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Giants at Dolphins, Week 14: Can the offense find its rhythm?

In their final scheduled primetime game of the season, can the Giants pull out a win under the lights?

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins are 5-7 and have already fired their curmudgeonly head coach. The New York Giants are 5-7 and have held on to theirs. Should Big Blue let another close game slip out of their fingers, and in the process, the division title too, one would have to consider following Miami's example and moving on from Tom Coughlin -- as tough as it may seem to dump a two-time Super Bowl winning head-coach.

But this is where we're at with this team right now. The NFC East is miraculously still in play, and while the Dolphins look unlikely to make the post-season, their team is playing for interim head-coach Dan Campbell's potential future as the face of the franchise. The Giants cannot go into yet another game thinking they have this one in the bag, only for it to scamper off and take up residence in the losses column of their 2015 record.

Stats At A Glance

Rushing Yards Passing Yards Total Yards Points
New York Giants Offense 88.1 (29th) 266.6(7th) 354.7 (15th) 25.6 (7th)
Miami Dolphins Defense 134.8 (30th) 255.6 (22nd) 390.3 (27th) 25.0 (24th)


Eli Manning hasn't completed more than 55 percent of his passes in any of his last three games. In that same span he has five touchdowns and four interceptions. At what point do we start worrying?

Not just yet. It's likely that these numbers are a product of game situation and compensation for his surrounding talent. How many times have we seen "Bad Eli" show up in games where he has to make up for the mistakes of others?

There has to be some healthy balance between the ultra-conservative approach of the early season shenanigans and the devil-may-care scenarios of recent weeks. Which Manning will show up against the Dolphins? I think he's due a good game, but if it comes down to covering up the deficits of his teammates, all bets are off.

Offensive line

Speaking of weak areas that directly affect the quarterback's performance, let's talk about the offensive line. There is a strong possibility that both starting tackles, Marshall Newhouse and Ereck Flowers, will miss this game due to injury. At the time of writing, we don't know their availability, but it would be fair to assume that one of the two players is missing come Sunday.

That leaves a seventh-round rookie, Bobby Hart, to step in at one spot, with utility lineman Dallas Reynolds as the next man up should the Giants need him. With so many injuries at this position already this season, it's not that big a deal if some of these guys are shifted around. The team has already lost Will Beatty and Geoff Schwartz, and their replacements are pretty interchangeable, but the bright side is that this game is on Monday, so there's an extra day of possible recovery if they need it.

The Dolphins' defensive line is excellent and even without Cameron Wake (torn Achilles) would likely have several advantages even if the Giants were at full strength. Olivier Vernon and Derrick Shelby are the type of edge rushers that Steve Spagnuolo dreams about, so it's no surprise that the addition of Ndamukong Suh in free agency has given this defense a whole new identity.

Unfortunately, I think that these trench battles will decide the game. I'm certainly not betting on the offense to effectively run block, but maybe they can hold up long enough in pass protection for Manning to execute a short-passing game plan. If at any point we're seeing Manning chuck-and-duck, this offense is doomed.

Skill positions

I would give so much to see Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry both playing offense and defense so that they could shadow one another all game. Both would struggle in coverage, but just think of the spectacle. Two friends, former teammates at LSU, both trying to make a play on every pass that direction. In all seriousness, because Landry is his bro and he won't want to be outdone by a mate, I think this might be Beckham's biggest game of the year. Coming off two straight games with more than 140 receiving yards, that's a big ask, yet would anything surprise you when it comes to this kid?

Elsewhere on the field, Rueben Randle will run his interpretation of the intended play and just sorta hope things will be okay? It's just a little infuriating because this could be a game where Beckham commands a lot of attention. The Miami safeties are actually quite good and Randle won't succeed if his corner has help over the top too. It doesn't matter if it's Brent Grimes, or either McCain -- Brice or Bobby -- Randle can't afford to have another half-hearted outing.

There's also Dwayne Harris, who will probably be relegated to an outside role so that Beckham can work the slot, and he's a good receiver who seems to make at least one meaningful play every week. In many ways, Harris is the anti-Randle. There isn't much variance in terms of on-field product, and while he may not be an All-Pro caliber player, you at least know what you're going to get.

For the tight ends, it would be smart to relegate both Jerome Cunningham and Will Tye to blocking roles. Neither are ideal in pass protection, but the offensive line needs all the help they can get. At the very least, these guys should be kept close to the formation to provide chip-blocks on the edge defenders. I'm not expecting huge numbers from either tight-end, but it's possible that one of them gets a big downfield catch at some point. Not a lot of receptions, but a potential for lots of yardage on those plays.

And finally, the running backs. Shane Vereen will help this team by catching passes, and the others will run into the back of linemen. I haven't seen anything to the contrary this season, so I'm not expecting anything more. When I see it, I'll believe it, but putting faith in Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams at this point would be a fruitless exercise. The Miami defense is giving up a lot of rushing yards, but it's still not likely to be enough. Maybe one big run from somebody -- Orleans Darkwa maybe -- but yeah, that's too many maybes for one preview.

Final thoughts

I hope Ben McAdoo knows who he's going up against here. This is a better defense than the overall team record indicates. The defensive line will cause serious problems and if the game plan doesn't tailored mostly around protecting Manning, then you might as well call this off. Relying on special teams and a historically bad defense to bail out a struggling offense has surprisingly worked once or twice this year, but the division title is on the line. That won't fly.