What to watch for as Eagles host Giants on Thursday night

Eagles Boston Scott
Boston Scott will fill in for Miles Sanders on Thursday night.
Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

At least an NFC East team will be guaranteed a win in Week 7 — because they’re playing each other. 

The New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles meet on Thursday night (8:20 p.m. ET, FOX) at Lincoln Financial Field for a primetime matchup which, to be honest, probably leaves plenty to be desired from a national audience. 

Through the first six weeks of the season, the two teams are a combined 2-9-1 — the Giants picking up their first victory of 2020 last week thanks to an ill-fated two-point conversion attempt from fellow NFC East minnow Washington in the final minute. 

They were the only team in the division to win last week as the Eagles ran into two-point-conversion issues of their own. Philadelphia head coach Doug Pederson calling a questionable quarterback keeper late on Sunday after bringing his side within two of the high-powered Baltimore Ravens.

Something will have to give on Thursday — unless there’s a repeat of Philadelphia’s tie with the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 3 — as seemingly no one wants to take the lead in the wide-open (and putrid) NFC East. The Dallas Cowboys lead with a 2-4 record with the Eagles just a half-game behind followed by the Giants and Washington at 1-5. 

Here are a few things to watch out for during primetime in Philly:

Daniel Jones’ turnover bug

Through nearly three quarters on Sunday against Washington, Giants’ second-year quarterback Daniel Jones was on pace to do something he had only done once before in his previous 18 NFL appearances: Have a turnover-free game. 

With the Giants up 13-10 late in the third and driving deep into Washington territory, Jones was under pressure and tried to throw the ball out of the back of the end zone. It didn’t work, as he couldn’t get enough on the throw, which was intercepted by Kendall Fuller in the back of the end zone.

It was Jones’ sixth interception of the young season and his ninth turnover, making it 18 of his 19 career games with at least one giveaway. 

As stated earlier, though, something will have to give on Thursday night. The Eagles’ defense ranks 26th in the league with five turnovers created, upping the ever-so-slight possibility that Jones can, in fact, put together a clean game. 

Philadelphia’s best chance to do so is if they can find a way to shut down wide receiver Darius Slayton, who has caught all three of Jones’ touchdown passes this season. But there is a chance he might not be available after injuring his foot on Sunday against Washington. He’s been limited in practice throughout the week. 

Eagles injuries keep piling up

Eagles fans will have little sympathy for the Giants’ injury report, considering there’s is an extremely lengthy list. 

And it only seems to be getting worse. 

No. 1 running back Miles Sanders, who ripped off a 74-yard run against Baltimore, is likely out against the Giants due to a knee injury.

Philadelphia Eagles running back Miles Sanders. Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

He’ll join the likes of key Eagles playmakers on the shelf including wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, who continues to deal with a foot issue. 

Sunday also saw the loss of tight end Zach Ertz, who suffered an ankle injury and could miss several weeks. Now the Eagles’ top two tight ends are out after Dallas Goedert previously injured his ankle, too. But wait, there’s more.

The Eagles’ offensive line is already in shambles with Isaac Seumalo, Jason Peters, and Andre Dillard already on injured reserve. Offensive tackle Lane Johnson has been dealing with injuries of his own and against the Ravens, Jack Driscoll injured his ankle. He, alongside Matt Pryor, who was on the COVID-19 list, is questionable for Sunday. 

That should have the Giants’ pass rush licking their chops considering they’re ranked 10th in the NFL with 15 sacks this season. 

There is some promising news, though, for Philadelphia. Veteran wide receiver DeSean Jackson is expected to finally take the field on Thursday night after missing the previous three games with a hamstring injury. 

The Replacements

Somehow, someway, the Eagles have still managed to find production when some of their largest playmaking contributors have gone down. The dependence on them won’t change, either, against the Giants. 

Boston Scott will slot in for the injured Sanders as Philadelphia’s No. 1 running back. While he has just 67 yards on 21 carries this season, he had big days against the Giants last season.

Philadelphia Eagles running back Boston Scott. Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

He posted 128 total yards in Week 13 against New York before posting 138 total yards in the regular-season finale — both Eagles victories.

The Eagles will be hoping that young receiver Travis Fulgham can also follow suit with a big game against the Giants as he’s been a revelation for a team starving for playmakers. In three games, the former practice-squader has posted 294 yards and three touchdowns. 

Wentz vs. Giants defense

While Jones has had his fair share of issues, Eagles fans have had to watch in horror as their golden-boy quarterback, Carson Wentz, has regressed in his fifth NFL season. 

Through six games, he’s been picked off nine times — two more than his entire season total last season. His completion percentage is on pace to be a career-worst and so is his quarterback rating. 

Reason for concern? Absolutely. 

Understanding there are extenuating circumstances that come with it? Difficult for some. 

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz. Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Wentz’s lack of playmakers due to injury is extreme. With no consistency comes no rapport and no momentum. The offensive line in front of him has been suspect given its gluing together due to injuries as well. No quarterback in the league has been sacked more than Wentz in 2020 — 25 times for a total loss of 177 yards. 

The Giants defense was better against Washington and their pass rush is surprising some, which means there might not be much of a reprieve for Wentz on Thursday night even with New York’s record in mind.

Giants ground game

What used to be an identity for the Giants is now a liability — and that was when Saquon Barkley was healthy, too. 

New York’s ground game is ranked 29th in the NFL with just 527 yards through six games. 

Jones is their leading rusher on the season with 204 of those yards while Devonta Freeman has 164 in four games. The latter’s signing earlier this season a direct move following Barkley’s season-ending ACL injury. 

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

It’s important to take last week’s result with a grain of salt considering the opponent, but the Giants’ ground game seemed to take a step forward in Week 6 with Freeman posting 61 yards and Jones breaking off a 49-yard scramble.

But it’s not enough for the traditional ground game that has so often created methodical Giants drives over the years. That might not come this season, but the Eagles’ rush defense has allowed the ninth-most yards in the NFL so far this season. So if the offensive line can open some holes as they did for Freeman last week, the Giants’ ground game could keep trending in the right direction. 

This first appeared on AMNY.com

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