Saturday, September 29, 2012
If the Philadelphia Eagles are going to unseat the Super Bowl champion New York Giants as NFC East champs, they are going to need improved play from Michael Vick.
Vick and the Eagles have produced a league-high 12 turnovers but can still maintain at least a share of the division lead Sunday night when they host a Giants team that features NFL passing yards leader Eli Manning.
These teams have 2-1 records along with Dallas, which hosts Chicago on Monday night.
New York, however, has scored 94 points while the other co-leaders are at the bottom of the league with 47 each.
Philadelphia's 12 turnovers are three more than any other team, and Vick has been the primary culprit with six interceptions to tie for the league's highest total along with three lost fumbles.
"I'm very concerned about the turnovers," Vick said. "Being the competitor that I am, I understand that you have to protect the football. I cut back on the interceptions last week and had two fumbles but it's something that I know I can get corrected."
Vick's woes caused coach Andy Reid to reiterate that the former Pro Bowler would remain the starter. There's still major concern about the pounding Vick is taking after he was sacked five times in last Sunday's 27-6 loss at Arizona.
"He's taken a lot of hits," Reid said. "Too many hits. So, we've got to make sure that we try to fix that."
It hasn't helped that tackle Jason Peters has been lost for the season with a ruptured Achilles and his replacement, King Dunlap, sat out last week's game due to a hamstring problem.
A patchwork offensive line and turnover-prone quarterback figure to be problems against the vaunted Giants defensive line, although New York has totaled just six sacks this season.
The Giants have lost six of their last seven meetings with the Eagles and are wary that Philadelphia will sort out its problems this week.
"It is going to be a huge challenge going down there," defensive end Justin Tuck said. "They are going to be really fired up. That's what you live for. That's why you play the game. You get excited for matchups like this."
While Vick took a beating last Sunday, New York was able to gain extra rest since last Thursday's 36-7 rout at Carolina. Manning completed 27 of 35 passes for 288 yards, bringing his NFL-leading total to 1,011.
"Right now, Eli is playing as good as any quarterback in the National Football League," Reid said. "I mean, these last few games, he's been on fire."
The Giants' performance was even more impressive since receivers Hakeem Nicks and Domenik Hixon and starting running back Ahmad Bradshaw were out.
Andre Brown gained a career-high 113 yards and scored twice in his first NFL start in place of Bradshaw, who has returned to practice this week. Coach Tom Coughlin said Bradshaw will start against the Eagles.
Nicks, who caught 14 passes for 237 yards in the first two games, will miss a second straight contest. He had been expected to return from a foot injury, but developed swelling in his left knee after working out Thursday and has been ruled out.
That means Ramses Barden, who had career bests of nine catches and 138 yards last week, could get another start. Hixon, who began the season as the third receiver, could also get the nod to take Nicks' spot.
The intensity of this rivalry has featured another round of trash talk between Eagles running back LeSean McCoy and Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora after they engaged in a war of words last year.
New York will be more concerned about slowing down McCoy on the field. McCoy has averaged 104.0 yards with a per-carry average of 5.9 over the last four meetings.
Although turnovers have hampered the Eagles, they have still proved to be explosive with 16 plays of at least 20 yards to tie for fourth in the league. The Giants are third in that category with 18.
"It's two good football teams that kind of know each other really well," Vick said. "I think it's going to come down to execution but it's going to be a great game."
The Giants have some concerns in the secondary. Cornerback Corey Webster intends to play with a cast on his broken right hand and safety Antrel Rolle has been limited since hurting his knee last week.