New York Giants (8-4) +3, 42.5 O/U at Philadelphia Eagles (5-7) -3, Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, 1.00pm EST Sunday
by The Crazy Snake of Predictem.com
I’d like to take this opportunity to sing the praises of Brian Westbrook. As Giant’s defensive end, Justin Tuck put it “You can’t tackle that guy in a phone booth”, such is the strength and elusiveness of the league’s most complete and versatile half back. He runs, he makes and breaks tackles, he catches passes and generally makes the Eagles’ offense look semi-serviceable, despite the fact that it really isn’t. A sad indictment on that offense is the fact that he has even lined up at wide receiver on occasion, an almost ironic sight in the face of the Eagles’ offensive shortcomings this season.
When these teams met in week 4, Westbrook was missing. Little wonder then that the Eagles mustered only 190 yards of total offense and a field goal in a 16-3 loss. Adding to their problems on that day was the absence of left tackle, William Thomas from their offensive line. This opened the door for Osi Umenyiora to sack Donovan McNabb 6 times, half of the Giants’ NFL record equaling 12 for the day. Winston Justice lined up at LT for the Eagles, but the 23 year old second year player was a boy on a man’s mission that day. Umenyiora monstered him time and again as he blew him off the line in pursuit of the hapless McNabb. And 3 hours after they began, the teams retired to the comfort and safety of the locker room with only 19 points of scoring between them.
Having Thomas back at left tackle for this game is no guarantee of a different offensive result for Philadelphia in this rematch. Not even having Westbrook back is any guarantee that McNabb can make this offense look anything other than impotent. Thomas has started in 11 of the 12 games this season and through all that McNabb has still looked a shadow of his former self. The Eagles had looked better with A.J. Feeley behind center, even though he gave up critical interceptions late in the 4th quarter of both games in which he started.
McNabb is going to get rushed a lot by a defense that leads the league in sacks. In their week 12 meeting with the Patriots, Philadelphia also looked extremely blitz happy against Tom Brady, a plan that was employed the following week by the Baltimore Ravens to great effect. If Brady is susceptible to heavy pressure then Eli Manning most certainly is. Though much praise was heaped upon him in his effort to lead a comeback against the Bears, with two long second half drives that capped a memorable 21-16 victory, it must be remembered who got them into the predicament of a 16-7 4th quarter deficit. A former number 1 draft pick, Manning has never lived up to that heavy burden, and for the most part hasn’t ever looked capable of leading his team to the ultimate prize. Still only a young man at 26, Eli has time, but his development as an NFL bust is coming along quite nicely. Philadelphia is going to exploit his poor decision making against the rush and make sure he has to make that kind of decision over and over again.
The availability of Brandon Jacobs weighs heavily on the outcome of this game. If Manning has the services of his hulking half back he could be saved to some degree. Philadelphia is excellent against the rush, however, and his stay of execution could be short-lived, even if he has Jacobs and Droughns in the backfield.
This game promises to be a tight tussle, and fun to watch if you like intensely fought defensive battles. I was surprised to see the sportsbooks post a total of 42.5 as neither of these teams looks potent enough offensively to draw an above average total. With lots of sacks and 3 and outs on offer, I suspect this game will be tight for most of the day. The nature of their divisional rivalry belies the disparity of their win/loss records and this one will probably go down to the wire. I like Philadelphia here on the basis of their personnel changes from the last meeting, the change to home field and the fact that the Giants only managed 16 points against them despite blowing McNabb off the field.
The Snake’s Bite: If home field advantage counts for anything in these battles then Philadelphia should be a good bet to cover the 3 points here. They are traveling marginally better than when the teams first met this season, and the Giants are on one of their typical second-half-of-the-season stutters into the Wildcard game. Westbrook could be the difference in this game and I, for one, would rather back a side on which he is on than back against him.