October 21, 2020
For the first time since the season opener, the Eagles's schedule will see them return to the friendly confines of the NFC East, where the four teams are a combined 5-18-1, including the Eagles' disappointing record of 1-4-1. This week, against the 1-5 Giants, the Birds will not only be the favorite for the first time since the Bengals game, but they're finally playing a team with a worse record than their own.
The Birds may be playing with just a couple of starters — that number could climb to a whopping four if Lane Johnson and DeSean Jackson play, as Doug Pederson hinted on Wednesday — but the Giants will be playing without their best player, Saquon Barkley, who is out for the season. And that should help Jim Schwartz's gameplan mightily, with New York suddenly a much more one dimensional team — and even that may be generous.
With three straight division games on tap (all of which should be winnable) and a bye week mixed in, the Eagles have a chance to get themselves back to .500 over the next four weeks. And in this putrid NFC East, that might be enough to get the job done.
In fact, that might be well more than enough to earn the division title, as the NFC East is on pace to potentially be the worst division in the history of football. Just take a look at this thread about the ineptitude of the Birds' division and how few games it may take to "earn" a playoff spot.
In 28% of simulations, the NFC East champion has 6 wins or fewer.— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) October 20, 2020
One more: there is a 66% chance the NFC East winner has 7 or fewer wins.— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) October 20, 2020
In another simulation @HankGargiulo found: the 5-11 Cowboys lost the division to the 4-10-2 Eagles.— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) October 21, 2020
So how do our writers see this primetime matchup playing out? Let's take a look with our weekly predictions...
TV: FOX/NFL Network (Joe Buck & Troy Aikman)
STREAM: Amazon Prime (Hannah Storm & Andrea Kremer)
RADIO: 94.1 WIP (Merrill Reese & Mike Quick)
|DraftKings||PHI -4.5||PHI -225|
|FanDuel||PHI -4.5||PHI -235|
|Bet Rivers||PHI -4.5||PHI -225|
|Consensus||PHI -4.5||PHI -226|
I was tempted to take the Giants to win this game outright, but after taking a closer look at the actual matchups, I like the Eagles to win, and cover.
The Eagles' biggest strength (their defensive line) matches up well against one of the Giants' perennial biggest weaknesses (their offensive line). Meanwhile, when you look at the Eagles' biggest concern areas, the Giants don't have much in the way of threats to exploit them. For example:
• The Eagles' are missing four offensive line starters, but the Giants don't have a good pass rush, or at least at a minimum, they should be easier to handle than any of the Eagles' last three opponents (Niners, Steelers, Ravens).
• The Eagles' linebackers stink, but Evan Engram plays more like a receiver than a tight end, and will likely be covered by a safety, and the run game is now non-existent with Saquon Barkley out.
On the flip side, the Giants' biggest threat offensively (Darius Slayton) should be neutralized by Darius Slay.
But beyond the personnel matchups, this is a series that has been owned by the Eagles for more than a decade.
The Eagles are a bad, severely banged-up football team right now, but the Giants are simply worse. This is a game that the Eagles should win comfortably, even with all their injuries.
Matt Mullin and I were discussing this on slack, and I think it’s as good as any reasoning for my Eagles pick this week. The Eagles have a favorable stretch of games upcoming against the Giants twice, the Cowboys and the Browns. Three of these games to come are against NFC East teams with losing records and then Cleveland, which is a third place team. They can run the table, or at least win three of four.
The next stretch is diabolical, with the Seahawks, Packers and Saints — let’s call that 0-3. And then they finish with the Cardinals (third place), Cowboys and Washington. Keep in mind that Miles Sanders, Lane Johnson, Jalen Reagor, DeSean Jackson, Alshon Jeffery, Jason Peters, Zach Ertz and others will be returning in the next few weeks. I think there are five or six wins in there. And that’s all you’ll need to win this dreadful division.
It all starts Thursday, with the Giants offering perhaps the best chance for a win at home for the rest of the year. At the risk of ruining my completely blemished record, I think Philly uses its defense to give Carson Wentz some help and a cakewalk victory. They’ll get at least two turnovers in this one and take first place.
The Eagles made three announcements on Wednesday that might spell doom for the Giants this week. First, Doug Pederson said DeSean Jackson, who has had his fair share of big plays against New York, will be ready to go this week. More importantly, Lane Johnson is expected to give his injured ankle a go on Thursday night. But, most importantly, the Eagles announced that they'll be wearing their black uniforms against the Giants, and they're currently 6-0 against New York at home when they rock the black. Of course, those previous six wins all came in a stadium full of 60,000 screaming fans, not 6,000.
Still, as weird as it sounds to say given their 1-4-1 record and the mountain of injuries they're currently trying to overcome, the Eagles are the better team here. But it's probably much closer than we thought coming into the season, when many probably figured the Birds would be closer to a two-touchdown favorite in this matchup.
Even as broken as they've looked, the Eagles offensive line should be able to do a better job protecting Wentz against this Giants defensive line, and the Birds defensive front should give Daniel Jones some fits in this one. That, coupled with the improved play from Wentz should be enough to get it done at the Linc.
The Giants stink. 30th in the league in passing yards per game, 30th in rushing yards per game, 31st in points per game. The Eagles stink too and are not exactly setting the league on fire offensively, and they’re down almost all of their top weapons. But with two straight solid efforts against very good AFC North teams, they have at least given you reason to believe they’re not dead in the water. A one-point win over WASTEAM last week isn’t really changing my outlook on the Giants.
I don’t know you could convince me to pick the Eagles against a team outside of the NFC East the rest of this season, but they have four more division games after this one before it’s all said and done. This should be up there with some of the all-time Thursday Night Football clunkers, and I’ll take the Birds in a tight one.
This is going out on a limb here, based on how many actual healthy bodies the Eagles will have Thursday night. The Giants do have an opportunistic defense. The Eagles have been prone to turn the ball over, and I think this Giants team would not mind giving their head coach, Joe Judge, a homecoming present.
They don’t need Miles Sanders. They don’t need Zach Ertz. They could easily rest DeSean another “week” and get him ready for Dallas. The Giants are putrid. They offend me every time they take the field. Joe Judge is another fake tough guy from the long list of fake toughs coming out of New England. Daniel Jones is one of the worst starting quarterbacks in the NFL, and they continue to try and sell us how much better he will be. The Eagles could win this game starting Jalen Hurts.
Somehow the NFC East has turned into the AFC South. In fact, the only thing missing on Thursday night is the Jacksonville Jaguars. The butt of the TNF football joke this week is "marquee" Northeastern teams with the Eagles and New York Giants combining for a 2-9-1 record coming into the game.
The worst part is both remain significant division title contenders with 60 minutes of football likely the demarcation line between fully off the rails and perhaps division favorite.
For Philadelphia, it becomes which interval do you want to focus on?
Yes, the Eagles are a dismal 1-4-1 in the 2020 season. On the other hand, the organization is a perfect 5-0 on Thursday Night Football in the Doug Pederson era. Most teams hate the short week, something that limits recovery time from a physical perspective and virtually eliminates any meaningful preparation. Yet, somehow the Eagles have persevered in such circumstances.
“My wife tells me all the time, ‘You can put a game plan together in a day and go win on Thursday night. Why can’t you do that for a Sunday game?’ ” Pederson joked earlier this week. “She kind of kids me a little that way.”
It's actually an interesting question from Jeannie Pederson and one that trends toward the Eagles getting the best of the Giants and Philly native Joe Judge, their new head coach, despite being without two more playmakers, tight end Zach Ertz (ankle) and running back Miles Sanders (knee).
The Giants are looking to build momentum after their first win of the season last Sunday when second-year quarterback Daniel Jones rushed for a career-high 74 yards in a 20-19 win over the Washington Football Team.
For the most part, Big Blue has been competitive, save for a Week 3 blowout at the hands of San Francisco. All of the Giants' other losses were by 10 points-or-less and three setbacks were one-score games.
The Eagles should win but the attrition keeps it too close for comfort.