PHILADELPHIA (AP) - All the New York Giants have to do to secure a playoff berth is beat a struggling division rival headed nowhere.
That’s no simple task in front of a hostile crowd and a national audience.
There’s plenty at stake when the Giants (10-4) visit Philadelphia (5-9) on Thursday night. A victory would secure New York’s first playoff berth since 2011 and also keep pressure on NFC East-leading Dallas (12-2).
But prime-time games in Philly have been tough on the Giants lately. They lost 27-0 on a Sunday night in 2014, and 27-7 on a Monday night in 2015.
“I’ve been called every name in the book in Philly, but you have to embrace it,” wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. said. “They don’t want to see you win. It is a pretty ruthless place down there.”
The Eagles have lost five straight games and they’re 2-9 since a 3-0 start, but six of those losses were one-score games. Among them was a 28-23 loss to the Giants on Nov. 6.
Eli Manning nearly gave that game away. The Eagles had four chances to score the winning touchdown from the Giants 17 in the final minutes after Jordan Hicks made an acrobatic interception of Manning’s pass. However, Carson Wentz threw four straight incomplete passes .
“We’re in all these close games,” Wentz said. “To come up short time and time again, that (stinks). It’s tough and there are things we keep saying we have to learn from. At the end of the day, we have to find a way to win these ballgames.”
They also want to prevent the Giants from celebrating in their house. Last year, the Cardinals and Redskins clinched playoff berths in consecutive games at the Linc.
“There is motivation to definitely make sure that that playoff spot isn’t clinched here in Philly if we can control it,” safety Malcolm Jenkins said.
More things to watch for when the Eagles try to spoil things for the Giants:
BACK IN THE LANE: Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson returns after serving a 10-game suspension for violating the league’s performance enhancing drugs policy. The team was 2-8 without him and used four guys to fill his spot. Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Matt Tobin, Allen Barbre and Isaac Seumalo each had a turn.
“I feel like a lot of things could have happened differently with the season,” Johnson said. “I’m not saying one player could do that much, but I feel like I could have helped the team in a lot of different ways.”
ON JOB TRAINING: The Giants have some rookies playing important roles on offense. Wide receivers Sterling Shepard and Roger Lewis and running back Paul Perkins are gaining valuable experience and making an impact .
“We prepare for these situations and they’ll step up and make plays when we need them to,” Manning said. “When you get into the second half of the season, you need those rookies to step up and have a greater role. They’re not really rookies anymore. You can’t have the mistakes. They know what they’re doing and they have to play well.
“I think we’ve done a great job slowly working them in and getting them some opportunities. Now, all of them are having a bigger role in the game plan and in the game.”
SPAGS COMES HOME: Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo spent eight seasons as an assistant coach with the Eagles from 1999-2006 before going to New York. His defense shut down Tom Brady and the unbeaten Patriots in the 2008 Super Bowl. Spagnuolo began his second stint with the Giants last year and has turned one of the league’s worst defenses into one of the better units.
“Historically, the defense speaks for itself because it’s a championship defense,” said defensive tackle Damon Harrison, one of New York’s key additions last offseason. “It was just a matter of getting everyone in the right position and getting everyone to buy in and get used to playing with each other. That’s tough when you bring in a new group like we’ve done this offseason. It’s a credit to him.”
THE QBS: Manning has a career-high completion percentage (63.4) but he’s still committing too many turnovers (13 interceptions). The two-time Super Bowl MVP remains one of the most clutch passers. Wentz, meanwhile, has 13 TDs and 13 picks and he’s often been erratic in the first quarter, but he’s shown resilience to bounce back and lead the team in the second half.
NUMBERS LIE: The Eagles are ranked higher than the Giants on offense and defense. They’ve scored more points and have a better turnover differential. Yet, they have five fewer wins. It’s another example of how stats can be misleading.
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