joseph has posted a solid 7.1 Run Stop Percentage while facing more rushing attempts than all but two other defensive tackles this season. New York will likely miss their best run-stopping DT, as a sprained MCL cut short Chris Canty’s stellar start against the Ravens last week. The Giants can’t guarantee themselves a playoff berth, but bottling up McCoy will go a long way towards at least ending their season on a winning note.
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