Giants-Eagles Is Must-Win at MetLife

Well, we’re finally here. We’re finally at the point where the Giants are playing a must-win game. Sure, I have been loosely tossing around that title for the past few weeks, but this is it. This is the real deal. Beat the Eagles and keep the season alive or lose, go to 0-5 and play three months of meaningless football.

With the Eagles in town and possibly facing a must-win situation of their own, I did an email exchange with Brandon Gowton of Bleeding Green Nation to talk about the perception of Chip Kelly after four games, the emotions of Andy Reid’s return and seeing him in red and if either Nick Foles or Matt Barkley are the quarterback of the future.

Keefe: It’s been a while since a Giants-Eagles game had as much meaning as this one, even if this one means so much for all the wrong reasons. With the Giants at 0-4 and the Eagles at 1-3, both teams are still actually alive thanks to a down year for the NFC East with the 2-2 Cowboys currently the division leader.

The Giants, as I’m sure you know, have been an atrocity. They lead the league in every category you don’t want to lead the league in and since trailing 10-9 at halftime in Week 2 against the Broncos, they have been outscored 100-21.

The Eagles, on the other hand, opened the season with a bang against the Redskins and it looked like Chip Kelly would be an instant success story in the league. Instead they followed it up by losing to the Chargers at home, letting Andy Reid’s Chiefs dominate in his homecoming and getting blown out of Denver by the Broncos, which isn’t really all that bad since everyone is getting blown out by the Broncos. So over the last three weeks, the Eagles have been right there with the Giants.

After Week 1 I was still confident in the Giants because they had a chance to win a game on the road against a division opponent with two minutes to go despite turning the ball over six times. And I’m sure you were overly confident after the Eagles picked apart the Redskins and looked like they might be able to run the score up on the entire NFC.

Before we get to the former head coach, let’s start with the current head coach. What were your thoughts on Kelly and how have they changed after his hiring, after the Week 1 win and after the three straight losses?

Gowton: My feelings on the Chip Kelly hire haven’t changed much since his hire. I’m excited about his brand of football that he’s brought to Philadeplhia, and I’m aware that it will take some time before everything fully blossoms. The Eagles are an historical offensive pace in terms of yards. That’s something to be excited about once (if) the Birds figure out how to translate those yards into more points.

Keefe: And how about the old head coach?

Andy Reid was the head coach of the Eagles for 14 years, which in head coaching years is the equivalent of 56 years. From 1999-2012 he led the Eagles and led them to a 130-93-1 record, but was never able to win the Big One for them and everyone will always cite that when they talk about his time in Philadelphia.

Change is hard as a fan especially when it involves a fixture for your team. I went through it with Joe Torre and Jorge Posada and am about to go through it with Mariano Rivera and a second time with Andy Pettitte.

Did you think it was time for a change and time for Reid to go? How weird was it to see him on the opposite sideline in Week 3 coaching the Chiefs?

Gowton: It was definitely time for Andy Reid to go. He’s the greatest Eagles coach of all time to this date. The amount of success he generated in Philadelphia was mightily impressive. These things are great in remembrance, but the bottom line is the Eagles were an underperforming team that needed improvement. Chip Kelly was the perfect hire to replace the old guard. This organization needed a new energy and a new direction.

It was and still is weird to see Reid wearing red. It will always be that way. But it was the best move for him as well, and I wish him well in Kansas City.

Keefe: Michael Vick has played 16 games in a season in his career once (2006), and let’s be honest, he probably won’t play 16 games this season with the way he plays at the age of 33 if the last time he did it was seven years ago.

Vick has played pretty well so far under Kelly, so it’s not like he’s in danger of losing his job. Well, unless the Eagles season continues to go south. And if it does what happens then?

The Eagles have Nick Foles and Matt Barkley as backups with Foles having played in seven games last year after being drafted in 2012 and Barkley being a rookie, whose draft stock plummeted after he decided to stay for another year at USC.

If the Eagles aren’t going where they expect to go this season or Vick is unable to play a complete season, is it automatic that Foles would take over? Who do you like better between Foles and Barkley and which of the two is the quarterback of the future?

Gowton: Call me crazy, but I actually think Vick stands a decent chance of playing all 16 games. Or maybe he misses one or two at most. He’s done a better job of protecting himself than I’ve seen in recent years. He makes the effort to get down or run out of bounds before taking that extra hit.

Chip Kelly was brought to Philadelphia to win football games. It sounds simple and obvious, but it needs to be said. With that in mind, he’s going to play the guy who gives him the best chance to win. As long as he feels that guy is Vick, he will be the starter. Nick Foles will only be playing at quarterback if Vick is hurt.

I like Foles more than Barkley at this point. Barkley clearly looked like a rookie in preseason and training camp. He needs time to develop. I’m not sure if either of them are the future, though. They certainly have the chance to be, but it won’t be handed to them at all. If they truly aspire to be the future starter, they need to clearly outplay their competition and win the job.

Keefe: This game on Sunday is the Giants season. Up until now, their games have been called “must-win,” but this is the real deal. They’re not coming back from 0-5 (I mean the odds are strongly against them to even come back from 0-4.) If they can’t beat a reeling Eagles team that is slumping just as bad as they are at home at MetLife with the season on the line then at least I will know I can focus my attention to the Rangers and hockey season and not to letting the Giants steal three-plus hours of my Sundays.

Some people believe that in situations like this the more desperate team wins, but if that was true then the Giants wouldn’t have as many second-half collapses as they do under Tom Coughlin. And it’s not like the Giants are even a heavy favorite as the more desperate team in this game given the Eagles’ current state.

And given the way the Giants have been losing games, which is every way imaginable, I said on Monday if the Eagles are planning a “Miracle at the Meadowlands Part II” this Sunday then I wish someone would tell me now, so I can find something else to do.

What do you expect to happen on Sunday?

Gowton: I’ll start off by saying this game isn’t a freebie for Philadelphia. It’s the NFL – Any Given Sunday. With that said, the Giants have looked really bad in all phases: offense, defense, special teams. The Eagles know they have a chance to take the division lead with a win over the Giants (and a Dallas loss to Denver). Beating the Giants would mean the Eagles are 2-3, but more importantly they would be 2-0 in the NFC and the NFC East. That record is significant when it comes to the playoff picture. The three losses are merely AFC losses.Sunday could be an ugly game, but Philly will find a way to get the job done. The offense is too much of a threat for New York, and while the Eagles defense is bad, they can benefit from some likely Giants turnovers. Eagles 33, Giants 20

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Neil Keefe is the founder and editor-in-chief of Keefe To The City along with writing columns and hosting podcasts. He has written for WFAN.com and CBSNewYork.com since February 2010.

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