Eagles - Giants Preview
SEASON ON THE LINE AT 3-6 AS PHILLY DREAM TURNS TO NIGHTMARE
So much for the Dream Team. The Philadelphia Eagles enter Sunday Night's game with the New York Giants on NBC with a 3-6 record knowing that they could win out and still not make the playoffs!
Entering the weekend, here's what the Wildcard race looked like in the NFC. Remember that only two teams get Wildcard berths from each conference:
NFC WILDCARD PICTURE
Tampa Bay 4-5
Philadelphia (and 3 others) 3-6
By kickoff of the Sunday Night game, both Detroit and Chicago could be 7-3 because each is a home favorite Sunday afternoon (versus Carolina and San Diego respectively). Even if one of those teams falters...that just brings them down to 6-4...where Dallas could easily be after facing Washington as a touchdown favorite. Atlanta is favored to be at 6-4 as well, laying almost a touchdown at home against Tennessee. A hidden negative for Philadelphia is that they're 3-6 while having played a home friendly schedule so far (5 home games, 4 road games), while other teams were a game road heavy. That equalizes in many spots today.
Making matters worse, Philadelphia would currently lose tie-breakers to Chicago and Atlanta, though they do have a win over Dallas with another road meeting in that divisional rivalry still ahead.
The Eagles aren't out of it yet...but they need to get hot QUICK and they're going to need some help too.
What about winning the division? That's possible mathematically. But, the New York Giants lead the NFC East with a 6-3 record. Should the Eagles pull off the road upset tonight, they'd still trail by two games with none left to play against Eli Manning and company. They'd obviously need some help there as well. It's a bleak picture...but the book isn't closed on the 2011 season just yet for Philadelphia.
First things first...you can't win five or six games in a row without winning the first one. Do the Eagles have a chance to do that this evening? Let's crunch our standard preview numbers.
DRIVE POINTS PER GAME (scored and allowed on 60 yards or more)
Philadelphia: 14.9 on offense, 12.3 on defense
NY Giants: 17.2 on offense, 15.1 on defense
You typically think of the Giants as a defensive-minded team that tries to win smash mouth games. This year's team has quietly become an NFC version of New England. In fact, the Giants beat New England on the road...and have played a few shootouts against other teams as well. We never thought we'd see the day where a Tom Coughlin coached team was abused this badly on Drive Point defense. But, Eli Manning is having a big year, which was highlighted by that last second TD drive in New England.
We haven't mentioned it yet...but obviously Michael Vick's ribs are looming large over this game. He may have trouble exploiting that soft Giants defense if he can't scramble well or be a weapon with his legs. As we write this it's assumed he's going to be able to play, just like Tony Romo did after he got hurt in San Francisco. Maybe restraining Vick will help the Eagles play more disciplined football. Or, maybe behind-the-scenes feuds have already led the team to throw in the towel. This team wasn't getting along well when Vick was healthy. Too many cliques in the kitchen.
THIRD DOWN CONVERSIONS
Philadelphia: 43% on offense, 36% on defense
NY Giants: 36% on offense, 34% on defense
This was where the Eagles were looking like a Dream Team. No matter how much griping you could do about their defense...that unit was stopping people on third downs (though they had a disappointing knack for playing 3.5 quarters instead of the full four). No matter how much anyone would question Vick's leadership...he's learned the importance of moving the chains instead of trying to be a hero on every play. Compare that to what Eli Manning's doing. The Giants are making big plays, but they're playing a bunch of shootouts where BOTH teams are making a lot of big plays.
Edge here to the Eagles as long as they show up with some intensity. Drive Points were basically a wash. That brings us to turnovers.
Philadelphia: -7 (14 takeaways, 21 giveaways)
NY Giants +6 (19 takeaways, 13 giveaways)
HELLO! The main statistical reason the Eagles are 3-6 to this point is the turnover category. They've given the ball away way too much (many from bad or forced passes by Vick...but others just from undisciplined team lunacy). Though Eli Manning has a reputation for making dumb passes...and he did throw a late pick against San Francisco last week...he's done a relatively good job this year of playing smart in shootouts. It's easy to go overboard when you HAVE to score to keep up. You can't complain about 13 giveaways in 9 games in that style.
We think this is the category that's going to determine the straight up and pointspread winner. Philadelphia can win outright if they play clean football. They can't possibly win outright if they play another sloppy game. And, if the slop continues...we're looking at a road blowout. We've all seen the Eagles throw in the towel a few times this year when things started to go South. What happened last week vs. Arizona may be a red flag that the towel has already been tossed on the season.
JIM HURLEY knows how important the Sunday Night game is for Las Vegas bettors. Winners want to press up. Losers need a bailout. EVERYONE HAS TO WIN! He'll be working very closely with his New York and Philadelphia sources to make sure you get the right side here. We can't tell you who we like here in the NOTEBOOK. But, we can say that NETWORK is convinced that the Vegas line is off by at least a field goal in terms of the true best expectations for this game...and that there are intangibles in place that would easily lead to a double digit cover for either side.
Be sure you check our "buy picks" page here at the website for the latest details on the Sunday card. We're definitely looking at matchups like Cincinnati-Baltimore and San Diego-Chicago for serious play...possibly even our NFL GAME OF THE MONTH for November. If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453. Be sure to ask about college basketball when you call.
Back with you tomorrow to talk about the championship hopes for the New England Patriots to get you ready for their Monday Nighter against Kansas City. Guess who the Philadelphia Eagles play NEXT week? That's right...the Patriots!
We won't have room in the NOTEBOOK to talk about it...but Las Vegas bettors need to be aware that the Maui Classic in college basketball starts early in the day Monday. The three most anticipated games are Michigan-Memphis, Tennessee-Duke, and Georgetown-Kansas.
We're looking at a great hoops schedule this week that includes three days from Hawaii and the Final Four from the Preseason NIT. Game day basketball goes up for credit card purchase a few hours before tip off of the first pick. It's very important this week to stay on top of the hoops schedule here at the website.
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