December 28, 2019
The Eagles will face the Giants on Sunday. If they win, they're in the playoffs. If they lose, their postseason fate rests in the hands of the Dallas Cowboys.
Here are some numbers to watch in their regular-season finale in the form of our five weekly over/unders.
That's the current total being offered over at Bovada, and it seems to be right on point based on our writers' predictions. We have two projecting the game to hit the over, two on the under and one predicting 45 points exactly, with an average point total of 45.6. My projection, however, was one of the ones hitting the over, at 51 total points. So, how did we there? Glad you asked...
All five of us are picking the Eagles to win the game, and most by a decent margin, with the bet being that despite Philly's obvious limitations on offense — they'll now also be without Zach Ertz in the passing game, in addition to all three starting wideouts from the start of the season — Carson Wentz and his remaining skill players will be able to take advantage of a Giants defense that may be even worse, especially in the secondary. Safety Jabril Peppers is on IR, Janoris Jenkins was waived, and corners Sam Beal and Corey Ballantine are both questionable to play. And even if those last two suit up, they don't have a ton more experience than the Eagles current crop of receivers. That, plus the return of Jordan Howard, albeit in a limited role should be enough to get the Eagles on the scoreboard on Sunday and help them do their part in this game hitting the over.
On the other side of the ball, the Eagles defense has been erratic this season, with great games followed up by mediocre performances. And most of those great games have come at home. Take a look at their home/road splits this season...
|Opp. yards/pass attempt||6.4||8.3|
|Opp. QB passer rating||81.2||102.4|
As you can see, the Eagles have been a much better defensive team at home, which shouldn't come as much of a surprise to anyone who has seen them play this season. Unfortunately, they've already played their full complement of home games and will be traveling to MetLife Stadium for this one. And 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.
Jim Schwartz and the Eagles defense hasn't faced Daniel Jones yet this season and they could be without both of their starting cornerbacks on Sunday, with Ronald Darby already being placed on IR and Jalen Mills questionable to play. That could lead to another big day for Darius Slayton, who torched the Eagles for over 150 yards and two TDs in their last meeting — and that was at the Linc. The Eagles will also have to deal with a red-hot Saquon Barkley, and while they were able to keep him bottled up when they met earlier this month, stopping the former Penn State back is easier said than done.
Furthermore, these two teams have combined for at least 47 total points in four of their last five matchups — their most recent meeting was the exception — and in six of their last eight. In short, there could be some scoring in this one, so we're going to lean on the side of the over.
As we just mentioned, the Eagles kept Barkley in check the last time they faced back in Week 14, holding him to just 67 total yards (and just one through the air). That was a far cry from Barkley's rookie year, when he went off for 371 total yards in his two games against the Birds. While we don't see Barkley going for 304 yards to match his total from last season, we do expect him to have a better showing than he did in Philly.
In his two games since facing the Eagles, Barkley has recorded 422 yards total (301 rushing) and four touchdowns. He's been a man on a mission, but this week he'll be going up against a much tougher defense than he faced against Miami or Washington the last two weeks. And despite facing a new quarterback in Jones, it seems like Barkley will again be the focus of Schwartz' defensive game plan.
"I thought last time we played him, we treated him like he was 100% and I thought he was," Schwartz said on Tuesday. "He is a guy that if you give him an inch, he can go the distance. I think you saw that, he caught a wide receiver screen, did a seam route out of the back field, made some of those big plays. He has that ability. I think he has had that ability all season long.
"He is a guy you always need to know where he is, you need to account for him both in the run game and pass game. And in the run game, you have to account for all of your gaps. He is a guy that can spin. He is a really good spin move guy and can break contain, so it's not just your interior guys. Your edges have to hold up well against him."
While the Eagles will likely be keying on Barkley just as much as in their last meeting, the emergence of Jones adds another wrinkle to the Giants offense, and if he is able to keep the Eagles defense on its heels early on, then perhaps Schwartz has to shift his focus — although that was the case in their last meeting with the Giants getting out to a big lead behind that Manning-to-Slayton connection, but the Eagles stayed aggressive against the run. They were daring Eli Manning to beat them, and it worked, as he was held scoreless in the second half. Let's hope that same strategy works against Jones on Sunday, because as Schwartz alluded to, Barkley is the type of player capable of hitting the over here in one play. Still...
Howard suffered a stinger back in Week 9, and despite it looking like every week would be the week he would return, he remained sidelined for seven weeks. But this week, he was cleared for contact and Doug Pederson said earlier this week that Howard is good to go for Sunday, although it sounds like we'll be getting slightly less of Howard than some are expecting, in part because Howard had such a long time off and in part because Pederson doesn't want to mess up a good thing in the Miles Sanders-Boston Scott combo. Here's the back-and-forth with reports on Friday after Pederson revealed that Howard had been cleared for contact:
Q. How do you work Jordan in? I know RB Miles Sanders has really done well and you don't want to take opportunities away from him, so what's the challenge this week?
DOUG PEDERSON: Challenge is we've been planning with Miles and [RB] Boston [Scott], and Jordan gives us obviously a third back, situational guy; we understand who he is. Again, we mentioned yesterday as far as the conditioning and the game shape and being ready, you just can't give him a full complement of plays. We don't want to necessarily disrupt what we have going, but he is a big piece obviously to our offense.
Q. Where is Jordan’s level of strength right now?
DOUG PEDERSON: I mean, it's good. I wouldn't say it's necessarily probably where he wants it to be, but it's good. It's good for playing. Again, we're going to be smart about it, but we're full steam ahead with Miles and Boston.
"Full steam ahead with Miles and Boston" doesn't sound like Pederson plans to use Howard much on Sunday, likely putting him in something closer to the Jay Ajayi role than the one he played prior to his injury, when he was the team's No. 1 ball carrier. That doesn't mean Howard has been demoted, although he certainly should be behind Sanders, who has emerged as a legit Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate, on the depth chart at this point. It sounds more like he doesn't want to rush Howard back into action, nor does he want to ruin the chemistry with Sanders and Scott, ahead of a potential playoff game next weekend.
Howard is most likely to get the ball in short yardage situations on Sunday, although it would behoove the Eagles to put him in on more plays than just those, otherwise, you're telegraphing your call every time he comes into the game. I think he gets a decent number of snaps, but not necessarily a ton of carries. And with the amount the Eagles have been passing the ball in recent weeks — Wentz has had at least 40 pass attempts in each of the last six games after hitting 40 attempts just twice in his first nine games this season — it's tough to see there being enough carries to go around.
Under Daniel Jones this season, the Giants have only played one turnover-free game, and that came last week in their overtime win in Washington. In his 11 starts this year, the Giants have turned the ball over 24 times, including 11 interceptions and nine lost fumbles by Jones. If you can believe it, Jones has actually fumbled more than Wentz this season, with 16 in total, although he hasn't coughed up the ball that way in either of his last two games.
Previously, we mentioned how much better the Eagles defense has been at home, however, the one area in which they've been better on the road is when it comes to forcing turnovers — go figure. In seven road games, they're averaging 1.6 takeaways per game. In eight home games, they're averaging just 0.9 per game. Neither of those numbers are great, but at least for their purposes on Sunday, they've been better on the road. Still, with injuries in their secondary and Jones playing better since his return from the ankle injury, we're going to bet the Eagles come away with a pair of takeaways in Week 17.
The Eagles are doing the damn thing on Sunday.
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