(Sports Network) – Look for the Giants to attack a Philadelphia defense which has had trouble stopping the run in the early going with its diverse two-back tandem of slasher Ahmad Bradshaw (103 rushing yards, 1 TD, 6 receptions) and pounder Brandon Jacobs (79 rushing yards, 1 TD), especially if second-leading receiver Manningham (7 receptions) isn’t cleared to go. The duo combined for a workmanlike 109 yards and a touchdown on 31 carries against the Rams, while quarterback Eli Manning (491 passing yards, 2 TD, 2 INT) overcame a slow start to throw for 223 yards and two scores in the win, connecting on 16 of his final 18 attempts. With Hixon out and Manningham questionable, New York may have to turn to raw youngster Victor Cruz, who owns just two career catches, to be the outside complement to top target Hakeem Nicks (11 receptions, 160 yards, 1 TD) when Manning drops back to pass, though the team did sign wily veteran Brandon Stokley prior to the St. Louis game. The projected return of starting tight end Travis Beckum from a strained hamstring that kept him out the first two weeks could help matters, while Bradshaw is a capable receiver out of the backfield as well. The Giants have encountered problems sustaining drives so far this year, having converted just 24 percent (6-for-25) of their third-down opportunities that includes a woeful 1-for-10 showing in a Week 1 loss at Washington.
Having permitted subpar averages of 146 rushing yards per game (30th overall) and 5.3 yards per carry over their initial two outings, the Eagles will be doing some reshuffling at the linebacker position in preparation for Sunday’s tilt, with first-year coordinator Juan Castillo moving struggling rookie Casey Matthews (11 tackles) from the middle to the weak side and moving second-year thumper Jamar Chaney (15 tackles) from the SAM position into Matthews’ original spot. The hope is the re-tooling will benefit a unit that’s allowed two runs of 47 yards or more already this season. Philadelphia has been far tougher to throw upon, with the stellar cornerback combo of playmaker Asante Samuel (7 tackles, 1 INT, 2 PD) and coveted offseason addition Nnamdi Asomugha (4 tackles, 1 INT) anchoring a secondary that’s yielding just 180.5 passing yards per game (5th overall). Both came up with interceptions of Atlanta’s Matt Ryan a week ago, while Samuel has snared a league-best 37 picks since 2006. The backfield is aided by a fierce pass rush that’s produced nine sacks (2nd overall) thus far, with two other prominent free-agent pickups — tackle Cullen Jenkins (6 tackles) and end Jason Babin (6 tackles) — each netting three apiece. They’re part of a strong line that also features two-time Pro Bowl end Trent Cole (9 tackles, 2 sacks), who’s generated double-digit sack totals in three of the past four seasons.