THE GAME: The Philadelphia Eagles (4-3) at the Giants (4-3) at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, N.J. on Sunday, Nov. 6 at 1 p.m. ET.
THE WEATHER: A pleasant fall day with lots of sun and temperatures in the mid-to-upper 50s and the usual Meadowlands winds of 10-15 m.p.h.
WHAT IT MEANS: It's getting real now. The Giants return from the bye essentially in a three-way tie for the two NFC wild card spots and only two games behind the Dallas Cowboys in the division. That means everything they want to accomplish is right there for the taking. The problem, though, is the Giants have been there before. In the previous seven seasons, the Giants had a .500 or better record in the first half five times, but they never once followed that up with a winning record in the second half. No, this isn't officially the start of the second half, but it feels like it coming off the bye. And the Giants desperately need to build some momentum. As an added bonus, with a win they might establish themselves as the most likely team to make a run at the Cowboys (6-1), if Dallas ever falls back to the pack.
PLAYER TO WATCH: RB Rashad Jennings. The Giants' rushing attack is just a disaster, ranked dead last in the league, and is more often than not completely abandoned by head coach Ben McAdoo. It's not Jennings' fault. The offensive line's run-blocking has been poor and there's no help in that department from the tight ends or receivers and, oh by the way, there's no fullback on the roster. But still, the 31-year-old isn't helping. After a nice Opening Day performance (18 carries for 75 yards in Dallas) he's played in three games and totaled 67 yards on just 1.9 yards per carry.
Even with bad blocking, the Giants would've hoped he'd show enough burst or elusiveness to fall forward farther than that on a consistent basis. So it may only be a matter of time before the Giants start working rookie Paul Perkins into the offense a little more. He's barely played, so there's not enough to gauge his true value, but he is averaging 3.9 yards per rush on 10 carries and he's got six receptions for 105 yards. And he's shown enough of a burst and an ability to make defenders miss that there are some in the Giants' organization who think he should get more of a shot. Will it be this week? That might depend on how Jennings plays, and how much McAdoo wants to stick with the run.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Eagles DE Brandon Graham against Giants RT Bobby Hart. Eagles DE Connor Barwin (three sacks) against Giants LT Ereck Flowers is another good one to watch, but Graham (four sacks) is off to the best start of his career and might be the Eagles' most dangerous pass rusher at the moment. And this Eagles team can certainly rush the quarterback, which might be a problem for the Giants. Their offensive line has been shaky. I know there are rankings that say otherwise and show that they're not giving up "pressures," but my eyes tell me that a lot of that has to do with the speed with which Eli Manning is getting rid of the ball.
The Giants are strategically trying to take the pass rush out of the game, which is fine, but it also limits what the offense can do -- especially when it comes to taking shots down field. So if Hart, who has been OK filling in for the injured Marshall Newhouse, can hold his own against Graham then maybe Manning will have time to run the Giants' offense. If not … well, the Giants will have to rein things in, and that's tough because the tight ends and running backs have not been adept at blocking. It will mostly mean going back to the quick-throw, dink-and-dunk strategy that has frustrated so many all year long.
THE PICK: This is not the Eagles team you're used to seeing, nor is it what you might expect if you've heard all the hype about QB Carson Wentz. Yes, he's been terrific, but it's not like he's lighting it up and firing the ball all over the field. A large majority of Wentz's passes have been short throws, under 10 yards. The Eagles have essentially dumbed things down to help the rookie minimize mistakes and rely on their running game. And it has worked. Wentz has thrown just three interceptions and the Eagles are rushing for over 100 yards per game and have a turnover ratio of plus-6. Plus, they play defense. They've got an outstanding pass rush and their defense ranks eighth in the NFL. That makes this a bad matchup for the Giants, unless they can get to Wentz and force him to make some mistakes.
The pressure the Eagles can unleash is the kind of thing that has been crushing the Giants' offense this season, and unless the Eagles are stupid enough to play Odell Beckham, Jr. one-on-one, they've likely learned from everyone else who basically throws a defensive umbrella over him to limit his yards after the catch. So the Eagles can slow the game down on offense and contain or disrupt the Giants with their defense. The Giants' only hope, as usual, seems to be turnovers or that the Manning-Beckham combo has a breakout game. It's always possible, but remember: The Eagles seem to have the Giants' number. And the way this matchup looks, they're likely to have it again. … Eagles 20, Giants 17.
MY RECORD: 5-2.