First place is on the line with the 3-2 New York Giants traveling to Philadelphia to square off with the 2-3 Eagles in an NFC East clash.
Here's what we'll be watching for on Monday night:
- Although a hamstring injury has kept Odell Beckham out of practice all week, Eli Manning's top wide receiver will play. Drawing more coverage this year, Beckham is on pace for 99 receptions, 1,370 yards and 10 touchdowns. Barring a pregame setback, he will be joined in the starting lineup by Rueben Randle, who is probable with a hamstring injury of his own.
- With Beckham playing, this matchup will feature a pass-heavy approach from both teams. The Giants' run defense has been among the league's stingiest, but they are dead last in pass defense, surrendering 304.2 yards per game through the air. They will be stretched at cornerback, with Jayron Hosley replacing Prince Amukamara. After a slow start, Sam Bradford has picked up his play, averaging 301.5 yards the past two games.
Manning and Beckham have an attractive matchup against Philadelphia's suspect cornerbacks. Through five games, the Eagles have allowed 18 pass plays of 20 or more yards. Beckham torched Chip Kelly's secondary for 12 catches, 185 yards and a touchdown in their last meeting.
- Beyond the cornerbacks, both defenses feature under-the-radar stars. Malcolm Jenkins and Walter Thurmond have been as impressive as any safety tandem in the league. A Pro Bowl snub last year, Fletcher Cox is coming off a dominant three-sack performance versus the Saints. Linebacker Jordan Hicks has been a mainstay on our weekly Rookie of the Year watch.
On the flip side, the defensive tackle-end tandem of Johnathan Hankins and Kerry Wynn has spearheaded the Giants' second-ranked run defense. Undrafted out of Richmond in 2014, Wynn has been one of the NFL's biggest surprises this season.
- It will be interesting to see the Eagles' backfield breakdown. Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles have thoroughly outplayed DeMarco Murray, who has looked like a $40 million boondoggle through five games. Whereas Mathews and Sproles have combined to average a more than respectable 5.6 yards per touch behind a beleaguered offensive line, that number sits at 3.6 for Murray, who has simply been too easy to tackle in open spaces this year.
Mathews is fully expected to play after battling a groin injury all week.
- This game will be a nation-wide introduction to Nikita Whitlock, who is quickly becoming a folk hero to Giants fans. A throwback to the 1950s, Whitlock is a three-way player as a special-teams demon, a punishing lead blocker at fullback and an undersized, pocket-pushing, three-technique defensive tackle. We just don't see that level of versatility in today's NFL.