Giants must finish off wounded Eagles

Michael Vick's ribs are cracked. The Eagles' confidence is clearly shaken and the so-called Dream Team is in the midst of dealing with DeSean's drama along with its poor play on the field.

The slumping Philadelphia Eagles return to MetLife Stadium ready to make the final stand of their season, and the task is simple for Tom Coughlin's team. The New York Giants must bury their division nemesis and strangle any life left in the Eagles' sinking season.

"They're not feeling great about things, and they're in a must-win situation," Eli Manning said on his weekly appearance on The Michael Kay Show on ESPN New York 1050. "They could be down and out a little bit, but we can't let this game rejuvenate them. We gotta expect their best football and we've gotta play our best football."

The Eagles limp into Sunday night's game with a 3-6 record, tied with Washington at the bottom of the NFC East. But this game might as well be a must-win for the Giants.

Not only are the Giants (6-3) clinging to a one-game lead over Dallas (5-4) but the Eagles game comes in the heart of the most difficult portion of the Giants' torturous schedule.

The Giants have opened the first two games of a brutal six-game stretch 1-1 with a win over New England. But coming off a loss to the Niners, the Giants simply can't afford to lose to the Eagles. A two-game losing streak could suddenly become a four- or five-game slide considering the Giants have New Orleans, Green Bay and Dallas coming up on the schedule.

The Giants already have been fielding questions about avoiding another second-half slide under Coughlin's watch.

The Giants will be reminded of last year's late collapse just by seeing those green jerseys back on their turf. That 38-31 loss did more than just cost the Giants an NFC East title and a playoff spot last year. It's a defeat that Justin Tuck admits will stick with him forever.

Being back on the same field where they pulled off one of the all-time great comebacks will certainly inspire the Eagles. But it should motivate the Giants to finish Philadelphia as well.
A sweep over the Eagles, who had beaten the Giants six straight times entering this year, would go a long way in easing the demons from last December's debacle and keep them ahead of Dallas.

"They are struggling right now but we all know they are going to rally especially coming off the win they had at our place last year," Tuck said on WFAN on Monday. "We are going to get their best shot so we got to be ready to play this team like they are undefeated. We know that in rivalry games against this team, you can throw the records out of the book. It is going to come down to the fourth quarter and who is going to make the play to win it."

The Giants' last seven games have all been decided in the fourth quarter with Coughlin's team winning five of them. Manning has been sensational in the fourth and he nearly pulled off another late comeback to force overtime last Sunday before falling short 27-20 to the Niners.

The Eagles have been the exact opposite, blowing five fourth-quarter leads.

But Tuck is right. Throw all that out because the Eagles know what they are capable of doing against the Giants. They beat the Giants twice in the fourth quarters of their two meetings last season, including wiping out a 31-10 deficit in the final eight minutes here last December.

While Vick's status for the game is uncertain with the broken ribs and wide receiver Jeremy Maclin has a shoulder injury, the Giants are bracing for Vick.

The last time they saw Vick, they held him to 176 yards passing with an interception, 31 yards rushing with no touchdowns and injured his hand in a 29-16 win in September. And now the Giants' pass rush is healthy -- Osi Umenyiora did not play in the first meeting and Tuck was banged up. The front line has to come up big against LeSean McCoy, especially if linebacker Michael Boley is unable to play due to a hamstring injury.

As for Vick, the Giants always try to hit him hard and make him feel it. Now with cracked ribs, Vick will have the Giants hunting him down even more.

Even though the Eagles are no longer Super Bowl contenders, the Giants have to treat this game as if it's bigger than facing the Saints or Packers in the coming weeks.

A divisional victory always has more significance and to reach seven wins with six games remaining and inch closer to another double-digit win season is crucial.

The Giants' two remaining meetings against Dallas will decide the NFC East. But a loss to the Eagles could be devastating to the Giants' playoff hopes yet again.

"To take the season series from them and win another NFC East game will be big for us," guard Chris Snee said. "We know it is not going to be easy, it wasn't easy when we went down there. I know they have lost a lot of fourth-quarter leads this year but that is a talented group.

"They are going to come up here and give their best shot," Snee continued. "They will get ours and it will come down to the fourth quarter. Win or lose, I wouldn't rule those guys out because they are very talented, they are a talented group."