It's never dull when Michael Vick and Eli Manning face off, even when their teams have a combined record of 4-10. That'll be the case on Sunday in Philadelphia, when the Eagles host the New York Giants in what is close to a must-win game for Philly and definitely a must-win game for the G-Men.
Vick and Manning have had some extreme highs and some embarrassing lows, and both are trying to dig themselves—and their respective teams—out of holes as midseason arrives.
The desperation could be the key to make this game interesting. Vick and Manning won't want to leave anything on the field, which means we could be in for another classic NFC East shootout at Lincoln Financial Field.
Here's a final breakdown of the matchup, along with a prediction.
What New York must do to win, offensive edition
Don't throw the ball to the Eagles. The Giants had a chance to get their first victory of the season against this same Philadelphia team a few weeks ago, but three second-half interceptions from Manning sunk them. If they win the turnover battle, they'll have a shot. If New York keeps the ball in Manning's hands as much as possible, eventually he'll find Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks and/or Rueben Randle against that beatable Philly secondary.
What New York must do to win, defensive edition
Find a way to get pressure. Jason Pierre-Paul isn't 100 percent and doesn't have a lot of support. However, the Giants managed to get pressure on Josh Freeman a ridiculous 35 times on Monday night, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), despite Minnesota having a decent offensive line. If they can get similar pressure on Vick, they'll succeed.
What Philly must do to win, offensive edition
Ride LeSean McCoy. The Giants defense is vulnerable in every area, but New York did get a little extra pressure last week in Minnesota and likely will be aggressive again on Sunday. Vick's hamstring probably isn't 100 percent, and we already know that he's mistake prone and has a habit of hanging on too long. If the Eagles are going to control this game at home and prevent turnovers in the process, the key will be to let their best offensive player do his thing.
What Philly must do to win, defensive edition
Don't give up anything big. Bend all you want, just don't break. If the Eagles are successful at that, they'll have a good chance to win. History indicates that takeaways will eventually come using that strategy. Manning has been terrible against the blitz this season, and Philly blitzed Tony Romo 19 times last week, but the Eagles have to pick their spots here.
Five most important non-quarterbacks, Giants edition
Justin Tuck: He had his best game of the year against the Vikings. With JPP still struggling, the Giants will need him to have a big day against rookie Lane Johnson. They have to force Vick to make mistakes, starting with the pass rush. This chart indicates the Giants have to rely on natural pressure from guys like Tuck, while the Eagles can get away with more blitzes:
|Vick vs. Manning, passer ratings, 2013|
|No pressure||Pressure||No blitz||Blitz|
|Pro Football Focus|
Victor Cruz: Nicks has been a ghost, and Randle still isn't as reliable. With David Wilson still out and the offensive line still a mess, Manning needs Cruz in a major way.
Jon Beason: His first two games as a Giant have been impressive, especially against the run. Now he'll meet McCoy, who leads the NFL in rushing.
Prince Amukamara: Or whoever is primarily responsible for dealing with DeSean Jackson. The Eagles don't have a lot of depth in the receiving corps, but Jackson is always a threat.
Will Beatty: Manning's blind-side protector is always one of the five most important non-quarterbacks.
Five most important non-quarterbacks, Eagles edition
LeSean McCoy: Again, he'll have to be the centerpiece.
Jason Peters and Lane Johnson: They have to help Vick out as much as possible, starting in the two tackle spots.
Brandon Boykin: He has another big matchup with Cruz in the slot. He held his ground in Week 5.
DeSean Jackson: The final spot either goes to him or Fletcher Cox, who could be the key to forcing Manning to make mistakes.
Injury analysis, Giants edition
At running back, Wilson is still out, and Brandon Jacobs was out of practice this week. Peyton Hillis might have to carry the majority of the load, which isn't ideal.
On defense, Corey Webster and Shaun Rogers are question marks. Rogers had his best game of the year against Minnesota, but Webster played just three snaps coming off a groin injury. Plus, Pierre-Paul is still dealing with that back.
Throw in that veteran offensive linemen David Baas and Chris Snee are out, and the Giants are in trouble pretty much everywhere except in the passing game.
Injury analysis, Eagles edition
Nick Foles has a concussion, but Philly probably would have gone back to Vick at quarterback anyway. He was to test the hamstring on Friday, but it looks like he'll be a go. Still, he can't possibly be 100 percent, which is scary considering how much he was struggling before getting hurt.
On D, cornerback Bradley Fletcher is dealing with a knee injury. That could be a major factor, because the Eagles are quite limited when it comes to cover guys and the Giants have a trio of dangerous receivers.
Bleacher Report NFC East blog prediction: Eagles 20, Giants 17
The Giants didn't look good despite the victory over Minnesota, and now they have to go on the road to play a much better Eagles team that is trying to stay in the hunt. I think the Eagles prevail in a close game.