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Giants (2-2) At Texans (3-1): Most Important Factors

The New York Giants face a much different challenge this week against the Houston Texans than they did last week against the Chicago Bears.

Last week the Giants defense knew it could simply go full throttle after the Bears quarterbacks as there was no running game to contend with. Mike Martz insistence on seven-step drops and minimal protection schemes played right into the Giants hands, and helped produce a 17-3 victory.

Different story this week. The Texans have a multi-faceted offensive attack, and a defense with superstars Mario Williams (a defensive end) and Brian Cushing (a linebacker) who could make life miserable for the Giants blockers.

Let's look at the things the Giants must do in order to win in Houston on Sunday.

  1. Control Arian Foster. The second-year running back leads the NFL with 537 yards rushing (134.2 per game), a whopping 126 yards more than Pittsburgh's Rashard Mendanhall. The Giants defense has done well against the two run-first teams they have played this season, Carolina with DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, and Tennessee with the great Chris Johnson. Difference is Houston has a legitimate quarterback in Matt Schaub and a great wide receiver in Andre Johnson, who expects to play despite an ankle injury. The Giants have to control first and second down, so they can make the Texans one-dimensional on third down. And they will have to do it without Keith Bulluck, Mathias Kiwanuka and, possibly, Kenny Phillips.
  2. Contain Williams and Cushing. You know Cushing will be pumped up, playing his first game after serving a four-game substance abuse suspension. Williams is one of those nightmare matchups for left tackle David Diehl, and the Giants better help him.
  3. Run the football. The Texans are second in the league, giving up just 70.2 yards per game against the run. The Giants, though, has their best rushing week of the season last week against the Bears -- who had been giving up just 39 yards rushing per game before meeting New York. Nullify the crowd, nullify the pass-rushing Williams, keep Cushing from making big plays and keep the ball away from Foster. Get the run game going. Maybe Bear Pascoe at fullback will help, and if you have to get Shawn Andrews in as an extra tight end do it.
  4. Will Andre Johnson play? The star wide receiver insists he will. How effective will he be if he does play on a bad ankle? Maybe the Giants should just hope he can't run, because he is a 6-foot-3, 220-pound monster and the Giants never seem to be able to cover this type of wide receiver. Maybe their best shot is to have Terrell Thomas shadow him everywhere. I love Corey Webster, but these really big, strong guys simply overwhelm him.
  5. Turnovers. Can we please, please, pretty please have a week where the other guys turn the ball over more than the Giants do? And where the Giants don't give away points by turning the ball over right as they are about to score? Last week, the Tipped Ball Gods smiled on the Giants for a change. Maybe this week Big Blue can catch a break from the Turnover Gods. Better yet, Eli Manning will remember to only throw right-handed and Ahmad Bradshaw will remember 'high and tight.'
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