Amid this recent stretch of losing Giants football, I interviewed a player who is no longer with the team, and his response to just about every question I asked about his and the team's performance was the same: “Just have to play Giants football.”
Sensing this player didn’t have a clue as to what “Giants Football” was, instead of banging my head against the wall, I asked, “Well, what is Giants football?”
The player tried to cover with some cliches. But at that moment, it hit me that if he didn't know what Giants football was, how many of his teammates knew?
These days with head coach Joe Judge, there’s no mistaking what Giants football is.
“I think the identity for us is to be a physical football team that fights for 60 minutes,” quarterback Daniel Jones said when asked what the Giants football identity is. “It’s very clear from Coach Judge and from all the coaches that that’s the expectation.”
The last time the Giants faced the Philadelphia Eagles, they accomplished the first part, which is to be physical, but they didn’t do the second part, which is to fight for 60 minutes.
The game slipped away from them in the final five minutes—sadly not a one-time occurrence either as in five of the Giants seven losses this year, they’ve blown it toward the end.
But with a share of first place in the weakest division in football on the line, the Giants can’t afford to deliver anything less this weekend when they host the Eagles this weekend at MetLife Stadium.
So how will it play out? Read on!
The Giants will win because ...
-- They are long overdue. It’s been eight games and a little over three years since the Giants last beat the Eagles. It's time to change the narrative.
-- The Eagles are coming off a bye week. Since they established their dominance over the Giants, Philadelphia is 2-3 coming out of the bye and have lost their last two games post-bye.
-- They can run the ball. No one will mistake the Giants current running back rotation of Wayne Gallman, Alfred Morris (if he’s brought up from the practice squad), Dion Lewis, and Eli Penny for being anything close to what a healthy Saquon Barkley brings to the table.
Still, over the last four weeks, the Giants ground is averaging 139.7 yards per game and is seeking its fifth straight 100-yard performance.
The Eagles, meanwhile, have the 24th ranked run defense in the league, having allowed 130.8 rushing yards per game to opponents.
-- The Eagles have been a turnover machine. With a turnover margin of minus-7, which ties them with Denver for second to last (only Dallas, at minus-13, has a worse ratio), if the Giants, who in their previous three games have landed on the plus side, can force and capitalize on a few Eagles mistakes, that will undoubtedly help.
-- The Giants join the sack party against the Eagles, who, save for their Week 2 game against Los Angeles, have allowed at least three sacks in each game since as part of a league-leading 32 sacks surrendered this season.
The Giants will lose because ...
-- The Eagles hex is alive and well.
-- Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz records his second game of the season without an interception.
--Boston gets the better of New York again. Forget about the possible return of Eagles running back Miles Sanders this weekend. Boston Scott has become a thorn in the Giants' side of late.
In three games, Scott has rushed for 159 yards on 41 carries with four touchdowns and has caught 13 out of 17 pass targets for 199 yards and a touchdown.
Scott had the game-winner in the last meeting, an 18-yard touchdown catch from Carson Wentz.
In the meeting before that (December 29, 2019), Scott's 7-yard rush broke a 10-10 tie in the first half, and then in the second, he scored a pair of 2-yard touchdowns to give his team a comfortable 34-17 win in that game.
-- The Eagles pass defense cuts the Giants passing game down to size. The last time the Giants played a top-tier pass defense was, believe it or not, was last week when they faced a Washington Football Team that ranked first in the league, allowing opponents 185.9 passing yards per game to opponents.
This week, the Giants face another top-five pass defense. The Eagles enter this week ranked fourth, having allowed 209.4 yards per game to opponents. They've allowed 13 passing touchdowns this season, the ninth-best mark in the league. And they are third in the league with 28 sacks.
Daniel Jones and the passing offense got off to a slow start. Jones threw for under 200 yards in four of five games before Week 8; in his last two games, he's thrown for 256 yards and two touchdowns against the Bucs and 212 yards and one touchdown last week against the Football Team.
Still, the Giants passing game hasn't exactly set the league on fire this season. It's averaging 192.2 yards per game, 28th in the NFL. And the offensive line has allowed 11 of the team's 28 sacks this season over the last three games, making this a potential nightmarish matchup that doesn't favor the Giants.
What's actually going to happen ...
If you had asked me at the start of the season for my prediction in this game, I would have said put it down in the “l” column. That’s not just me being negative, either.
That was based on history combined with what I saw as the Eagles having an advantage over the Giants in one key area: continuity in its coaching.
But this Giants coaching staff has quickly made me a believer simply because this Giants team, despite its 2-7 record, doesn’t “feel” like a 2-7 team.
There is fight within them, and hey, how nice is it that this coaching staff as headed by a rookie head coach is functioning not only like a group that's been together for eternity but with the sophistication and skill that can rival any established coaching group out there?
Joe Judge has found the right blend of motivation for this team without necessarily pounding the obvious home. Jason Garrett has been in the zone of late with his play-calling and creativity.
Patrick Graham has stumped even the most veteran quarterbacks out there with his creative designs (see last week’s game-ending interception by Logan Ryan as a perfect example of how veteran Alex Smith was confused over what he saw).
And Thomas McGaughey, who was already a solid special teams coach, has been turbocharged with Judge's arrival and his creative suggestions such as the Canadian gunner which last week forced a Washington muff on a punt.
Yes, the Eagles have had the Giants’ number of late, and it’s been frustrating. And yes, they’re a lot healthier than they were from the first time the two teams met.
But despite the current record, this isn't the same hapless Giants team that at times has resembled more of a Keystone Cops routine than a bonafide football team that's on the rise.
Giants 27, Eagles 23