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Friday, October 25, 2002
Game Plans: Giants-Eagles

By Ron Jaworski and Sean Salisbury
Special to ESPN.com

NFC East divisional rivals, the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles, square off on Monday night (9 p.m. ET, ABC).

ESPN analysts Ron Jaworski and Sean Salisbury break down the game plans of each team.

JAWORSKI VS. SALISBURY
Jaworski on the Eagles
If the Giants beat the Eagles, they're both 4-3. With one game separating these NFC East rivals as we approach the season's midpoint in the, this game has huge implications.

The Eagles, with a big win over Tampa Bay last week, showed they're a team that you must seriously consider as a Super Bowl contender. They got great production from the running game against the Bucs, which forms an exceptional one-two punch with multitalented quarterback Donovan McNabb

Five keys for the Eagles:
1. Get pressure up the middle: Kerry Collins is a plant, step and throw quarterback. If you allow him a comfort level in the pocket, he can be very effective. Collins has been inconsistent this year -- he's been sacked 14 times and thrown eight interceptions. It will be key to pressure him up the middle.

2. Make Giants one-dimensional: The Giants have struggled for consistency with the running game. If you force Collins and the Giants' passing game to beat you, you've increased your chances of winning the game. The Eagles will probably load up the box early, focus on stopping the run, and force Collins into known passing situations.

3. Keep a balanced offense: Against Tampa Bay, the Eagles discovered that they can dominate with the running game. Just ask Warren Sapp. The Eagles did a superb job against a very good Bucs' front seven. The Eagles now believe they can run the football against anyone. If they maintain offensive balance, Donovan McNabb will be double the threat he is as a pure drop-back passer.

4. Get a strong effort from Runyan: For the most part, offensive tackle Jon Runyan has played well against Giants defensive end Michael Strahan. But when these teams meet, Strahan always seems to make a play or two that become magnified (because it's often a key game or a Monday night, as it will be this time). Strahan will get a sack or cause a fumble, almost always at a pivotal point in the game. And in studying players running against Strahan, he's played well for the most part. So Runyan needs to play a strong game.

5. Control field position: The Eagles have struggled a bit on special teams, giving up three touchdowns on returns. They need a good, strong special-teams effort vs. the Giants. Philly return man Brian Mitchell had a phenomenal game last week against Tampa Bay. If Mitchell can come up big again, the Eagles will win the all-important field-position battle.
Salisbury on the Giants
The Giants are like a lot of us -- they're not sure where they are. Sometimes they look good, other times they look like they don't belong. One week it looks like they have a chance to be decent, and the next week they look lost. The Giants are the epitome of inconsistency.

This NFC East showdown will give us a much better idea of what the Giants are made of, because the Eagles are one of the NFC's best teams.

Five keys for the Giants:
1. Deal with the blitz: It's coming. Know it, recognize it, respect it and live with it. Make plays to counter it, but don't let it scare you or force you into stupid plays. Just deal with it. That's your first priority, because the Eagles will bitz all day long.

2. Limit McNabb's big plays: Last week Donovan McNabb didn't play that great against Tampa Bay, but he made a big run for a touchdown and threw a deep pass for a touchdown. Other than that, the Bucs did a decent job on him. The Giants must limit McNabb's big plays.

3. Containing the running game: The Eagles had their best running game of the season Sunday against the Bucs. If the Giants can make them one-dimensional, they'll make it much tougher on McNabb. If you allow the Eagles a running game, McNabb doesn't have to be 80 percent of their offense. So the Giants must stop the run and try to put the burden of Philly's offense on McNabb's shoulders. True, he's capable of beating you on his own, but that's what you've got to do.

4. Win vs. Man: The Giants' receivers have to win the battle vs. man coverage. The Eagles will pressure you with the blitz, so they're going to play man. The Giants' receivers must separate and give Kerry Collins some space to throw. If they don't, they've got no shot. They must beat man coverage and be physical with the Eagles' cornerbacks.

5. Collins must excel: I don't think the Giants can beat the Eagles unless Collins provides solid quarterback play. That doesn't mean he has to throw for 400 yards. But it does mean a high completion percentage, a touchdown or two and no interceptions. That's the type of game the Giants need from Collins. He must excel.