After two straight losses, everyone has an opinion on the state of the 11-3 New York Giants. Here is a little of what is being written and said.
From Steve Serby of the New York Post.
Suddenly there are foreboding signs that the champs are losing their grip on that precious Lombardi Trophy.
In the span of two short weeks, they have gone from Supermen to Big Bloopermen.
From Big Blue to Big Blues.
From Bob Glauber of Newsday.
OK, all together: Cleansing breath ... hold it ... and ... exhale. Once more ... and relax.
Memo to Giants fans: Your team still is 11-3. Eli Manning still is the quarterback. Justin Tuck still is rushing the passer. Antonio Pierce and Mathias Kiwanuka, too.
Sure, the injury to Brandon Jacobs is massive, and the absence of Burress hasn't helped in the last two weeks. And yes, the Panthers are coming off another resounding win at home, finishing off an 8-0 record in Carolina.
On the road? Another story; they're 3-3 and end the season at the Giants and at the Saints.
So even with the Dallas loss fresh, and Manning feeling the aches from an ungodly number of sacks (eight) on Sunday night, it will not surprise us to see the Giants respond to their first two-game losing streak in 15 months by beating the Panthers and securing the thing they've been after all along: home-field advantage throughout the conference playoffs.
From Mike Garafolo of the Star-Ledger.
Tom Coughlin can tell me all he wants about how much the players were ready for the challenge, but over the past two weeks, I've seen players get beat off the ball that didn't get beat all season long. That's a sign of complacency in my book - whether conscious or not, and an indication fatigue over playing such a brutal schedule has set in. I expect to see that complacency disappear on Sunday because this team will finally be backed into a corner. And that's when fatigue is overcome by urgency.
I am inclined to agree with Glauber and Garafolo. A two-game losing streak right now is, obviously, not what you want. It isn't the end of the world, either. The Giants have played a brutal schedule, and played brilliantly most of the season. Maybe they are a little gassed, and, as Garafolo said, the urgency seems to have been missing for a couple of weeks.
I would expect that to change Sunday night against Carolina.
Yes, the Giants have some issues on offense. With or without Brandon Jacobs, though, the Giants still have weapons. As for the offensive line, one bad game doesn't mean it has suddenly turned into Swiss cheese.
There are, however a few things I would like to see against the Panthers.
- Back up the run. Too often against Dallas the Giants ran once, then passed twice. Even if one run fails to get much, I want to see the Giants back it up and run the ball two, three, four times in a row. Whether Jacobs plays or not. Run-blocking is what the line does best -- so give them a chance to do it.
- More Ahmad Bradshaw. Yes, I know I haven't been Bradshaw's biggest booster. The guy is a playmaker, though, so let's get him on the field more. Forget those screens to the useless Mario Manningham, throw them to Bradshaw. The one he caught Sunday almost popped for a big play. Split him out wide and throw him a few short passes. Get him 8-10 carries. The offense needs a spark, let's see if Bradshaw can provide it.
- No-huddle offense. I don't want to see this all the time, but Eli Manning has always done it well. Somewhere during the course of the game let's change things up and give him a chance to run it for a series or two. The way things have been going, it can't hurt.
- Get the ball to Amani Toomer. The old man of the receiving corps has been an afterthought the past couple of weeks. That needs to change. He may not run by defenders any more, but he makes plays when given the opportunity. Again, let's forget throwing the ball to Manningham and Madison Hedgecock, and try getting the ball to the most prolific receiver in team history.
- Use Domenik Hixon on all returns. I know the Giants have been keeping him off the returns to try and protect him now that he is playing every down at wide receiver. This is a huge game, though, and Hixon is easily the Giants biggest playmaker on both punt and kickoff returns. Sunday night against Carolina isn't one of those games where you can protect him. You need as many touches from him as possible, so get him out there.