Step with me into the Way-Back Machine:

There were many notable debuts when the Philadelphia Eagles hosted the New York Giants in Week 1 of the 2004 season: Terrell Owens played his first game in Eagles green (catching 3 TD passes) and Kurt Warner made his first appearance in blue, under new Giants head coach Tom Coughlin.

Oh, and a much-ballyhooed rookie named Eli Manning stepped under center for the first time as a pro (in relief of Warner in Philly’s blowout win).  Although Manning completed just 3 of 9 passes, he had a hand in a scoring play on his very first pro snap – handing the ball off to Tiki Barber, who raced 72 yards for a score.

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Manning has started against the Eagles 17 times since his Sept. 12, 2004, relief appearance. More often than not (10 out of 17 times), Manning and the Giants have walked off the field against the Eagles as losers – but in his overall career, Manning has a pair of Super Bowl championships to show for his efforts, while the Eagles have nothing to brag about in that time frame but a futile Super Bowl appearance (in Manning's rookie 2004 season).

Manning and his Giants meet the Eagles once again on Sunday, with the 2-1 teams looking to get a leg up on the rest of the division at the quarter-mark of the season.

For the third time in four weeks, the defending Super Bowl champions will be featured in a nationally televised game, as New York travels to Lincoln Field to meet Philadelphia for the Sunday Night Football matchup.

This will be the second big divisional game already for the Giants (after opening the season against Dallas), while the Eagles will be playing their first division game of the year; Dallas won’t play its second division foe until Week 8, while Washington waits until Week 7 for its initial intra-divisional game.

Stat of the week:  the Eagles are 7-1 in their last 8 games against the Giants, dating back to 2008.  Included in those games was a playoff win by the Eagles in 2008.  In those 8 games, Philadelphia has outscored New York by an average of 28 – 21 (226 – 167).

Overall since the start of the 2001 season, the Eagles are 16-9 (including 2-1 in the playoffs) against the Giants.

That’s just one of the “5 THINGS TO WATCH FOR” in the NFC East in Week 4 of the 2012 season.


Catching up to the West?

Heading into Week 4, the NFC East trails the NFC West by 1 win for most combined wins by a single division.  Each division will feature an intra-divisional game in Week 4 – with Philadelphia hosting New York and St. Louis hosting Seattle – so it will be up to the other teams to compete for division supremacy.

In the West, San Francisco travels to the Meadowlands to play the New York Jets, while Arizona hosts Miami.  That home/road split mirrors the East schedule, since Washington is on the road and Dallasis at home.

The NFC North, the AFC East and the AFC South divisions each have 6 wins.

Strength vs. Strength

The Washington (1-2) at Tampa Bay (1-2) matchup at 4:15 p.m. on Sunday is intriguing, since it will feature one of the most potent offenses in the NFL going against what has been a very stingy defense.

The Redskins have scored the most points in the league (99), led by rookie QB Robert Griffin III and rookie RB Alfred Morris (the division’s leading rusher by 2 yards over Philadelphia’s LeSean McCoy).  The two Redskins rookies are tied for the league lead with 3 rushing TDs apiece.

The Buccaneers, on the other hand, stoned Carolina’s rushing attack in Week 1 (10 yards), and have allowed league-lows in rushing yards (142) and YPA (2.3) through three games.

Of course, it may also be interesting to see Washington’s porous defense (102 points allowed) going against an offense that has been anemic.  The Tampa offense has generated the fewest yards (731) and first downs (44) in the league.

Cowboys looking for consistency

It seems somewhat surprising that Dallas and Chicago have met just three times in the past 13 seasons, going into their Monday Night meeting.  Both teams are 2-1 heading into this prime-time game, but both are struggling with the same issue: consistency (or lack thereof).

Dallas has been way up (Giants), way down (Seahawks) and back to just above average (Buccaneers).  The defense turned in a solid game last week, albeit against a weak Tampa offense.

Chicago, and especially QB Jay Cutler, has also been on a roller coaster.  Cutler started with a bang, throwing for 333 yards, 2 TDs and 1 INT in Week 1, but followed that up with a disastrous 4-INT performance against Green Bay the following week.  He was better last week (tossing 1 INT), but still far from a Pro-Bowl level QB that Bears fans expect.

In addition, the Bears ground game is hurting due to the absence of Matt Forte.  Chicago ground out 103 rushing yards against St. Louis last week, with Michael Bush gaining 55 – and will face a Cowboys defense that is middle-of-the-pack in terms of rushing yards allowed (113 YPG).

In some ways, this is a crucial game for Dallas, because after a bye next week, the Cowboys have road games at Baltimore and Carolina, and then Atlanta and Philadelphia, with a home game against the Giants sandwiched in the middle.

Final-quarter heroics?

Lost in the flurry of Eagles turnovers this season is the fact that Vick has led 2 game-winning, fourth-quarter drives, usually the specialty of Manning (who has 1).  If Sunday night’s game is close in the fourth quarter, either QB is more than capable of leading a clutch drive to tie the game or take the lead.

Manning tied the single-season record with 8 fourth-quarter game-winning drives in 2011, including an early-season win over the Eagles where the Giants scored the final 15 points of the game.  Manning is now tied with fellow 2004 draftee Ben Roethlisberger in career game-winning drives among active players with 26; Peyton Manning is the active career leader with 47.

Manning and Vick are also 1-2 in the league in terms of total offense, with Manning (982 yards) and Vick (939) the only two QBs over 900 yards so far.