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New York Giants' Odell Beckham (13) celebrates a catch against the Carolina Panthers in the first half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Oct. 7, 2018. (AP Photo/Jason E. Miczek)

Thursday Night Football Preview: Next Step in the Giants-Eagles Rivalry

Despite entering the year under different circumstances, it’s been a season of struggles for both the Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Giants. The Eagles are coming off their first Super Bowl win in franchise history and got their starting quarterback, Carson Wentz, back from an ACL injury. The Giants meanwhile, are a year removed from a 3-13 season that saw a head coaching change and the 2nd overall pick in the NFL Draft. Now, neither team has a winning record 5 weeks into the season.  Both teams are looking for a win in prime-time to propel them to a better season, which puts even more weight into this NFC East rivalry.

Downward Diving Eagles

It’s hard to follow up the greatest season in franchise history, but the Eagles are doing a particularly poor job. After losing 3 games total last season, the Eagles have lost three of their first five games to produce a 2-3 record. The issues are plentiful, but the biggest one has been injuries. Carson Wentz has struggled to return to full health, and backup Nick Foles suffered a shoulder injury early in the season as well. The running back position was hit hard as well, as leading rusher, Jay Ajayi was put on the injured reserve list only a few games into the year.

Sunday, Oct. 7, 2018, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Given the injury issues at running back and quarterback, the offense has regressed from last year’s explosive unit. There are still big plays and talented offensive weapons, but the consistency of this offense has disappeared. The Eagles are averaging only 20.6 points per game, after averaging a very high 28.6 a year ago.

“It just goes back to what I’ve said this past week,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “We’ve got to figure out how to start games faster, stay on the field longer and generate points early in football games.”

The defense has taken a hit as well. The defensive line is still deep and talented, but the secondary is struggling mightily. Due to that, the pass defense has taken a turn for the worse. It is allowing a 67.5 completion percentage and 277 passing yards per game, both stats near the bottom of the league.

If the Eagles want to contend for a Super Bowl again, they need a win against the Giants to get them back to .500. Maybe then, they can be propelled to another division title and a playoff spot. If not, then they could experience a very real Super Bowl hangover.

Steady Giants

The Giants are 1-4 under new head coach Pat Shurmur. Shurmur was brought in to revitalize the offense. So far, the returns have not looked stunning.

Sunday, Oct. 7, 2018. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)

Eli Manning is still the quarterback and while he’s had an excellent career, his time in the NFL is dwindling. He has become inefficient, turnover-prone, and unable to stretch the field. Saquon Barkley, the second overall NFL Draft pick, has been a big play threat on the field. He has struggled to make a consistent impact, especially between the tackles. The receiving corps has been good, led by the talented Odell Beckham Jr., but they don’t get the ball. Meanwhile, the offensive line has been the bane of the team. Much like the year before, the lack of talent has hindered the rushing attack and made life on Eli difficult.

While the offense as a whole has improved under Shurmur, it is still not good. It may not be good until Manning’s eventual successor can take the wheels. Until that happens, it’s same old same old for the Giants.

The Matchup

The key matchup between the two teams is all about the pass. The Eagles pass defense has been leaky all season, but can the Giants take advantage? Specifically, can play-makers like Beckham, Barkley, and wide receiver Sterling Shepard get open downfield? Eli Manning has struggled to throw vertically in this offense, but it’s what he’ll have to do if the Giants want to win. Saquon Barkley specifically may have a chance, due to his athleticism at the second level.

On the other side of the ball, the Eagles need to start fast. The Eagles have mostly played with a lead, but have allowed teams to stay in games far too long. It’s cost them so far this season. If the Eagles can get a quick lead against the Giants, their confidence will build and they will roll.

Both teams are backed into a corner. If the Eagles win, they still have a shot to defend their Super Bowl title. If the Giants win, it’ll show that improvements have been made and that this team is better than the 3-13 team the world saw last season. It’s a rivalry game, so any outcome is possible. There’s only one way to find out.

What’s Next?

The New York Giants host the Philadelphia Eagles at MetLife Stadium on Thursday. Kickoff is set for 8:20 P.M.

The Giants travel to Atlanta to face the Falcons next week for Monday Night Football at 8:15 P.M. The Eagles travel home next week and host the Carolina Panthers on Sunday at 1:00 P.M.

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