2011 Philadelphia Eagles Week 3 Preview: Bitter Rivalry With Revenge Minded Giants Looms Large by Matt Lombardo

RB LeSean McCoy has rushed for 217 yards in two games after engaging in a bitter Twitter feud with several New York Giants during the offseason. McCoy and the Giants get the first taste of one another in the Eagles home opener on Sunday. 

The Eagles-Giants rivalry has devolved into a blood feud between bitter division rivals. The added intensity is thanks largely to the Eagles dominance, winning six in a row against the G Men including last December’s thrilling comeback, and an offseason filled with venomous tweets between stars of both teams.

The flame that lit this cauldron was sparked by DeSean Jackson’s walkoff punt return touchdown that culminated the Eagles comeback after eight and a half minutes of hell for the Giants, that effectively ended their season.

During the offseason, Eagles running back LeSean McCoy and Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora engaged in a bitter twitter feud for months. McCoy’s season is off to an impressive start. The third-year back has rushed for 217 yards and three touchdowns on the way to a 6.6 yards per carry average. Umenyiora meanwhile, has yet to step onto a football field this season.

Wide receiver Steve Smith signing with the Eagles this offseason added fuel to this fire as well.

For the second week in a row, QB Michael Vick was front and center as the Philadelphia Eagles closed in on their home opener Sunday against the New York Giants at Lincoln Financial Field. This time, the question was a simple one; after suffering a concussion in week two against the Falcons, will he or won’t he play?

Vick was cleared to take part in all football activities on Thursday both by the Eagles training staff and an independent neurologist chosen by the NFL. After a week of baseline tests and evaluation, Vick was able to take part in the team’s morning walk through both on Wednesday and Thursday, even practicing on Thursday afternoon with the first team.

“I’m not too worried about that,” center Jason Kelce said on Wednesday when asked about the quarterback situation. “We’re preparing as if (Vick) will be starting.”

Meanwhile, Unequal Technologies out of Kennett Square is fitting Vick’s helmet with Kevlar with the hope of redirecting any blunt force to the quarterback’s head and limiting any head trauma that may occur.

While nothing definitive has been announced from the Eagles, all signs point towards number seven lifting off at 1pm on Sunday afternoon.

If the Giants hope to extract revenge from the first of three consecutive losses to end their 2010 season, they’ll have to do so shorthanded. Injuries have decimated the G-Men. First round draft choice cornerback Prince Amukamara is out with a foot injury, center David Baas is doubtful with a leg injury, defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy didn’t practice on Thursday with a knee issue, receiver Mario Manningham is out with a concussion, as is WR Domenik Hixon who left week two with an injury as well. Oh, and Umenyiora is out with a knee injury as well.

Fair to say Met Life Stadium has become a medical ward — NFL high 9 players on I/R.

Meanwhile in Philadelphia the Eagles seemingly are firing on all cylinders. The offensive line that has been a work in progress since being shuffled at the end of the preseason is starting to find the cohesiveness and chemistry necessary to withstand mounting pass rushes.

“Last week we still made some mistakes that we need to get corrected,” Kelce said. “But we’re getting more comfortable with each other. The communication last week was a lot better than it was against St. Louis.”

Perhaps the most important player on the field this week for the Eagles is left tackle Jason Peters. Peters is matched up against Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. Keeping Vick upright this week is of extra importance because of last week’s concussion. Vick has been knocked to the ground 33 times in just two weeks. Pierre-Paul is the athletic type of end that can make protecting the quarterback a tall order.

Defensively, the Eagles have gotten after the quarterback in the first two weeks with ease, simply using pressure from the front four and limited blitzing. In two games Philadelphia has notched nine sacks and forced two interceptions. On the other side of the spectrum, the Giants have allowed seven sacks in their first two games.

However, Philadelphia’s weak link through the first two weeks has been the Eagles inability to limit teams in the red zone. Atlanta was an efficient five for five scoring touchdowns inside the 20 yard line in week two. One major adjustment the Eagles made this week was shuffling their linebackers. Rookie Casey Matthews who was overmatched in the middle was moved to the weakside, Jamar Chaney moved to the middle and Moises Fokou slides to the strong side. As a whole, Juan Castillo’s bunch did a great job of playing attacking, gang tackling defense but simply couldn’t hide Matthews’ deficiencies.

With so many injuries to the Giants receiving corps, combined with the Eagles weakness at linebacker, there’s little doubt that New York will give Philadelphia’s new look linebacking corps a healthy dose of Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs. The duo notched 109 rushing yards combined against the Rams last Monday night. How the Birds withstand that ground assault will go a long way towards the defense’s success, because the Giants are ill equipped to engage in an aerial attack.

ML’s Pick: Sunday is sure to be an ugly, physical and angry NFC East showdown that lives up to the months of trash talk taking place between these two teams and their fans. However, the Giants simply are too banged up to compete against the Eagles who boast an explosive multifaceted offense and attacking defense. At home, the Eagles make a show of it and down the Giants 37-17.



Matt Lombardo is the Philadelphia Eagles beat  reporter and host for 97.3 ESPN in Atlantic City, NJ. Matt can be reached on Twitter @MattLombardoPHL or by Email atMDLombardo@yahoo.com


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