By Eric from BigBlueInteractive.com
Approach to the Game – New York Giants at St. Louis Rams, September 14, 2008: Style points in the NFL don’t count. Wins do. I have seen a lot of chatter this week that because the Cowboys and Eagles more soundly beat their respective the opponents than the Giants beat the Redskins, the Giants are obviously not playing as well.
First of all, I’m not sure I agree with the premise. I would argue that the Giants pretty soundly beat a Redskins team that is most likely stronger than the Browns and Rams. Secondly, with all the substitutions the Giants made throughout the game, one gets the impression that the Giants didn’t come at the Redskins with their best.
Regardless, second of all, style points don’t matter. And each NFL game is its own entity. What one other team did the previous week against an opponent, even if it is the same opponent, is no indication of the strength or weakness of another team. Any team in the NFL can beat any other team. Just because the Eagles clobbered the Rams does not mean the Giants will. And if the Rams were to win, it does not necessarily mean the Eagles are better than the Giants. It doesn’t work that way folks. Last year, the Eagles embarrassed the Lions 56-21. The Giants squeaked by the same Lions 16-10. The Eagles didn’t make the playoffs; the Giants won the Super Bowl. The Giants also barely beat the Dolphins and Jets last year, two of worst teams in the NFL.
Third, anyone who really has followed football for years knows that when one NFL team gets embarrassed, they inevitably play far, far better the following week. So if the Giants win, but it is close, don’t start freaking out. If the Giants lose, don’t start freaking out.
Two things really matter: (1) just make the playoffs, and (2) start peaking in January. Didn’t we learn that lesson last year?
That all said, obviously, the Giants can make life easier for themselves if they win in St. Louis and get off to a 2-0 start. The Giants should beat the Rams. They are the better team. And for some unexplainable reason, the Giants historically perform well in domes (a historical record of 22-12). Things also don’t get any easier for the Rams after the Giants as they face the Seahawks, Bills, Redskins, Cowboys, and Patriots next.
Giants on Offense: The Rams’ defense was not impressive at all against the Eagles, giving up over 500 yards of offense. In particular, the Rams’ secondary was exposed badly as the Eagles threw for over 400 yards.
Adding injury to insult last Sunday, LDE Leonard Little hurt his hamstring and rookie RDE Chris Long broke his pinky finger. Little is an undersized, but dangerous, pass rusher. Long is a rookie. Inside, La’Roi Glover is aging and Adam Carriker is a second-year player. The Giants’ offensive line should be able to effectively handle the front four of the Rams, provided the Giants front five play up to their capabilities. The line does need to do a better job in pass protection than it did last week.
Even though the Rams’ secondary was victimized by the Eagles, I would think we would see a heavy dose of Brandon Jacobs on Sunday. The linebacking corps is athletic, but it is not a big group. Nevertheless, also look for the Giants to take their shots down the field as well, possibly early to score some quick points. CB Tye Hill struggled and was replaced by nickel back and former starter Fakhir Brown, who is still not 100 percent due to a shoulder injury. Ron Bartell is the other corner. The Giants’ wideouts could be licking their chops. I would like to see the Giants try to get Domenik Hixon deep on the fast turf. Strong safety Corey Chavous can be exposed; free safety Oshiomogho Atogwe is a good player.
I wouldn’t get cute or too complicated. Run the football between the tackle or off tackle with Jacobs and Ward. Use play-action to get Plaxico and Hixon open down the field. Toomer and Smith can move the chains, along with Plax when necessary.
Giants on Defense: The Rams’ offensive line played poorly last week as QB Marc Bulger was sacked four times and the Rams were held to 36 yards rushing. Provided DE Mathias Kiwanuka (ankle) can play, the Giants should be able to create match-up problems again up front. LT Orlando Pace is aging and the rest of the line is not impressive.
A significant issue for the Rams is the status of their wide receiving corps. Torry Holt is still very dangerous. I suggest doubling him. The other starting wideout, Drew Bennett (broken foot), is out. WR Donnie Avery (MCL strain) might be out. Other options are rookie Keenan Burton, Dane Looker, Dante Hall, and Eddie Kennison – the latter being signed just this week.
The most productive player for the Rams against the Eagles was TE Randy McMichael, who caught 5 passes for 77 yards. Obviously, the Giants need to keep an eye on him.
The focal point of the defense will be stopping HB Steven Jackson – a big back who can break big runs.
Stop Jackson. Double Holt. Cover McMichael. Get after Bulger.
Giants on Special Teams: The obvious focal point is keeping the very dangerous Dante Hall under wraps on kickoff and punt returns. The former has been a problem for the Giants.