For the New York Giants, the focus of their offense is quickly becoming their first-round draft choice, Odell Beckham.
The rookie receiver is certainly talented, and was drafted with the potential of being a true No. 1 receiver in mind. However, his move to the foreground in the Giants' offense has been dictated by necessity as much as talent.
Thanks to a slew of injuries to the offense, the Giants are missing potential play-makers in Victor Cruz and Jerrel Jernigan, as well as their bell cow running back, Rashad Jennings.
The rest of the Giants' offensive pieces are more suited to supporting roles, such as moving the chains or being secondary options to take advantage of the attention paid to Beckham.
On the other side of the line of scrimmage Sunday will be Seattle's feared "Legion Of Boom", lead by one of the best corners in the league: Richard Sherman.
The Seahawks know who Beckham is, and what he brings to the field.
"I think he looks terrific. We had him really highly rated in the draft. [We] loved his overall football ability. He was a terrific returner. His great speed and also he has just great athleticism and he is great competitor and smart player. You put it all together. He is a tremendous prospect for them and he is really coming alive and you can see that he has great potential.," said Seahawks coach Pete Carroll.
Let's take a look at how the Giants' and Seahawks' strengths match up.
Beckham vs. Sherman
If the Giants want to try their rookie wide receiver against Sherman, they know where to find him. The Seahawks make no secret of the fact that rather than shadowing a team's best receiver, Sherman stays on the left side of the defense and covers whoever the offense decides to put there.
Though he can play any technique a play calls for, Sherman's game is primarily based on winning the route at the line of scrimmage. He is at his best when he can use his length and strength to jam the receiver off the snap. That lets him upset the route's timing, control whether the receiver gets an inside or outside release, and lets him cover the whole route tightly.
He is also a very intelligent football player who works hard at his craft.
However, Sherman isn't without flaws. Sherman is a good athlete by any measure, but he isn't a truly elite one by NFL standards. He doesn't have the raw speed of Patrick Peterson or Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and his sheer size limits his short-area quickness.
That combination of factors is what makes this an intriguing match-up.
Beckham brings a rare combination of speed and quickness to the field, as well as a remarkably polished (for a rookie) route tree. That combination lets him out-cut or run past bigger, slower defenders. He also has strong hands and impressive leaping ability to attack the ball and play much bigger than he measures.
On the defensive side, Sherman will have to try to use his size and strength to impose his will on Beckham. Meanwhile, the smaller, quicker Beckham will try to use his superior speed and agility to create separation from the All-Pro corner.
Which one will win the match-up could come down to a matter of scheme.
While Beckham has the quick-twitch athleticism to get a good release against most press corners, the size disparity between he and Sherman puts the rookie at a severe disadvantage. That means that the Giants need to do everything they can to keep Sherman from getting his hands on Beckham. They can line him up off the line of scrimmage in the "Z" position or utilize bunch formations. They can also call routes that feature Beckham's quickness. As a big, long, corner, Sherman needs a bit of time and space to gather himself when receivers make sharp cuts, such as comeback routes. That is where Beckham's athleticism and route running can help him create separation.
In the very first game of the 2014 NFL season, the Green Bay Packers refused to pit their best receivers against Sherman. They basically forfeited a significant part of the field to the Seahawks. That is what a defense is hoping for from a corner. To take away half the field and simplify the game plan.
The Giants can't afford to not force the Seahawks to defend the whole field.
Beckham represents the Giants' best hope of being able to attack the right side of the field. And that match-up could be one the All-Pro corner struggles with. If the Giants can get Beckham consistently clean releases, the Seahawks may be forced to roll coverage -- i.e. Earl Thomas -- his way. If that happens, that could open up opportunities for the Giants' secondary receiving options.
Beckham, for one, is eager for the opportunity to test himself against a Super Bowl champion secondary.
"These are the games you live to play for, the moments you live to play for, to go against the best of the best, to go against Richard Sherman, the Seattle Seahawks and the L.O.B [Legion of Boom]. To go against all those guys, why not? Why not embrace that opportunity? Why not take the challenge, accept it and face it?," said Beckham.
"I am never going to back down from anyone."
That's good, because if the Giants are going to have a chance at winning, they need Beckham to win his match-ups