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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, September 29, 2012 at 9:59 PM

Yes, it’s still just the first month of the 2012 season. But, divisional games are so important, particularly those involving playoff contenders, that you can safely call Sunday Night’s NY Giants/Philadelphia Eagles game on NBC a critical showdown.

The winner moves to 3-1, and has an early tie-breaker edge over the other. The loser falls to 2-2, and must hope to win the rematch to neutralize the tie-breaker. Plus, the Giants already have a loss to Dallas in the division, and 2-2 with two divisional losses is a nightmare scenario. We’re probably looking at a three-team race once again given Washington’s losses the last two weeks. All games in the Eagles-Giants-Cowboys triad are going to carry big importance from this point forward.

The Giants and Eagles have several similarities beyond playing in the same division. Both teams have explosive offenses that can get themselves into trouble with turnovers. Both have defenses who can make big plays, but that sometimes lose focus and allow too many points. Both have Super Bowl capabilities every season…those the underdog Giants now have two recent Lombardi Trophy wins…while the overhyped Eagles have struggled to match recent power ratings.

What’s going to happen tonight? Let’s run through our indicator stats and see what they say…

NY GIANTS at PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (8:25 p.m. on NBC)

Las Vegas Spread: Philadelphia by 2.5, total of 46.5

Home field is usually worth a field goal in the NFL, as you know. The market line most of this week was less than that…suggesting that respected money believes the Giants are the better team right now. Sharps weren’t impressed with Philadelphia’s high number of mistakes in their season opener at Cleveland, and they know that the Baltimore game could have gone either way. The loss to Arizona was pretty dismal, and had the Philly media in a frenzy. The Eagles AREN’T as good yet as their Preseason power ratings. Quite a shift in Vegas because sharps who commented publicly before the season on radio were tabbing the Eagles as the best in the NFC. This line suggests they’re not superior in their own division.

WON-LOST RECORDS

NY Giants: 2-1 (vs. Dallas and Tampa Bay, at Carolina)

Philadelphia: 2-1 (at Cleveland, vs. Baltimore, at Arizona)

Who’s played the tougher schedule? It’s hard to know how teams like Carolina, Tampa Bay, and Arizona are really going to rate in the big picture with a larger sample size. The single toughest opponent amongst the six was Baltimore. Cleveland was the single worst. For now, these are two teams who have been playing with fire against what seem to be comparable schedules. Call them 10-11 win teams who could make a run at 12 wins and a bye, or screw up enough to miss the playoffs entirely. Usual story!

 

TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL

NY Giants: +4

Philadelphia: -6

Wow…it’s really hard to have a winning record through three games making that many turnovers! That gives you a hint of what Philadelphia would be capable of if they could ever clean up their act. It’s the nature of Michael Vick’s decision-making amidst a high risk offense that causes the volatility though. They may not ever be able to get production without the miscues…making them more of a longshot for greatness than Power Ratings guys or the media would care to admit. It’s a good sign for Eli Manning’s progression as a QB that he’s showing up on the right side of the risk-reward ratio as he matures. He’s a legitimately important quarterback, which was far from a certainty a few years ago.

 

OFFENSIVE STATS

NY Giants: 426.0 yards-per-game on 6.5 yards-per-play

Philadelphia: 416.7 yards-per-game on 5.5 yards-per-play

Anything over 400 is obviously great these days in the NFL as quickly as games move along pace-wise. The Giants get there with more big plays. The Eagles have been chugging along before shooting themselves in the foot with turnovers. It’s probably time the media stopped talking about the offenses of New England and Green Bay so much and spread more of the praise around. Good stuff there considering the defenses these teams have faced.

 

DEFENSIVE STATS

NY Giants: 355.7 yards-per-game on 6.5 yards-per-play

Philadelphia: 275.7 yards-per-game on 4.5 yards-per-play

Wow! The Giants become mortal very quickly here, with very disappointing numbers. A lot of that was triggered by the poor opener vs. Dallas. They definitely had their way with Cam Newton and Carolina last week. Still,  that’s high for YPP allowed three games into the season. The Eagles are playing playoff caliber defense…something that’s getting hidden amongst all the media talk about their quarterback. Yes, they faced Brandon Weeden and Kevin Kolb. But, they also disrupted Joe Flacco fairly well. Don’t sleep on this Eagles defense.

 

LAST WEEK’S BOXES

NY GIANTS 36, CAROLINA 7

Total Yardage: NY Giants 405, Carolina 327

Rushing Yards: NY Giants 125, Carolina 60

Passing Stats: NY Giants 28-37-0-280, Carolina 19-33-3-267

Turnovers: NY Giants 0, Carolina 5

Third Downs: NY Giants 50%, Carolina 44%

Vegas Line: Carolina by 3, total of 50

It was a clean win for the shorthanded Giants as the stats make clear. It was a BLOWOUT because of all those Carolina turnovers. The Giants won all the categories that mattered. Carolina had no chance to get back into it given their poor ball possession skills. Look at how efficient the Giants were up and down the boxscore. That’s what we mean about Manning’s maturation process. This is what Super Bowl teams do when confronted with challenges (injuries, short preparation, road game, dangerous opposing quarterback). It felt workmanlike, but the numbers were big.

 

ARIZONA 27, PHILADELPHIA 6

Total Yardage: Philadelphia 308, Arizona 292

Rushing Yards: Philadelphia 126, Arizona 99

Passing Stats: Philadelphia 17-37-0-182, Arizona 17-24-0-197

Turnovers: Philadelphia 3, Arizona 0

Third Downs: Philadelphia 38%, Arizona 40%

Vegas Line: Philadelphia by 4, total of 44

The Eagles did win rushing yardage and total yardage, which would have given them a chance to grind out a low scoring win if they hadn’t given the ball away so much while digging a big hole. That being said, this wasn’t really a game they “deserved” to win regardless of those first two categories. Vick threw 20 incomplete passes, and managed just 182 passing yards on nearly 40 attempts. The Eagles defense only forced 7 incomplete passes, not particularly putting up a solid front on short field opportunities for Arizona. A disappointing effort all the way around for a road favorite who was catching an opponent in the ultimate letdown spot (Arizona had just stunned New England the prior weekend). The “road” Eagles are not a playoff caliber team. The Giants will be dealing with the “home” Eagles who knocked off Baltimore Sunday Night.

 

BEST EXPECTATION

You can see why the Giants are getting respect in the line. Though, it’s possible that’s an overreaction to the most recent games everyone remembers. Heck, the Giants should be favored based on what happened last week! But, this is still a Giants team that lost badly to Dallas…and it’s still a Philadelphia team that has a chance to be a league force if they can get everybody on the same page. That DOES happen a few times a year…and often happens in prime time divisional games on TV. One reason media and Power Ratings pundits love the Eagles is because they look SO fantastic when things are going well in big TV games.

JIM HURLEY is putting the full force of his team handicapping approach in action to try and find the money side (or total) in this game. Please check the home page of this website Sunday morning to find out if Giants-Eagles made the cut for a major release or as part of a TV parlay. If you have any questions about our service, call the office at 1-800-323-4453. Remember to check on baseball so you’re locked in for the full MLB postseason that starts later this week.

You get the sense that something BIG is going to happen Sunday Night. Either the Michael Vick era officially implodes with another disastrous result…sending the local media into an even more feriocious fury…or maybe the Giants play poorly and unwillingly awaken the Philly dragon in a way they’ll regret all season. Big game…big money at stake…get with the biggest name in handicapping JIM HURLEY!

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