On Sunday, the teams look to continue improving their standing in the postseason picture when they meet at the Meadowlands in a crucial NFC East showdown.
The Giants (7-6) snapped a four-game losing streak Sunday, beating Carolina 27-13. Philadelphia (7-6), meanwhile, held off Washington 21-19 to leave it tied with New York for second place in the East, a game behind Dallas, which lost to New Orleans.
“There was a whole lot at stake. We knew we had a chance to control our own destiny,” said Giants running back Tiki Barber, who ran for 112 yards to surpass 10,000 for his career. “We needed to win this one in a bad way.”
The Giants and Eagles are also tied with Atlanta for the NFC’s two wild-card berths. New York is the No. 5 seed in the conference because of wins over the Eagles and the Falcons, while Philadelphia is sixth because it has a better conference record than Atlanta.
The Eagles, though, would capture the division if they win out, with the game against New York followed by a matchup with Dallas and their season finale against Atlanta.
The Giants will be looking to end the Eagles’ hopes of doing that as they look to complete a season sweep of Philadelphia. New York won 30-24 in overtime at Lincoln Financial Field on Sept. 17, outscoring the Eagles 17-0 in the fourth quarter and winning on Plaxico Burress’ 31-yard touchdown catch in overtime.
“Every win from last week on is a big win,” said Eagles running back Brian Westbrook, who had 88 yards rushing and 38 yards receiving against the Redskins. “We are going to keep trying to win, and if we do, we should be in the place that we want to be at the end of the season.”
New York hosts New Orleans next weekend before wrapping up the regular season at Washington.
“I think we are very much aware of the situation we are in,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. “We have to play ourselves into what is being said in Philadelphia, Dallas and Atlanta, and other places that are looking at this opportunity. It’s something you are in control of, and you have to play well enough to give yourself continued opportunities.”
Manning had three touchdown passes against the Panthers in his second straight strong outing. He has thrown for five touchdowns and no interceptions in his last two games after throwing six picks and two TDs in his previous three.
“We knew we had four games left and if we won all four we would be in the playoffs,” Manning told the Giants’ official Web site. “We said we’d take it one game at a time and we’ve started. We were in a bad streak of losing some games and we finally ended that. It’s good to get the feeling of a win back in our system.”
Barber turned in his seventh 100-yard rushing performance of the season and the defense, despite giving up 463 yards, held the Panthers to one touchdown and intercepted three passes. The performance also lifted some pressure off Coughlin, who had come under fire during the losing streak.
“This not just a relief for him, it’s a relief for all of us,” linebacker Antonio Pierce said. “If anything bad happens to the head man, it runs down to us. I think the whole organization feels a lot better.”
The Eagles won last week despite being outgained by more than 150 yards, picking up six fewer first downs than the Redskins and holding the ball for 15 1/2 more minutes. They led 21-3 late in the first half.
“However you dice it up and look at it, it’s a positive—we won the game,” defensive end Darren Howard said. “But if you keep having performances like that, sometimes you’re going to get yourself in a bind and you’re not going to be able to pull out a game. “
Quarterback Jeff Garcia improved to 2-1 since taking over for Donovan McNabb, who’s out for the season with a torn knee ligament. Garcia, who went 15-for-23 for 164 yards with two touchdown passes, has thrown for seven TDs and no interceptions in three games as the starter.
Westbrook finished the game 5 yards shy of his first 1,000-yard rushing season.
“This is a team that is definitely coming together at the right time,” Garcia said. “We’re a team that’s not necessarily playing perfect football at times, but we’re competitive and battling.”
The defense, though, continued to struggle, allowing Washington’s Ladell Betts to gain a career-best 171 rushing yards and the Redskins to become the fourth team in six games to run for at least 200 yards against it.
The Eagles’ pass rush hasn’t been much better, as Philadelphia has just eight sacks in the last eight games after getting 23 in the first five. The Eagles sacked Washington rookie Jason Campbell twice.
Brian Dawkins, however, came up with one of those on third down to force Washington to settle for a field goal instead of a go-ahead TD. That key play came one week after Lito Sheppard sealed a win over Carolina with an interception in the end zone.
“In the end, all that matters is that we got the win,” linebacker Omar Gaither said. “We had more points than they did. That’s all that matters.”