Our New York Giants have to have a victory Sunday over the Jacksonville Jaguars to maintain a realistic opportunity to be a playoff team. Amazing that it has come to this after where the Giants were two weeks ago -- on top of the NFC with a 6-2 mark and considered a serious Super Bowl contender. It has, however, so let's break it down.
As we have been doing in recent weeks, let's do that by figuring out 'What to Watch on Sunday. Here are the key things I will be paying attention to.
1. The Giants offensive game plan. The Giants offensive line is a mess, and with Shawn Andrews in the hospital with back pain and doubtful for Sunday that isn't going to change. They are basically holding open auditions for wide receivers. They are switching running backs this week. How will they approach this game offensively? Will they be more conservative to try and limit mistakes? Will they be run-heavy for the same reason? If they run, can they have any success going left? Don't forget that Jacksonville has a bad defense (27th in the league) and they are 26th against the pass, so big plays could be there. Do Tom Coughlin and Kevin Gilbride have the confidence to go for them with all the new faces around Eli Manning?
2. Ahmad Bradshaw's effectiveness. Bradshaw leads the Giants in rushing with 867 yards, but his six fumbles have earned him a seat on the bench this week as Brandon Jacobs will start. Sooner or later, though, Bradshaw will get in the game and it will be interesting to see how he reacts. Will he mope, cover up the ball at all costs and be ineffective? Will he run with abandon and try to be smarter protecting the ball? No way to know right now.
3. The Giants' run defense. The Giants face a run-first team in the Jaguars this week. Jacksonville is sixth in the league, averaging 135.3 yards per game, and are led on the ground by the great Maurice Jones-Drew (878 yards). The Giants are giving up just 89.5 yards per game on the ground, but have been gashed on occasion. This could be a week where veteran linebacker Keith Bulluck has to step up, since you would think we will see more base defense and less three-safety stuff defensive coordinator Perry Fewell.