By Eric from BigBlueInteractive.com
Approach to the Game: If the Giants were to lose one of their remaining six games, this is the one you would pick, given the fact that it is against their final AFC opponent in the regular season. But in terms of momentum, winning two in a row and improving your record to 7-4 is vastly preferable to losing five of your last six and falling to 6-5. This is a big game. The Giants have a nice little break after this game to get ready for everyone in the division. Find a way to win this game, and then focus on the monster games coming up.
Giants on Defense: For the last two weeks, the Giants’ defense has been VASTLY improved EXCEPT for late in the fourth quarter. And what is still killing them is their PATHETIC red-zone defense. Do you realize that the Giants are actually the #2 ranked defense in the NFL in terms of yards given up? But they are ranked #23 in terms of points allowed. Why? Because they can’t stop anyone once they get inside the 20-yard line. That crap has to stop. There is far too much talent on this defense for it to be ranked at the bottom of the League in red-zone defense.
I believe the Giants’ defense was better than the results showed last week. The pass rush was very good against a solid Atlanta Falcons’ offensive line. It was great to see Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora continually pressuring the quarterback. Michael Boley – though not quite there yet – is quickly rounding back into form. Aaron Rouse appears to be an improvement over C.C. Brown. Chase Blackburn didn’t look bad at all replacing Antonio Pierce. The Giants have two quality starting cornerbacks in Corey Webster and Terrell Thomas, with Aaron Ross still in the picture. The defense was pretty darn good for the first half of the game.
What hurt in the second half was an inability to get the opposing team off the field on 3rd and 4th down. Penalties were a huge factor. So was the poor play of rookie CB Bruce Johnson. Ross looked pretty rusty, as was to be expected. Those three areas don’t worry me as much. Penalties can be cleaned up. Johnson can be replaced by Dockery if necessary. Aaron Ross will round back into form with more practice and playing time. Safety Michael Johnson needs to play better.
Where the real problems may lie down the stretch is in coaching. Defensive players keep mentioning after games that opposing offenses are making changes or adjustments that are surprising them. That obviously begs the question why can’t the Giants adjust quickly defensively? One or two games is understandable. But five games in a row!?! If Bill Sheridan and his defensive coaches can’t think on their feet, then the Giants are going to have a real hard time making the playoffs, let alone doing any damage in the post-season tournament. In addition, players keep talking about breakdowns in communication defensively, while Sheridan said a few weeks ago this was news to him. What? I want Sheridan to succeed. I’m not looking to bash the guy. But these are red flags, as are the never-ending red-zone issues.
As for Denver, they don’t score a lot of points on offense, only 17 points per game. The key – as it is every week – is to stop the run. Denver operates a zone-blocking scheme where the runner will make one cut and shoot through a gap. The Bronco’s offensive line is very solid. The Giants need to play physically and maintain their gap responsibility. Disciplined defense! No gaps! Don’t give the runner a place to go. The two top runners in Denver are rookie Knowshon Moreno (600 yards, 4.2 yards per carry, 2 touchdowns) and ex-Eagle Correll Buckhalter (399 yards, 5.5 yards per carry, 1 touchdown). Both are guys who are better suited to rushing between the tackles rather than attacking the edges, but the Denver offensive line pulls quite a bit too.
When Denver puts the ball up, Kyle Orton has been battling an ankle sprain. He can look effective at times moving the ball and will spread it around to WR Brandon Marshall (very dangerous and productive), WR Eddie Royal (very quick and fast), WR Jabar Gaffney (solid and reliable), TE Tony Scheffler (pass-receiving type), TE Daniel Graham (better blocker), and Buckhalter (23 catches). The Giants’ defensive backs need to be on the same page. Play smart football and don’t bite on play-action.
Stop the run. Get heat on Orton and make his life miserable. It’s time for the Giants to play a complete defensive game.
Giants on Offense: Denver’s 3-4 defense has been pretty impressive for much of the season. It is only allowing 18.3 points per game. Ex-Giants defensive coordinator Mike Nolan has made a huge difference. It has been easier for opponents recently to run against the defense. So one would think we would see a heavy dose of Brandon Jacobs and Danny Ware in this game. With Ahmad Bradshaw ailing, we should see quite a bit of Ware for the first time in a meaningful game. That said, all of the Giants’ opponents this year appear to keep selling out against the run. One would think that Denver will load up against the Giants’ ground game and trust their secondary to handle the Giants’ young receivers. If so, the onus, once again, will be on Eli Manning, Steve Smith, Mario Manningham, Hakeem Nicks, and Kevin Boss.
I would like to see the Giants throw more to the backs. It seems to work when they do it. I would get Brandon Jacobs and Danny Ware involved in the passing game. Using Kevin Boss more in recent weeks has paid dividends.
The Denver defensive line is not a scary group, but their linebackers are very active. ROLB Elvis Dumervil leads the league with 12 sacks. RILB D.J. Williams is a superb all-around player who makes plays. Veteran ILB Andra Davis and first-year starter OLB Mario Haggan round out the group.
The secondary has some big names, including LCB Champ Bailey (8-time Pro Bowler) and FS Brian Dawkins (7-time Pro Bowler), and new nickel back Ty Law (5-time Pro Bowler). SS Renaldo Hill and RCB Andre Goodman are ex-Dolphins. Personally, I think the Giants can do some damage against this group despite the Broncos being #3 in pass defense in the NFL. The Giants’ receivers and Manning played very well last week. Can they do it again this week?
The unit that I really want to see put a real complete game together is the offensive line. These guys up front are due.
Giants on Special Teams: The big concern is defending kickoff and punt returner Eddie Royal, one of the most dangerous returners in the game. Do the Giants allow Lawrence Tynes to try to hit the endzone on kickoffs in the higher altitude? Or do they continue to squib it? Tynes does have experience playing in Denver due to his playing time with the Chiefs.
Domenik Hixon makes an emotional return to his former team.