1:00 PM ET, December 9, 2007
Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, PA
Eagles coach Andy Reid still believes his 5-7 team has a good chance to make the postseason, but Philadelphia likely needs a victory Sunday when it hosts the New York Giants in a key matchup of NFC East rivals.
The expected return of quarterback Donovan McNabb after he missed two games with ankle and thumb injuries could boost the Eagles' chances. Philadelphia lost both of those contests -- including a 28-24 home defeat to Seattle last week -- as backup A.J. Feeley threw costly late interceptions each time.
Sunday's loss dropped Philadelphia into a tie with four teams and left it one game behind three 6-6 clubs that are tied for the last NFC wild-card spot. Despite the crowded race and the fact that the Eagles' remaining schedule includes the Giants (8-4) and 11-1 Dallas, Reid is staying optimistic.
"We still have an opportunity here to win some football games with four games left," he said. "We put ourselves in a nice position here for postseason play."
The Giants are in better position, sitting two games ahead of their closest wild-card competitors. It didn't look like it would be that way for much of last week's 21-16 win in Chicago, though, as the embattled Manning turned the ball over three times in the first three quarters.
The ugliest was an interception in the end zone on 3rd-and-goal at the 1 with the Giants trailing 16-7 late in the third. Manning, however, rebounded in the final quarter, directing two long touchdown drives as New York pulled out the win to improve to 5-1 on the road.
"He's a guy that continues to fight," cornerback Sam Madison said. "He comes out to practice after getting booed a lot by the media and everybody else. Yet still he's the first person out at practice and the last person to leave. ... Messing up and having bad situations is part of the game, but you just have to fight back and play four quarters."
The win quelled talk of another late-season meltdown for the Giants, who began 6-2 last year but stumbled into the playoffs at 8-8 and lost 23-20 at Philadelphia in the wild-card round. A defeat at Chicago would have been their third in four games.
"Really, 8-4 is huge," said wide receiver Amani Toomer, whose touchdown catch capped the first of the Giants' two late drives last week. "For us, I think it's huge for our psyche, this team, this organization. Hopefully, we can use this win as a springboard, get some confidence and keep going into the playoffs."
On Sunday, New York will start its third different running back in three weeks, as Brandon Jacobs is expected to return after missing two games with a hamstring injury. It comes at the perfect time for the Giants, who saw Derrick Ward return last week after missing four games due to injuries and rush for a career-high 154 yards, only to suffer a broken leg that will end his season.
Veteran Reuben Droughns, whose 2-yard run was the winning score against the Bears, had started at tailback the week before.
Philadelphia's running back situation has been much more stable, with Brian Westbrook leading the NFL in yards from scrimmage with 1,598. He needs six yards for his second straight 1,000-yard rushing season.
Westbrook has sat out only one game this season, but his offense was sorely missed in the Eagles' 16-3 loss to New York on Sept. 30.
Westbrook has at least 120 yards from scrimmage in each of his last six games against the Giants, including 141 rushing yards in last season's playoff game. With him sidelined for this season's earlier meeting, New York keyed on McNabb and set a franchise record and tied a league mark with 12 sacks -- a team-record six by Osi Umenyiora.
The Eagles have come up just short of knocking off winning teams in their last two games. They led in the fourth quarter against unbeaten New England before losing 31-28 and had a chance to rally against 8-4 Seattle, but Feeley interceptions sealed both defeats.
"It's frustrating the way we've lost some of these games," safety Brian Dawkins said.
McNabb will likely step in this week, but he's struggled with inconsistency a season after knee surgery. He's 14-15 as a starter the last three seasons, and was 3-of-11 with two interceptions before getting hurt three weeks ago against winless Miami.
"We still have an opportunity. Even playing and losing the games we have lost, we still have the opportunity," Westbrook said. "We have to go out there and fight for these last four games and try to get in a situation so we can make the playoffs."
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After nearly knocking off the undefeated Patriots in Foxboro in Week 12, the Eagles turned the ball over four times and lost to Seattle at home in Week 13, which puts them in a deep hole for the postseason. Philadelphia has been remarkably inconsistent this year and is turning the ball over far too often of late. New York visited Chicago last week and demonstrated offensive ineptitude and a continued pension for turning the ball over on its way to winning 21-16. New York is now a very impressive 5-1 on the road and QB Eli Manning does deserve some credit for showing great poise late in last week's game. The Giants won the first meeting 16-3 between these divisional rivals, but the Eagles were very beat up with injuries and didn't have RB Brian Westbrook for that contest.
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|Avg Points Allowed||20.8||20.2|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
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|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||NYG|
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Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|Philadelphia leads 9-6|
|Sep 30, 2007||NYG 16, PHI 3|
|Jan 7, 2007||NYG 20, @PHI 23|
|Dec 17, 2006||NYG 22, PHI 36|
|Sep 17, 2006||NYG 30, @PHI 24|
|Dec 11, 2005||NYG 26, @PHI 23|
|Nov 20, 2005||NYG 27, PHI 17|
|Nov 28, 2004||NYG 6, PHI 27|
|Sep 12, 2004||NYG 17, @PHI 31|
|Nov 16, 2003||NYG 10, @PHI 28|
|Oct 19, 2003||NYG 10, PHI 14|
|Dec 28, 2002||NYG 10, PHI 7|
|Oct 28, 2002||NYG 3, @PHI 17|
|Dec 30, 2001||NYG 21, @PHI 24|
|Oct 22, 2001||NYG 9, PHI 10|