Giants-Dolphins. A Monday night matchup of two under acheiving teams with disappointed fan bases. Unfortunately for Dolphins fans, however, their team is in last place. The Giants, well, they’re half a game out of first. ‘Tis is life in the NFC East.
For the Dolphins, it’s a pretty favorable matchup overall. They’re facing a team that’s lost three straight and can’t seem to get anything going outside of a guy named Beckham. It’s not to say Miami’s played great football—they’ve lost four of six—but they do have some nice offensive weapons in Jarvis Landry, Lamar Miller, even Kenny Stills, and they’ve put up some big scores under new head coach (and former Giant!) Dan Campbell.
Of course, though the Giants haven’t played well, this game could be their season. The Eagles and Redskins won, and more importantly, are playing better football in recent weeks, and frankly the Giants need to keep up.
Fans probably expect the Giants will come out like gangbusters Monday night—ready to rock on the national stage. Fans also probably expected the same when the Giants came out of their bye against the Redskins then flopped… or when they faced the Eagles Monday night earlier this year… then flopped again… or when they were facing their crosstown rivals in a “must-win,” and one more time for good measure, flopped. Got it at this point? OK, good.
All that said, we get excited for a reason. Our team is still in it ‘til they’re mathematically out of it. And the math indicates the Giants are as in it as any team in football. So what specific matchups will put them over the top against Miami? I have those right here:
Jarvis Landry vs. Giants Corners
Arguably the best player on the Dolphins’ team, Landry’s an interesting player. Odell Beckham, Landry’s former LSU teammate, says Miami’s number one is like him, but a little more “shiftier.” Quite the compliment.
Nov 8, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans (13) misses the ball as New York Giants cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (41) defends during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. New York Giants defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 32-18. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Landry’s a possession-type, chain-moving receiver that has the ability to break off big plays on both offense and special teams. It’s a nice combination for one receiver to have—he’s able to generate first downs and can bring it to the house at any point, so he’s someone the Giants of course need to find a way to keep in check. Otherwise, he will score, and the Dolphins offense will put up a lot of points, and the Giants will not win.
Landry’s a fine player with good tools, but I do trust Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Prince Amukamara can handle covering him—purely from an on-paper, talent standpoint. But what worries me most about this matchup, like every matchup the Giants have had this year, and that is will the pass rush be able to disrupt Ryan Tannehill’s rhythm and prevent him from getting the ball in Landry’s hands? There’s a good answer to this question: no. They won’t. Big Blue’s pass rush hasn’t showed up all year, and I don’t expect them to show up Monday night. If the Giants are going to stop Landry, it’s going to be on the backs of their corners, not their defensive front.
Lamar Miller vs. Giants Front Seven
When I said Landry was arguably Miami’s best player, Miller’s one of those other players for which you could (sort of) make that same argument. To me, he hasn’t reached his potential yet, because I think he could be a 1200-1300 yard rusher, but he’s sort of on the brink. Dan Campbell has relied more heavily on Miller, and the results have been quite positive: 4.9 yards per carry, five touchdowns (all since Campbell took over), and career-highs in receptions and receiving yards.
The Giants rushing defense has had their moments this year. They started out great, then fell off a cliff, and have since climbed up from that nasty fall with a few bumps and bruises. But they’re right in the middle of the pack in rushing yards allowed this year (19th in the NFL), and with Jason Pierre-Paul and Robert Ayers back their defensive line play has just improved overall.
Should the Giants front four find a way to slow Miller down, or at least keep the ball out of his hands, it’ll force the Dolphins into a passing game that’s been a bit of a liability. Just three weeks ago Miami reportedly wasn’t letting Ryan Tannehill change plays at the line of scrimmage, and they’ve since fired offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. If the Giants want to give themselves the best chance of winning, they should be looking to force the ball into Tannehill’s hands without allowing Miami to establish a run game. And that comes with stopping Miller. Should Miller find the holes though, the Giants may find themselves in a lot of trouble.
Ndamukong Suh vs. Giants Interior Line
Hey, remember this guy? That unstoppable, polarizing defensive force in the middle? He’s still playing. He’s in Miami. And while his stats don’t jump off the stat sheet like they have in the past (44 tackles, 4 sacks), he’s still very effective. And he’s the type of player that could single-handedly make the Giants offense one-dimensional, and that’s something that could really change the course of this game.
Mar 11, 2015; Davie, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh smiles while answering questions from reports at Doctors Hospital Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Ereck Flowers is questionable, meaning there could be some shifting along the offensive line, which makes this matchup all the more important. If he is in fact out, Justin Pugh kicks to the outside, and with Geoff Schwartz gone for 2015, the Giants will be playing two backup guards and a developing second-year center against a premier defensive tackle. Not ideal.
It could force the ball into Eli’s hands–which isn’t the worst thing–but it does make the offense one-dimensional, which the Giants don’t want. The passing game is the Giants’ strength, but it could only carry this team so far. Miami’s shown under Campbell they can put up points (38 against Tennessee, 44 vs. Houston), and it’s not like the Giants defense has really been stopping anyone this year, so I don’t think they can afford to lose any momentum running the football. It’s why this matchup with Suh is important: if the Giants can’t establish any sort of run game, it could get ugly on Monday night.