Here are five things to watch Sunday when our New York Giants take on the Seahawks in Seattle.
1. The pace of the offense: We know that Giants quarterback Eli Manning has a tendency to run the play clock down to almost nothing before getting the ball snapped, and that sometimes he waits too long. We know that the Giants will be using a silent count and will have backup center Adam Koets in the game. We know that the last time the Giants played at Qwest Field they committed a gazillion false-start penalties (OK, only half-a-gazillion). Memo to Eli: Forget the gesticulations and the changes, just get the play from Kevin Gilbride, get to the line of scrimmage and get the darn ball snapped. The longer you stay up there the louder the crowd is going to get. A slow, plodding pace with the clock always nearing zero will kill the Giants chances of being successful.
2. Charlie Whitehurst's performance: Whitehurst not only makes his first career start Sunday in place of Matt Hasselbeck, he plays the first significant snaps in his five-year career. Can the Giants make him uncomfortable? Can they force him to make mistakes? Whitehurst has waited a long time for this opportunity, and the last thing I want to see is for the Giants to allow him to get any type of good feelings early in the game.
3. Leon Washington vs. the Giants kick coverage: Washington, one of the premier return men in the league, will be handling both kickoff and punt returns for Seattle on Sunday. That's a scary thought for Giants head coach Tom Coughlin. He was asked how big of a concern Washington, who leads the league with an average of 33.7 yards on kickoff returns and has an average of 24 yards on just three punt returns, is for him.
"My goodness. I don't have enough time. It's dark around here about six. He's had an exceptional year, too - don't forget that. When you look at his punt return averages, his kickoffs - his kickoff return average at home. Do you know what it is? 44 yards. Kickoff return average at home," Coughlin said. "You want to keep him from affecting the change in the game. Their offense has taken the ball over, I want to say, 10 times in plus territory this year and scored five of those 10 times, so they've benefitted from outstanding field position."
We know the Giants' propensity for coverage breakdowns on special teams, so I will be holding my breath every time the ball heads in Washington's direction Sunday.
4. Giants defensive line vs. makeshift Seattle offensive line: Left guard Ben Hamilton is out with a concussion, left tackle Russell Okung may not play. The Seattle offensive line is a MASH unit. Let's see if the Giants can take advantage of that and make Whitehurst's first NFL start a miserable one.
5. The Giants kick return game: Darius Reynaud? Will Blackmon? A combination of both? As of now, we don't know for sure, but it looks like it might be Blackmon's show as Reynaud came up with a hamstring injury Friday at practice. Since Reynaud was averaging just 5.9 yards on punt returns and 18.4 on kickoff returns I don't think anyone (except Reynaud and his mom) will complain about seeing Blackmon get a chance.