As bad as the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles have been, they still believe they are in contention in the mediocre NFC East.
The problem quite simply is whether either can put together four solid quarters to earn a victory.
The winless Giants host an Eagles team that has looked lost defensively while dropping three straight in Sunday's matchup of once-proud franchises headed in the wrong direction.
Philadelphia (1-3) and New York (0-4) have combined for 10 of the last 13 NFC East titles, but making that 11 in 14 seems unlikely given the way these teams are playing.
The Giants, who captured the franchise's fourth Super Bowl just two seasons ago, are off to their worst start since losing five straight to begin 1987 - when replacement players were used during part of that slide. New York has totaled seven points in consecutive losses and Eli Manning has thrown a league-high nine interceptions while getting sacked 14 times, five fewer than all of 2012.
The Eagles started 2013 under new coach Chip Kelly with a 33-27 victory at defending NFC East champion Washington. They haven't won since and are allowing 34.5 points per game after last Sunday's 52-20 loss at Denver.
The only team that has allowed more points through four games is New York, yielding an average of 36.5 thanks in part to an NFL-worst 16 turnovers.
The states of these teams has surprised participants in a rivalry that had major postseason ramifications in the past.
"I'm very surprised, especially when our division was picked to be amongst the top," Eagles quarterback Michael Vick said. "That's football, man. It goes to show you how you have to be on top of your game."
Dallas leads the East with a 2-2 mark and will be an underdog at home against unbeaten Denver this weekend. A loss by the Cowboys would pave the way for the Eagles to tie for the division lead or the Giants to pull within one game of first place.
"Guys know that and coach (Tom Coughlin) brought that up the other day, so we understand," Manning said. "There's a lot of football left to be played, but we've got to start playing football. We're a better team than what we've been playing like, but we've got to go out there and prove it."
Manning will try to get an offense untracked that has produced the fewest amount of points in consecutive games in Coughlin's 10 years with the club. The two-time Super Bowl MVP is getting hit more as a result of a patchwork offensive line that played without starters David Baas, Chris Snee and David Diehl in last Sunday's 31-7 loss at Kansas City.
Diehl will make his season debut and start at right guard against the Eagles, while Snee was placed on season-ending injured reserve Friday.
"They've got some injuries on the offensive line," Kelly said. "When you watch their games with who played against the Cowboys and who played in the opening game and then who played in the last game against the Chiefs was a little bit different."
Manning will continue to try to target Victor Cruz, fourth in the NFL with 425 yards receiving to go with four touchdown receptions. Cruz could be open often against a Philadelphia defense yielding 461.3 yards per game for the NFL's second-worst mark.
Defensive coordinator Billy Davis' unit will no doubt be eager to face a different Manning after Peyton Manning completed 28 of 34 passes for 327 yards and four scores last weekend.
"We obviously are not where we want to be right now, but we just have to keep rolling and learn from everything," safety Nate Allen said. "That's all you can do. We are just going to keep working, learn from this and work on the fundamentals and move forward."
Kelly's high-octane offense leads the NFC with 480.5 yards per game, but Vick has been sacked 14 times to match Eli Manning and the Jets' Geno Smith for the third-highest total in the league.
Whether the Giants can get to Vick remains questionable. New York's once-feared pass rush has produced four sacks to match winless Pittsburgh for the NFL's lowest total.
"We've been very frustrated that we only have four sacks as a unit," said defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who has been limited to one sack after offseason back surgery. "This is the New York Giants. Normally we have sacks off the roof, but right now it's not that way right now."
The Giants will have to be wary of LeSean McCoy, the NFL's leading rusher at 117.0 yards per game. Four of McCoy's 14 100-yard rushing efforts have come against New York.
The Eagles have won eight of the last 10 overall meetings, although their five-game road win streak in this series ended with a 42-7 defeat Dec. 30, 2012, in Andy Reid's last game as coach.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved