How good has New York Giants wide receiver Steve Smith been through four games? The numbers are absolutely staggering.
- Through four games Smith has 34 catches, a pace that would net him 136 receptions. The NFL record is Marvin Harrison's 143 in 2002.
- The Giants' single-season record is 82, set by Amani Toomer in 2002. Smith is almost halfway to obliterating that mark already.
- Smith is on pace to finish with 1,644 receiving yards, which would shatter the current franchise mark of 1,343, also set by Toomer in 2002.
- Here is a number that is incredibly important to an offense, and it is where Smith has become most valuable to the Giants. He has a league-leading 14 third-down receptions, and is second in the league in first downs with 22, one behind Miami's Ronnie Brown.
The most intriguing part of Sunday's game might very well be Smith, the league's leading receiver and maybe the best route runner on the planet, against Oakland cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, widely regarded as the best cover corner in the NFL.
NFL stats show that the five teams with the lowest opponents' third-down conversion percentage (Philadelphia, New Orleans, the Giants, Denver and Dallas) are a combined 16-3.
Here is Asomugha talking about the importance of third down. He says the defense has to know exactly where the marker is.
"I always take a peek at it and let all of the 11 guys on the field know what the distance is for third down because it determines what type of routes and concepts you are going to get from the offense," says Asomugha. "If it’s a third-and-short-situation there is a good chance for quicker passes or for runs. If it’s third-and-long there is a chance for screens, draws and deeper route combinations, so the distance plays a huge factor."
You can pretty much guarantee that Smith and Asomugha will be one-on-one most of Sunday afternoon. Smith is looking forward to the challenge.
"Our coaches told us immediately after (Sunday’s) game, ‘You’re going against the best corner in the league, hands down,’" Smith said Monday, one day after the Giants knocked off the Chiefs. "It’s a great challenge; we’re all excited to play against him."
"We want to throw his way," Smith said. "We want to be one of the teams that makes plays on his side, despite (the fact) he’s a great player."
"The coaches were just telling us he’s got long arms and he tries to take advantage of you on the jam, which is something I like," Smith said. "I like the press. If he wants to press me, that’s good."
It should be a fascinating matchup to watch.