It's hard to believe that in week five of the 2013 NFL season, two teams will be squaring off in a game that will ultimately determine their season. But for the New York Giants (0-4) and the Philadelphia Eagles (1-3), that's exactly the scenario they find themselves in.
A loss for the Giants would drop their record to 0-5 and 0-2 in the NFC East — an essential death sentence. No team in the Super Bowl era has ever started 0-5 and made the playoffs, so they will, instead, attempt to become only the second team in NFL history (San Diego Chargers, 1992) to make the playoffs after starting 0-4. Meanwhile, the Eagles are grasping to life with a 1-3 record, and maintain their hope that they, too, can turn things around.
Due in large part to the overall futility of the NFC East, the winner of this game is still very much in it. The loser however, will find themselves in a dire and almost hopeless spot.
Prevent the LeSean McCoy homerun
McCoy currently leads the NFL with 468 rush yards (117 yards per game) and is averaging six yards per carry. Needless to say, coupled with Michael Vick, the Eagles also lead the league in rushing. As such, the Giants will need to focus on slowing Shady down. And while there's next to no chance they'll completely shut him out, they will need to prevent him from breaking their backs with long, drive-sustaining runs or the homerun that gives Philly quick scores.
Spy Michael Vick
It's taken some time, but the early version of Michael Vick has returned to the NFL. He's been able to use his legs (18th in the NFL in rushing) to set up the pass, and he's begun to limit the riskiness of his throws, tossing only two interceptions so far this season. In other words, he can beat you on the ground or through the air if you let him run free. Accordingly, the Giants will need to use a spy on the fleet-footed Vick, and they've done so in the past with some spells of success. That onus will likely fall on linebacker Jacquian Williams, who has been used sparingly this year, but is good in coverage and has the speed to at least prevent Vick from running wild on Big Blue's defense.
Abuse poor Eagles secondary
The Giants haven't been able to run the ball this year (30th in the NFL), while the Eagles haven't been able to stop the pass (31st in the NFL). And with the season on the line, why play games and to an opponents strength? Sure, the Giants will want to establish the run game as they have the previous four weeks, but it can't come at the expense of abusing one of the worst secondariness in the entire league. If the makeshift offensive line can somehow, some way keep Eli Manning on his feet, he should be able to tear the Eagles' defense apart.
Victor Cruz vs. Eagles Safeties
The Giants have a unique combo in Eli Manning and Victor Cruz. Manning, of course, being one of the best deep ball quarterbacks in the league, while Cruz has established himself as a once-a-game homerun threat. And while he ranks near the bottom of the NFL in catches of 20+ yards (16) since the start of the 2011 season, he's made most of them count, with touchdown catches of 69, 70, 24, 77, 28 and 80 yards over that span. The Giants, in a desperate situation, may take a few homerun shots against a weak Eagles secondary on Sunday, and you can expect Cruz to be the target of at least one or two of them.
BIG GAME ALERT
Wide receiver, Victor Cruz
Saying Victor Cruz is going to have a big game isn't exactly going out on a limb as he's the only offensive player to put up solid numbers in each game this season. His 425 receiving yards is good for 4th in the NFL right now, and that pace is likely to continue on Sunday. In addition to the aforementioned homerun ball you can expect to be thrown his way, Cruz will likely see a large number of targets underneath and over the middle. As long as he's not plagued by a case of the dropsies, you can expect big numbers and some salsa out of No. 80 on Sunday.
While most seem to be entirely focused on the Giants and their 0-4 record, many have forgotten that the Philadelphia Eagles are also a poor football team. Their sole win came in week one over the Washington Redskins, who have also proven to be a poor team, and they rank near the bottom of the league in defense. They've given up no less than 26 points in any game this season, and save for their rushing attack, offer very little in terms of a threat. And with their season now officially on the line, the Giants will start 1-0 in the post-Antrel Rolle 12-0 world.
Giants 27, Eagles 24
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