As we approach the halfway mark of the NFL season, the Eagles are in a position not many assumed they would be capable of reaching, contending. With a 4-3 record, the birds sit tied for 2nd in the NFC East..but as impressive as their season has been, a win against the Giants will be pivotal in determining how much is really attainable this season.
NFC Beast arises:
Surprisingly, the division that most expected to be the least competitive this season, has been the most. In fact, the NFC East is the only division in the league where every team has at least four wins. The Eagles may be tied for second, but they’re tied with both Washington and New York..making the stakes even higher here.
Separation is key at this stage. A chance to put a win between you and a rival is a chance that teams absolutely have to take..and New York will be looking to capitalize on home field advantage to do that to the Eagles.
With so much on the line and so little separating the four teams, a win against another team in the division at this point in the season could be the difference between a playoff berth and a disappointing end to what has started out as a highly promising season.
Record against divisional rivals:
Doug Pederson is yet to win a game against a divisional opponent. First, falling to Washington by a touchdown after failing to score on the final Offensive drive of the game, and most recently sinking to an overtime loss against divisional leaders and bitter rivals, the Dallas Cowboys.
A team cannot expect a playoff berth if they fall 0-3 against teams in their division. Apart from the Eagles, there are just THREE teams not to win a game against a divisional opponent at this stage.
Cleveland Browns: 0-2, 4th in division
Detroit Lions: 0-2, 3rd in division
Panthers: 0-3, 4th in division
Given the closeness of the division, the Eagles are to make the playoffs this season, they simply have to turn things around and come away with a win against the New York Giants.
Inability to close out games:
It was an issue against the Cowboys, it was an issue against the Redskins and it was an issue against the Lions. The Eagles can’t seem to get it together in the fourth quarter. A combined 3 fourth quarter fumbles, blown leads and questionable coaching decisions are all that have really stopped the Eagles from going 7-0. All three losses have been just one possession games and while not all have been competitive from the start, it’s arguable that the Eagles have beaten themselves.
The Giants had this problem just one year ago under Tom Coughlin and blew countless leads in crunch time. This year however, things seem to have taken a turn for the better. An Odell Beckham Jr breakout against the Ravens and some incredible Defense in the international series have saved the Giants from letting things slip away.
The Eagles have to combat this head on and be smarter with the football in the closing stages of games. The Giants Defense is by no means a bad one and have already come up big a few times this season. If the Eagles succumb to yet another defeat due to a problematic fourth quarter, there will be some serious questions asked. Especially considering that all 3 divisional losses would have come through 4th quarter issues.
Toughness of schedule:
It’s not as if the Eagles schedule gets any easier from here on out.
Vs Falcons (5-3)
@ Seahawks (4-2)
Vs Packers (4-3)
@ Bengals (3-4)
Vs Redskins (4-3)
@ Ravens (3-4)
Vs Giants (4-3)
Vs Cowboys (5-2)
The birds are set to face two teams with losing records at this point and you could make the case for each of their upcoming opponents emerging as playoff contenders. The Eagles don’t have another “easy-win” opportunity on the schedule this season and having already lost 2/2 divisional games, this could be one of their only remaining chances at snatching a win away from the Giants.
They will have another chance to do so against all three of their divisional opponents, but a loss here would leave them winless against the trio with an almighty hill to climb in terms of gaining an advantage over them.
Mandatory Credit: Jim O’Connor-USA TODAY Sports