The NFC East is wide open this year, and that makes Sunday night’s New York Giants versus Philadelphia Eagles showdown all the more crucial. The latter club has been struggling to find their footing all season long, and yet, despite all of their woes, they’re still a cool 2-1 through three games. Similarly, for all of the panic following New York’s embarrassing defeat to the Dallas Cowboys on opening night, that team has bounced back nicely en route to a 2-1 mark, too.
A loss tonight won’t doom either squad, obviously, but a win will give one of them some serious momentum heading into what promise to be a hectic few weeks. The Giants will need to play the San Francisco 49ers, Washington Redskins, Dallas Cowboys, Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals before their Week 11 bye. The Eagles have the Steelers, Detroit Lions, Atlanta Falcons and Dallas Cowboys over the next month.
Here are three things to keep an eye on from each team during tonight’s proceedings:
New York Giants
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1. Can Eli Manning stay cool under pressure?
Slowly but surely Eli Manning has morphed into one of the best and most reliable quarterbacks in the NFL. As pressure intensifies, he seems to step his game up more and more. For the year, Manning has 1011 yards and five touchdowns on 79-of-118 passing. Philadelphia is going to try to get him out of his comfort zone tonight, however, Manning actually performs relatively well when facing added pressure. According to ESPN, he is second in the league against added pressure in yards and tied for second in the league when facing five or more rushers.
2. Can Jason Pierre-Paul pressure Michael Vick?
Whereas New York’s other defensive pieces have been a bit sporadic with their performances this season, Jason Pierre-Paul’s greatness has been something of a constant. On the year, Pierre-Paul has 14 quarterback disruptions, two sacks and 15 tackles. His ability to either get to or put pressure on Michael Vick could change the tenor of this game relatively early.
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3. Can Martellus Bennett keep his touchdown streak alive?
While Eli Manning’s two favorite targets are pretty well known, his third favorite target hasn’t gotten much love this year. Quietly, Martellus Bennett has put together a very impressive three game campaign – nabbing a touchdown in each one (plus at least 70 yards receiving in two out of three). Can he keep the streak alive tonight? We’ll find out soon enough.
1. How will Michael Vick fare against the Giants pass-rush?
Michael Vick’s struggles this year have been a matter of public record, and a bad showing against the Giants may turn that Andy Reid slip of the tongue about benching him into reality. Whereas Manning does well against five or more defenders, Vick falters under that sort of pressure. On the year, his completion percentage -- when going up against that type of attack -- is a mere 39 percent. (According to ESPN, second worst among qualified quarterbacks.)
2. Can Demetress Bell offer any sort of relief at left tackle?
Last week versus the Cardinals, Demetress Bell got absolutely worked by Calais Campbell. And while going up against Campbell is no easy task, it’s definitely not as rough as going up against Jason Pierre-Paul. According the good folks at SB Nation Philly, Bell gave up seven pressures versus Arizona. What’s the over/under tonight: nine? ten?
3. Can this defense slow down Victor Cruz?
Last year in the final match-up between these two teams, Victor Cruz lit the Eagles up for 128 yards and a touchdown on six receptions. Needless to say, that can’t happen again tonight. Maybe you can’t stop this guy if you’re Philly, but you definitely need to contain him in some way.