By Eric from BigBlueInteractive.com
Approach to the Game: Heading into last week’s game against the Jaguars, with the injuries the Giants have at wide receiver and on the offensive line, the goal was simply to find a way to win. The Giants did that. Barely. With the entire season on balance, the Giants pulled out a dramatic 4th quarter win to keep their playoff chances very much alive.
With it being unlikely that any of the missing starters return this week, the Giants will once again have to find a way to manufacture a win. It doesn’t have to be pretty. Just get to 8-4.
I underestimated the NFC this year. The conference is having a heck of a season with the Falcons, Saints, Buccaneers, Bears, Packers, Eagles, and Giants all having good seasons. Only the NFC West has been subpar. The problem for the Giants is that of the aforementioned teams, two won’t make the playoffs. I had previously thought 10-6 would get the Giants in, but it is now looking more and more like one or two 10-6 teams may be staying home for the playoffs. With five games to play, the Giants may have to finish the season 4-1. With the Eagles still on the schedule and a game at Green Bay, that’s going to be a tough assignment.
What that means for this week is this: the game against the Redskins is as much of a must-win game as there is for a team tied for first with five games to play. Could the Giants afford to drop this game? Yes, but only probably if they run the table after that. I don’t like those odds. The Giants need to beat the Redskins.
The Redskins are not a good football team. But they have found a way to steal some wins this year including beating the Eagles, Packers, Bears, and Titans. They also played the Colts close. They definitely can beat the Giants if the Giants don’t play smart, physical, and motivated.
Giants on Defense: Leading up to the game against Jacksonville, the talk all week was that the Giants’ defense would have to carry the team. In my mind, despite the second-half heroics against the Jaguars on Sunday, the defense was a huge disappointment last week. Not only was Jacksonville ranked 20th on offense, but they were missing both their offensive tackles. The Giants were listless on defense and Jacksonville scored on every single offensive possession in the first half. It was embarrassing. Worse, with the season on the line and everything to play for, how does the defense come out and play like that??? It was two quick-strike, 4th quarter touchdown drives by a decimated offense that saved the defense’s ass last week.
Am I being harsh? You bet your ass I am. The entire season is on the line. Everything that has happened from free agency to the draft to the offseason strength training and condition program to the mini-camps to training camp to the preseason to the first 11 games is now at risk. The defense had better not come out with another effort like that for the rest of the season. The defense MUST pick up the slack for the offense with the starters out.
Enter the Giants’ old nemesis: Donovan McNabb. Yes, the Skins stink on offense. Their offensive line is bad. Outside of TE Chris Cooley, they don’t have much at the skill positions. And while opinions vary on McNabb, the truth of the matter is that he has given the Giants fits. And he can still throw the football and at times hurt teams with his feet (remember David Garrard last week). I hope the Giants’ defensive players keep this one image in mind when they play on Sunday. Kick his f*$cking ass!
The Redskins are 21st in offense in the NFL (25th in scoring). They are 10th in the NFL in passing (242 yards per game) and 26th in rushing (91 yards per game). Despite the poor rushing figures, the Redskins try to remain balanced and run the football. They do average a respectable 4.0 yards per carry. The Giants must stuff the run and make Washington completely one-dimensional. The Giants’ defensive line should dominate the Redskins up front. If they don’t, shame on them.
When McNabb puts the ball up, his security blanket is Cooley (54 catches). Santana Moss is the Skins’ most consistent and experienced receiver. Wide receiver Anthony Amstrong is a young player who can get deep. He is averaging almost 22 yards per completion. In my mind, the key is covering Cooley. He’s the guy who keeps drives alive.
Stuff the run. Get after McNabb. Cover Cooley. Help out the offense by getting some turnovers.
Giants on Offense: With Steve Smith, Hakeem Nicks, and Ramses Barden out, the Giants were forced to rely on off-the-street contributors such as Derek Hagan and Michael Clayton last week. As expected, both did not make much of an impact in the passing game. Offensively, the Giants are really limited right now with only Mario Manningham and Kevin Boss being guys that concern the opposition. Opposing defenses will concentrate all of their efforts on these two, and why shouldn’t they?
That said, the Giants’ offense was surprisingly efficient last week, outside of their failures in the Red Zone (0-for-3). The reasons were the Giants did not turn the football over, had few penalties, and were able to run the football. And Eli Manning MANAGED the game. These things all have to continue if the Giants are to keep pace with the Eagles and the rest of the playoff contenders in the NFC.
Statistically, the Redskins are not good on defense. They are dead last in the NFL on defense, allowing 400 yards per game. But outside of the second Eagles’ game, their defense has been more of the bend-but-don’t-break variety. To me, the key for the Giants in this game is no turnovers. The one guy Eli needs to be careful with is CB DeAngelo Hall. He has won games all by himself for the Redskins this year with his interceptions. Is he overrated by many? Yes. Is he a loudmouth jerk? Yes. But he can also make the game-changing play. The Giants also need to be wary of LB/DE Brian Orakpo, their one outstanding pass rusher. The Giants’ tackles, especially Will Beatty, will be challenged much more this week than they were by Jacksonville’s subpar pass rush. Inside, nose tackles Ma’ake Kemoeatu and Albert Haynesworth can cause problems, the latter when he is motivated.
The Giants need to be able to run the football. Eli is going to have to remain cautious and take what the defense gives him. I would hope and expect a continued emphasis on passes to the backs and tight ends. I really would like to see the Giants use Travis Beckum even more. Derek Hagan has to step it up. And the Giants desperately need Manningham and Boss to play at their very best.
Most importantly…keep mistakes to a minimum. No turnovers. Few penalties.
Giants on Special Teams: The Redskins have an exceptionally dangerous returner in Brandon Banks. He’s averaging 27 yards per kick return and over 11 per punt return. Banks already has a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and had another TD return called back last week due to a penalty. He’s tiny, but he is explosive.
Prediction: I said it two weeks ago and I’ll stick to my guns. It may not be pretty, but the Giants will find a way to get to 8-4.