The Morning Call (Sunday)

Biggest game of season for both teams

Eagles could take control of division with win, Giants can get back in NFC East race

- By Nick Fierro

Normally a game between NFLteams that have combined for 11 losses by mid-November wouldn’t have any juice.

But when the Philadelph­ia Eagles take their 3-4-1 record into MetLife Stadium on Sunday to face the 2-7 New York Giants, it easily will be the most important game of the season for both sides.

A win for the Giants would draw them within even with the division leaders in the win column and give them their first winning streak under rookie head coach Joe Judge, a Lansdale Catholic graduate.

A win for the Eagles would solidify their standing atop the division and perhaps more importantl­y would give them their first winning streak of three games or more before December since their Super Bowl season of 2017.

The Eagles closed with three straight wins in 2018 and four straight wins last season. Other than that, their first three months have been start-stop affairs in which they have failed to gain any momentum.

This season, they havetraile­d in the second half of every game and in the fourth quarter of all but one.

Let’s get to the details.

About the Eagles

After starting their season with two losses and a tie, the Eagles have won three of their last five, including their last two. One of them was a big comeback against the Giants that was capped by an 18-yard TD pass to Boston Scott with less than a minute remaining.

Decimated by injuries to their offensive line, tight end and wide receiving corps, the Eagles also have been forced to play three games this season without running back Miles Sanders, who missed the first meeting with the Giants but is expected to return in this game along with right tackle Lane Johnson, who was forced to sit out their last game, and perhaps left guard Isaac Seumalo, who is eligible to come off the injured reserve list.

Despite missing three games, Sanders still leads the team in rushing with 424 yards and three TDs on 71 carries.

Quarterbac­k Carson Wentz has struggled throughout what has been his worst season as a pro with a league-high 12 intercepti­ons to go with four lost fumbles. His 58.4 completion percentage and 6.2 yards per attempt are career lows.

Greg Ward (32 catches, 243 yards, three TDs) and newcomer Travis Fulgham (29 catches, 435 yards, four TDs) have emerged as their leading receivers.

About the Giants

Second-year quarterbac­k Daniel Jones is 191 of 306 for 1,878 yards and eight TDs against nine intercepti­ons.

Jones also has emerged as their leading rusher following the loss of former Whitehall and Penn State star Saquon Barkley to a season-ending knee injury in Week 2.

Tight end Evan Engram (36 catches, 332 yards) is Jones’ favorite target. Wide receiver Darius Slayton (33 catches, 49 yards, three TDs) has done the most damage.

The Giants are big across their three-man defensive front and allow just 3.7 yards per rushing attempt. That ranks fifth in the league.

Both of their wins have come against the Washington Football Team.

Storylines

Alshon Jeffery is ready

After being inactive for the first eight games, Eagles WR Alshon Jeffery is off the injury report for the first time. The question is howhe will fit into a rotation that

already includes Ward, Fulgham and rookies Jalen Reagor and John Hightower?

Whatever the plan is, nobody’s saying.

“Without revealing that plan, we’ve got to get through another day of practice first,” Pederson said before Friday’s practice. “He’s done a good job with his rehab and put himself in a position to practice this week and have a full complement of practice participat­ion .... Look, he’s a veteran player. He’s been one of our starters and we’ve got a plan if he’s ready to go to get him in the game. Obviously he’s a big receiver that can help and he knows the offense and what we’re doing.”

Added Wentz: “I don’t make the decisions on those things, but I think as he continues to work back in and everything, we see where he’s at, where he’s at within our offense and how we can use him and mix him in with these other guys.

Wheels off the Wentz Wagon?

Perhaps the only thing that’s kept Wentz from being benched is that he’s been making plays late in games to help them win their last two. Butheconti­nues to struggle with every aspect of the game, from decision-making to ball security to mechanics to accuracy even when not under duress.

Retired quarterbac­k Brett Favre said this week that the the Eagles should have kept Nick Foles over Wentz, and his friend and former teammate Pederson didn’t disagree, saying only after being pressed for a third time on Wednesday that“Carson’ s our guy. Carson was our draft pick. Carson is the guy that is going to carry us and lead this football team.”

What he didn’t say is whether he believes what Favre does. Eagles getting healthier

Sanders returns after a two-game absence. Johnson will be back and perhaps Seumalo will too. That’s three offensive starters. Plus Jeffery, who likely will be worked back in with a limited package of plays.

“We haven’t felt like this in a long time,” Pederson said, “and that gives you hope, gives you excitement and enthusiasm around the team,.”

Injuries

Eagles: CBCraig James (shoulder) is out.

Giants: RB Devonta Freeman (ankle, hamstring) is out. Golden Tate (knee) and Isaac Yiadom (calf ) are questionab­le.

Key matchups

Sanders vs. Giants defensive

line

The Giants are too good up front to be blocked off the ball every time. Sanders is going to have to make the first defender miss and run hard all the time for the Eagles to control the ball.

Without Sanders in the last meeting, the Eagles averaged just 3.7 yards per rush, which is exactly the Giants’ season average

With Sanders, they need to do better.

Eagles DTs vs. interior of Giants’ OL

The individual battles here almost certainly will decide the war. The Eagles have lost valuable rotation piece Hassan Ridgeway for the season but still have Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave and Malik Jackson, who has outplayed prized free-agent addition Hargrave.

“Some of the plays we didn’t make in the first half [of the season] we have to make in the second half,” Hargrave said. “We’ve just got to keep getting better. You’re never really as good as you think you can be.”

Eagles WRs vs. Giants CBs

The Giants don’t have a lot of depth at this spot behind top cover corner James Brad berry, whole ads them with three intercepti­ons.

Ryan Lewis started on the other side the last time, but he’s on injured reserve now, clearing the way for Isaac Yiadom to take over. Suffice to say Yiadom didn’t do very well the last time out, grading out poorly in the win over Washington.

On top of that, he’s listed as questionab­le for this game with a calf injury.

Eagles LBs vs. Giants QB Daniel Jones

As already mentioned, Jones is their leading rusher too, which means everybody has to be aware of what’s going with him at all times. Jones burned them with an 80-yard run the first time and would have scored if he didn’t comically stumble and fall.

But his abilities are no joke. The pass rush will have to be controlled and pass defenders will have to be careful not to turn their heads away from Jones unless he’s already released the ball or they’re certain he will.

Fierro’s pick

Everyone on the team has to know by now that they’re on the clock because of the improvemen­t the Giants have shown and the importance of winning the rest of their division games.

Can Wentz and the offense respond with a complete game for the first time this season?

The feeling here is that after a week off and the return of some previously injured players, they will.

Eagles 30, Giants 27. (Season pick record 5-2-1)

Next up for Birds

The Eagles visit the Cleveland Browns next Sunday (1 p.m.). The Browns enter this weekend with a 5-3 record.

Morning Call reporter Nick Fierro can be reached at 610-7782243 or nfierro@mcall.com.

 ?? PHOTO APFILE ?? Eagles coach Doug Pederson talks with quarterbac­k Carson Wentz (11) during a game against the Bengals. Pederson hasn’t considered benching Wentz, but could change his mind if Wentz continues to struggle.
PHOTO APFILE Eagles coach Doug Pederson talks with quarterbac­k Carson Wentz (11) during a game against the Bengals. Pederson hasn’t considered benching Wentz, but could change his mind if Wentz continues to struggle.

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