I have a collection of mini-NFL helmets. My brother gifted them to me a few summers ago after visiting Boston. Each one just about fits on the top of a Coke bottle, and the set contains all 32 teams. For the past couple of years, I've been displaying the New York Giants helmet alongside their opponent for that week on my bookshelf, and switching them out every Monday to reflect the next upcoming game. It's not a superstition or a quirk. It's just something that looks cool in my bedroom.
This week, the Giants beat the New Orleans Saints and I promptly removed the black-and-gold plastic helmet from view. That was a tough loss to take. I didn't want any lingering memory of that game, so I exchanged the opposing helmet to reflect an upcoming game. Stay positive. Look forward. I was being upbeat. Then I thought who this team were playing. This was likely another loss.
I sighed as I carefully aligned the familiar blue helmet against the terrifying silver of the New England Patriots. It stayed that way for about 24 hours before I breathed a sigh of relief and realized my mistake. This isn't Patriots week! Never have I been so happy to see the metallic shine of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers helmet. This is a team we have a much better chance of beating. Much better.
Stats At A Glance
|Total Yards||Rushing Yards||Passing Yards||Points|
|Giants' Offense||352.5 (14th)||94.5 (27th)||258.0 (11th)||26.9 (5th)|
|Buccaneers' Defense||352.1 (15th)||107.6 (16th)||244.6 (14th)||28.4(28th)|
Eli Manning threw six touchdown passes last week without a single pass landing in the hands of the other team. That has never happened before. Is there anyone doubting him this week? I certainly wouldn't be putting money on a bad game from the two-time Super Bowl MVP, but it is important to know that Tampa Bay's defense does not have the wiffle-ball appearance that New Orleans showed on Sunday.
This week, Manning has a much tougher challenge ahead. The Saints rank 29th in terms of passing yards allowed per game. The Bucs are a much sturdier 14th overall. Manning won't be afforded the same windows he had in the Super Dome though, it's not like there are any premier defensive backs lying in wait here either.
I think Manning will be fine with his receivers against the Tampa secondary, but won't have the same success with the short checkdown-style passes we've seen him use a lot this year. Lavonte David is one of the best 4-3 linebackers out there and will minimize the effect of passes to running backs and even tight-ends. He is extremely poisonous to a West-Coast offense such as the Giants.
The offensive line has been better this year than in the recent past, but that doesn't mean it's without its faults. Marshall Newhouse is still a serious problem and Ereck Flowers is still learning. This team could have used a full-strength Geoff Schwartz, but you never get the feeling he's quite there. Weston Richburg has been outstanding in his second year, and Justin Pugh finally looks at home at the guard position.
On paper, this team should be more than capable of handling the Buccaneers advances. The running game should get a little bit of a boost here, so I'm really hoping to see the Giants get their first 100-yard rusher of the season. However, the problem lies in the passing game, and with one player specifically; Gerald McCoy.
McCoy will likely line up over as a 1-technique which puts him against Richburg and Schwartz. Now, this is a good combination of players to neutralize McCoy, but you can't double team on every play, so I'm expecting to see him sneak through on one or two plays throughout the game. If he gets through early, it could snowball. We have seen offensive linemen's confidence broken in the past, and it could happen here. McCoy is the target. Shut him down.
The Giants will likely be without tight end Larry Donnell this week. That's a negative because Donnell has had a few stellar games over the past two seasons, but let's look at the silver lining. If the Giants were going to lose one starter anywhere on the field, then tight-end is the position where there is the least drop-off between back-up and starter.
It's unclear right now whether the Giants will give the nod to Will Tye or Jerome Cunningham as Donnell's replacement, but I'd imagine that both should see a similar amount of time on the field given that the two players are quite similar in terms of skill-sets.
Elsewhere, there are the receivers, whom I previously declared as superior to the Tampa Bay secondary, so it could be another installment of The Odell Beckham Jr. Show on Sunday, and if the Bucs want to dedicate enough on-field resources to cancelling New York's top guy, then Dwayne Harris and Rueben Randle could be in for big days. Dare I even say that Myles White may have success? Yeah, I'm sorry, but I just don't trust those corners in a Lovie Smith defense.
Lastly, we have the running backs. I think Shane Vereen may take a backseat for the first time this season as the Giants opt for a ground-and-pound approach with some combination of Rashad Jennings, Andre Williams and Orleans Darkwa (if healthy). Look for a lot of runs up the gut with the hopes of breaking one, though I wouldn't be surprised to see the team be happy with three or four yard gains if they can do it consistently enough.
The Giants had the Saints on the ropes down in the bayou for the first time in the Tom Coughlin era. They have had games this year where the offense has clicked and they've looked like real contenders, but there have been others when misfires have made them look weak, pathetic. The Philadelphia Eagles game was ugly, and they only beat the Dallas Cowboys because other units put 14 points on the board.
For the Giants to beat the Bucs on Sunday, they will need a big day from somebody, and after Manning put 42 points on the board last week, it's unfair to expect him to light it up again. Somebody else needs to step up. It could be the lackluster running game. It could be an unsuspecting wide-receiver. It may even be a pair of lowly tight-ends looking to make a name for themselves. Whoever it is, they need to do it Sunday, because they have an All-Pro caliber quarterback playing out of his mind on a team without a winning record. That needs to be addressed immediately.