Eagles, Giants meet in pivotal NFL East clash
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Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants
The defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles are bumbling and stumbling along with a 2-3 record and two straight losses for the first time since December 2016.
Thing is, though, the NFC East isn't exactly a powerhouse division so far this year. The four teams combined to go 0-4 this past weekend, and the Washington Redskins stunk up the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Monday night, losing to the New Orleans Saints 43-19. There isn't a team above .500 in the division.
So here are the Eagles, who lost by two points to the Minnesota Vikings last Sunday and by three points in overtime to the Tennessee Titans in the previous week's game, playing a New York Giants team on Thursday night in the Meadowlands that lost to the Carolina Panthers on a 63-yard field goal.
But if there is a silver lining in the 33-31 loss to the Panthers, it's that it has not only galvanized the Giants locker room ahead of the big meeting with the Eagles, it's also proved to the 1-4 Giants that they indeed have what it takes to stand toe to toe with top competition.
"I think that showed what we're capable of doing," running back Saquon Barkley said.
Both teams have every reason to feel good about themselves heading into the pivotal clash inside the division.
"We're excited mainly because it's a divisional opponent," Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz said. "It's the next opponent, but it's a divisional game and we know where the division is sitting right now and it's really wide open. We really want to get off on the right foot in our division."
The Giants have already lost once inside the NFC East, dropping a game to the Dallas Cowboys. This is the first division test for the Eagles.
One of these teams will be in deep trouble with a loss.
"We got a big one against the Giants," Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson said. "As early as it is, we must win against the Giants."
Although the Giants players are coached to live in the moment, everyone is well aware of the ramifications of Thursday's game and what a win would mean.
"I've always said, it's a long season, and we have an opportunity to come in here in a big, big division game and be able to reshape our season," Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. said. "We know what we have in front of us, short week, just coming off of a tough loss, so we're all just trying to get our minds wrapped around what the game plan is, how we can come out and beat Philly."
The Giants halted their streak of 37 games without scoring at least 30 points in a game when they put up 31 in Carolina. That it wasn't enough to win didn't seem to matter to some of the players and coaches judging by some of their comments this week.
"Even though it was in a losing effort, it was obviously our best performance in terms of scoring points," New York head coach Pat Shurmur said. "Obviously, the quarterback is a big piece to that."
Eli Manning played perhaps his best game of the season. Aside from two interceptions, he passed for 326 yards and two touchdowns.
Meanwhile, Wentz has thrown for more than 300 yards in the last two games, though the team has lost both of them. He has completed 65 percent of his passes in those two losses.
Since returning from offseason knee reconstruction, he has thrown five touchdowns to only one interception in three starts.
"A lot of familiar faces over there," Wentz said. "Personnel-wise, it seems we know each other really well. With their new scheme, it will be interesting to see what they like, what their deal is against us this week. I'm sure they'll bring something new. It seems like something every team has done against us, but we're excited about the matchup for sure."
Eagles running back Jay Ajayi was placed on injured reserve Monday with a torn ACL in his left knee, so the duties will fall on Wendell Smallwood Jr., a banged-up Corey Clement and 35-year-old Darren Sproles if he's healthy enough to play.
"Jay is a big part of what we've done, so it's an injury that will impact us here until we get the guys back out there," offensive coordinator Mike Groh said. "Wendell, he's done a really nice job in the playing time he's gotten thus far in the season; really pleased with his production. He's done a nice job. Corey's progressing with his injury. We're happy with the guys we got. We think we still have talented players to be really good at the running back position."
Sproles has not played since the season opener because of an injured hamstring. He was expected to be a big part of the offense this season, and had nine touches in the opener against the Falcons. His return could go a long way in helping the Eagles overcome the season-ending injury to Ajayi.
The Eagles have several players on injured reserve now. In addition to Ajayi, they are receivers Mack Hollins and Mike Wallace, tight end Richard Rodgers, and safety Rodney McLeod.
Veteran safety Corey Graham injured a hamstring after just three plays against the Vikings and did not practice on Monday or Tuesday, which means he is unlikely to play Thursday.
For the Giants, kicker Aldrick Rosas has not practiced this week because of a quad strain. Shurmur seemed optimistic that Rosas will be OK for Thursday's game, but just in case he's not, the team added kicker Marshall Koehn, who was with them in the summer, to the practice squad.
Wide receiver Russell Shepard's (neck) status for Thursday night is unclear, but Jawill Davis (shoulder) should be good to go. Tight end Evan Engram (knee) was limited in practice this week, but he should play, assuming he has no setbacks during Wednesday's final tuneup.
Thursday will be the 167th regular-season meeting between the rivals. The Giants lead the series 83-81-2, although the Eagles have had the upper hand recently, winning the last three and seven of eight.
Updated October 9, 2018