The 0-2 New York Giants have to contend on Sunday with a team that has already matched its victory total from a season ago in the 2-0 Houston Texans. Let's take a look at this week's match-up.
When The Giants Have The Ball
Job No. 1 for the Giants is to find Texans defensive end J.J. Watt and make sure they have him accounted for, most likely with two blockers. After that, try to stop beating themselves. The Giants are second in the league in dropped passes with seven, and Victor Cruz leads all receivers with four drops. The Giants have the most turnovers (six) in the league thus far, and correspondingly the worst turnover ratio (-6) in the NFL, since they have yet to create a turnover from the opposing team. The Texans have six takeaways (two interceptions, four fumble recoveries) in just two games.
"You have to keep from beating yourself before you can go forth to defeat the opponent," head coach Tom Coughlin said earlier this week.
The Texans are first in the league after two games in points allowed, having surrendered only 20. The Giants are 28th in the league in points scored, getting only 14 in each of their first two games.
To change those things the Giants have to keep Watt and Co. away from Eli Manning. They also obviously need better production from their wide receivers, a group which took a hit when Jerrel Jernigan was placed on IR with a foot injury. Preston Parker moves into Jernigan's role.
The Giants also have to run the ball better than they have in their first two games. The Giants are averaging only 67 yards per game rushing (29th) and their average of 2.7 yards per running play is 30th in the NFL.
When The Texans Have The Ball
The Texans are not an offensive juggernaut, averaging 23.5 points per game. What they don't do is the one thing the Giants have done with regularity in two games -- beat themselves with turnovers. The Texans have lost only fumble and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has not been intercepted in Houston's first two games, giving the Texans a +5 takeaway/giveaway ratio.
Coughlin called the Houston offense "well-managed."
The Texans have run the ball 80 times while asking Fitzpatrick, the former Buffalo Bills quarterback, to throw only 41 times in their two victories.
Houston's ground game is led by running back Arian Foster, who has 241 yards rushing on 55 carries, an average of 4.4 yards per attempt. Foster gained 1,616 yards rushing last season.
When Fitzpatrick does throw he has been well-protected, being sacked only once thus far. He has Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins as pass-catchers on the outside. He even threw a touchdown pass to Watt, lined up as a tight end, last week against the Oakland Raiders.
Last Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals special teams play cost the Giants 10 points. There was the 71-yard punt return for a touchdown by Ted Ginn, which brought back visions of last season when the Giants gave up three punt return touchdowns. There was a fumble by kickoff returner Quintin Demps that cost the Giants three more points. Those two plays turned a 14-13 fourth-quarter lead for the Giants into a 22-14 deficit.
Demps has yet to break out as a kickoff returner, averaging only 22.4 yards per return. Parker is averaging 7.5 yards on punt returns.
The Giants will hope punter Steve Weatherford, who has torn ligaments in his left ankle, will be a little healthier and more consistent this week.
Texans veteran punter Shane Lechler is one of the best in the business.