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New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles: Five Players, Five Things to Watch

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COMMENTARY | What exactly did we expect from the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants entering the 2013 season?

The Eagles started it with a brand new coach and brand new systems on both sides of the ball. We knew it would take time for the Birds to adapt to Chip Kelly's up-tempo offense and 3-4 defense. From what we've seen in seven games, it's pretty clear he hasn't inherited much of the personnel he needs to make it operate to his preference. Both units have had good days and bad. The offense is second in the league in yardage, but hasn't performed well in the red zone. The defense is dead last statistically, but has performed more consistently in recent weeks.

All things considered, going 3-4 thus far shouldn't seem bad at all, until you realize the Eagles' three victories have come against teams with a combined three wins. We couldn't expect miracles and we really haven't gotten any thus far.

The Giants entered 2013 with many of the key players from the 2011 Super Bowl championship team still around. New York has had eight straight winning seasons but fell off badly in the second half of 2012. Still, champions like Eli Manning, Victor Cruz, Justin Tuck and Antrel Rolle were back. But unproven running backs have remained unproven. Manning is enduring a sub-par year, throwing a league-high 15 interceptions. A banged-up offensive line hasn't helped much as he's been sacked 18 times in seven games. Defensively, the Giants are giving up just under 31 points per game, second-worst in the league.

Nobody saw six losses to begin the season and a 1-6 start. But after last season's fade and several aging and oft-injured players in key positions, it shouldn't be that unexpected.

Coming into Sunday's game, the Eagles have wins over the Giants, the Washington Redskins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They've lost to the San Diego Chargers, Kansas City Chiefs, Denver Broncos and last week to the Dallas Cowboys. The Eagles haven't won at Lincoln Financial Field since beating the Giants on Sept. 30, 2012. That's nine straight losses at home.

The Giants defeated the Minnesota Vikings on Monday night after losses to the Eagles, Cowboys, Broncos, Chiefs, Carolina Panthers and Chicago Bears. The Giants come to Philadelphia on Sunday having lost their last eight road games.

Five Players to Watch

Michael Vick, Eagles - He'll be back under center after missing 2½ games with a hamstring pull. Nick Foles has been sidelined with a concussion this eliminating any quarterback controversy. Considering how poorly Foles performed against the Cowboys, there probably wasn't much to debate anyway.

Eli Manning, Giants - As the face of this franchise, Eli is always a player to watch when the Giants play. The Giants are 28th in the NFL in rushing, gaining only 3.2 yards per carry. So Eli has to put it up a lot. He's completed just 54 percent of his passes and as we said has thrown 15 picks while being sacked 18 times. It's been that kind of year.

Riley Cooper, Eagles - The wide receiver from Florida had a solid game in an otherwise dismal performance against Dallas last week with six receptions for 88 yards. Cooper has 18 catches and two touchdowns overall and may finally be performing well enough for people to forget his ridiculous racial slur caught on video at a Kenny Chesney concert last summer.

Ryan Mundy, Giants - The defense may be struggling for the G-men, but the free safety out of West Virginia is having a solid season with a team-high 48 tackles, two for loss. He's also intercepted a pass (and returned it for 91 yards without scoring), recovered a fumble and knocked down a pass.

DeMeco Ryans, Eagles - The inside linebacker out of Alabama is finally looking like his old self following an Achilles injury suffered in his latter days with the Houston Texans. Ryans is ninth in the league with 60 tackles and also has two sacks and an interception thus far.

Five Things to Watch

Eagle fans - It's been just short of 400 days since the Eagles last won a home game. This week, they play a team that's 1-6. If the Giants get out on top by a couple of scores, how long do you think the Philadelphia faithful will wait to vent?

Giant fans - When your team is 1-6 and Philadelphia is one of your archrivals, is it really worth the trip to Lincoln Financial Field to support your team? You're not going to find a more hostile environment, especially to fans of New York teams in general. I'm sure you'll see some Giant jerseys among the crowd Sunday. I can't imagine there will be many.

Coughlin's face - Tom Coughlin will turn 68 years old in August. He's coached the New York Giants to two Super Bowl championships and led the Jacksonville Jaguars to two AFC championship games in the first five years of that team's existence. They should be shining up a bust for his NFL Hall of Fame speech right now. Just watch him on the sidelines and you'll see how tough this season has been on him. One has to wonder if he might pack it in after it's over.

Foles' face - The second-year quarterback from Arizona was building a case for himself to be the Eagles' starting quarterback going forward. An awful performance and a concussion against the Cowboys last week changed all that in a hurry. Depending on Vick's health the rest of the way, he may not get another chance to prove he can be Chip Kelly's guy. It'll be hard to maintain a poker face on the sidelines in those circumstances.

Tony Siragusa, FOX - The 6-foot-3, 370-pound former defense tackle for the Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens will be hard to miss Sunday as the sideline reporter for the FOX broadcast team, which will also include Kenny Albert and Daryl Johnston. Fans love to razz Goose as he walks by during breaks in the action. Usually, they're smart enough to do it from a distance.

Ted Williams lives in Emmaus, PA and is a lifetime Eagles follower. He spent 20 years in print journalism, winning state and national awards.

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