There may be no better way to illustrate how much the Giants miss Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora this season than two simple numbers. 12 and zero. 12 is the number of times they sacked Donovan McNabb during one 2007 game against the Eagles. Zero is the amount of times they sacked McNabb during two games between the teams this season.
It's probably not a coincidence that both of those matchups came during the second half of the season. From Week 10, the first Eagles game, to the end of the season, Justin Tuck recorded three and a half sacks. He had eight and a half sacks through the first eight games of the season, a stark drop that's probably attributable to his regular appearances on the team's injured list.
Tuck didn't practice on Wednesday but returned in a limited fashion on Thursday. His leg injury obviously means he will be at less than full speed for Sunday's game, something that could keep the entire Giants defense from being at full speed. If Tuck isn't able to create pressure or draw increased attention, the whole pass rush will continue to struggle. It hasn't been percolating for some time now, and pressuring McNabb will be imperative to winning on Sunday.
The Vikings sacked McNabb three times last weekend, which helped keep them in the game despite a scattershot performance from their quarterback Tarvaris Jackson. The Giants have to keep things in a lower gear so that Brian Westbrook doesn't kill them on flares and screens, but too much slowdown will open things up for McNabb to make plays down the field.
That will take a team effort, but it falls on Tuck more than anyone. If he isn't beating double-teams, there probably won't be much chaos in the Eagles pocket. That lowers the chance of turnovers and momentum shifting plays, two things the Giants will need to help win what will likely be a very close game.