Let's get right down to business. I believe the Eagles will beat the Giants on Sunday.
The biggest mistake you could make is assume Brandon Jacobs is the key to the Giants offense. Maybe he is now, but that was not the case at all when Plaxico Burress was in the lineup.
We're talking about the top rushing offense in the NFL, so what could I possibly be getting at?
The gameplan this week is the same as it was the first time around:
1. Protect Donovan McNabb
2. Contain Giants Running Game
3. Force Giants Into 3rd and Long
And we added one more for the second meeting:
4. Run the Football
Nowhere have we ever specifically mentioned Burress playing a critical role in the outcome, but trust me, it's there. Plax did so much more for the Giants offense than catch footballs. He dictates coverage. Week 10, the Eagles double-teamed Burress 73% of the time. Week 14, the number of double-teams on the X receiver plummets to 7%.
The difference is comparable to having an extra player on the field. Consider how Jim Johnson's playbook opens up when a safety is not automatically assigned to help a corner. In this case, it allows Mikell or Dawkins or another member of the secondary to move closer to the line of scrimmage and be in much better position to stop the run.
The two schemes are night and day for the Eagles defense. With Burress, Jacobs averaged 5.7 yards per carry, and the Giants 5.2 in the win at Philly. Without, Jacobs averaged 5.2 before exiting the game with an injury, and the team finished just 3.7 in the Meadowlands. On first glance, the offense really missed Jacobs, but that number was aided by one 23-yard run. Remove that play from the equation, and his game two YPC dips to 3.4.
That big play indicates Jacobs and the Giants backs are still a dangerous bunch, but overall the Eagles did a nice job of containment. I expect an encore. Those guys will get their yards, they just will not have the same impact without a serious downfield threat. Instead of 7 yards, they'll gain 5. Instead of 3, they'll find 1. Ultimately, it leads to 3rd and 4-8 rather than 3rd and 1-3, and the defense can win those battles.
The offense must do their part though, or eventually the Giants running game will wear down the defense. This is much more difficult to project because there is no telling what the gameplan will be. Again, there must be a commitment to the running game, if for no other reason than to shorten the game. New York controlled the ball for 40 minutes when they came down to the Linc, and it was absolute disaster. Win time of possession, win the game.
Win or lose, neither outcome would be surprising. No one is saying the Giants can't win or won't win, but with any kind of offensive showing, the Eagles should win. It won't be easy, and it probably won't be pretty, but it should be fun.
(pic via PhiladelphiaEagles.com)