By Eric from BigBlueInteractive.com
Approach to the Game: Stating the obvious, now is the time for the Giants to put up or shut up. It’s all in front of them. At 5-4, they are tied with the Eagles for second place in the division, one game behind the Cowboys. The Giants’ fate still rests in their own hands and that’s all you can ask.
I personally believe the Giants need to win five or their last seven games to make the playoffs. They might be able to squeak in with four more wins, but that’s really pushing it. If I’m right, then the Giants can afford to lose two more games. So technically, the Atlanta game is not a “must-win.” That said, one gets the sense that if the Giants lose to Atlanta, in what would amount to their fifth loss in a row, a true crisis in confidence would shake the team. It’s hard to see the Giants winning five of their last six under such a scenario. Possible yes, but difficult to envision.
So this really is a game the Giants need to win. They need to win it to improve their record to 6-4. They need it to keep pace with the Cowboys and Eagles. They need it to prove to themselves that they are still a good football team.
No more excuses. While Kenny Phillips is gone and that hurts, this team is as healthy as any in the NFL right now. Get it done Giants!
Giants on Defense: Let’s start with the defense this week because this is where most of my worries still rest. Coming off the bye, with a week’s rest, the defensive line needs to get back to kicking ass and dictating to other teams. Chris Canty should become more of a factor but the Giants need improved play from Fred Robbins, Barry Cofield, and Rocky Bernard too. Robbins and Cofield are going to be free agents – they had better show something down the stretch. The real strength up front is the ends. Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora have to become difference makers again. Stuff the run; get to the quarterback.
This is a big game for Michael Boley, playing against the team that didn’t want him. His presence improves overall team speed and the ability to cover backs and tight ends. This is also a big game for Antonio Pierce since the Falcons are a run-first team that also likes to confuse its opponents. He has to do a good job of reading plays, getting off blocks, and making tackles. (Late Note: Pierce will be sidelined indefinitely due to a bulging disc in his neck). Danny Clark is being pressed by Clint Sintim.
In the secondary, the return of Aaron Ross will help, but how rusty will he be? He hasn’t practiced much in months. The real keys are Aaron Rouse and Michael Johnson – opposing quarterbacks will continue to target them, especially with play-action until they improve.
As for the Falcons, much depends on whether or not HB Michael Turner (ankle) plays. He’s their best player. But regardless, Atlanta is a team that likes to run the football and often does so well. The Giants must play physical, tough, disciplined run defense. Stay in your gaps. Play with leverage. Stuff the backs. That’s the key on defense. HB Jerious Norwood (hip flexor) has homerun speed. He burned the Giants for a long touchdown two years ago. The Falcons also have a lot of confidence in HB Jason Snelling, a bigger back.
Stop the run and make the Falcons one dimensional. Then get after second-year quarterback Matt Ryan, who has struggled some. But the Giants need to be careful of play-action early. If I’m Atlanta, I try to get a cheap six by making the linebackers and safeties bite.
The two guys in the receiving game that the Giants have to worry about are WR Roddy White, a deep threat, and TE Tony Gonzalez, the security blanket for Ryan. The two have 91 catches between them. The other starting receiver, Michael Jenkins, is third with 27 catches.
The offensive line is solid and will be helped by the likely return of LT Sam Baker.
The Giants’ defense should not give up a lot of points to these guys. The Giants are healthy and have had two weeks to prepare – no more excuses. If the defense struggles, then there is definitely something wrong with the schemes/calls by the defensive staff.
Giants on Offense: The only significant injury concerns are Eli Manning (foot) and Ahmad Bradshaw (ankle/foot). Eli played very well against the Chargers after three off weeks. Are the struggles – for whatever reason – behind him? The Giants need him at his best right now. Much depends on his play. If he plays well, the Giants are difficult to beat.
The coaching staff needs to feed Brandon Jacobs the football. There are seven regular season games left. Jacobs is as healthy as he has ever been at this point of the year. No need to “save him for later” anymore; the time is now. With Ahmad clearly not the same player with his foot injury and Danny Ware being eased back in after his serious elbow injury, Jacobs should touch the football no less than 25 times in this game. Pound the football. The Falcons are not big or physical up front.
When the Giants put the football up, Atlanta’s secondary is not all that scary either. The Giants’ young receivers ought to be able to do some damage against this group.
It’s really simple. Run the football. Protect Eli Manning and pray that Eli plays like he did against San Diego down the stretch.
Giants on Special Teams: Jeff Feagles needs to get back to being Jeff Feagles. Domenik Hixon, it’s time to break one. The Giants also need to get back to defending kickoff returns better. Eric Weems is a decent returner. Losing Gerris Wilkinson might hurt on kickoff coverage.