3 things to watch for when Eagles, Giants face off at the Linc

Philadelphia Eagles NFL Josh Adams

After getting humiliated on national television by the New Orleans Saints last Sunday, the Philadelphia Eagles find themselves back at home in a must-win game against the New York Giants on Sunday afternoon (1 p.m. ET, FOX).

The Eagles are looking to snap their latest two-game losing skid and keep their faint playoff chances alive. However, it will not be easy as the Giants are coming in hot with their own two-game winning streak.

After starting out the season 1-7 and destined to obtain the top pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, the Giants have defeated both the San Francisco 49ers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers in consecutive weeks. Neither team is a world-beater by any means necessary, but in the NFL a win is a win.

The last time these two teams met was back in Week 6, where the Eagles beat the Giants in a blowout, 34-13, on Thursday night football. Can we expect this same result on Sunday? Or will the Giants officially put the final nail in the Eagles’ coffin for the 2018 NFL season?

To answer those questions and more, here are three things to watch out for in this NFC East battle:

1. Stopping Saquon Barkley

Over the last two weeks, the Eagles’ run defense has been destroyed by the likes of Ezekiel Elliott, Alvin Kamara, and Mark Ingram. Elliott racked up 151 yards on the ground, while Kamara and Ingram combined for 174 rushing yards. It was not great performances by Philly’s once-stout run defense, which is now giving up 101.4 yards per game (ranked 12th in the NFL).

And now they have the dubious task of trying to slow down rookie running back Saquon Barkley. In New York’s last two victories, the former Penn State standout had 249 rushing yards on 47 carries and two touchdowns. But his best performance this season came last week against the Bucs, where he ran for 142 yards on 27 carries and two touchdowns. He also had a receiving touchdown.

In a strange coincidence, the last time Barkley had a dominating performance like that, you have to go back to Week 6 against the Eagles. In that game, the 5-foot-11 running back was the only bright spot for the Giants, racking up 229 yards of total offense on 22 touches.

If Barkley did that against a healthy defense, just imagine what he can do against this banged up defense. Just like the last two weeks, it will be up to the Eagles’ defense to tackle better and not allow Barkley to rip-off long runs.

2. Feeding Josh Adams

While the Eagles’ defense has been getting stomped on by opposing offenses, undrafted free agent running back Josh Adams has proved that he deserves more carries over the last three games. Adams scored his first NFL touchdown and Philly’s lone points against the Saints last Sunday.

On his touchdown run, the former Notre Dame product showed great vision and burst from 28 yards out. In fact, Adams has three of the Eagles’ five runs of 20 or more yards this season and five of the team’s eight-longest runs. With those stats in mind, it is clear that Adams is ready for a larger workload and could be in line for a breakout game against the Giants.

This season, the Giants’ defense is giving up 125.4 yards per game on the ground, which is good for 25th in the NFL. The Eagles must pound the rock consistently on Sunday to not only extend drives but to open up the passing game.

3. Which Wentz will show up?

The last time these two teams met up in October, Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz was slicing and dicing up New York’s defense to the tune of a 72.2 completion percentage, 278 passing yards, and three touchdowns. The third-year quarterback was in sync with his receivers and also had a clean pocket to throw from (offensive line only gave up one sack).

However, since that contest, Wentz has thrown five interceptions (three last week against the Saints) to go along with seven touchdowns and a completion rating of 71-percent. While the completion percentage looks good on paper, anybody who has watched him play recently knows that he has been wildly inconsistent to start games off.

In fact, if you take a look at his splits from this season, his lowest completion percentage happens to be in the first quarter with 60.3. He also has a quarterback rating of 69.5. Those numbers must drastically improve if the Eagles want to win on Sunday and save their season.

But the bigger question at hand is can they improve? That is tough to answer, especially when the play calling between head coach Doug Pederson and offensive coordinator Mike Groh has been suspect.

However, if Wentz can make it through the opening quarter without a turnover and can convert a few third downs, then you have to like the Eagles’ chances on Sunday.