Veteran head coaches Tom Coughlin of the New York Giants and Andy Reid of the Philadelphia Eagles can try their best to downplay the significance of Sunday's game at New Meadowlands Stadium -- and both did their best during Wednesday pressers -- but the "ho hum, just another game" stuff is not going to fly this week.
This is Giants vs. Eagles in December with both teams needing the victory to assume control of the NFC East and to put a playoff berth firmly within their grasp. The Giants, in fact, could clinch a playoff spot if everything breaks properly for them. Sunday's loser will be fighting an uphill battle to win the NFC East, and will have lots of work to do the final two weeks to even reach the playoffs.
NFC East Standings
" It's the most important game of the year because it's the next game, but last week's game was the most important game of the year and the week before was the most important," Coughlin said. "There are plenty of games to play here. There's a lot to be accomplished in these last few games of the season.
Here is Reid's try at downplaying the importance of the game.
"The way we look at it is if you get caught up in all of that stuff, it's a problem. That's not how we approach it. We just go through the process of getting ready to play a great football team and that's what we do. All of the other things we try to put out of the way," Redi said.
The Eagles won the first matchup between the two teams, 27-17, last month in Philadelphia. That makes a victory even more important for the Giants this time around.
Philadelphia Stats - Game Averages
|Off||28.8||402.8 (1st)||256.8 (6th)||146.1 (5th)|
|Def||23.7||327.8 (12th)||224.3 (17th)||103.5 (11th)|
NY Giants Stats - Game Averages
|Off||25.3||385.4 (4th)||237.1 (12th)||148.3 (4th)|
|Def||19.2||281.1 (2nd)||185.9 (2nd)||95.2 (5th)|
"Obviously we know it's a big game and we know what is at stake here," said Giants quarterback Eli Manning. "These are the situations you want to be in. You want to be playing in these types of games in December, and we have to be excited. We have to have a great week of practice and get prepared. We know these guys, so a lot of it just comes down to Sunday and being prepared for all their looks and going out there and playing smart football."
For Manning, "playing smart football" equates to not turning the ball over. He has a league-leading 19 interceptions this season. The Eagles are an NFL-best +15 in takeaways/giveaways, while the Giants are -2.
Defensively, the Giants will once again have to contain Philly quarterback Michael Vick and try to prevent the Eagles from creating the long scoring plays they thrive on. Offensively, the Giants will use running backs Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw to control the clock, and will look for big plays from Hakeem Nicks, Kevin Boss and others in the passing game.
Both teams suffered injuries in their most recent games that will impact them on Sunday. The Giants lost Pro Bowl wide receiver Steve Smith for the season with a knee injury, and the Eagles lost linebacker Stewart Bradley and defensive end Brandon Graham.