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Thursday, December 27, 2012
Next-Level Preview: Giants vs. Eagles

By Michael Bonzagni, Evan Kaplan and Kimberly Meyer | ESPN Stats & Info

The Giants host the Eagles Sunday and will attempt to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.

Philadelphia and New York met in Week 4 with the Eagles prevailing, 19-17, after a late Lawrence Tynes' missed field goal. The Eagles are looking to sweep the season series with the Giants for the third time in the past four seasons.

The Giants are coming off a lopsided 33-14 loss to the Ravens that saw Baltimore tally 533 yards of offense, the most allowed by the Giants since Week 12 of 2011 against the Saints. Meanwhile, the Eagles, who have lost 10 of their last 11 games, are coming off a 27-20 loss to the Redskins.

The Giants need to win Sunday and get plenty of help in order to make the playoffs. Here are several areas to keep an eye on for Week 17:

Eli Manning has been unable to replicate his success from last season, partly due to his inability to stretch the field with Hakeem Nicks.

Manning has eight touchdown passes on throws outside the painted numbers, after throwing 20 touchdowns on such passes last season, tied for the second-most in the NFL. He has only connected with Nicks for one touchdown on those throws, after Nicks had seven touchdowns on throws outside the numbers in 2011, tied for third most in the league.

Overall, Manning has completed just 54.1 percent of his passes targeted for Nicks, down from 58.5 percent last season and the lowest percentage since Nicks came into the league.

• Last season, Manning was one of the best quarterbacks in the league when facing five or more pass rushers, especially in the fourth quarter. He threw a league-leading 18 touchdown passes against five or more pass rushers in 2011, 10 of which came in the final period.

This season, Manning has thrown seven touchdowns against added pressure, only three of which have been in the fourth quarter.

• Since entering the league in 2009, LeSean McCoy has dominated the Giants. In that time span, he has more rushing yards (649), rushing first downs (26) and rushing yards after contact (183) against the Giants than any other running back.

McCoy has been able to get to the edge against the Giants, averaging 7.4 yards per rush outside the tackles, compared to 5.1 inside the tackles. He should continue to have success on the edge Sunday, as the Giants have struggled to stop rushes outside the tackles all season. They have allowed 711 yards and 7.04 yards per rush on such rushing plays, the most in the NFL.

• The Giants inability to get to the quarterback with their four-man pass rush is one reason the defense has struggled. The Giants have only two sacks when sending four or fewer pass rushers over the last four weeks and are averaging a sack once every 19.7 dropbacks when sending standard pressure.

Last season, they averaged a sack once every 13.6 dropbacks when sending four or fewer pass rushers and had 34 sacks when sending such pressure, the second-most in the NFL. Jason Pierre-Paul's play has followed a similar pattern to the Giants’ pass rush.

Through 16 weeks last season, Pierre-Paul had 15.5 sacks and 23.5 dropbacks disrupted, each of which ranked in the top five in the NFL. This season, JPP has not had the same impact, with just 6.5 sacks and 11.5 dropbacks disrupted entering Week 17.

• The Giants will have to deal with the dual threat of Michael Vick Sunday, who is back at quarterback for an injured Nick Foles.

Vick had a season-high 90.1 Total QBR against the Giants in Week 4 and was 8-for-12 for 125 yards and a touchdown when the Giants sent five or more pass rushers. He was also effective on the ground in the teams’ first meeting, rushing for 49 yards and averaging 8.2 yards per rush, his second-most in a game this season.