8:15 PM EST, ESPN – Line: Eagles -8.5, Over/Under: 46.5
Bitter rivals embroiled in disappointing campaigns face off tonight on primetime as the fading Philadelphia Eagles play host to the miserable New York Giants, from Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. For even the most fervent of their faithful, expectations couldn’t have been very high for the Giants (2-10, 4th in NFC East) heading into 2019, for as bad as the first year of Dave Gettleman/Pat Shurmur Era was, its successor was always going to be a difficult one. That’s because last season was largely spent clearing the proverbial deadwood left over from the previous regime, a task that continued well into the Offseason, with the brain trust making a series of moves in an attempt to improve the franchise, some of which were praised and others less so. Now with four games left in the Regular Season and far closer to earning the No. One Overall Pick than a return to the Playoffs, it’s difficult to assess just where New York is in what has clearly become a considerable rebuild. After being heavily criticized for passing on a Quarterback in the 2018 NFL Draft despite possessing the No. Two Overall Pick, Gettleman shocked the football world when he selected Daniel Jones (61.6%, 2,374 YDS, 5.24 NY/A, 18 TD, 11 INT, 53.2 QBR) Sixth Overall last Spring, who would eventually unseat longtime Starter and Super Bowl Hero, Eli Manning, just three weeks into the campaign. Rookie Quarterbacks generally struggle, that’s a fact, and in deciding to throw them out into the wild, the decision-makers are typically gifted some more time to oversee their development. After impressing early with back-to-back wins over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (32-31) and Washington Redskins (24-3), Jones has largely struggled in losing eight consecutive starts in which he has completed just 59.9% of his Attempts for 224.5 Yards per Game on a scant 5.21 Net Yards per Attempt, with Fifteen Touchdowns and Nine Interceptions. A major reason as to why Shurmur decided to hand him the reins was due to his mobility, but he’s suffered from many of the same issues that plagued his predecessor, namely poor Pass-Protection. At 38-Years old, Manning had loads of trouble avoiding the Pass-Rus, let alone moving out of the Pocket, and though his successor has exhibited an underrated mobility, he’s been sacked thirty-three times, or in other words on 8.2% of his Drop-Backs, which far exceeds the 7.5% that Manning suffered last season when he was dropped a career-high forty-seven times. It’s no secret that the Offensive Line has been one of the league’s more underwhelming groups for years now, which is only more disappointing considering how the club has attempted to improve it; veteran Left Tackle, Nate Solder, was signed to a lucrative four-year, $62 million contract ($34.8 million guaranteed) upon Gettleman’s arrival in 2018, while the likes of Mike Remmers and Kevin Zeitler were brought in via Free Agency this past Offseason, with former 2nd Round Pick, Will Hernandez, entering his second season as the Starting Left Guard. Compounding matters is the fact that this unit has been largely healthy, and they’ve still been just average at best, with Solder looking like one of the biggest busts in recent Free Agency history. With that said, the biggest sin has been how the group has grounded the exploits of reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year, Saquon Barkley (137 CAR, 534 YDS, 4.0 Y/C, 2 TD). With the potential of Jones starting a large portion of the campaign, Barkley was always going to incur a heavier workload than he did as a Rookie in 2018 when he wowed with a league-best 2,028 Yards from Scrimmage. However, a high ankle sprain caused him to miss three games earlier in the term and has hindered him to a degree since his return. That trademark explosion just hasn’t been there enough since his return from injury, with the Pro-Bowler averaging a pedestrian 3.07 Yards per Carry and 4.13 Yards per Touch over the last six games. Injuries to Sophomore Tight End, Evan Engram (44 REC, 467 YDS, 10.6 Y/R, 3 TD), and veteran Receiver, Golden Tate (36 REC, 450 YDS, 12.5 Y/R, 4 TD), haven’t helped matters either, particularly in the case of the latter, who was suspended for the first four games of the season due to running afoul of the league’s substance abuse policy, underscoring yet another questionable decision from Gettleman, who acquired him to replace his All-Pro counterpart, Odell Beckham Jr. When we last saw the Giants, they managed to hold their own with the Green Bay Packers for three quarters before letting the affair slip away in a 13-31 defeat. The hosts moved the ball better than they had in roughly a month, racking up 335 Total Yards on Twenty First Downs, converting 3-of-4 Fourth Downs, but ultimately succumbed to mistakes, with Jones throwing Three Interceptions, the latter two coming on their first two drives of the final stanza. In the end, when you’re trying to keep pace with the likes of Aaron Rodgers, costly mistakes such as these will kill you every time, as his two-time MVP counterpart torched New York’s beleaguered Secondary for 243 Yards and Four Touchdowns. Unsurprisingly, the Defense been another point of struggle for this team, with the unit allowing 28.3 Points per Game (29th Overall) on 372.9 Total Yards (26th Overall), including 258.6 Yards against the Pass (25th Overall) on a miserable 7.5 Net Yards per Attempt (31st Overall), while struggling to get off the field on Third Down, permitting success on 40.5% of their opponents’ attempts (22nd Overall). Criticism is often intensified in the Big Apple and given how this season has taken a turn for the worst, there is legitimate fear that both Gettleman and Shurmur are clinging to their jobs. While you could certainly make the argument that removing either or both at this early stage of a rebuild would be a uncharacteristically rash decision from a franchise that rarely makes them, it would come as no surprise to see a new regime in place come 2020. With a soft schedule to close out the season, featuring the Eagles (twice), Redskins, and Dolphins who together have managed to put together an underwhelming 11-25 record (.324), there is still time for the Giants to show some encouraging signs and build some momentum heading into the Offseason.
Meanwhile, for a team that coming into 2019 harbored serious Super Bowl aspirations, this season can’t be identified as anything other than a disappointment for the Eagles (5-7, 2nd in NFC East), who simply can’t find a way out of the proverbial hole that they’ve dug for themselves. A little over a month ago, they were winners of four out of six games and heading into their Bye Week at 5-4, but since then have gone into a death spiral, losing three consecutive outings, which has needless to say put any hopes that they had of even reaching the Playoffs on life support. Philadelphia hit their nadir in last weekend’s shocking 31-37 loss at the struggling Miami Dolphins, who for all intents and purposes decided to punt on the 2019 Campaign long ago. Seriously folks, this is one that Doug Pederson and his Coaching Staff have likely burned the film of, for there is simply no excuse for a team that possesses the kind of talent that these birds have getting embarrassed they way they did in their trip to South Florida. Racing out to an early 10-0 lead, perhaps the visiting side fell into a false sense of security, for the hosts would eventually awaken and take the lead late in the First Half, before Eagles’ Quarterback, Carson Wentz (62.4%, 2,840 YDS, 5.73 NY/A, 20 TD, 7 INT, 63.9 QBR), found J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (6 REC, 101 YDS, 16.8 Y/R, 1 TD) for a 15-Yard Touchdown with just thirteen seconds before Intermission. Wentz would then nail Alshon Jeffery (43 REC, 490 YDS, 11.4 Y/R, 4 TD) for a 10-Yard strike to stretch the lead to fourteen early in the Third Quarter, but the Dolphins would not back down, running off twenty-four unanswered points to take a 37-28 advantage with 3:42 left in the affair. Shell-shocked, Pederson’s charges quickly drove Fifty-Six Yards down the field though were forced to settle for a 37-Yard Field Goal courtesy of Place Kicker, Jake Elliott. After forcing the home side to punt and receiving possession with only eight seconds left, Wentz found Jeffery for Twenty Yards before the veteran quickly scampered out of bounds, setting up one final desperate attempt from midfield, which was ultimately Intercepted ending the tilt altogether. In the end, Philadelphia was their own worst enemy, wasting what was otherwise a solid performance from Wentz, who completed 28-of-46 Passes for 310 Yards, Three Touchdowns and that late Hail Mary Pick, by committing ten costly Penalties for a loss of Ninety-One Yards, with the Defense getting absolutely dismantled to the tune of 409 Total Yards, Twenty-Six First Downs, and a whole lot of Fitzmagic, as Dolphins Quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick, eviscerated their beleaguered Secondary for 27-of-39 Passing, 365 Yards, Three Touchdowns, and an Interception. You’d have thought they were facing vintage Dan Marino the way they performed last Sunday, which has been an ongoing problem for the past two seasons for the Eagles. Former First Round Pick, DeVante Parker, who largely been a bust since he was drafted back in 2015, went OFF with Seven Receptions for 159 Yards and a pair of Touchdowns, while the hosts even caught Philly sleeping on a trick play as their Punter, Matt Haack, threw a Touchdown to the Kicker, Jason Sanders, of all people, adding further insult to the debilitating performance from the Secondary. It’s really gotten that bad, folks, for the Eagles can’t even cover Kickers these days… All jokes aside, it’s really rather remarkable that as maddeningly inconsistent as this team has been in 2019, they’re still just one game behind the Dallas Cowboys for First Place in a very mediocre NFC East. Given the caliber of the rest of the NFC, it appears that their only rout to a third consecutive trip to the Playoffs is winning the Division, which doesn’t appear to be an insurmountable task given the rest of their schedule; Pederson’s troops face tonight’s opponent, the Giants twice, with a road date with the struggling Washington Redskins followed by what should be a decisive meeting with the Cowboys at Lincoln Financial Field. And in the end, that’s been what has been so frustrating about this team. Given Dallas’ recent run of form in losing three of four, Philadelphia has been completely helpless in taking advantage of their bitter rival’s misfortune. Granted, losing close games against the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks is nothing to sneer at, but a performance like the one that they authored Sunday at the Dolphins is simply unforgivable when you’re trying to win the Division. But that’s been the kind of team they’ve been in 2019: one that does a number of things well, only to negate them in being exploited in other areas. Case in point, Wentz has been solid in his first full season since suffering a torn ACL in 2017 and undergoing back surgery late in 2018, but the Receiving Corps, which was built to be a strength, has been anything but that, with veteran vertical threat, DeSean Jackson (9 REC, 159 YDS, 17.7 Y/R, 2 TD), missing all but two games due to an abdominal tear, the aforementioned Jeffery missing three games of his own with an ailing ankle, while the rest of the group has been plagued by drops; Eagles Receivers have Twenty-One Drops already this year, which translates to percentage of 4.9%, a major increase from the figure registered last season (3.8%). With this in mind, Pederson has shown a propensity to keep going to the proverbial well, rather than taking advantage of a Rushing Attack that has been very good thus far, averaging 118.8 Yards per Game (13th Overall) on 4.3 Yards per Carry (18th Overall), led by Offseason Acquisition, Jordan Howard (119 CAR, 525 YDS, 4.4 Y/C, 6 TD), and promising Rookie, Miles Sanders (116 CAR, 520 YDS, 4.5 Y/C, 1 TD). Philadelphia hasn’t had any trouble moving the chains, converting a healthy 45.4% of their Third Downs (6th Overall), or hitting pay-dirt once they get into the Red Zone, scoring a Touchdown on 63.2% of their trips (10th Overall), though that hasn’t translated to enough points; they’ve only scored 22.8 Points per Game (16th Overall) in large part due to committing far too many Turnovers, with twenty-one to their credit (25th Overall), including a whopping Thirteen Lost Fumbles (30th Overall), third-most in the league.