By Eric from BigBlueInteractive.com
Approach to the Game: Immediately following the heart-pounding victory over Dallas last Sunday night, I began to see some Giants’ fans bitching about this or that negative aspect of New York’s play. Stop! Enjoy the moment! While it is true that there have been many more meaningful regular-season wins in franchise history, Sunday night’s game will go down as one of the sweetest wins ever for Giants’ fans. Dallas put everything into winning that game against a beat-up Giants’ squad and still lost. NFC East division games are seldom pretty. You just do your best to find a way to come out on top because these division games are so important. To enter that hornet’s nest and rip the heart out of Jerry Jones and the Cowboys’ faithful was pure bliss. If you can’t enjoy Sunday’s win, I’m not sure football will ever bring you much happiness.
I expected the Giants to start of slowly this year due to all of the injuries and the inexperience at wide receiver. I actually thought there was a good chance they would start off 0-2, go on a run against the lesser teams, and start really turning it on around the midway point of the season. But to be 2-0 (and 2-0 in the NFC East) at this point, despite not playing anywhere near their best, is huge. The Giants already have a third of their division games out of the way.
Now is not the time to relax. While a loss to the Buccaneers would not erase the advantages gained from the two wins against NFC East rivals, it sure would diminish the advantage the Giants have gained by their hard work. Don’t blow it G-Men! The Buccaneers are very capable of defeating the Giants if they are not careful. The Bucs are 0-2, but they were very much in both games against good football teams.
Giants on Offense: A lot of fans seem to be worried about the Giants’ running game. Don’t be! The Giants have played two quality run defenses that know the Giants’ schemes and personnel. The Redskins and Cowboys emphasized stopping the run and did a reasonably good job of doing so. But in doing so, they also made themselves more vulnerable to the passing attack. Most defenses the Giants will face won’t be able to defend the run so well. I expect the running game to start getting untracked this week against Tampa.
Tampa’s defense is giving up 168 rushing yards per game (tied for 27th in the NFL ironically with the New York Giants). It’s time to get Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw going. The Buccaneers’ front seven is not good. The safeties are not good. Play smash mouth and pile up the yards on the ground.
If the Giants need to throw, they should be somewhat comforted that Tampa is also 27th in the NFL against the pass. The safety situation is a mess so New York should be able to exploit the middle of the field. The corners, Aqib Talib and Ronde Barber, have talent. Barber has a knack for being around the football, causing turnovers. He also is a good blitzer. The big question to me here is can Steve Smith and Mario Manningham do it three weeks in a row? Consistency is usually a problem for young football players.
Run the football. Go after the safeties. But don’t get careless with the football. Turnovers are the great equalizer.
Giants on Defense: This side of the football concerns me more. Tampa has the 4th ranked offense in football. Let that sink in for a moment. They are averaging over 400 yards per game.
While the Giants did a good job in run defense against the Redskins, they gave up an embarrassing 251 yards of rushing to the Cowboys. While the Giants struggled to run the ball against Dallas, Tampa Bay ran for 174 yards against the Cowboys in Week 1. The Buccaneers suffered a serious setback when OC Jeff Faine was injured, but the Tampa offensive line is very solid. RT Jeremy Trueblood is huge and physical. RG Davin Joseph is a Pro Bowler. LG Jeremy Zuttah and LT Donald Penn are decent. With Cadillac Williams and Derrick Ward running the football behind this line, Tampa is very capable of grinding it out against the Giants if they don’t dramatically improve their run defense soon. Worse, Ward, the ex-Giant, knows the Giants’ defensive personnel, schemes, and calls. He’s shared that information with his teammates and coaches.
The Giants have to stop the run. The problem is the injury situation. Not just for the guys who will likely be out such as Justin Tuck and Chris Canty, but it’s pretty clear that players coming off of injuries are not fully back yet too, including DE Osi Umenyiora, DT Fred Robbins, DT Barry Cofield, and WLB Michael Boley. The Giants’ run defense was abysmal at all three levels against Dallas. The Giants made mental mistakes, falling prey to misdirection and not maintaining gap responsibility, but they also got mauled at the point-of-attack and did a horrible job of breaking down properly and tackling.
Most teams don’t have the type of power game that the Cowboys do, but the Buccaneers have some of that in them. You got to stop the run or it will be a long day, especially for a depleted, undermanned defense on a hot day. The Bucs will wear the Giants out.
Aside from stopping the run, the Giants have to do a much better job of rushing the passer than they have. Osi Umenyiora, Mathias Kiwanuka, Dave Tollefson, Fred Robbins, Barry Cofield, and Rocky Bernard need to start earning their paychecks. Where’s the pressure? Where are the sacks? Byron Leftwich is a castoff and has a slow delivery, but if you give the experienced veteran time, he will hurt you with his strong arm. The Buccaneers have the 6th ranked passing attack in the NFL. Much depends on whether or not WR Antonio Bryant (knee) and WR Maurice Stovall (knee) play. Bryant is very dangerous and Stovall has been productive. WR Michael Clayton has been an up-and-down player, but he’s a former first rounder who can make the big play. Keep in mind that the Giants have been playing very short in the secondary with only six active players. If cramping becomes a problem on Sunday, a cheap touchdown could be the result.
(Late Note: It was just revealed that safety Kenny Phillips was lost for the season and so the Giants are even thinner in the secondary).
A real potential problem for the Giants is TE Kellen Winslow. He can threaten a defense deep and present match-up problems for the Giants.
The Bucs only rushed 19 times against the bills last Sunday. Look for them to get back to the ground game in a big way to exploit the shaky Giants’ run defense. If the Giants can’t stop the run, there is a good chance they will lose this football game.
Giants on Special Teams: Clifton Smith, who has a quad injury, returns both punts and kickoffs. He’s dangerous. He scored on both punt and kickoff returns in 2008.
The Giants are in a bit of a bind with the injuries to Danny Ware and Domenik Hixon. I’m sure they don’t want to risk Ahmad Bradshaw on punt returns, but with Hixon likely out, they may not have a choice. Sinorice Moss is not a good kickoff returner, but again, there may not be any better options.