Odell Beckham Impact
The Giants drafted Odell Beckham 12th overall in the 2014 NFL Draft hoping he would become a field-stretching weapon for them at wide receiver. Will they -- finally -- begin to get a return on their investment Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons?
As of this writing, Beckham appears to be on target to make his long-delayed (thanks a lot, finicky hamstring muscles!) NFL debut Sunday At MetLife Stadium. How much he can or will play and how smooth the timing between Beckham and quarterback Eli Manning will be is anyone's guess. While NFL teams have been working since May, Beckham probably still has only 10 or so practices total under his belt during that time.
"We've got to get on the same page and we've got to go through this a little bit," Manning said earlier in the week. "It's not that it's going to be perfect right off the bat, we have not had a whole lot of reps together."
Still, no matter how much he contributes on Sunday getting Beckham on the field and into the mix is a positive step for the Giants. Especially if he makes it through the game without re-aggravating his hamstring.
Atlanta's Make-shift Offensive Line
The Falcons' offensive line is a mess entering Sunday's game. Atlanta placed starting center Joe Hawley and starting right tackle Lamar Holmes on injured reserve this week, and starting left guard Justin Blalock has not been practicing due to a back injury. If that is the case Atlanta will play three new starters Sunday at MetLife, Harland Gunn at left guard, Peter Konz at center and Gabe Carimi at right tackle.
"When we started the season we very excited about the depth that we had. We felt like when we started training camp we had 11 players, nine who had started games in the NFL. We have a deep group," said Atlanta coach Mike Smith. "We have some injuries that are going to force some of the guys who haven't had much playing time to get an opportunity to play. I think they will go out and perform extremely well. I'll be very disappointed if they don't."
The Giants have a deep, talented defensive front four. If they can take advantage of the Atlanta offensive line to shut down the run and harass Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan that would make winning Sunday's game an easier task. If they can't, then the Falcons have a chance at an upset.
Can Giants Contain Devin Hester?
We talked about this one earlier in the week. Hester is arguably the best return man of all time, and at 31 he doesn't appear to have lost a step. To win on Sunday the Giants simply can't allow Atlanta to convert big plays, and that means controlling Hester on punt and kickoff returns is crucial.
Look for punter Steve Weatherford to try to punt everything at least outside the numbers, if not out of bounds. Touchbacks on Josh Brown's kickoffs would also be a welcome sight for the Giants.
Atlanta Receivers vs. Giants Corners
The Falcons have a pair of game-breaking wide receivers in superstar Julio Jones and Roddy White. The Giants, of course, have Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Prince Amukamara at the corners. So, it is a strength vs. strength match-up.
The Giants will be helped immensely if -- as we mentioned previously -- the pass rush can take advantage of the weakened Atlanta offensive line to limit Ryan's time to throw. The Giants could also catch if Harry Douglas, the third Atlanta wide receiver, misses another game with a foot injury. Douglas has not practiced this week.
Giants' safeties Antrel Rolle and Quintin Demps will, as they did against the Washington Redskins, have to once again do a good job of keeping plays in front of them.
Will Beatty vs. Osi Umenyiora
These two battled for years during Giants practices when Umenyiora was a star defensive end and Beatty was a youn, up-and-coming left tackle. Now, Beatty is playing as well as any left tackle in football and Umenyiora is a pass-rush specialist for the Falcons.
"This is what you look for. You look forward to the big games and the good match-ups," Beatty said. "This is almost a division game for me going against him because of how well I know him. Let's see how much he changed. I get to show him how much I changed and how much I grew."
Beatty has yet to allow a sack this season. The Falcons have only three sacks on the season, with Umenyiora not yet on the board. If Beatty and the Giants offensive line can keep it that way Sunday, Eli Manning should have time to carve up an Atlanta defensive that has not shown much so far this season.