With the Denver Broncos (1-0) coming to MertLife Stadium Sunday the New York Giants (0-1) face a difficult task in trying to avoid an 0-2 start. Let's break down the match-up.
Eli Manning and Kevin Gilbride hope this week is better for the Giants' offense. [Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports]
When The Giants Have The Ball
Oh, those turnovers! The Giants had six of them, five on offense and one on a punt that hit Trumaine McBride, in a season-opening loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Head coach Tom Coughlin told Giants.com that he "was almost in a state of shock" after the game due to the turnovers. There were the much-discussed two David Wilson fumbles, an unheard of two intercepted screen passes, one returned for a touchdown, a third Eli Manning interception and the muffed punt.
If the Giants don't do a better job protecting the ball against the Broncos, who went 13-3 last season and defeated the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens, 49-27 on opening night this season, they will undoubtedly end up starting the season 0-2.
The Giants had three wide receivers go over 100 yards in a game for the first time in their history last Sunday. Victor Cruz had 118 yards and three touchdown, Hakeem Nicks 114 and Rueben Randle 101.
New York might catch a break this week as standout Denver cornerback Champ Bailey (foot) has not practiced.If the Giants are going to take advantage of the Broncos secondary they will have to do a better job of protecting Manning this week. Playing behind a revamped offensive line Sunday, Manning was sacked three times, hit nine times and hurried 15 times while completing 27-of-42 passes. Starting center center David Baas, who did not play because of an MCL injury suffered during the preseason, practiced on a limited Wednesday and Thursday and could play Sunday. That would allow Kevin Boothe to slide back to guard replacing James Brewer, who made his first career NFL start vs. the Cowboys. Denver, even with standout linebacker Von Miller suspended by the NFL, sacked Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco four times in their season-opening victory.
The Giants rushed for only 50 yards against the Cowboys, averaging 3.6 yards on 14 tries. Da'Rel Scott led the way with five carries for 23 yards. Wilson had six carries for 16 yards before the fumbles got him benched. The run game wasn't helped by fullback Henry Hynoski, who missed several blocks in his first action since undergoing knee surgery. Brandon Jacobs was signed this week to provide experience and an inside running presence the Giants are missing with Andre Brown on short-term IR. Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride was coy this week when asked how he would deploy his running backs, saying only "We’re going to play everybody."
The Giants' defense faces a big challenge Sunday. [Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports]
When The Broncos Have The Ball
The Giants know what's coming. Peyton Manning is coming. Mr. Seven Touchdowns in the season opener. Mr. Future First Ballot Pro Football Hall of Famer. They might say they are looking forward to it, but they know they have to be on top of their game to avoid getting torched.
"It’s definitely a challenge for our defense but we’re excited," said cornerback Terrell Thomas. "I think we played pretty solid, for the most part, against the Cowboys and we’re looking to follow up with a strong performance at home."
The last time the Giants faced Manning was in 2010. They lost, 38-13. It was a game during which defensive coordinator Perry Fewell put together a game plan that basically dared Manning's Colts to run the ball, and they shredded the Giants with 160 yards on the ground.
"There were some things we prepared for and that we did that I wouldn't do again. I felt like, from a planning standpoint, that we planned properly but it was not the best plan we could have come up with," Fewell said. "We went in with the smaller lineup from a defensive standpoint and tried to say we were going to get pressure on you and do some things because you won't run the football and he took advantage of that. So definitely the mindset then was to stop the pass and not the run. That's not my mindset this time."
The Giants don't know yet if they will have their best cornerback, Prince Amukamara, available. He suffered a concussion against the Cowboys and as of Thursday had not yet been cleared to practice. The Giants will also have adjust to the loss of starting middle linebacker Dan Connor, surprisingly placed on IR by the team on Thursday.
Manning has excellent weapons in wide receivers Damaryius Thomas (161 yards, 2 TDs vs. Baltimore) and Wes Welker (9 catches, 2 TDs vs. the Ravens).
The Giants will hope for an improved performance from defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who was mostly a non-factor against the Cowboys on Sunday in his return to action following offseason back surgery.
Justin Tuck played well in the opener with 8 tackles, a half-sack and 2 hits on Tony Romo. Terrell Thomas played his first regular-season game after missing two seasons with knee injuries and had 7 tackles and a pass defensed.
Trindon Holliday [Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports]
The Broncos feature explosive return man Trindon Holliday on both punts and kickoffs. Holliday averaged 10 yards per punt return and 26.3 yards per kickoff return in 2012.
"He's very dangerous. We'll try to not let him touch the ball, which is easier said than done," said Giants' special team coordinator Tom Quinn. "We always want to try and not have to cover the whole field, but obviously with guys like this you want to try and kick it as far as you can out of bounds, but that's a lot easier said than done."
In their opening game the Giants featured Michael Cox on kickoff returns. Something to watch Sunday might be whether or not Wilson, with his role at running back likely reduced, reprises the role he played on kickoff returns in 2012. Wilson had a Giants' single-season record of 1,533 yards in kickoff returns last season, only 160 yards away from the franchise's career record in that department.
Rueben Randle will continue as the Giants' punt returner.