Philadelphia gets set to meet much improved Giants team
The Eagles dominated the first meeting back in October.
PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Eagles don't expect to hold the New York Giants to just three points this time.
The Eagles dominated the Giants in a 17-3 victory at Veterans Stadium on Oct. 28. But this isn't the same New York offense the Eagles will face Saturday in the regular-season finale.
The Giants have averaged 36 points in the last three games, and have scored 221 points (27.6 per game) in the eight games since they lost to the Eagles. They had just 86 points (14.3 per game) in their first six games, before playing Philadelphia.
Quarterback Kerry Collins, running back Tiki Barber, receiver Amani Toomer and rookie tight end Jeremy Shockey are playing at a higher level, helping the Giants overcome the inexperience of their young offensive line.
"All of a sudden, they're on a little bit of a roll," Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson said. "They are playing with confidence. Collins has been real hot. He's been throwing the ball extremely well. Between Shockey and Tiki Barber and Toomer, they are making a lot of plays. That's part of it. I think the biggest difference in this football team is the way Shockey's playing."
Shockey having big year
Shockey, going to the Pro Bowl, leads all NFL tight ends with 64 receptions and 796 yards receiving. He caught seven passes for 116 yards in New York's 44-27 win at Indianapolis last week.
Collins, who has passed for 3,817 yards this season, was 23-of-29 for 366 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions against the Colts. His 158.3 quarterback rating for the game was the highest under the system.
Toomer had a career-best 204 yards receiving and three touchdowns, and Barber ran for two scores.
"He's in a rhythm, he's hitting his receivers, and he has time to sit back there and throw the ball," Eagles linebacker Ike Reese said of Collins. "We've seen flashes of it throughout his career, but it's when defenses can get to him, disrupt him, put a little pressure on him, that kind of rattles him a little bit.
"The past few weeks, he's been able to sit back there and hit his guys. Amani Toomer is doing a great job getting open. They're mixing it up real well with Tiki back there. They're putting points on the board. They're moving the ball real well. It's going to be a test for us."
Fassel calling plays
New York's resurgence on offense began when Giants coach Jim Fassel took over the play calling from coordinator Sean Payton after the loss to the Eagles. Fassel took out most of the pre-snap motion before plays and started repeating plays, even ones that didn't work. He also made more of a commitment to the running game.
"Now they're just lining up and playing," Eagles safety Brian Dawkins said. "They've always taken a lot of shots downfield. They've continued the same thing. The thing you saw in the Indianapolis game, they got the ground game going a little. That's the Giants that we know. They get up on you, and then they start pounding the ball at you. That's what we expect."
The Giants (9-6) need to win Saturday to clinch a playoff spot, and would get in with a loss if New Orleans is beaten Sunday by Carolina. The two-time NFC East champion Eagles (12-3) would secure home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs with a victory.
Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb is running and throwing again, but his status for the playoffs remains uncertain.
McNabb has been out since breaking his right ankle Nov. 17. The two-time NFC East champion Eagles (12-3) have won all five of their games without McNabb, including the last four behind third-string quarterback A.J. Feeley.
"There's no guarantee that he'll be ready at all and we understand that," Eagles coach Andy Reid said Thursday. "He's pushing himself and he's determined that he'll be ready to go, so we'll just see how it all works out."
McNabb had hoped to return for Saturday's regular-season finale against the Giants. The Eagles already have clinched a first-round bye, so McNabb will have two more weeks to be ready.