Tall Tales - And Now Comes the Hard Part

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Well, the easy part of the Giants’ schedule is over. Depending on your outlook as a Giants fan, you are either salivating over the remaining nine games or cringing, especially in light of the recent news. Here we go.

The Giants will take a trip up to New England to take on the Patriots in a game that might be titled to moveable force versus the moveable object. The strength for both teams is the passing game, and both teams are having trouble running the ball this season. On defense, the Pats rank at the bottom of the league defensively and against the pass, while G-Men have a tendency to turn ordinary running backs into legends. Here we go.

People have been talking about how the Steelers drew up a blueprint for defeating the Pats. So have both of the Ryan brothers, but the first team to do it was the Giants in the Super Bowl. They were able to put pressure on Tom Brady, and threw him off of his game. Both teams played solid defense, although in the regular season finale it was a wild affair. In the Super Bowl, Brady and Welker connected frequently but to no avail. Until the Pittsburgh game, Wes Welker had been running wild, and no one seemed to be able to cover him. The Steelers were able to do this by putting pressure on Bardy and knocking him off of his rythym. The Giants’ defensive strength is their pass rush, and they lead the league in sacks. The Patriots offensive line doesn’t appear to be as strong as it has been in previous years, and a healthy and aggressive D-line is critical. We don’t know who will be assigned to cover Wes Welker, but the prevailing wisdom seems to be to cover the wide receivers aggressively, hit them at the line, and knock them off of their routes. Maybe Prince Amukamara will get some action, but more than likely Aaron Ross will be assigned to cover him. Either pressure by the D-line or D-backs will knock the passing game off of its sync. If the WR’s are covered, look for the Pats to try and work the tight ends and passes to the running backs to move the chains. On the other hand, if the pressure is enough, the Pats may be forced to keep someone back to help out with protection. The Pats will also look to move the ball on the ground, which everyone seems to be able to do against the G-Men. Antrel Rolle and Kenny Phillips are certainly sounding confident, so this will be fun to watch.

Offensively, Eli Manning is backing up his boast of this summer. The catch is that he seems to slide during the second half of the season. He should be able to take advantage of a weak Patriots pass defense. The Patriots have a bend bon’t don’t break tendency this season. The NE defensive philosophy has been to put pressure on the QB, cover the wideouts well, and have good linebackers to cover the gaps. This year, they haven’t been following that plan. While they are at the bottom of the league (statistically) in yardage, they are in the middle of the pack in scoring defense. Maybe it’s because they don’t have as much of the field to cover when teams get in the red zone, but the Pats D does hold. Hakeem Nicks is listed as day-to-day with his hamstring injury, and if he doesn’t play that will force Victor Cruz and Mario Manningham to step up on the outside. Ramses Barden may see some action, so we will find out if he is able to live up to the hype. Jake Ballard should also look to have a big game, as the LB’s seem undersized when compared to him, and Ballard plays with a chip on his shoulder. This brings us to…

The running game remains weak. It was not helped by the announcement that Ahmad Bradshaw may be missing some time due to a broken bone in his foot. From the standpoint of rushing yardage, the Giants don’t lose much without him in the line-up. They will miss his presence as a blocker (he excelled at picking up the blitz) and as a receiver coming out of the backfield. Brandon Jacobs got a tongue lashing from his wife, and it looks as if he will have the chance to step up and prove himself as he promised he would do. If not, he may be taking his new car out of town sooner than he planned. If Jacobs can make a positive contribution, then the loss of Bradshaw can be absorbed. Look for the G-Men to work speedy rookie Da’Rell Scott and DJ Ware into the game plan. If Bradshaw’s out, they have no choice. Eli Manning is playing lights out football, and his comments about getting up for big games like this are encouraging.

Intangible:

Both teams are actually playing with a chip on their shoulder. The New England fans and some of the press have been giving their head coach a very hard time, questioning his personnel moves and his strategy. The last time the Pats lost back to back games was 2009, and they have a very strong record at home. The Giants are in first place in the NFC East, but you’d never know it by listening to the professional pundits. Many of them still rank the Eagles and Cowboys ahead of the Giants, and don’t think the G-Men will even make the playoffs. The last time this was the conventional wisdom was…the year the Giants beat NE in the Super Bowl. If you are looking for a metaphof for New York’s season so far, I would say it was Justin Tryon playing three quarters of a football game with a broken arm, and holding on to the punt returner to prevent a big return until help could arrive.
Giants d-line vs. Pats o-line: advantage to the G-men for pass rush, but the Pats will move the ball on the ground.
Pats d-line vs. Giants o-line: The Giants when they pass, the Pats when they run.
QB’s: even
Wideouts: Edge to NY if Nicks plays, even if he doesn’t.
Ends and backs: Slight edge for NY on the tight ends, for NE on the backs.

The odds makers have made NE an 8 1/2 point favorite. I would love to see the Giants beat the Pats, but NE’s record at home and the lack of back-to-back losses in their record does argue for NE being a slight favorite. The game can be either high scoring or a defensive struggle. The way both defensive units are playing this year, a high scoring game seems more likely. I’ll go counter-intuitive again. I hope I am wrong and the Giants pull out the win, but I’ll go with my head (not my heart) and pick the Pats to win 31-27.

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