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10/2/2008

By Eric from BigBlueInteractive.com

Approach to the Game – Seattle Seahawks at New York Giants, October 5, 2008: It’s been an odd couple of months for the Giants and their fans because the rhythm of the preseason and early regular season has been disrupted by two prolonged periods where the Giants did not play – August 8-17 and September 22-October 4.  But all of that is past the the Giants for good.  From here on out, it will be weekly slugfest with the initial primary goal of simply making the post-season tournament.  And as the Giants learned the last time they played, they cannot take any opponent for granted.  Each team not only is desperate to do well, but each has the added incentive of playing against the NFL Champions.

But you know what?  Bring it.  I’ve seen too many posts from fans in The Corner Forum that say “I’m worried about this opponent” or “This opponent scares me.”  Hogwash!  The Giants are the 2007 NFL Champions and are arguably the most balanced team in football in 2008.  There are no glaring holes on this team.  As long as it stays healthy and focused, the wins will come.  Does that mean that the Giants can’t be beaten, including by a lesser team?  Of course not.  Upsets happen all of the time, and even the best fall on occasion.  My point in all of this is not to spend too much time worrying, but simply enjoy what is likely to be a golden age of Giants’ football.  If the Giants lose to Seattle this weekend, so what?  Move onto the next opponent.  But I don’t think the Giants will lose this weekend, the Giants are the better team.

Seattle is a strange team.  At times, they look like an extremely well-balanced team in their own right – a team that can beat anyone.  And at other times, they simply look dreadful.  You never really know what team you will get, but you have to expect their best.  The good news for the Giants is that Seattle tends to look a lot worse on the road.

Giants on Offense: The hope here is that the absence of Plaxico Burress will spur the rest of his offensive teammates to play with an even greater sense of urgency.  That will be needed because let’s be frank, Plaxico is arguably the Giants’ best offensive weapon with the possible exception of Eli Manning.  The Giants need everyone to step up and pick up the slack.  The good news is this is a great opportunity for others to really shine, players like Domenik Hixon, Steve Smith, Sinorice Moss, and Kevin Boss.

Led by a very good linebacking corps, Seattle’s defense is quick, but light.  The game plan is obvious.  Power football.  Attack the Seahawks on the ground just like the Packers did in the playoffs last year.  Of course, the same strategy was called for when the Giants played what had been an even weaker Bengals’ run defense two weeks ago.  Whether it was an inspired Cincinnati defense, poor execution on the part of the players, poor play-calling, or a combination of all of the above, Brandon Jacobs and his run-blockers were not overly productive.  That’s got to change this week.  I wouldn’t try to run wide too much against those fast and aggressive linebackers of the Seahawks.  Run Jacobs right at them.  If he can’t produce, quickly move to Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw.  But run the football.  The Seattle D-Line is not big.  Maul them.

Of course, Seattle’s obvious defensive strategy will be to attempt to stop the run.  If Seattle puts extra defenders in the box, Manning has to read that and take advantage of a secondary that isn’t great, but is very solid.  As mentioned, the pressure really will be on guys like Hixon and Smith to perform.  And Amani will have to play at his best as well.  He will be matched up against Seattle’s best corner, Marcus Trufant.  In fact, both of Seattle’s starting corners are talented first-round draft picks.

A match-up to watch up front is Patrick Kerney against RT Kareem McKenzie in pass protection.  And the entire offensive line, as well as the tight ends and backs have to be wary of blitzes from the linebackers, especially Julian Peterson.

Giants on Defense: Seattle’s passing attack has struggled due to severe injury issues at wide receiver, but unfortunately for the Giants, a few of those previous injured receivers are returning this week.  That said, the Giants have a good secondary.  The one guy who hasn’t played all that well – at least against Cincinnati – is nickel back Kevin Dockery.  He needs to rebound with a strong game.  If not, the Giants have both short-term (Sam Madison) and long-term (Terrell Thomas) options to replace him.  The Giants also have developed a very nice trio of safeties who are all seeing a lot of playing time now.  The Giants’ secondary has not picked off a pass this season.  But there are quite a few players in this group with good ball skills.  The Giants are due.

The strategy on defense is what it is each and every week: stop the run, rush the passer.  The Giants need to shut down the Seattle ground game, which they should be able to do.  The Giants are familiar with Julius Jones, and even though he has had some decent games against the Giants as a Cowboy, he is not that scary an opponent.  HB Maurice Morris has been bothered by a knee.  He might play, but again, he is a guy the Giants should be able to handle.

Up front, the toughest assignment will belong to Mathias Kiwanuka against LT Walter Jones.  The rest of the offensive line is ordinary.

To me, the big defensive key in this game is to keep Matt Hasselbeck guessing.  Hasselbeck is a veteran who reads defenses well.  Against the Bengals, Carson Palmer did a superb job of reading the Giants’ defense and getting rid of the ball quickly.  If Hasselbeck does the same, this game will be close.  But if the Giants can do a better job of disguising their coverages and blitzes, then the Seahawks will be in trouble.

The Giants also need to do a good job on rookie TE John Carlson, who is Seattle’s leading receiver.  Linebacker coverage here is the key.

Giants on Special Teams: The Giants need to get more productivity out of their kick returns.  With R.W. McQuarters back, and with the need for Hixon to play more in the base offense, it will be interesting to see who is returning punts.

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Eric Kennedy

Founder and owner of BigBlueInteractive.com, which is now entering its 20th season. Follow Eric on Twitter @BigBlueInteract.

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