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Praise whatever god you fancy, the weekend is finally here. All the conversation ends and the games begin. Whew! Since I've spent the better part of the week listening to Eagles and Giants fans mouth off about this game, I figured it was time I put my thoughts out there.
Eagles at Giants
As I said, I've heard so much about this game, you'd think it WAS the Super Bowl. As it is, it's a real tasty appetizer for the big game.
Giants fans drone on about their consistency, their defense and the fact that they are the defending Super Bowl champs. Brandon Jacobs is back in the lineup, so the Eagles are toast. Earth, Wind and Fire will take the Eagles D by storm, and that's that.
Eagles fans drone on about the last six games - with the 44-6 Dallas drubbing and the Playoff win over Minnesota taking center stage. There's rhetoric about Donovan McNabb having something to prove since he was benched. Then there's the beards.
But this is one of those divisional games. The Eagles lost at home to the Giants. The Giants lost at home to the Eagles. That won't happen again, say Giants fans. Both teams downplay the negative aspects of their situations.
For the Giants, fuggedabout the loss to the Browns (35-14? yikes!) and the close shave with the Bengals (overtime?). Forget about Plaxico Burress and his excellent marksmanship. Forget about the listless losses down the stretch, including a loss to the Eagles, the fading Cowboys and the Vikings, a team that the Eagles just dispatched.
For the Eagles, pay no mind to the maddening inconsistency of the season - weak losses to Chicago and Washington, a tie against the Bengals and a nearly crushing, boring 10-3 loss to the roadkill 'Skins in a must-win game. And forget about all this pass-run ratio nonsense. All is well.
So here it is. In the first Eagles/Giants game, ESPN.com's Matt Mosley called it this way: "If there's such a thing as a dominant narrow win, that's what we witnessed Sunday night." A dominant narrow win. In a 36-31 game that ended on a failed Eagles 4th-and-1 attempt. I don't see any domination in that score.
Let's check the stats:
Manning: 17 of 31 for 191 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT
McNabb: 17 of 36 for 194 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT
Pretty even there. Jacobs had 126 yards rushing and two scores, for which the Eagles had no answer. The Eagles had 106 yards rushing total that day. The Eagles had one sack, the Giants none. For the most part, the stats are about even, with a slight edge to the Giants for their superior rushing totals. And after all this, it was a five point game that could have gone either way.
McNabb passed for 191 yards this time, and had a TD pass and no picks. Manning had 123 yards passing, a TD pass and no picks. The difference here was All-Eagle Brian Westbrook's 131 yards, 30-yard touchdown run and 40-yard touchdown reception. Jacobs had 52 yards on the ground and no TDs. Amazingly, neither team had a sack. Surprising for two teams with such stout defenses.
It all looks pretty even to me. But all of that means nothing. Last year's Super Bowl win means nothing. The last six games mean nothing. Last week's playoff win means nothing.
As always, it comes down to this: These teams know each other very well, and it will probably come down to who has the ball last. For both teams - if the defenses come out with their usual excellent performances and the offenses avoid turnovers and dumb mistakes, then the game is won. This could be a 6-3 game, but I am thinking that these two teams will really want to pound the snot out of each other.
Given probable weather conditions - cold and windy - the passing games should be a bit subdued. Westbrook versus Brandon Jacobs should take center stage. The defenses both know this - and they welcome the challenge. But then....Andy Reid usually can't resist scratching that passing itch....
The pick: Eagles 26, Giants 17.
I just think that the Eagles have been playing better late in the season and they haven't had a break. The Giants have been resting, and sometimes that layoff can carry over. Add to this the fact that I suspect that the Giants feel that they will win this game easily and are looking to see who they'll face the following week. I think the Eagles feel that they are just not finished yet. And I don't think they are either.
Homeristic? You bet. And what's wrong with that? E-A-G-L-E-S. Eagles!