The Giants and Eagles face off Sunday night in prime time in what is arguably both teams’ biggest game to date.
The Eagles (4-1) host a Giants (3-2) squad riding a three-game winning streak and suddenly looking like a real threat in the NFC East. And if there are still doubters, they can just ask Giants safety Antrel Rolle, who deemed that Big Blue has turned the division in their favor, while also dismissing Philadelphia’s division-winning crown from last year, noting it was a “weak division.” As can be expected, that’s just more fuel to the fire for a rivalry that didn’t need any further fanning.
Metro takes a look at the key storylines of NBC’s game of the week (8:30 p.m.).
1. Fallback guy
Andre Williams is the main man behind quarterback Eli Manning, as veteran running back Rashad Jennings will miss the game with an injured knee. Williams, a fourth-round pick out of Boston College, has been thrust into what is customarily the most bitter rivalry in the NFC East. Both teams love to get after the opposing quarterback, so as talented a runner as the rookie is, it will be equally important how well he has Manning’s back — literally. Pass protection is usually the most difficult transition for young running backs entering the NFL. Most know Williams is a skilled runner, but no one knows if he’s fully up to the task of being arguably the second-most important protector of Manning behind left tackle Will Beatty.
2. Still struggling
The Giants need to force Philadelphia All-Pro running back LeSean McCoy to continue his slumping ways if they want to get the upset road win. McCoy has only 273 rushing yards this season, after leading the NFL with 1,607 yards last season, behind such relative unknowns as Niles Davis, Khiry Robinson and Justin Forsett. McCoy, though, is a noted Giants killer over the years — and takes glee in being that. But if the offensive line continues to get pushed back in his lap, Big Blue will be the one with the last laugh. How well McCoy plays goes a long way in determining the winner.
3. Who’s the mastermind?
Both offenses are relatively new — with Eagles head coach Chip Kelly’s version of the spread offense being just over a year old and Giants offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo’s West Coast offense only having five regular season games under its belt. It’ll be interesting to see which quarterback wins the personal battle, as their respective offense’s tempo could be the game’s ultimate dictator. The Eagles’ leader, Nick Foles, has struggled to match last season’s efficiency, while Manning is starting to look like the elite quarterback he declared himself to be two seasons ago. Foles, who only tossed two interceptions all of last season, already has five, while Manning is nearing the fabled 70 percent completion percentage rate and seems to have grasped McAdoo’s concepts. Both signal-callers are trending in opposite directions, but if neither opposing defenses can rattle the passers, viewers may be treated to an old-fashioned shootout.
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.