Normally, a Week 5 matchup between 0-4 and 1-3 divisional rivals isn't the most exciting of matchups. However, with the Dallas Cowboys having to take on the mighty Denver Broncos, a win in this game for either the Eagles or Giants allows them to to bring themselves right back into division title talks.
A loss for one of the teams, though, spins their season into talks of draft picks and rebuilding. Philadelphia fans hope to see the Chip Kelly offense that arrived in Week 1 against the Washington Redskins on the field this afternoon, but a few key factors must be addressed for them to emerge once more. The following six points will be the most important aspects of today's contest of longtime rivals.
LeSean McCoy - He was on my list last week, and he'll probably make the Six Pack more a majority of the season. The reason for his reappearance is because of this one (sort of) fact: As McCoy goes, so goes the Eagles. He possesses the ability to completely take over a game and just about carry his team to victory. That could be the case this afternoon against a less-than-stellar Giant run defense. New York is just a notch below Philly in average yards allowed per game on the ground. At 122.5 YPG given up, the Giants are 28th overall in the league, a good sign for a hungry McCoy. And, with Tom Coughlin's team glaringly lacking in the running back department, the Eagles will have a distinct advantage in that aspect of the game. As long as the real LeSean McCoy shows up for the game, he will run up and down the field consistently.
Eagles' Ball Handling - As mentioned above, Philadelphia will have a major advantage in the running game. If they're looking to use that to propel them to victory, though, they must keep consistent on offense. Fumbles and interceptions, even against the Giants' lackluster defense, would be detrimental. The worst offender for the Eagles, Michael Vick, was much improved in hanging onto the ball against Denver last week. Keeping that trend up will give Kelly the opportunity to run the exact fast-paced offense that has become synonymous with his name. However, if the Birds play sloppy ball and turn the ball over a couple of times, it could lead to a disastrous result in a crucial game.
Eagles' Defensive Line - This factor to look for during today's game cold also be headlined "Giants' Offensive Line" based solely on perspective. Either way, one of them will excel, and if the beginning of the season is any indication, the Eagles will dominate in this category. On the New York side of the ball, linemen Will Beatty, Justin Pugh, and Kevin Boothe, among others, of vastly underperformed this season, allowing quarterback Eli Manning to be sacked a total of 14 times. Though it may not seem like a lot compared to the rest of the league, consider the fact that last year, Manning had only been sacked 19 times all season. The drop off has been astonishing, and gives guys like Fletcher Cox and Cedric Thornton the chance to shine come game time. If the D-Line can get to Eli enough, they're offense will have all the opportunities in the world.
Eli Manning - A two-time Super Bowl Champion typically knows how to perform well under all circumstances. But under one of their worst starts in team history, the Giants have watched their starting quarterback struggle. The most obvious stat of Eli Manning's downward trend is his interceptions. Already at 9 on the season, Little Brother is on pace for 36, which would shatter his season record. On the other hand, his touchdowns (6) and yards (1,148) are right on par with the rest of his time with the Giants. For the Giants to break in for their first win of the campaign, they'll need their long-time play caller to come out stellar. Against the Eagles noticeably weak defense, it may be the perfect time for him to break through.
Victor Cruz - While the salsa dancing after each score may turn people off, one cannot deny Victor Cruz's stellar ability to catch the ball. He has 4 touchdowns on the season, 3 of which came against the Broncos' defense. His 425 yards receiving going into today's game puts Cruz on track to replicate his breakthrough 2011 numbers. The greatest advantage he has in this contest is the Eagles' lack of presence in the secondary. A few breakaways for Cruz, and we could be witnessing a repeat performance of Week 1. The one hurdle he will have to overcome in this game would be his quarterback. As you may have noticed, Manning has not had the best of seasons. However, 4 of his 6 touchdown passes have gone to Cruz, making Victor his favorite target. A multi-TD performance by Cruz may be the dagger in the Eagles' gameplan.
Prince Amukamara - In 13 games last season, the cornerback had 53 total tackles on the field. This year, a total of 23 has him well on his way to 100 for the season. And, after breaking out against Dwayne Bowe last week in the Giants-Chiefs matchup, Amukamara is on a roll. He may, in fact, be the one and only shining spot on this dilapidated New York defense. If Michael Vick is going to have a productive game, he must avoid the turnovers he has been known to unnecessarily give up. The best way to do that would be to stay away from Prince, who will more than likely match up with DeSean Jackson all day. A solid Amukamara performance may mean that LeSean McCoy gets the ball even more, but it still holds the Eagles to just a handful of options.
That, my friends, is your Sunday Six Pack. One of these teams will wake up Monday morning with a bit of confidence heading into the battle to be NFC East Champion. The other will be left with a fanbase demanding some changes, and a high draft pick. Who will come out on top? Just look at the performance of these six factors, and they will tell the tale.
Written by Andrew Gillen (@AndrewJGillen)