The New York Giants (1-4) are preparing for their week six game Thursday night after a heartbreaking 33-31 loss in Carolina Sunday, which saw Panthers kicker Graham Gano connect on a 63 yard game winning field goal as time expired, one yard short of tying an NFL record for longest field goal made. This loss was particularly devastating for the Giants; this game marked the first time since January 3, 2016 where the Giants offense scored 30+ points in a game. Since that game, the Giants have fired two different head coaches. This game also saw the first time that the recently paid Odell Beckham Jr. recorded a touchdown this year, as he threw for one on a lateral screen pass and caught another. The Giants hope to continue their offensive successes from week five as they gear up to play the defending world champions, the Philadelphia Eagles (2-3).
This matchup will be very different for the Giants than last year. Since then, the Giants have made significant roster changes that should make them more of a threat in the weak NFC East. New York drafted Saquon Barkley, the most highly touted running back since Adrian Peterson in 2007 and the highest selected running back since Reggie Bush in 2006. Barkley has lived up to the hype, recording over 100 scrimmage yards in every game this season, living up to the hype. The offensive line has also had a major transformation that makes them better on paper with the free agent acquisition of Nate Solder, second round selection of Will Hernandez, and much to Giants fans’ pleasure, the release of 2015 first round draft pick bust Ereck Flowers.
The Giants’ offense is not the only one that’s changed since last year. The Eagles offensive production has had a very noticeable drop off since last season, in which the Eagles averaged 28.6 points per game, the second highest in the league. This year, the Eagles are averaging over a touchdown less per game with 20.6 points per game, ranking 25th in the league. Part of this may be attributed to Philadelphia losing running backs LeGarrette Blount (free agency) and Jay Ajayi (torn ACL), and being forced to rely on the likes of Corey Clement, Darren Sproles, and Wendell Smallwood. The Eagles are looking into a trade for another running back, potentially the Bills’ LeSean McCoy. For now, the Eagles lack the running backs necessary to take the load off Carson Wentz, who is playing in just his third game since tearing his ACL last season.
The offensive ability for each team is the most important aspect of play that matters for each team in this matchup. For the Giants, their offensive line is better on paper than it was last year, but that does not necessarily mean its performance has improved. The Giants rank eighth in the league in sacks given up this year, and part of the reason they have not allowed the most sacks is because Eli Manning checks the ball down very frequently. Saquon Barkley also has one of the lowest average rushing yards before contact in the league due to the Giants’ inability to block.
For the Giants to win this game, they cannot force the run. The Eagles are the second best rushing defense in the league, only giving up about 66 rushing yards per game. Given the Giants’ offensive line woes, if Barkley cannot get off to a good start, it might not be a bad idea to consistently use Barkley as a receiver out of the backfield or in the slot, similar to how the Steelers have used Le’Veon Bell in the past. This season, Barkley has been held to under 50 rushing yards per game three times in five games, but his ability to make defenders miss has been undeniable. If Manning can get Barkley the ball in space and let him do his thing, the Giants will have a much better chance of winning.
The Giants will also need Eli Manning to push the ball down the field. In the Giants’ sudden offensive outburst against the Panthers, Manning pushed the ball four and a half yards further downfield than average, and this is no coincidence. Odell Beckham Jr. should be used for more deep routes than he runs, and although the Giants may not agree with Beckham’s very public complaints about New York’s struggles passing the ball, the truth is that he is entirely right. Beckham easily won his matchup against one of the league’s best corners, Jalen Ramsey in week one, and the Giants would be foolish to hold him back from schooling Philadelphia cornerbacks Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby.
When it comes down to it, the Giants offensive line will not be able to stop the Eagles defensive line, which is among one of the NFL’s deepest units with Fletcher Cox, Michael Bennett, Brandon Graham, and Chris Long. Despite the Eagles worries at running back, Carson Wentz will be able to carry the Eagles to victory with the receivers he has at his disposal. For the Giants, Barkley will be stuffed at the line of scrimmage by the Eagles defense for the majority of the game, and the Giants production will depend on Manning’s ability to throw the ball. The Eagles will win this game 24-20 and will record at least three sacks against New York’s abysmal line.