December 09, 2019
After a weekend of waiting, Monday has finally arrived — it feels weird typing that — and that means it's almost time for kickoff between the Eagles and Giants, who face off under the lights at the Linc tonight. On the line for Philly will be a chance to move into a first-place tie with the Cowboys in the NFC East despite their current 5-7 record and three straight losses.
Yes, the NFC East is an absolutely mess this season with a legitimate shot at sending a .500-or-worse team to represent them in the playoffs in January.
An Eagles win on Monday Night Football over Eli Manning and the Giants, in what could be the veteran quarterbacks final game in Philly, would go a long way toward re-igniting the playoff hopes in Philly. But after watching them lose to the lowly Dolphins a week ago, nothing is given.
As we do each week, let's take a look at some numbers to watch in tonight's Eagles-Giants game in the form of our five over/unders.
That's the current total being offered over at Bovada, and based on our writers' predictions it seems a little low, especially if the Birds come out looking like they did last week against the Dolphins. During that game, the offense held up its end of the bargain, scoring 31 points on Miami, but it was their defense that held them back, allowing Ryan Fitzpatrick and Co. to light them up for 37 points and absolutely crush the over.
This week at home, we're expecting the offense to once again show up, but it's hard to imagine the defense looks as bad as it did a week ago. The problem is, the Giants have made a quarterback change in the last week, putting Eli Manning back into the starting spot in place of injured rookie Daniel Jones. And while the Eagles have easily handled Manning and the Giants in recent years, this will be his first start since Week 2 and it's impossible to tell what he'll look like after the first extended absence of his career.
Moreover, these two teams have combined for at least 47 total points in each of their last four matchups and six of their last seven meetings. But that gets more complicated when you look at just their numbers at the Linc, where the Eagles defense has gotten the better of Manning recently. Over the last decade, these two teams have averaged just 43.3 points per game in Philly, while they've combined for an average of 57.1 points per game in the Meadowlands.
Normally, these two teams meeting up would be enough for us to take the over in this one, but given the wet weather that's expected on Monday night at the Linc, and the relative uncertainty of what these two teams can do on offense, we're going to stick with the under here.
This category really comes down to which Carson Wentz we'll see on the field on Monday night. Will it be the one who turned the ball over four times against the Seahawks? Or will it be the one who threw for three touchdowns against Miami? Given the opponent, we're betting on the latter, as the Giants have been susceptible through the air this season, allowing opposing quarterbacks to throw for a 101.7 passer rating against them, including 22 passing TDs to just 10 interceptions. The Giants are averaging over two sacks per game, but that hasn't stopped them from being torched through the air this season, especially deep (more on that in a few).
Surprisingly, Wentz has only hit triple digits three times this season when it comes to his passer rating this season, but we're expecting him to get No. 4 on Monday night, especially if Doug Pederson finally wakes up and presents a more balanced offensive attack to help keep the Giants run defense honest in the sloppy weather. Having Wentz drop back nearly 50 times per game is not a winning formula, and he's often at his best when the team keeps his attempts below 40. That might be the winning formula in this one, but against this Giants defense, he should still have plenty of chances to fill up the stat sheet.
As we mentioned previously, the Giants have a tendency to give up long passes this season, something the Eagles have struggled mightily to pull off ever since DeSean Jackson was injured. Not only are the Giants allowing 8.4 yards per passing attempt (second worst in the NFL to the Raiders) but they've also allowed more receptions of 40-plus yards than any other team in the NFL.
The Giants have given up 14 catches this season over 40 yards. Only two teams have given up more. #Eagles gotta go deep tonight.— Eliot Shorr-Parks (@EliotShorrParks) December 9, 2019
Sure, the Eagles might not have any great deep threats taking the field on Monday night, but they'd be foolish not to take a few shots down the field, something we saw work out for the Birds last week even when they weren't able to make a reception. Worst-case scenario, you keep the Giants defense honest (okay, maybe a game-changing interception is the worst-case scenario, but we're trying to be optimistic). Best-case, you get a big-play touchdown.
If the Eagles don't trust their wideouts to go deep, why not take a shot with Miles Sanders? It's worked before, and you have to believe he's itching to go out and show up the guy he sat behind during his time at Penn State, Saquon Barkley. If there was ever a team to try to get your deep ball going against, this is it. However, it's hard to trust the Eagles offensive staff to come up with a wildly different gameplan from the vanilla one we've seen them roll out to this point.
If the Eagles were still facing Daniel Jones, this number would probably be a little bit higher. But one of the things that Manning is still better at than the rookie is getting the ball out of his hands before the opposing defense has a chance to drag him down (Carson Wentz could actually learn a thing or two here), and that might make it tough for Jim Schwartz' crew to bring down the quarterback on Monday night. Jimmy Kempski wrote about this very topic in his five matchups to watch for this week:
According the NFL's "Next Gen" stats, Jones gets the ball at an average rate of 2.88 seconds. Conversely, Manning has traditionally gotten the ball out quickly, particularly against the Eagles. In 2018, Manning got the ball out in 2.65 seconds, on average, and 2.5 seconds in 2017.
It's going to be difficult for Manning and the Giants' receivers to get back on the same page going from a quarterback who took his time in the pocket, to one who likes to get it out quickly, and relies on timing and precision.
Additionally, it might come as a surprise to find out that in Manning's last three games at the Linc, he's been sacked a grand total of two times.
However, if the secondary can go back to playing the way it was playing against New England and Seattle, that can go a long way toward helping the defensive line get the time they'll need to make the play. Of course, the Eagles will also need to be careful Manning doesn't just dump the ball off to Saquon Barkley, who is having a down season in Year 2 but torched the Birds in 2018.
Still, look for Fletcher Cox and Co. to get the job done in this one against a suspect Giants offensive line.
Speaking of Barkley, the former Penn State rusher went off for 371 total yards in two games against the Eagles last year and scared some Eagles fans about what they'll have to face for years to come in the NFC East. This year, however, Barkley hasn't been nearly the same, especially since suffering his high-ankle sprain in Daniel Jones first start of the season. Since that injury, Barkley is averaging just 87.4 total yards per game (51.2 rushing, 36.2 receiving) and has recorded just two touchdowns, the same number of scores he notched in his first two and a half games of the season. Teams were also able to key on him more against a rookie quarterback than they would've likely been able to against Manning, who despite his age still poses a threat as a downfield passer.
The Eagles run defense has remained solid, if unspectacular, this season as they currently rank third in the NFL in rushing yards allowed and eighth in the NFL in yards per carry allowed. If the Eagles are all over Manning in this one, something's gotta give, and I think Barkley actually surpasses his season and hits the over in this one, although I don't think it will look anything like his performances from a season ago.
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