Hidden Keys to the Eagles-Giants Game

Hidden Keys to the Eagles-Giants Game

We've talked about some of the more obvious aspects of the game.  Let's face it, like both teams are familiar with one another, we too have a good idea of how these games usually play out and some of the tendencies of the New York Giants.

Besides stellar individual performances from the game's playmakers, there are always a few overlooked aspects that push the odds in one team's favor.  So what sort of football-type stuff will be the difference between winning and losing?  A breakdown after the jump.

Time of Possession

We already touched on this, but didn't really explain why it's so important.  In Week 10, the Giants perpetrated one of the most lopsided 36-31 victories in the history of the NFL.  I'm really not interested in how the Eagles almost won the game because they certainly didn't deserve it.

New York imposed its will all night, rushing for almost 6 yards a clip and controlling the ball just short of 40 minutes.  Think about that.  Two-thirds of the game, the Giants had the ball.  They set the pace, which contributed to the Eagles frantic Reidball gameplan.  They wore down a defense that had already failed to stop the running game from the outset. 

The Eagles don't necessarily need to win time of possession, but it must be near even or they won't win.  It's that simple.  If the Giants are dominating the clock, that means A) the defense isn't getting off the field on third down, and B) too many three-and-outs for the offense.  That's a recipe for losing.

Field Position Battle

This may be the biggest factor for the Eagles to be successful on Sunday.  One reason why they beat the Vikings were two drives where they started pinned inside their own 20, but were able to pick up a few first downs and reach midfield.  Both trips ended in punts, but they reversed the field position and forced Minnesota to go the distance.

They cannot punt from their own territory often and expect to keep the Giants from scoring.  For one, Sav Rocca struggled mightily to punt even one decent ball in the swirling winds of the Meadowlands earlier this season, so they can't rely on the kicker to change their fortunes.

On each possession, the offense must move the chains a few times and at least put their defense in a favorable position to keep the other team off the board.  The Giants are not as effective in the red zone, but they walk off the field with 3 more often than not, so putting them on the 50 is like giving away points.

Fred Robbins v. Eagles Interior Linemen

The player who scares me the most is not Brandon Jacobs, it's DT Fred Robbins.  In game two, the Eagles catalyst for victory was a strong day running the football.  What fell by wayside in Philly was the fact that Robbins was not 100%.

I'm not sure how many Eagles fans are familiar with Robbins' work, but he is probably the most underrated player in this match-up.  Robbins is a Pro Bowl caliber lineman who clogs running lanes and adds pressure on the quarterback.  He sets the tone for the D line, the kind of player that could see the attention of multiple blockers, creating one-on-one for the ends.

If Robbins is healthy, for the second week in a row Westbrook may find holes lacking, and whenever that's the case there is always the chance Reidball will return.  This will be the most interesting battle on the field come 1 pm, because it has the greatest potential to sway the coach's gameplan and ultimately alter the final outcome of the game.

Nerlens Noel excited for impending return to game action

Nerlens Noel excited for impending return to game action

NEW ORLEANS -- The weeks and months have quickly piled up. Nerlens Noel has not played an NBA regular-season game since last season ended for the Sixers on April 13. Nearly eight months later, Noel is nearing the return he has been eyeing for quite some time now. 

“It’s always an excitement to be able to play basketball after this amount of time, including the summer, not being able to play organized basketball at a competitive level,” Noel said Thursday. “I’ve been really looking forward to this. I think I’ve gained some momentum coming back from this minor surgery, and I think I’m in a really good place and I’m feeling good with my body. Everything is on point.”

Noel has been sidelined since undergoing elective left knee surgery in October to address an inflamed plica. He traveled to New Orleans on Wednesday to join the Sixers ahead of their 99-88 win over the Pelicans (see game recap). Noel continued his rehab Thursday while the team prepped for the game. 

“I’ve been able do five-on-five, full contact,” Noel said. “I’ve tried to maximize my opportunities of that with the team being gone on the road. I came down here and went through most of shootaround and it went well. Now these next couple of days, [I will be] going through practice, still working on my wind. I do like where I’m at now.”

The Sixers’ next game is Sunday against the Pistons in Detroit. Brett Brown had given Noel’s availability for that game a “maybe” (see story)

“I’m not sure,” Noel said of playing Sunday. “I’m ready to go with these next couple of days and see how my wind feels and how my body feels, which I have been feeling good. So it’s a possibility.”

When Noel does return, there is a scenario in which he could be paired with center Joel Embiid. Last year, the Sixers struggled finding the best way to utilize Noel and Jahlil Okafor, also a center, at the same time playing the four and five positions. As Okafor has said of playing with Embiid, Noel also believes his off-the-court friendship with the towering rookie would translate onto the court. 

“I think it would be something that’s experimented,” Noel said. “It’d definitely be interesting.”

Noel candidly expressed his opinion of the Sixers’ logjammed frontcourt at the start of the season. Since speaking to the media after his surgery, Noel has mentioned he is in a good mental place (see story). For him, that means being out on the court again. 

“I love myself and I love the game of basketball,” Noel said. “When I step out here to come and play, it just brings a lot of enjoyment and excitement to me. Regardless of what the details of it are, I just love the game and I’m happy to just be playing.”

Best of NHL: Flames edge Coyotes in OT for fifth straight win

Best of NHL: Flames edge Coyotes in OT for fifth straight win

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Dougie Hamilton scored 1:09 into overtime, Chad Johnson stopped 27 shots and the Calgary Flames beat the Arizona Coyotes 2-1 on Thursday night.

Mark Giordano scored for the Flames in a chippy game filled with big hits and multiple fights.

Hamilton capped a fast-paced overtime by deking Arizona's Mike Smith with a forehand before flipping in a backhander. Calgary has won five straight and eight of 11 (8-2-1).

Max Domi scored before leaving with an upper-body injury and Smith stopped 33 shots for the Coyotes, who have lost six straight and 11 of 14 (3-7-4).

Arizona captain Shane Doan became Arizona's all-time assist leader and is the fifth player in NHL history to own his team's records for games played, goals, assists, points, game-winning goals and power-play goals (see full recap).

Crosby, Penguins roll over Panthers
SUNRISE, Fla. -- Sidney Crosby got his 18th goal and added an assist to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins over the Florida Panthers 5-1 on Thursday night.

Conor Sheary, Tom Kuhnhackl, Matt Cullen and Carl Hagelin also scored for Pittsburgh. Matt Murray made 28 saves.

The Penguins have won four straight and five of their past six.

Jaromir Jagr scored his 755th career goal, and Roberto Luongo stopped 25 shots for the Panthers. Luongo allowed three goals on Pittsburgh's first five shots.

Panthers coach Tom Rowe, who replaced Gerard Gallant on Nov. 28, made his home debut. The Panthers have lost five of six under Rowe, but managed a point in three of those losses (see full recap).

Price loses cool as Habs beat Devils
MONTREAL -- Carey Price lost his temper after being bumped twice in his crease and made 19 saves to help the Montreal Canadiens beat the New Jersey Devils 5-2 on Thursday night.

Torrey Mitchell scored twice and Phillip Danault, Artturi Lehkonen and Max Pacioretty also had goals for the Canadiens in their return from a five-game trip.

Adam Henrique scored a goal and set up one by Taylor Hall for New Jersey, which ended a two-game winning streak.

Montreal had a season-high 49 shots on Cory Schneider.

A wild first period included three goals, four goal reviews and Price's meltdown (see full recap).