It hasn’t been pretty, but the New York Giants are on a roll. The last time this team won three games in a row was 2016. Other than the 10-point win over the Eagles, everything has been tight. Six of the Giants’ last seven games have been decided by three points or less, including three of their four victories.
The naysayers will justifiably claim the Giants have gotten “fat” on lesser teams, and barely at that. The Giants were probably a completion away from losing a heart-breaker to a 2-win Cincinnati team starting a Practice Squad quarterback. The optimists will justifiably claim that game should not have been that close, and regardless the Giants made the defensive play they needed to make to secure the win.
What has transpired is largely moot at this point. The 4-7 Giants are tied with 4-7 Washington at the top of the NFC East, with New York owning the head-to-head tie-breaker. The Eagles are a half-game behind. The Cowboys, arguably with the easiest remaining schedule, are just one game behind. The final sprint has started. The bad news for the Giants is that injuries are beginning to mount (at quarterback, wide receiver, and linebacker) at an inopportune time. The Giants also face four teams with winning records in a row, not knowing when their starting quarterback will return nor how limited he will be when he does. The good news is the Giants seem to be playing the best ball in the division right now.
The Giants probably can afford to lose the Seattle game, and many fans have already opined that the team should rest Daniel Jones for this contest, accept the loss, and strive towards upsetting the Cardinals at home. I don’t think Joe Judge thinks that way.
THE INJURY REPORT
- QB Daniel Jones (hamstring – doubtful)
- WR Darius Slayton (shoulder/foot – probable)
- WR Sterling Shepard (toe/shoulder – probable)
- LB David Mayo (knee – questionable)
- LB Cam Brown (illness – probable)
- S Nate Ebner (knee – probable)
NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE
It dawned on me this week that there are probably two diametrically-opposed camps on Daniel Jones’ impact on New York’s 29th-ranked offense. There are those who argue that Jones is largely responsible for the offensive short-comings. And there are others – including myself – who have argued that Jones has been hampered by the talent around him. If the latter is true, then things could get really ugly with Colt McCoy at quarterback.
As the BBI team has pointed out the last few weeks, as the offensive line has played better, the running game and pass protection has improved, and Jones has stopped turning the ball over. The result has been a 3-game winning streak. This despite the limitations of Jones’ targets. Darius Slayton has been dealing with shoulder and foot issues, Sterling Shepard with toe, hip, and shoulder issues. Golden Tate is not having the impact he did last year. And Evan Engram keeps alternating the good (two 40+ yard catches last week) with the bad (dropped pass that cost the first Eagles game, last week’s fumble in the red zone). In short, the Giants’ receiving corps has not delivered in 2020 and will need a major upgrade during the offseason.
Enter McCoy, your typical back-up QB. McCoy has played 11 years in the NFL, starting 28 games. But 21 of those starts came in 2010-2011 with only three starts in the last three years. To me, he’s a Jeff Rutledge-type quarterback. He can’t win a game on his own. You hope he doesn’t lose it, but he will need help to win it. That’s a tall order when you have ordinary running backs, significant limitations at receiver, and are facing a Seattle team that scores 31 points per game (3rd in the NFL). The Giants still are averaging less than 20 points per game.
McCoy is an immobile, weak-armed, 60 percent thrower who has a career 1-to-1 TD-to-INT ratio (29 touchdowns, 27 interceptions). The game plan seems obvious. Focus on the running game, sprinkling in short- to intermediate-passes to the tight ends and running backs. The role of slot receiver Sterling Shepard may also be emphasized more. Stating the obvious, what you don’t want to happen is see McCoy taking risky chances and turn the ball over.
If Joe Judge and Jason Garrett have any tricks up their sleeves, this is the time to use them. Beating the 8-3 Seahawks on their home turf is going to be extremely tough. I would pull out the stops.
The good news for the Giants? The historically physical and aggressive Seattle defense is having a terrible year. They are ranked dead last in yards allowed (418 yards per game) and 26th in scoring defense (almost 28 points per game). The bad news? The Seahawks are vastly better at defending the run (3rd in the NFL) than the pass (32nd in the NFL). That’s not good for a New York team that will have to run the ball effectively to have a legitimate chance to win this game.
NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE
I think I jinxed the defense last week when I said they were getting healthier. The medical staff obviously misjudged Oshane Ximines’ shoulder condition, choosing to end his season with rotator cuff surgery after his brief comeback attempt. Fellow linebacker Kyler Fackrell was placed on IR with a calf injury, joining Lorenzo Carter. The team is now having to rely on in-season pick-ups Jabaal Sheard and Trent Harris as the only veteran edge rushers, backed up by late-round rookies Cam Brown and Carter Coughlin. But with the game on the line last weekend, it was the journeyman Sheard who saved the day. Go figure!
I keep saying it on a weekly basis, but Patrick Graham and his staff are coaching their collective asses off. Yes, the late-game breakdowns are still frustrating as hell, especially when the team employs more of a 3-man rush. But the fact that this unit – with all of its talent issues – is currently 10th in defense is amazing. That said, Graham and his defense are about to see a major upgrade in the caliber of the competition they face. It won’t be offensive bottom dwellers Redskins, Eagles, and Bengals that they will compete against in coming weeks, but offensive teams ranked 5th (Seattle) and 2nd (Arizona). In other words, shit is about to get real.
Seattle is 12th in rushing (averaging 117 yards per game) and 4th in passing (averaging 274 yards per game). But it is a running game with no bell cow, as no running back as more than 364 yards and quarterback Russell Wilson is leading the team with 379 yards rushing. In that, Seattle is similar to the Giants with Jones at full strength and the team’s running back-by-committee approach.
What separates the Seahawks is Wilson and his receiving targets. Remarkably, with five games left to play, Wilson already has thrown for 3,216 yards and 31 touchdowns! As stated, he is the team’s leading rusher and has only thrown 10 interceptions, with a 110.8 quarterback rating. He’s playing at an MVP level. While Wilson has a plethora of targets, two stand above the rest: wide receivers Tyler Lockett (70 catches, 771 yards, 8 touchdowns) and D.K. Metcalf (58 catches, 1,039 yards, 9 touchdowns). That’s 17 touchdowns for two receivers! To keep this in perspective, the Giants wide receivers only have SIX touchdown catches all year!
The Giants must maintain disciplined pass rush lanes up front to prevent Wilson from making plays on the ground. The pass rush will suffer, but the Giants must not allow Wilson to extend drives by rushing for 1st downs. Stating the obvious, there will be tremendous pressure on the the secondary, specifically corners James Bradberry, Isaac Yiadom, and Darnay Holmes to cover Lockett and Metcalf. Wide out David Moore has 5 touchdowns too (again the Giants wideouts have SIX as a team!) and is no slouch.
Seattle is going to move the ball. They don’t tend to turn the ball over (10 interceptions, 4 fumbles). I expect Graham to attempt a bend-but-don’t-break defense that hopefully will limit the damage to field goals rather than touchdowns. That’s probably the team’s best chance.
NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS
Until last week, the Giants special teams had been, well, special. But across the board, last week against the Bengals was a disaster… they allowed a 103 kickoff return, a 29-yard punt return that almost cost them the game, a fake punt, and poor decisions by the punt returner. It was ugly. My guess is Judge and Thomas McGaughey laid down the law this week in meetings.
If the Giants have any shot at upsetting Seattle, the Giants must not only rebound, but actually dominate the special teams match-ups. Again, I would pull out the stops. Look for fake field goals and/or punts. We may even see a surprise onside kick.
FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH
Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham on the Seattle offense: “Aside from Metcalf, they have so many different weapons. The backs (Carlos) Hyde and (Chris) Carson these guys are scary. The quarterback obviously he’s a scary player, a good player… They have so many weapons from the receiver spots, 83 (David Moore), 16 (Tyler Lockett), 14 (Metcalf), they are all making plays. We’re going to try to figure it out. Do what we can do. See what we can do to try to limit their effectiveness… We’re going to need everybody, all hands-on deck for this one. They have a lot of weapons out there.”
THE FINAL WORD
Seattle is a well-coached team with a QB playing at an MVP level and a dynamic receiving corps. If Daniel Jones was fully healthy and playing well, this would be a difficult game for the Giants to win. It’s hard to see New York pulling off the upset with Colt McCoy at quarterback. Seattle just doesn’t turn the ball over much. So something weird has to happen and/or the Giants will need to use some trickery to fool the Seahawks.