The (2-11) New York Giants will try to win their first divisional game of the season as they take on the (11-2) Philadelphia Eagles.
While the Giants are trying to win their first NFC East game of the year, with a win the Eagles will wrap up a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs.
This is the biggest mismatch of the Week 15 NFL schedule, even with Eagles quarterback and MVP candidate Carson Wentz being placed on injured reserve and ruled out for the season. Philadelphia has NFL’s third-ranked offense and third-ranked defense, whereas the Giants are 30th in offense and 31st in total defense.
Mismatches don’t get much more lopsided than that.
To make matters worse, Big Blue will likely be without their best defensive player, safety Landon Collins, who is doubtful with an ankle injury.
Landon Collins (ankle) is doubtful for Sunday. #NYG are saving him from himself.
— Kimberly Jones (@KimJonesSports) December 15, 2017
With a depleted secondary as it is, the only way the Giants will be able to compete in this game is if their hibernating pass rush finally comes to life.
The Giants have a long and storied history of having great pass rushers that put fear into opposing quarterbacks heads. Andy Robustelli, Leonard Marshall, Carl Banks, Justin Tuck, Michael Strahan and Lawrence Taylor terrorized quarterbacks when they took the field for Big Blue.
But that has not been the case this season. The pass rush has been non-existent. Through 13 games, the Giants defense has recorded just 21 sacks, which is tied with the Buffalo Bills for 30th in the league. Only the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (17) have gotten to the quarterback less often.
Last season they finished with 35 sacks, which was tied for 14th in the league.
The main reason why the Giants sack total is so low is that their star defensive ends, Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon, have a combined 10 sacks. The Giants were hopeful that JPP and Vernon would have 10 sacks a piece, but that hasn’t been the case.
Injuries have limited Vernon to just nine games this season, and JPP just doesn’t look anything like the Pro Bowl player he was in 2011, when he was one of the most feared pass-rushers in the league.
Although they have both played well against the run, getting to the quarterback is what the Giants were counting on them most.
On Sunday they’ll face an Eagles offensive line which has given up 30 sacks this season, which is tied with multiple teams for the 15th-highest total in the NFL.
In the Eagles 27-24 victory over the Giants in Week 3, New York was able to sack Carson Wentz three times—and that was when the Eagles had their All-Pro offensive tackle Jason Peters in the lineup.
Without Peters and Wentz, the Giants should be able to get to quarterback Nick Foles more often than they got to Wentz in week 3.
The 2017 season has been horrific for the Giants. But they can get some satisfaction in beating a division rival and prevent them from earning a first-round bye. If they’re going to pull off the upset, they need their front four to play their best games of the season.