A season of exceeded expectations can take a giant — pardon the pun — step on Thursday night if the New York Giants can beat the Philadelphia Eagles.
A win, and the Giants can essentially wrap up a playoff spot, a team that spent big this offseason to correct three straight years of 6-10 seasons now headed in the right direction. Win and the Giants would have win No. 11, a huge turnaround for a team that hasn’t made the postseason since 2011.
Most impressive is that they are doing this with an impact player in defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul out for the rest of the regular season with a sports hernia injury.
The Eagles are 5-9, losers of five straight and a once promising season now doomed for the golf course rather than the playoffs. But this is a rivalry for New York, both geographically and on the field. It won’t be an easy game for the Giants.
Three things to watch from the Giants in Week 16:
Continuing to ground some momentum
It is a talking point seemingly every week for the Giants but the running game, after being ground to a halt earlier this season, has picked up in recent weeks. In Sunday’s win over the Detroit Lions, they topped triple digits as a unit, a rarity this season for a franchise that has always prided itself on running the ball well.
“The offensive line has been doing a tremendous job these past couple of weeks,” rookie running back Paul Perkins said. “All the running backs have been continuing to improve.”
The Eagles have had difficulties this year stopping the run, No. 21 in yards per attempt and No. 17 in yards allowed per game (104.9).
The turnover battle
Not terribly shocking but the Giants are 7-2 in games where quarterback Eli Manning has one or fewer interceptions. In Sunday’s win, Manning didn’t have a single turnover and while he didn’t put up big numbers, his performance was efficient and at times clutch.
The Eagles have been relatively tidy this year with a plus-two turnover differential. They have 11 interceptions as a defense this season and are tied for seventh with 10 forced fumbles recovered.
The Giants won on Sunday, beating a team that appears playoff bound in the Lions, but the Eagles are coming off a bitter loss to the Baltimore Ravens. The quick turnaround of a Sunday game followed up by playing again on Thursday night should help the Eagles rebound, giving them very little time to lick their wounds.
For the Giants, the hope is that momentum of a hard-fought game can carry over.
“It’s a divisional opponent. We know them and they know us. That helps and makes it very competitive. The challenges are trying to get the reps physically so guys can see it and take a look at it on their feet,” Giants head coach Ben McAdoo said. “You want to be smart with how much they get on their feet. We will do some things and dial the speed down a little bit. We need to make sure we put our preparation in off the field, on the film as much as possible.”