Philadelphia Eagles (5-6) at GIANTS (3-7)
Sunday, 1 p.m.
Spread: Eagles -3 1/2
The spotlight all week long has been on Freddie Kitchens or whomever is going to be calling offensive plays for the Giants. But maybe everyone has been focused on the wrong coordinator.
The key to this game might end up being Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham.
As bad as the Giants’ offense has been this season, the defense looked just as awful on Monday night when they stumbled out of the bye with a 30-10 loss in Tampa Bay. Their pass rush was invisible. Their coverage was bad. And their tackling was absolutely awful at times.
And that’s a problem because the Eagles’ offense is suddenly rolling behind a rediscovered rushing attack and the growth of young quarterback Jalen Hurts.
For proof of just how much of a problem this could be, call up the film of Tom Brady running 10 yards for a first down, when he leapt over linebacker Tae Crowder and was completely untouched. That was a 44-year-old quarterback who has never been known as mobile or elusive. And now they’re supposed to stop a 23-year-old quarterback who has rushed for 618 yards and eight touchdowns this year?
Good luck with that.
Hurts hasn’t exactly become a dangerous passer. In fact, he’s topped 200 passing yards just once in his last seven games – way back on Oct. 24. But he’s such a threat to run and even to create plays outside of the pocket that he makes life impossible for a pass rush and can stretch a secondary by extending plays. And he’s a big part of the Eagles’ rejuvenated rushing attack, which after being dormant early in the season has averaged 217.5 yards over the past four games.
The Giants’ rushing defense hasn’t been good. It gave up 94 yards on the ground last Monday to a Bucs team that hardly even tries to run the ball. And their tackling in the open field has been so bad, it regularly turns short runs into big gains. And the Eagles will surly test that with an army of fresh legs and shifty runners, including Hurts, Miles Sanders, Jordan Howard, Kenny Gainwell, and that notorious Giants killer Boston Scott.
Together, they’ve all powered an Eagles offense that has averaged 34.5 points per game over the last month. It’s worth noting that the Giants have only scored 30 points once in the last two years.
Maybe that changes now that Garrett is gone and, presumably, Kitchens takes over as the play-caller. Maybe there will be a spark that ignites the offensive renaissance the Giants have been predicting for years. But it probably won’t be a big enough spark if the Eagles offense keeps rolling.
That puts the onus on Graham and his players to ease their roll and keep the game manageable – something they’ve rarely been able to do against anyone, all season long.