EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) – The Philadelphia Eagles’ stranglehold on the NFC East is loosening, and the New York Giants will try to undo the knot a little more this weekend.

Already two games ahead of the Eagles (4-5) after Philadelphia’s come-from-ahead loss to Dallas on Monday night, the Giants (6-3) will face an Eagles team today that won’t have injured quarterback Donovan McNabb or suspended wide receiver Terrell Owens.

Giants linebacker Carlos Emmons, a member of three of the Eagles’ four straight NFC East champions before coming to the Giants last season, urged caution.

“They’re not knocked off their perch yet,” he said. “It’s a long season. If they get on a run, they’re right back in it. Until they’re totally eliminated, they’re still the champs. If we want this division, we have to beat them.”

The Giants are not without their own injury problems in the starting lineup, beginning with Emmons, who has missed the last three games with a tear in his right pectoral muscle. He practiced for the first time this week and was listed as questionable. In addition, this week New York lost defensive tackle William Joseph (dislocated elbow) and linebacker Reggie Torbor (hernia).

The Eagles will start Mike McMahon in place of McNabb, who is contemplating surgery for a sports hernia that probably would end his season. McMahon, who played at nearby Rutgers, has started seven games in five NFL seasons, all with the Detroit Lions. Philadelphia signed him as an unrestricted free agent in the offseason. Eagles coach Andy Reid said he chose McMahon over No. 2 quarterback Koy Detmer because of McMahon’s mobility – he rushed for four touchdowns for Detroit and once had 74 yards rushing in a game against Minnesota – and his familiarity with the West Coast offense from his time with the Lions.

“I’m basically just trying to go out and be productive with the offense, keep the ball moving. Donovan was doing a great job last week and if I can just pick up where he left off, just keep the offense moving, the defense is doing a good job and we’ll win the game,” McMahon said.

Both teams need to bounce back from stinging losses. The Giants dominated Minnesota on offense and defense last Sunday, but gave up two special teams touchdowns and a final drive that led to a winning field goal in a 24-21 loss. Quarterback Eli Manning also threw four interceptions, one of which was returned for a 92-yard touchdown. Similarly, Philadelphia had its way with the Dallas on Monday night and held a 20-7 lead before allowing two touchdowns in the final 3:04 and losing 21-20.

In the team’s first game without the distraction of the controversial Owens, McNabb completed nearly twice as many passes to tight end L.J. Smith (six receptions) and running back Brian Westbrook (five catches) as to wide receivers Greg Lewis and Reggie Brown. For the season, Westbrook leads the team in receiving with 48 catches – one more than the suspended Owens – and in rushing with 414 yards on 111 carries.

The Eagles average 72 yards rushing per game, second worst in the league, but ran for 181 against Dallas on Monday night. They’ll be challenged by a defense that allowed 12 yards rushing to the Vikings and has not yielded a touchdown since early in the third quarter against Denver on Oct. 23, a span of nearly 14 quarters.

The Giants’ loss to Minnesota illustrated Manning’s inexperience, along with his penchant for the dramatic. He was off-target most of the afternoon and threw what looked to be a rally-killing interception in the end zone with 3:48 left.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.