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Xs and Os: Eagles, Giants Week 17 Preview

Background/Storylines: Eagles (4-11) and Giants (8-7)

Thankfully, this disaster of a season is almost done. The 4-11 Philadelphia Eagles have been nothing short of an abomination, using an eight-game losing streak to go from the top of the NFC East to the bottom of the NFC. They’ve won only once in the last 3 months, and that only came on a last-second, game-winning touchdown pass to Jeremy Maclin. This is not a time to look ahead to next year, but the performances of the team’s rookies, especially our defensive rookies (Mychal Kendricks, Fletcher Cox, and Brandon Boykin), gives this team something to look forward to next season as they try to end this disastrous season by spoiling the Giants’ chances at the playoffs. Oh, and don’t forget: this might be Andy Reid’s last game as head coach.

The Giants, meanwhile, are having a nightmare of their own. Seven weeks ago, they were 6-2 and first in the NFC East. Eli Manning and Victor Cruz were on fire and this team seemed destined for the conference’s No. 2 seed. Since then, however, it’s been a complete Giants-esque collapse. A 2-5 finish to the season including back-to-back blowouts at the hands of the Atlanta Falcons and Baltimore Ravens has the Giants in a precarious situation, needing to win and have two or three other teams lose as well. The decline of stars Jason Pierre-Paul (zero sacks in his last six games) and Eli Manning (83.6 rating, 15 interceptions) has led the Giants down a dark, slippery road.

Fantasy Watch: LeSean McCoy (PHI) and Victor Cruz (NYG)

LeSean McCoy is still the same fantasy back that he was a year ago, except for one key issue: he just isn’t getting into the end zone. With two touchdowns, compared to 17 for last year, McCoy’s fantasy output has plummeted. He’s still racking up the yards, whether through the air or on the ground, but he’s not scoring while doing it. Even last week, it was third-stringer Dion Lewis, not McCoy, who scored the team’s lone rushing touchdown. But you still can’t sit No. 25; he’s feasted on the Giants. He’s rushed for 364 yards in his last three games against Tom Coughlin’s defense, gashing them for big gains wherever he goes. He may not score, but he’ll definitely make a fantasy impact.

My projected stats for McCoy: 112 yards rushing, 27 yards receiving, 1 touchdown (19.9 points)

In every sense of the word, Victor Cruz has emerged as the Giants’ No. 1 option. Not only does he leads them in receptions, yards, and touchdowns, but he makes the catches when it counts: he leads them in first downs (50), third-down conversions (22), and red zone receptions (10). Even with an emerging Domenik Hixon and healthy Hakeem Nicks, Cruz is still Eli’s go-to guy. He’s also feasted on the Eagles, recording 347 yards and four touchdowns in only three games against them. In fact, he’s always had at least 100 yards and a touchdown against the Birds. He’s a guy to start this week.

My projected stats for Cruz: 115 yards, 1 touchdown (17.5 points)

Key Matchup: Michael Vick vs Giants’ Defensive Line

Vick has always tortured the Giants.

How fitting: Michael Vick gets to return and break the Giants’ heart for the fourth time. Forget Miracle at the New Meadowlands, everyone knows about that. Even forget last year’s fourth-quarter stunner, where Vick recovered an initial fumble and tossed it to LeSean McCoy for the game-winning, 50-yard touchdown. Remember earlier this year, when all seemed lost, and Vick led the team down the field for a game-winning field goal inside two minutes to play? Let’s just say No. 7 has a flare for the dramatic against Big Blue.

This time, however, Vick isn’t playing one of the league’s top defenses. He’s playing a beat-up, struggling group of guys who can’t seem to stop anyone lately. If Vick can avoid pressure and keep Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck, and Osi Umenyiora from sacking him more than once or twice, he could have a field day with the slow Giants linebackers and the porous secondary. This matchup will decide whether the Eagles offense can put points on the board or not.

X-Factor: Colt Anderson (PHI) and Eli Manning (NYG)

Without standout rookies Fletcher Cox and Mychal Kendricks, the Eagles will need different players to step up to contain the Giants’ offense. One of those guys needs to be Ed Block Courage Award winner Colt Anderson. Against Washington, Anderson played very well in coverage. With Mychal Kendricks out, he’ll need to step up and cover dangerous Giants tight end Martellus Bennett. Bennett has played well for the Giants this season, catching 54 balls for 611 yards and five touchdowns. While he’s struggled over the past five games, he’s always a threat, and Anderson will need to shut him down to help contain the other parts of the Giants offense.

Eli Manning has simply not been Eli Manning over the past several weeks. In his past two games combined, Manning has thrown for 311 yards, 1 touchdown, and 2 interceptions. His inability to find receivers who are open down the field has cost his team games this season, including in Week 4 against the Eagles when he threw the ball right to Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in the end zone, making the Giants’ deficit much more difficult to overcome. The Eagles aren’t an excellent defense; all the Giants offense needs from Manning is a couple good throws down the field to Victor Cruz to get the ball rolling, but seeing how he’s played lately makes even that a toss-up.

Prediction: Eagles 27Giants 23

The Philadelphia Eagles have not been good this season, but there is no way Andy Reid and Michael Vick are going down without a fight. Vick has had a knack for knocking off the Giants, and his fresh legs could be enough to propel this Eagles offense. With an emerging Jeremy Maclin and healthy LeSean McCoy, I believe this Eagles offense will do enough to send the Giants packing.

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Categories: Eagles, Editorial

Author:Manav Khandelwal

I am the founder of Khandyman Sports, and follow all Philadelphia pro sports teams religiously. I also write for the Hoop76, covering the Sixers for ESPN, and am a credentialed Flyers reporter for Main Line Media News.

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