The Giants host the Eagles in the face of Beckham’s criticism

Division games are usually more intense and hold deeper ramifications than those against other opponents. When the Giants host the 2-3 Philadelphia Eagles tonight at MetLife Stadium, their longtime NFC East rival and defending Super Bowl champion will take the field with a sense of urgency and desperation fitting for a team that has already lost as many games this season as they did all of last season.

It is the primary reason the Giants, who, despite being 1-4, are still very much a contender for the division title, must have a heightened sense of focus and purpose as they navigate the flammable controversy caused by Odell Beckham Jr.’s criticism of the coaches, the offensive system and, most divisively, quarterback Eli Manning.

In an interview with ESPN reporter Josina Anderson and rapper Lil Wayne that aired last Sunday, Beckham fanned the flames of dissention by ascribing blame for the Giants’ offensive issues to Manning and the coaching staff while conspicuously forgoing harsh self-evaluation.

“I feel like ... he’s not going to get out of the pocket,” the wide receiver said of Manning. “We know Eli’s not going to run it. Can he still throw it? Yeah. It’s cool catching it shallow and trying to take it, but I want to go over the top of somebody.”

He continued, “I want to be the best that I can. I don’t feel like I’m given the opportunity to be the very best that I can be. I feel like I could score every quarter, if given the opportunity. I know those numbers could be double, or triple that they are right now.

“I want to win. I want to be great … My goals are very, very high. I just haven’t been in this situation. I haven’t been in the place where I feel like I can really go out and do everything that I’m capable of doing. I don’t get 20 targets, like some other receivers.

“I know what I’m capable of. I know what I feel like I can bring to the table each and every day. I personally sacrificed a lot of things recently, because this I what I’m going to do. I hate losing. I don’t want to be the one at the end of the career, who ‘he had a great career, no rings,’ that’s not why I came here at all.”

The 25-year-old Beckham came to the Giants because they drafted him in the first round in 2014, No. 12 overall. Since then he’s been a prolific player, one of the best in the NFL. But he’s also been a self-created lightening rod for his dubious actions on the field, untimely and imprudent comments to the media and paparazzi-loving actions off the field.

Giants head coach Pat Shurmur attempted to put internal closure to the matter after the team’s dispiriting 33-31 loss to the Carolina Panthers on the road this past Sunday on an improbable 63-yard field goal by the Panthers’ Graham Gano with one second remaining. Ironically, Manning and Beckham displayed encouraging synergy as the quarterback connected with his gifted pass catcher eight times on 14 targets for 131 yards and a touchdown.

“I addressed it with Odell,” Shurmur said forcefully. “I addressed it with our team. I publicly declared that I didn’t agree with his comments. … I’m not going to give the public a pound of flesh on this. That would make me small, not strong…The locker room took care of it. That’s all I’m saying on it. Finito. Done”

For his part, Manning jokingly minimized the topic. “I don’t watch Lil Wayne much, so I missed a lot of him,” he said Monday. Instead, he was smartly preparing for an important game versus the Eagles.