MEANINGLESS? EAGLES-GIANTS REMATCH SUNDAY IS ANYTHING BUT

Zach Ertz may have to replicate his 15-reception game of last Saturday for the Eagles to win.

By Lewis Gould

I know, I know.

This Sunday’s Eagles-Giants game at MetLife Stadium is meaningless.

Right, because the Eagles were eliminated from the playoffs last Saturday in DC and the Giants were knocked out in October.

But here’s why it’s not meaningless:

Giants’ QB Eli Manning has a chance to lock down his best statistical season (highest passer rating, most TDs, best TD-INT ratio, second-highest passing yards.

Birds QB Mark Sanchez has a chance to ever start another NFL game.

Philly joining the “9-3 to 9-7” Club.

Philly sports radio moving from Defcon 3 to Defcon 2 with its “Maybe Chip Kelly ISN’T a genius” narrative.

Odell Beckham needing one more 150-yard/two-TD/one circus catch game to win the Offensive Rookie of the Year and officially become the no. 1 pick in 2015’s New York’s Most Beloved Professional Athlete draft.

Eliminated from playoff contention amidst a three-game losing streak, all that’s left in a once-promising season for Philly is the chance to knock off the rival Giants, winners of three in a row, at MetLife Stadium on Sunday.

The Eagles (9-6) opened 7-2 and were still in good position to make the playoffs three weeks ago, but this disastrous stretch will leave them out of the postseason for the third time in four years. Losses to Seattle, Dallas and last-place Washington has left Philly looking to next season.

Last Saturday’s 27-24 defeat to the Redskins, coupled with the Cowboys’ rout of Indianapolis, was the final blow.

“It’s very frustrating to us to control our destiny when we are 9-3 and to have this happen,” said tight end Zach Ertz, who set a franchise record with 15 catches against Washington. “We’re very disappointed. Ultimately, it falls on the players. We didn’t execute the game, either of the three games. It’s very disheartening.”

Coach Chip Kelly said he’ll give another start to Mark Sanchez rather than give backup Matt Barkley a shot.

“Our job is to go up and play the New York Giants and we’re going to do everything we can to beat the New York Giants,” Kelly said.

Sanchez has 14 turnovers in eight games, including a late interception that led to Washington’s game-winning field goal last week, since replacing Nick Foles after he broke his collarbone. Foles had 13 turnovers.

“You have to win games,” Sanchez said. “The head coach and the quarterback, we are the only ones who keep a record, so it goes with the territory of this position. There have been three really tough games and (last week’s) came down to the wire and we came up a little short.”

Penalties also played a big role in the Eagles’ collapse. They committed 13 for 102 yards against the Redskins and were flagged eight times for 95 in a 38-27 home loss to Dallas the previous week.

While Philly might be disheartened, New York (6-9) is clearly motivated with a win streak that may have saved coach Tom Coughlin’s job and gives it hope for next season. The Giants have ridden star rookie Odell Beckham Jr. the last three weeks, as he’s averaged more than 140 yards receiving and caught six touchdowns, giving him 11 in 11 games on the season.

Beckham had 148 yards and two scores on eight catches, including an 80-yard TD, in a 37-27 victory at St. Louis last week. He also refused to be intimidated by a Rams team bent on getting under his skin with chippy play, sparking a wild brawl between the teams by going back at Alec Ogletree after the linebacker flung him to the turf well out of bounds.

“You play snap to whistle and after that you leave it alone,” said Beckham, who may have provoked the Rams with some of his on-field celebrations. “For the intensity and passion (my teammates) brought to the game, I can’t fault them.”

Beckham has 79 receptions, most in NFL history for a player in his first 11 games. He’s had at least 90 yards receiving in eight consecutive contests and could tie the NFL record of nine straight by the Cowboys’ Michael Irvin in 1995.

Beckham was still finding his footing when he faced Philadelphia, getting held to two catches for 28 yards in his second NFL game. The Eagles rushed for 203 yards – 149 by LeSean McCoy – and outgained the Giants 448-254 overall while piling up eight sacks of Eli Manning and Ryan Nassib.

That defeat began a season-killing seven-game skid for New York, loser of nine of the past 12 meetings with Philadelphia and five of six at home.

The Giants, out of the playoffs for the fifth time in six seasons, are determined to close with a better performance against their hated rivals. They can match last season’s record with a win Sunday.

“Sure, we have something to prove,” right tackle Justin Pugh said. “We didn’t score at all the first time.”

Manning – one win away from 100 for his career – played his best game of the season last week, going 25 of 35 for 391 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. His 148.8 rating was the highest of his career for a full game.

Sanchez will be making his return to MetLife Stadium, where he spent the first five years of his career with the Jets before being released prior to this season.

 

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