Oct 162008
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By Eric from BigBlueInteractive.com

Approach to the Game – San Francisco 49ers at New York Giants, October 19, 2008: My game preview this week is going to be different as I am going to spend more time on the overall picture and less on the Giants’ opponent.  The reason is that I need to vent – not at the Giants, but at unrealistic fan and media expectations.

I don’t know what the reasons are, but we’ve become a society that lacks patience and perspective and one that must immediately find a scapegoat for failure. We see this in all walks of life from economic matters to sports. And I’ve fallen prey to the same mistake myself at times in the past, as anyone who has read this site over the years knows.

The “new thing” in professional football appears to be identifying and anointing “the best team” before the playoffs have even started.  And the fans and media get all bent out of shape when the supposed “best team” loses.

Folks, the 1972 Dolphins and the 2007 Patriots were the extremely rare exceptions in the regular season.  Good football teams lose games.  Good football teams lose games that they should not.  It happens every week in every season.  Why should the 2008 Giants be the exception?  I’m going to tell you a little secret…the Giants are going to lose more games this year.  That doesn’t mean they are a bad football team.

If you have listened to my weekly radio bit, you have heard me repeat the same thing over and over:

  1. It’s too early to tell how strong or weak a team the 2008 Giants are since they really haven’t played any supposed “top teams.”
  2. The Giants are going to lose a game or two that everyone expects them to win and win a game or two everyone expects them to lose.
  3. Eli Manning is going to still have the occasional bad game – just like any 27-year old quarterback.  Hell, just like any 30-year old future Hall of Fame quarterback.

On the radio, I actually picked the Seahawks and then Browns to beat the Giants because I felt the Giants were due for one of these stinkers.

Does that mean everything is rosy?  Of course not.  Only the most optimistic homer would contend that the defense would not suffer with the loss of Osi Umenyiora and Michael Strahan.  It also looks like the Giants gambled and lost with the decision to let Kawika Mitchell go.  The pass rush has been sporadic.  It has not helped that opponents have recognized and picked up Steve Spagnuolo’s blitz packages.  Again, it is early, and we were not overly upset about the pass rush when the Giants were 4-0.  Aside from the pass rush, the Giants have also had some issues at times over the last few years with power running games.  That’s because the Giants employ a lighter, more athletic defense (that’s a good thing in today’s pass-happy league).  The good news is that very few teams use a power running game.

Let’s cut to the chase.  This league is filled with .500 football teams.  For most of the season, most teams will hover around .500.  Some will have winning records, but these teams will only be a game or two over .500.  Some team that is 4-2 now will be 4-4 in two weeks.  Another team that is 3-3 now will be 5-3 then 7-6.  You get my drift.  No team is all that scary in either conference.  There are no dominant teams, including the Giants.  But I do think the Giants are CAPABLE of not having to live on the edge like most teams.  I do think they can get well over .500.  But it’s not a given.  We have yet to determine their true caliber.  Hopefully, in three weeks, they will be at 6-2.  That’s probably the best you can hope for.  And at 6-2, they will be in great shape for the stretch run.  If they lose two of their next three, that still puts them at 5-3 and within striking distance of the division title.  You can be concerned, but my God, stop panicking.

On paper, the Giants are very solid.  Offensively, they have one of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL.  They have a very strong and deep ground game.  They have a talented and deep wide receiving corps.  They have one of the better offensive lines in the NFL.  Defensively, the pass rush is weaker than last year with the loss of the two Pro Bowl defensive ends.  But most teams don’t run very well against the Giants and the Giants can still rush the passer better than most teams.  The secondary is very much improved and much deeper.  The linebacking corps needs to step it up.  Special teams are solid.

Barring injury, this team will be in the thick of things in December.  It will be an up-and-down rollercoaster until we reach that point.  It is every year.  Don’t expect otherwise.

Giants on Offense: If Eli doesn’t turn the football over, the Giants will move the football and score points.  Eli and his offensive teammates have to start making teams pay more for blitzing so much.

Giants on Defense: I have no clue what that was against the Browns.  I did say in my preview that the Giants have issues with power running games at times and that was clearly the case against Cleveland.  But the Giants’ defense should be embarrassed for being out-muscled like that.  It happened last year too (i.e., against the Redskins in December).  The Giants need to come out angry and be physical against a very physical running back in Frank Gore.  The Giants should also benefit this week by not having to play against a top tier left tackle so the pass rush should be better.

One thing is also very important – the Giants’ defense needs to start creating turnovers.  Given the play-makers in the Giants’ secondary and defensive line, it’s unbelievably absurd that the team has only forced two turnovers in five games.

Giants on Special Teams: The specials have been solid.  It’s time for them to help win games by making the big play.

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Eric Kennedy

Eric Kennedy is Editor-in-Chief of BigBlueInteractive.com, a publication of Big Blue Interactive, LLC. Follow @BigBlueInteract on Twitter.

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