When Philadelphia visits the Meadowlands on Sunday night, it will be yet another huge NFC East affair, something the world has come to expect in December.
"It's great teams and teams that find themselves in the hunt when the time comes," Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb said. "I think everyone that knows about the NFC East and talks about the teams that we have and how competitive we are, it seems like everybody kind of falls off the bandwagon a little bit in the middle of the season, and towards the end they join back on. Rightfully so, because when you talk about Dallas and New York, they are obviously two top teams that people focus on and are willing to do whatever it takes to win."
Philly has found whatever it takes three straight times against New York. The Eagles (8-4) are tied with Dallas atop the division, with the Giants (7-5) one game back. The winner in prime time at Giants Stadium will be in a strong spot for a playoff run, be it division title or wild card.
The Eagles, who extended coach Andy Reid's contract through 2013 this week, expect to have big-play receiver/punt returner DeSean Jackson back from a concussion. Jackson, who has six TDs of 50-plus yards and needs two to tie the NFL season record, was one of the key performers when the Eagles destroyed the Giants, 40-17, on Nov. 1. He had a 54-yard TD reception, one of a slew of long gains in the rout.
Rookie LeSean McCoy had a 66-yard TD run and fullback Leonard Weaver, who's having a quietly strong season, scored on a 41-yard jaunt. Tight end Brent Celek and rookie receiver Jeremy Maclin also had touchdown catches.
While McNabb has been a longtime staple for Philly against New York, most of the remainder of his offensive teammates are relatively new to this rivalry. They've played so well that star running back Brian Westbrook, who returned to practice this week from post-concussion problems, has not been missed nearly as much as when he was hurt in the past.
"It's a mix of different things of what these guys have been able to bring to the table," McNabb said. "That is what makes it exciting. You want to just reward these guys and give them the opportunities to make plays for you. You also want to put these guys in position to be successful. I think we have been able to do that; we have a lot of guys around here who have just continued to strive in their opportunity."
The Giants had an opportunity to run away with the division after a 5-0 start, but have sputtered mightily. They lost four in a row before beating Atlanta, then fell to Denver.
In the first of three consecutive NFC East matchups, they beat Dallas, also using big plays, last weekend. That win won't mean much if they flop against Philly.
"To use a Coughlinism," linebacker Danny Clark said of coach Tom Coughlin's pet sayings, "it's the power of the will. Who'll play better in the battle, win the 11 individual battles?
"This season has been a replica of what life is like, with peaks and valleys. We understand we have to rebound from adversity and that (losing) streak was adversity. We have to show we can do just that in the last four games, starting with the Eagles."
By kickoff, both teams will know how Dallas fared against San Diego, which has won seven in a row. A Cowboys loss presents an even bigger opportunity for the winner at the Meadowlands.
That winner has been Philadelphia in the most meaningful recent games here, including two postseason meetings.
"We just eliminated mistakes more than they did," said McNabb, winner in 10 of his past 14 starts against the Giants. "When you play a game like this, it's about who wins the turnover battle and who capitalizes on mistakes. I think we have had the opportunity of having less turnovers than them and have put ourselves in position to score when the time was needed.
"I think that not only for this particular game, but that is how you win games in this league."
And how you fill up the bandwagon.