Very balanced team we face. I think the Giants passing game can be a little uneven, but they run the ball well and have weapons all over the place. 8 rushing TDs, 9 passing. 6 of those rushing TDs from Jacobs. I really think shutting down the run and forcing Eli to make errors is the short version of it. Expect Jacobs to gouge us early, get shut down late. But they also have Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw as nice COP backs. Cinci held Jacobs to 35 on 14 carries, and Cleveland held him to 67 on 14; that's heartening. On the flipside, when Jacobs has been held in check, Ward steps up big: 80 on 9 v. Cinci, and 101 on 10 v. Cleveland. Lesson: if you want to play physical run D, you also need speed. I think Timmons at the mack might key this.
They have five receivers in triple digit yardage: Plax, 25-341-3; Steve Smith 26-254-0; Amani Toomer 20-238-1; Domenik Hixon 12-203-1; Derrick Ward 13-116-0. Their depth will be problematic with McFadden out. Ike should cover Plax: Deshea is just too small, I'm sorry, and Ike won't let Plax get past. Townshend on Smith and Gay on Hixon sounds feasible. I'm a little worried about that Hixon on Gay matchup, and our LBs on Ward. I think those guys could wind up being the leading receivers, with one blown coverage by DT against Toomer for a TD thrown in. It's going to depend on our ability to make things happen up front, with the DL clogging lanes and 92 and 56 bringing the edge heat. Eli's only been sacked 6 times. Hell, Ben gets sacked 6 times a quarter.
We're allowing 69.7 YPG on the ground, and the Giants 84.5. That's 2nd and 5th best, respectively. Through the air, we're allowing 158.7 YPG and the Giants 190.7, 1st and 11th. Finally, we're allowing 14.9 PPG, 3rd best in the league, and the NYG are allowing 16.9, or 6th best.
All that tells me is that, even with some guys dinged up, our D has to step up and get it done, and they can. But the Giants just as easily can shut us down. Their pass D is going up against an offense that's been rather inconsistent, to be charitable. I don't think we lose much with Moore taking the start, but the passing game has to be more assertive, and has to stake an early lead.
Our OL has given the illusion of getting their shit together, but even without Strahan and Umenyiora, this will be a test. Justin Tuck has 5 sacks on the season, and could tee off on Willie Colon, who too often gets burned by speed to the outside. If Stapleton can handle Barry Cofield straight up, that might free Willie more in space. I'd think Hartwig will primarily want to double on Fred Robbins, who also has 5 sacks on the year, as he tries to speed around Kemo. Starks gets Kiwanuka, but I think he's up to it. Get the TE in chipping against Tuck on the edge.
Their LBs (Antonio Pierce, Gerris Wilkerson) are hurting, so if we can open any running lanes at all, it could be a big day for Moore and whoever totes the rock. But that's a big if. I haven't been overly impressed by the run blocking of our guys all year. Our best bet may be to try to isolate Moore on the outside for short passes, or kick him outside to match speed against the LBs.
Their corners, Aaron Ross and Corey Webster, are OK, but I don't think they're exceptional. I wouldn't know their safeties if they walked into a room with a T-shirt saying "I'm a safety for the New York Giants" emblazoned on it.
The Football Outsiders site has all sorts of stat breakdowns. They rank our pass D 5th best and rush D 3rd best for a 4th overall best D rating (based on down and distance). But not adjusting for strength of opponent, we rank 1st. The Giants, on the other hand, rank 15th, 13th, 13th, and 32nd in those same metrics. Those are very ordinary numbers, and the league worst unadjusted D really surprises me. Maybe they are too much a risk-reward team with that DL, and not much behind it, is my point here.
Which says to me if we come out and stake a deep claim down the field early, these guys will be huffing. Think the '05 playoff run, THAT kind of agressive playcalling. Nate's got the hot hand, but Santonio has been sorely under-used: get those two on blazing outs first snap of the game. Then do whatever you can to have the plenitude of quick, blitz-negating plays that we've discussed especially since the Philly debacle, and get our playmakers on their LBs and DBs. I would throw the ball 10 times to Miller for 8-15 yards up the gut. When has that play really not worked this year? I'd get Moore in on empty backfield plays as a receiver. And when they were on their heels, I'd just feed old faithful, Mr. Jawbreaker hisself.
Giants have 5 guys in triple-digit receiving, but we have 4: Hines, 28-376-5; Holmes, 22-360-1;
Heath, 18-188-1, Nate, 15-225-2. To recap: Holmes > Plax; Ward > Smith; Washington < Toomer (by 13 yards); Miller < Hixon; and Ward > Moore, our next highest receiver, who has only 68 yards. Giants are spreading the ball around better, but it is worth noting that Moore hasn't been an active component of this offense long, and is already making an impact. We have as many weapons as the Giants, but whether it's QB checkdowns or called plays by the OC, we rely more on our primary playmakers. With Moore and Nate having the hot hand, I think it would behoove us to use them more.
On STs, Hixon and Bradshaw are their return men, and we really have to watch these guys. I have a bad feeling here, folks. Our STs have been better than the last couple of years, but we've still seen some guys bring the ball out on us.
The Giants have had issues with staking early leads. Consider scores at halftime versus ending scores: 9.4, v. Washington - 16-7, 16-7; 9.14 @ St. Lou - 13-6, 41-13; 9.21 v. Cinci - 10-13; 26-23 (OT); 10.5 v. Seattle - 27-6, 44-6; 10.13 @ Cleve - 14-17; 14-35; 10.19 v. San Fran - 17-10; 29-17. Of those, the only really impressive first half was versus the godawful Seahawks. The Washington game, they got 16 and shut down. They barely scraped by the Rams in the 1H. They were losing to the Bengals 1H. They were losing to the Browns 1H. They barely were ahead of the Niners 1H. Without recapping all our scores, the Steelers have been similarly unimpressive early in games, save the Texans opener.
This is especially important, because one commonality of successful playoff teams is that they stake halftime leads. If you examine playoff teams, they led at halftime 60, 70% of the time. We may be used to coming back from a deficit due to the magic of Ben, but think about it: teams that need to make up ground have a smaller margin of error. That's why, when we do start to open a lead in the 3Q of some games, you start to see our D players getting opportunistic: other teams have to resort to higher-risk plays. The '05 playoff formula affirmed that beautifully: stake a lead, then grind it out with ball-control running and defense. We may not have that ball-control running game, but if we can get the drop on the G-men, have them down 10 points at the half, I have no doubt Eli will piss away opportunities.