Storied and prominent franchise each having fallen upon hard times, the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles will rekindle their longtime rivalry on Thursday evening.
Though each team has just one win, the NFC East is very much up for grabs for either of them.
With hope to hang on to, Daniel Jones and the Giants (1-5) face Carson Wentz and the host Eagles (1-4-1) at 8:20 p.m. ET at Lincoln Financial Field in the latest installment of Thursday Night Football, airing on NFL Network, FOX and Amazon Prime.
For all the criticism of the NFC East’s lackluster state, it’s another reason to get excited for Thursday’s matchup as each of these squads could find themselves in first place at Week 7’s end depending on how the struggling first-place Cowboys (2-4) fare against Washington (1-5).
Here’s what to watch for:
Wentz, Jones look to shake off struggles
Struggles and scrutiny have marked the seasons for Jones and Wentz, former first-rounders who’ve fallen on hard times. Nonetheless, each of them provided positives off of which to build in Week 6. Jones, who hadn’t thrown a touchdown since Week 1, busted loose from that dubious streak and managed his team to its first win of the season. Wentz, who’s tried to do it all for the Eagles this season, tried to will his team to a compelling comeback but came up short against the Ravens. Still, these are indeed hard times. Jones looks to have regressed from his rookie campaign, as his 71.0 passer rating (31st in the league) is 15 points less than last year. Through six games, he’s thrown only three touchdowns to six interceptions. Wentz’ ratio is pointed the wrong way, as well, the QB having tossed eight touchdowns and a league-high nine interceptions. Wentz is getting pummeled in the press and by the opposition, having been sacked a league-most 25 sacks. It’s not a novel concept that quarterbacks receive too much praise in the celebration of victory and too much criticism in the scrutiny of defeat. But it’s difficult to fathom the Giants’ or Eagles’ fates turning without improved play from their signal-callers. Jones’ 204 yards rushing are leading the Giants, just as Wentz’ four rushing scores lead the Eagles. Similar in their struggles and the pressure upon their shoulders, Wentz and Jones will clash on Thursday looking for a season’s second victory and sighs of relief from tumultuous years.
The emerging star that is Travis Fulgham
For so long it has felt as if the Eagles have just hoped to have healthy receivers, much less have someone who emerges as a true and consistent threat. It’s still too early to tell whether he can be the latter, but due to injuries and struggles, Fulgham has emerged from the practice squad into the limelight and truly impressed. Fulgham’s season and career is all of three games old thus far and he’s produced 18 receptions, 284 yards and three touchdowns — one in each game as he’s become just the second Eagles player with a TD reception in his first three games with the team since 1970 and the first since Terrell Owens in 2004 (per NFL Research). All the more telling is Fulgham’s earned a 90.3 grade from Pro Football Focus. He got his shot and he’s surely doing the most with it. Perhaps Fulgham will haul in a TD for the fourth straight week, but of most importance for the Eagles is that they might well have an emerging star at wide receiver.
Giants’ underrated, overlooked defense
It’s been difficult to find positives for the Giants, which is expected anytime a team is 1-5. However, the defense is sneaky good. It’s been overlooked and underrated this far (much like the loss of rookie linebackerTae Crowder to injured reserve is). Big Blue boasts the No. 12 total defense and is especially tough against the run (eighth), which will make things all the more arduous for the Eagles, who will be without Miles Sanders. Free-agent addition Blake Martinez is second in the NFL with 64 tackles and has a pair of sacks and five tackles for loss, as well. Leonard Williams has three six and six QB hits, Kyler Fackrell, who also has three sacks, is the only NFL player so far with a sack and an interception return for a touchdown and James Bradberry, who’s got a pair of picks, is leading the NFL with 10 passes defended. These are all statistical tidbits for individuals on a struggling team, but they’re also reason for optimism as the Giants move forward in this season and perhaps the next. And for a seemingly always hobbled Eagles offense, they’re also a reason to worry.
Can Giants end Eagles’ dominance?
The Eagles are struggling for wins and the Giants might well be the best thing for them. New York has lost seven in a row to Philadelphia, six straight in the City of Brotherly Love and 11 of the last 12 overall. Fresh off their first win of the season — and the first in the coaching career of Joe Judge — the Giants snapped a six-game losing skid that dated back to last season. Perhaps this will be the evening when they defeat the rival Eagles for the first time since November of 2016 — and for the first time in Philly since October of 2013. That last victory in 2016 was Wentz’ first game against the Giants, who still had guys named Manning and Beckham on the squad. So while the 2020 Eagles and Giants are each in the unflattering one-win club, New York’s struggles in the rivalry reach much further back. Should the Eagles maintain their control of the rivalry on Thursday night, perhaps they will regain a sense of normalcy and ambition for what lies ahead. A Philadelphia loss might well signify just how far it’s fallen and that there is indeed hope ahead for the Giants, who are looking to do away with one losing streak at a time.
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