Thursday Night Football: Philadelphia Eagles (2-3) at New York Giants (1-4)
What to Watch For:
In a division that features zero teams above .500, both of these teams are still very much alive in the division race. As the Eagles search for their RB solution following Jay Ajayi’s injury, the Giants have seemingly found theirs. Saquon Barkley has been nothing short of tremendous for the G-Men. He has begun his career with 5 straight games of 100+ scrimmage yards, just two shy of Kareem Hunt’s record of 7 set last season.
The Eagles, on the other hand, have struggled since the return of Carson Wentz. Naturally, it’s tough to expect a player to be in mid-season form as he returns from a torn ACL, especially a guy that features mobility in the pocket. I am confident Wentz will return to his MVP-type form he displayed in 2017, and with the division in the state that it’s in, he has time to get comfortable.
Both teams played this past weekend, so both teams have a short week of preparation heading into tonight’s game. However, these teams play each other twice a year and know each very well. I expect a hard-fought, low-scoring game tonight. The 2018 debut of OLB Olivier Vernon for the Giants should bring a positive effect on a pass rush that has been nonexistent thus far. Against a battered offensive line that has allowed Carson Wentz to be sacked 12 times in 3 games, this game is set up to be a physical matchup between two teams that hate each other.
Prediction: Giants win 23-20.
RB Saquon Barkley
In a game where weather is going to play a pivotal role, the attention shifts toward the run games. The Giants certainly don’t have the best run game in the league, but they’ll have the best run game on the field Thursday. Saquon Barkley has proven difficult to tackle in the best conditions, imagine trying to bring him down when nobody is able to grab hold of a slick jersey. He will also be involved heavily in the pass game as poor weather conditions make it very difficult to push the ball downfield.
TE Zach Ertz
Although they’ve been better against opposing TEs this season, the Giants have historically struggled against top-tier tight ends. In addition, they haven’t played a TE to the level of Zach Ertz in 2018. Ertz should also benefit from the weather conditions tonight. The short, over-the-middle passes will be prominent in tonight’s game and there’s not many receivers/tight ends that finds the holes in the middle of zones better than Zach Ertz. Add that to the obvious chemistry between Wentz/Ertz, he should be set up for a big night.
QB Carson Wentz
The Giants have been Wentz’s statistical kryptonite in the NFC East. In 3 games against New York, he’s 2-1, but holds a 59.0 completion percentage with 692 yards, 2 TDs and 3 INTs leading to a 74.8 QB rating. Not stellar. As good as Wentz is, he seems to struggle statistically against this unit. The weather will make it even harder to throw, and with a battered offensive line and a seemingly healthy Giants’ defense, Wentz could be in for a tough night.
WR Sterling Shepard
Normally, this wouldn’t be that drastic of a statement. However, in 4 games against Philadelphia, Shepard has 28 catches for 383 yards and 4 TDs. With all the attention seemingly going to be split between Odell Beckham, Jr. and Saquon Barkley, common sense thinking would tell you Shepard should spend the night in 1-on-1 coverage in the slot. In the sloppy, wet conditions, I don’t see him being able to win those battles. His game is built on quick moves to create space off the line of scrimmage. That won’t be easy to do tonight, making it difficult for Shepard to create any space at the line and he doesn’t have the breakaway speed needed to create separation downfield.