PHILADELPHIA - Injured Eagles center Jason Kelce was in pain Thursday.
The source of his discomfort was not his right knee, which has two torn ligaments. He was upset about having to miss Sunday night's key game against the New York Giants.
"This game is different because there is a genuine dislike between the two teams," Kelce said. "Whenever we play them, the game is just a step up from most (regular-season) games. The intensity is stronger and everything speeds up a notch. It's almost like a playoff game during the season."
That became apparent earlier this week, when ESPN televised an "E:60" special about the rivalry that featured the ongoing feud between Eagles running back LeSean McCoy and Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora.
The two have been exchanging insults, mostly via Twitter, for about a year and a half. Most recently, McCoy labeled Umenyiora as a "ballerina in a Giants uniform" during the TV show, though McCoy backed off those comments Wednesday.
"Well, he's probably right," Umenyiora said on the show. "I might be a ballerina in a Giants uniform, I'm lucky I got the contract, I'm lucky to be playing 10 years in the league, to have won two Super Bowls, all that is pure luck and I'm happy for him, I'm happy he got his contract and I'm happy everything is working out well for him in Philadelphia."
The Giants own an 83-75-2 advantage in a series that dates back to 1933, but the Eagles have won seven of the last eight meetings. Those last seven wins have featured some wild and whacky scenes.
In their most recent game, on Nov. 20, 2011, Eagles backup quarterback Vince Young overcame three interceptions to engineer a fourth-quarter touchdown drive that helped secure a 17-10 victory. Quarterback Michael Vick missed the game with broken ribs.
Two seasons ago, Eagles punt returner DeSean Jackson scored on a 65-yard return on the game's final play to give them a 38-31 win. The Eagles scored 28 points in the final 7 minutes, 28 seconds.
"We've had some great games against the Eagles, some classic battles," Giants quarterback Eli Manning said in a phone interview. "Not many of our games have been lopsided. You never know what to expect or what you're going to get during those games. I know the Eagles are going to be especially fired up for this one, though."
The Eagles have a lot of motivation, for several reasons.
Former Eagles safety Brian Dawkins, who played 13 of his 16 NFL seasons in Philadelphia, will have his No. 20 jersey retired at halftime Sunday night.
But more significantly, the Giants are the defending Super Bowl champions and have won two titles in the last five years. The Eagles have never won a Super Bowl and haven't won a league championship since 1960.
"You've got to give credit to Eli," Eagles defensive end Trent Cole said. "He's got two (Super Bowl) rings and I don't have any. You have to give it to him. He's getting it done."
Both teams are off to 2-1 starts, though they took opposite paths.
The Eagles opened with back-to-back, one-point victories before suffering a 27-6 defeat at Arizona this past Sunday. The Giants opened the season with a loss to Dallas but then rallied for a fourth-quarter win over Tampa Bay and dominated Carolina 36-7.
Given some of the previous Giants-Eagles games, Sunday's version will likely add to the list of legendary contests between them.
The winner will get at least a share of first place in the division and bragging rights until they play again in the season finale at MetLife Stadium on Dec. 30.
"I don't want to say anything because I don't want to spice it up even more," McCoy said. "It's already a big game. It's a rivalry game. The Cowboys and Giants are our biggest rivals. That's something that gets drilled into you as soon as you get here."
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