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What to watch for in Giants vs. Eagles on 'TNF'

There's no love lost between these two NFC East foes.

The New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles have 176 combined years in the NFL and 165 head-to-head meetings between them, but are just two games into the Ben McAdoo-Doug Pederson era of I-95 football.

This old rivalry has already taken on a new shape with young stars burgeoning at the forefront, like Landon Collins, Carson Wentz, Odell Beckham and Jordan Hicks. Fixtures like Eli Manning and Brent Celek remain but are resigned to the fringes.

The Giants stole a hotly contested Week 9 matchup in the Meadowlands, but only thanks to some egregious Eagles errors. With so much on the line for Big Blue this time around, will Philadelphia succumb to the same mistakes or will Wentz right a rookie campaign that has strayed off course?

Here's what to watch for when the Giants (10-4) truck on down to Philadelphia to test the Eagles (5-9) onThursday Night Football, exclusively on NFL Network, NBC and Twitter:

  1. Big Blue is thisclose to its first postseason berth since 2011. The Giants are pretty comfortable sitting at 10-4, but if they win on Thursday night, they are guaranteed at least the fifth seed in the NFC. Two Dallas losses down the stretch, plus a Giants victory over the Redskins in Week 17 would guarantee New York home-field advantage throughout the postseason. That was a once-unthinkable proposition considering how McAdoo's bunch was performing earlier in the season. Remember when Beckham said he wasn't having fun? Yeah, us neither.

No one will want to see the G-Men in the postseason. Not necessarily because of the threats that their revamped defense and an open-field Odell pose. No, it's history. The last two times the Fightin' Maras have played in the wild-card round, they have won the Super Bowl over the Patriots. The Giants likely will have to face similar foes to get back there and finish off the trilogy; Dallas (2008), Green Bay ('08, '12), Tampa Bay ('08) and Atlanta ('12) are all in contention for playoff spots. But first they'll have to take care of business against the Eagles -- or at least hope the Lions, Packers, Bucs and/or Falcons lose in Week 16. Heck, where's the Moet?!

  1. This is a redemption game for the Giants' secondary, which got torched for a season-high 347 passing yards from rookie quarterback Carson Wentz (his career high) in their first meeting. If it wasn't for Wentz's early interceptions and a few questionable fourth-down calls from Pederson, New York would have lost the matchup at the hands of its own defensive backs. Since then, Big Blue's back four has stepped up its game, especially Collins and Janoris Jenkins. The latter cornerback should be good to go after injuring his back against the Lions, and his presence should be a boon for the Giants. Jenkins is second in the NFL in completion percentage against (46.3) and should neutralize Philadelphia's A1 threat (Jordan Matthews?), leaving Collins and Co. to occupy the middle of the field where Zach Ertz intends to roam. Honorable mention: Eli Apple's rookie season improves with each passing week.

Wentz was dynamite on downfield throws against New York in Week 9 (seven plays of 20-plus yards), but his production has tailed off significantly since his early season surge, a product of his regressing mechanics and defenses' increasing comfortability with his playing style. Since Week 5 -- a period which includes Wentz's great day in East Rutherford -- the rookie has completed just 32.9 percent of his 15-plus-air yard passes and thrown seven interceptions with a passer rating of 26.3. Eesh. With Nelson Agholor playing like a mess and a half and with limited options beside Matthews on the outside, Wentz is in for a topsy-turvy outing against Big Blue this time around.

  1. It's amazing that the Giants have gotten to the doorstep of the postseason without a serviceable running game or a reliable passing game. "Anchored" by Paul Perkins and Rashad Jennings, New York boasts an anemic rushing attack (81.2 YPG), but they're working on that. In their last two games, which they won by a combined score of 27-13, the Giants ran the ball 51.6 percent of the time, a far cry from their previous average of 36.4. This stat intimates that McAdoo is gearing up for January. GiantsSuper Bowl champions of yesteryear have relied on a consistent, clock-killing ground game to get them to the promised land, and this year's offense is by far the worst of the three. The 2016 Giants score nine fewer points per game than the 2011 champs and almost four fewer points than the 2007 mythbusters.

A good test for postseason legitimacy will be the running game's performance against Philadelphia's front. The Eagles play far better defense at home, allowing 78.5 rushing YPG (46.3 fewer than on the road) and 10.6 fewer PPG than on the road. Often overlooked by the offense's underwhelming season, the Eagles' defense boasts a few playmakers and run stoppers of their own, namely Brandon Graham and Nigel Bradham. If the Giants are to inspire any confidence in their fans or, more importantly, strike any fear into future opposing defenses, a 100-plus-yard rushing performance against Philly's front would do the trick.

  1. Why doesn't Eli throw the ball to Odell on every single play? Seriously. Why? McAdoo's Cheesecake Factory playsheet could be nine laminated pages thick and it should still have only five options on it: Odell. Odell. Odell. Thai Lettuce Wraps. Odell.

Beckham is in the midst of one of the most dominating stretches of his career, one during which his singular plays are game breakers and his stats transcend those of legends. Case in point: His scores against Dallas and Detroit the last two weeks were the deciding factors in those contests. All 10 of Beckham's touchdowns have come since Week 5, right around when he threw his fit and was in a complicated relationship with a beloved kicking net.

The eccentric wideout is back to having fun and will seek to score by any means possible against Philly. In recent weeks, Beckham has scored via slant, out and punt return twice (if you don't count penalties). OBJ accounts for 33.6 percent of New York's receiving yards, the highest of any player in the league, and you could argue that number should be higher. Eli's arm strength is showing signs of decline and McAdoo is calling short, safe pass plays accordingly. As demonstrated against the Cowboys, Odell's after-the-catch elusiveness is unprecedented and has been a boon for the Giants' short passing game.

If New York's aforementioned running game stalls, look for Beckham to have another big night, or at least another narrative-altering "wow" play. The dude's good for one a game.

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