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What to watch for in Giants-Eagles on 'MNF'

Eli Manning is back and the Eagles' backs are against the wall.

Such are the prevailing storylines as the man who led New York to a pair of Lombardi trophies will look to end a losing streak, while Philadelphia aims to avoid sinking further in the shallow end of the NFL known as the NFC East.

With 11 consecutive losses between them coming into the third-to-last Monday night offering of the 100th NFL season, New York and Philadelphia still offer up plenty of star power and storylines.

Saquon Barkley and the New York Giants (2-10) face hosts Carson Wentz and the Philadelphia Eagles (5-7) in the latest installment of Monday Night Football at 8:15 p.m. ET live on ESPN from Lincoln Financial Field.

Inside the numbers, the Eagles-Giants rivalry is deadlocked in the all-time series at 83-83-2 just like Manning's career win-loss record (more on that later). Philadelphia has made it a one-sided series of late with five consecutive victories.

Though it's Week 14, this is the first meeting of the season between the longtime division foes. (They will reunite in the final game of the regular season.)

Ahead of Week 14 play, the Giants were the only NFC East team mathematically eliminated from the postseason, as even the Redskins could technically catch the Cowboys for the division crown. Now is the time and opportunity for the Eagles to forge a tie with Dallas, and it's also the time for Manning and Big Blue to play spoilers.

Here are four things to watch for:

Eli is back under center

Following a Week 2 Giants loss to the Bills, the Eli Manning era ended in New York. Having brought two Super Bowls to Gotham, Manning's franchise highs were in the past and the team's recent struggles were at the forefront. Thus, No. 6 overall pick Daniel Jones took over, reinvigorated the G-Men and "Danny Dimes" was a thing. It was a short-lived thing, though. So maybe Manning can work some magic and give the Giants faithful something to cheer for in the dying days of this lost campaign.

In an odd twist, Manning returns as the Giants are in the midst of an eight-game losing streak for the first time since 2004. That's when Manning took over as the New York starter in the first place.

With Jones experiencing turnover issues and the Giants experiencing never-ending losing issues, there was a groundswell that perhaps Manning should be reinserted for a healthy Jones.

Now Manning returns to replace an injured Jones. After going 0-2 as a starter to begin the season, Manning's comeback will see him bring an individual five-game losing streak as a starter to the table.

In his career, Manning is averaging right around 260 yards against the Eagles over the course of 30 games, with 54 touchdowns and a 10-20 record that includes five consecutive losses.

Overall, Manning is 116-116 as a starter. So, as far as career stats go, this one is a big one. Not to mention, there's draft positioning at stake for Big Blue.

Ten games after losing his job, Manning will return to the field for the first time looking to end a losing streak and show everyone No. 10's still got a little left in the tank.

Wentz and the Eagles' playoff hopes slipping away

The tribulations of Carson Wentz were drawing their share of criticism before Week 13 when the quarterback found the remedy to his individual ills in a matchup with the Dolphins. Three touchdowns and 310 passing yards later, Wentz looked good once again, but the Eagles still lost their third in a row.

As a Cowboys soap opera and losing streak continues, the Eagles have done nothing to seize the opportunity and enter Monday a half-game behind Dallas, despite the Cowboys having lost three in a row.

One streak that's going the way of the Eagles' though is their run of success versus the Giants, as the former has won five in a row and nine of the last 10.

With the Giants' defense ranked 25th against the pass, Wentz should be poised for a big night and the Eagles should follow for the first time in a long time.

Penn State RBs reunite in Philadelphia

Once Nittany Lions teammates, Saquon Barkley and Miles Sanders will lead their respective running games onto the field Monday.

The two were on the same Penn State squad from 2016-17 before becoming NFC East rivals.

Barkley was taken second overall in the 2018 draft and Sanders was taken in the second round in this past draft.

It's been a trying second season for Barkley, who missed three games with an ankle injury and hasn't looked like his rookie self in his return. He's turned in 544 yards rushing (835 scrimmage yards) and two rushing scores, having yet to score a touchdown on the ground since Week 7 and having yet to register a 100-yard rushing effort since Week 2.

Sanders appears to be gaining steam, however, as he's coming off a career-best 83 yards and 17 carries against the Dolphins. For the season, he's run for 520 yards with three total touchdowns.

So far, Sanders' 879 scrimmage yards are second among rookies behind Josh Jacobs, and he needs 130 to set a new single-season standard for Eagles rookies, as he's chasing DeSean Jackson's 1,008 in 2008.

Against a Giants defense ranked 26th and 21st against the rush, the opportunity is there for Sanders to maintain his momentum.

Barkley, meanwhile, faces a tougher task against an Eagles defense ranked fourth against the rush. Then again, Barkley had back-to-back 100-yard games to start the season and those were both with Manning handing off to him.

Where's that black cat?

When we last watched the Giants on a Monday night, a curious feline ran across our screens. Nobody was quite sure how the black cat got on the field and nobody is quite sure where the cat scampered off to.

Could it make a return, having traveled all the way from East Rutherford, New Jersey to Philadelphia?

Who knows? But after the cat's cameo -- or cam-meoh, if you will -- the Giants, who led the Cowboys 9-3 at the time, went downhill. Additionally, since that Nov. 4 appearance, all "cat" teams in the NFL -- the Bengals, Jaguars, Lions and Panthers -- have struggled woefully. Only the Bengals have won a game since then and the quartet is a combined 1-14.

A head-scratching highlight that had the NFL world abuzz, the black cat surely isn't likely to appear again, but it wasn't likely to appear in the first place.

And if ever there was a game in which the unexpected was predictable, perhaps it's this Monday.

As Manning returns, the Giants' biggest receiving threat is Darius Slayton, who has a team-high 505 yards receiving and five touchdowns, as tight end Evan Engram is out again and Golden Tate and Sterling Shepard have been missing much of the season. Through all the doldrums of the season, Giants first-year free agent Markus Golden is very quietly having a solid season with 55 tackles and 7.5 sacks.

For the Eagles, while big numbers aren't surprising for tight end Zach Ertz, the disparity in his stats are. Ertz leads the team with 70 catches for 736 yards. His receptions are 27 more than any other Eagle and his yards are 246 more. The oft-injured Alshon Jeffery is second in each stat.

Injuries have been a huge part of the season for both teams and it's made for some unpredictability.

So even if the Monday night black cat doesn't reappear, there's a good chance something unpredictable will take place as the Eagles vie for a title in a division that doesn't have a single team that's .500 or better.

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