Oct 132011
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By Eric from BigBlueInteractive.com

Approach to the Game – Buffalo Bills at New York Giants, October 16, 2011: I generally try to take the contrarian approach with the Giants, saying it is not as bad as it looks when the team loses and it is not as good as it seems when they win.

You’re not going to get the positive Eric this week.  I’m worried about this team.

The game against Seattle was simply one the Giants could not afford to lose.  Seattle is not a good team and this was one of the few remaining “easier” opponents on the schedule.  Moreover, it was a home game against an NFC opponent.  These type of losses come back to haunt you.  Keep in mind, if the Giants beat the Kitna-lead Cowboys at the Meadowlands last year, the Giants are in the playoffs.  That game gets largely ignored because of the later fiasco against the Eagles, but it was a crucial loss.

For a variety of reasons – injuries, inexperience/youth at certain positions, and lack of talent – the Giants simply are not a very good football team.  The wins against the 0-4 Rams and 1-4 Cardinals were not terribly impressive and they have been beaten by the 2-3 Seahawks.  In other words, the dreadful NFC West has given the Giants some problems.

Worse, the Giants don’t appear to be a very tough or physical football team.  You usually define a team’s toughness by their ability to stop the run and run the football.  The Giants are terrible at both.  The only reason this team has a winning record right now is Eli Manning and some of his pass targets.  This is a finesse team right now that lives off its passing game.

What probably bothers me most is the defense.  Opponents can pass or run the ball on the Giants.  The Seahawks had been the 32nd ranked offense in the NFL, but the Giants just allowed 145 yards of rushing and almost 300 yards of passing to that team.  The Giants prepared against the no-huddle offense in practice all week and then performed dreadfully against it.  Yes, there are injuries and inexperience on defense.  But this was the Tavaris Jackson-Charlie Whitehurst Seahawks, and the Giants have enough talent defensively to not be this bad.  The defense does not appear to be getting any better under Perry Fewell.

Almost one-third of the regular season is already over.  I’m trying hard to remain optimistic about the remaining two-thirds of the schedule, but it’s difficult to do so based on what has transpired thus far and looking at who is left on the schedule.  I’m left with the fearful thought that the roof is about to collapse.

Giants on Offense: Eli Manning is the offense right now.  He’s 6th in the NFL in passing yards, tied for 4th in QB rating, and 5th in touchdown passes – and all of this despite no running game and shaky protection.  Only two of his five interceptions were of the “bad” variety in which he made a poor decision (one against the Rams and the first interception against the Seahawks).

Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz, Mario Manningham, and Jake Ballard also are giving Eli some decent targets to throw to although there are still growing pains and Manningham hasn’t quite played at the level that he was playing at late last year.

The problem for the Giants is an inability to run the football.  The Giants are 28th in the NFL in yards rushing per game (83.8) and 31st in yards per rush (3.2).  31st!!!!  What the hell is going on?  Want to feel even worse?  It’s 31st rushing against the likes of the Redskins, Rams, Eagles, Cardinals, and Seahawks.

We all know what the problem is – the guys up front – the offensive line, the tight ends, and the fullback – are not getting the job done.  I expected chemistry and cohesion problems early on this year, but not to this extent.  Will Beatty, David Diehl, David Baas, Chris Snee, and Kareem McKenzie are better than this.  We know they have a good coach in Pat Flaherty.  They are not getting the job done.  Worse for this game is that Snee (concussion) is out.  Kevin Boothe will likely start at right guard with Baas (neck) having to tough it out this week.

The good news is that the Bills give up a lot of yards on defense, both rushing and passing.  They also don’t get a lot of sacks and have to rely on a lot of blitzing to generate pressure.  This can lead to big play opportunities for Manning and the receivers.  The Bills are also a bit beat up defensive with NT Kyle Williams, LB Chris Kelsay, and LB Shawne Merriman all nursing injuries.

The bad news is that they are very opportunistic and create a lot of turnovers.  The Bills lead the league in interceptions with 12.

We can talk match-ups all day long, but the truth of the matter is this: the Giants’ blockers need to get their collective heads out their collective asses and start knocking opponents off the line of scrimmage.  Until they do that, the X’s and O’s don’t matter.  It’s time to get back to Giants football and start pounding some folks up front.  The Giants have one run – ONE – of over 15 yards this year.  Until the Giants start running the football better, their 29th ranked third-down conversion rate won’t improve.  If you are constantly in 3rd-and-long, you can’t keep drives going. And the opposing teams will simply let loose the dogs on the pass rush.

Protect the football.  Run the football.  Protect the quarterback.  Make the big plays in the passing game.   Win.

Giants on Defense: This is the side of the football that depresses me the most.  Giants’ football is supposed to be about defense.  Now teams like the Redskins and Rams are throwing for 300 yards against the Giants and teams like the Cardinals and Seahawks are running for 150 yards.

Yes, there are injuries and youth.  The Giants miss Terrell Thomas, Jonathan Goff, and Justin Tuck.  Jacquian Williams and Greg Jones are making rookie mistakes.  But there is enough talent on this team to not be this bad on defense.  The Giants are 20th on defense in terms of yardage allowed.  Teams that don’t stop the run, don’t win.

And the Giants have too many high draft picks and salary cap devoted to a secondary that is not getting the job done.  There are no excuses there.  These players are veterans and know the system.  They have the advantage of superb pass rush on their side.  There are too many mental mistakes, too many wide open receivers.  Some of that is on the linebackers, but much of it is not.

The focus of the defensive game plan has to be stopping the run.  The Bills are 4th in the NFL in rushing yards per game and average 5.0 yards per carry.  If the Giants don’t limit the damage by halfbacks Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller, they will not win on Sunday.  They will fall to 3-3.

Those impressive rushing numbers give the impression that the Bills are a power-oriented running team.  They are not.  They like to spread the field with multiple WR sets.  But they will run out of those sets.  This keeps defenses from pinning their ears back and simply rushing the passer.  The Bills also run a lot of screens.  Things won’t be so nicely bunched up for the defense.  There will be some opens spaces that need to be quickly defended.  What will be important on Sunday is quickly running to the football, getting a lot of hats around the ball-carrier, and make sure tackles.  Watch out for trick plays by “Wild Cat” and ex-Jet Brad Smith too.

Head Coach Chan Gailey and QB Ryan Fitzpatrick are going to spread the Giants out.  They are going to try to create mismatches in the secondary.  They are going to force the Giants’ three safeties to actually cover people both in man and zone.  They will test Mathias Kiwanuka and the young linebackers in coverage.  And you had better believe the Bills will go up tempo on the Giants since the Giants seem to be unable to stop that style of offense.  And be very careful of those screens and other misdirection early that will have the sole intent of slowly down the pass rush.

Right now, the Giants are not doing much of anything right on defense.  They can rush the passer, but they can’t stop the run or cover.  Until the latter two improve, this team will struggle to produce a winning record.

Giants on Special Teams: Although they have not broken any big returns yet, C.J. Spiller (punts), and Brad Smith (kickoffs) are very dangerous on returns.

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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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