Welcome to December Giants fans. Forget what you knew. Forget the last 11 games. This is a NEW season, a 5 game season and one whose road is not paved to perfection. In fact, buckle up. It’s going to be a bumpy ride!
I am by no means a numerologist. Yet, I could not help but notice that the number 5 has reared its mysterious head throughout Big Blue’s 2010 season. The New York Giants went on to win 5 consecutive games after losing 2 straight earlier in the year. What every Giants fan is hoping for is DEJA BLUE. That has already begun – another 2 straight losses and the beginning of another possible 5 game winning streak. Last Sunday’s victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars brought in the first of this very hopeful winning streak.
There are 5 points I will touch on in this article, oddly enough. One of which has already been mentioned. Sunday begins a 5 game season against the, look for it, 5-6 Washington Redskins. We will face the Redskins again in 5 weeks. These two games are by far their least difficult. However, the Redskins are not to be taken lightly.
While it is true that Donovan McNabb is in his 12th season, is 34 years old and not as agile as he once was, he is still capable of producing high numbers. He has proven that he is still one of the NFL’s elite by passing for over 400 yards on two separate occasions this year. If the New York Giants, or any team for that matter, do not take him seriously, he will put big numbers up on the board. Right now, he is the most explosive weapon that the Washington Redskins have.
The Skins’ receiving corp are the second biggest weapon in their arsenal. Santana Moss, Chris Cooley and Anthony Armstrong are McNabb’s go to receivers, with Moss being the primary target. Giants CB-Corey Webster and SS-Kenny Phillips will have their hands full with Moss. CB-Terrell Thomas and FS-Antrel Rolle are the hurdles that stand in the way of the Cooley/Armstrong duo from having a productive day – mighty big hurdles at that.
The running game of the Washington Redskins has not been much to speak of since Clinton Portis was injured. Portis was placed on injured reserve this past Wednesday, is out for the rest of the season and has quite possibly seen his last carry for the Redskins. To salt up the wounds further, Portis’ backup Ryan Torain, is still dealing with a hamstring injury, has not practiced this week (as of this report) and is questionable AT BEST for this Sunday’s matchup.
The New York Giants have the 2nd ranked defense in the league. It would be a tremendous feat if Washington’s running game, that are patched together with 3rd and 4th stringers, could produce against the “QB Killers” but it is highly unlikely. This Sunday’s game plan for the Giants is quite simple, keep the pressure on McNabb and close the holes up front. Keeping McNabb on his back should not be a problem for the Big Blue Wrecking Crew since they face off against the 27th ranked offensive line, who are just 5 from the basement.
Not that any team should be taken lightly, especially for the New York Giants, but this is an opportunity for them to show the dominance that they were being hailed for not that long ago. The Redskins have the worst defense in the league. Brandon Jacobs should be able to put together his biggest game of the season. If Jacobs can get his legs moving and keep them moving, he will be unstoppable. Add in Ahmad Bradshaw and you have an easy 200+ yard rushing game for New York.
Eli Manning is expected to have a fruitful day as well. Although the receiving corp for the G-Men are somewhat depleted, they still have a very capable crew with Mario Manningham and Kevin Boss. Last week Eli Manning targeted Manningham and Boss for a combined 135 receiving yards and 2 TD’s. Manning spread the ball out and hooked up with Ahmad Bradshaw, Derek Hagan, Travis Beckum and DJ Ware for another 91 yards. It wasn’t a stellar day for Eli and co. but they got the win. This week should prove to be an easier task.
The New York Giants control their destiny. The Philadelphia Eagles victory over the Houston Texans on Thursday night didn’t help matters much and if the Giants can not overcome, drum roll please, 5 issues then their destiny is not going find them playing in the post-season. The first of the five things are turnovers. The Giants have turned the ball over 14 times in the last, here it is again, 5 games. OK, that 5 was a stretch. They didn’t turn the ball over once last week but did turn it over 14 times in the 4 games prior the game against the Jaguars.
The second issue that they need to stomp out are penalties. Last week we saw a 9 yard touchdown pass from Eli Manning to Mario Manningham get overturned due to a holding call on Kevin Boss. Boss made up for his faux pax late in the fourth quarter with a game winning touchdown reception. That particular penalty was a prime example of what coach Tom Coughlin has been trying to instill into his players all season long, play smart! 149 penalties for 707 yards says it all.
The third issue, mistakes. Eli Manning said in the post-game press conference, after losing to the Dallas Cowboys, “We can’t afford to play mistake football”. The problem here is that the New York Giants have been playing mistake football all season long but have have found a way to win in most cases. That is just not going to cut it in this five game season. High throws, dropped passes, routes gone wrong and missed tackles will not get the job done from here on out. Simply put, they just “can’t afford to play mistake football”.
The fourth issue became a problem from the very first practice of the year, injuries. The Giants have, guess what comes next, five key players out right now. I am excluding Mathias Kiwanuka from this list as the defense have been doing quite well in spite of losing him for the season. The 5 key players are Steve Smith, David Diehl, Shaun O’Hara, Hakeem Nicks and a 5th player I will address shortly. The good news here is that we will beginning to see these guys come back, possibly as soon as Sunday in Diehl and O’Hara’s case. Their returns are reassuring but the active players that are out there now must stay healthy. The New York Giants can not afford any more injuries.
Finally, we arrive at the fifth issue. Special teams is the fifth obstacle to overcome for this Giants team. Their return game has been horrible and that is largely due to the aforementioned injury. As mentioned in the previous paragraph the Giants lost a player in the first practice of the year, which was held in the new stadium in front of media and fans alike. Domenik Hixon was the one who sustained the injury in question. Hixon holds the franchise’s single season record with 57 kickoff returns for 1,291 yards, not to mention that he was one of the leading receivers on the team. Darius Reynaud has been God awful returning the ball. Will Blackmon has been a little better and returning is only a part of the problem.
Matt Dodge has hurt the Giants more than once this year. His botched snaps, fumbles and poorly punted balls have many fans irate. In all fairness though, he has shown that he has a leg of iron. Many have called for his head but in time, perhaps by next season, I think we will find that this kid has got the stuff. Starting field position for the opposing team has also been an issue. This is partly due to their punting issues but the tackling hasn’t been stellar either. Special teams need to start playing SPECIAL and not “special”.
Tired of the number 5 yet? Well, there’s one more 5 to add into this equation. The Philadelphia Eagles, Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers, Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints are the 5 teams that stand in the way of the New York Giants. These are your NFC playoff contenders as of right now. The way this season has been going, that could all change by next week. Big Blue beat the Bears earlier in the year and face the Packers on December 26th, 2010. The Falcons and Saints will be duking it out in their division. Then there’s the Eagles, who defeated the Giants in their first game of the season just a few short weeks ago. The Giants had the game in their hands but “mistake football” shot them in the foot, sorry Plax. Philly has proven that they can be beat and that Michael Vick is not the second coming. Yet, they continue to stay atop the NFC East and 1/2 a game ahead of the Giants.
It is quite likely that the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles will play each other a third time this year. The second game between them is just three weeks away. It is crucial that the Giants win that game. If the G-Men can string together another 5 game winning streak, which is very possible, then they have a good shot at securing themselves something more than just a wild card. As these next 5 weeks roll by, we’re going to see many teams come up from the middle to earn themselves a spot in the playoffs. Likewise, we will see a few of the front runners fall backwards. The playoff race is alive and well and the New York Giants seem to be headed for more than just a 16 game season.
The first item of business, of course, is Donovan McNabb and the Washington Redskins. The rivalry between Big Blue and the former soup pusher is epic. His success against the G-Men is no secret. In the 17 games (excluding 1999, his first year where he was used minimally) he recorded 3,423 passing yards, 25 TD’s, 7 INT’s and a 90.4 QB rating. The Giants have had equal success against McNabb, sacking him 42 times in those 17 games. I think the number 5 is going to rear its mysterious head again this week with McNabb getting sacked 5 times and Osi Umenyiora climbing back up to the upper echelon of sack leaders.
In other news, the Cowboys are out of playoff contention. Sorry about that. I just like saying it.