Monday night's game against the Miami Dolphins is one the New York Giants cannot afford to lose. If they do, they will be a game behind the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins, without tie-breaker advantages, with three games to play. Here are five things to watch that could help determine the outcome.
The mood of the Giants
You just never know exactly what you are going to get with the Giants. Will we get the gritty, gutty, fight for everything Giants we have often seen this season? Will we get the sleepwalking Giants we saw in Washington? Will there be any hangover -- positive or negative -- from the whole Damontre Moore saga? I couldn't begin to tell you I have a feel for what we will see Monday night.
The Giants have thrown away, kicked away, frittered away, blown, dropped a whole mess of opportunities to have already taken control of the NFC East. Instead, after watching the Redskins and Eagles both earn narrow victories on Sunday, the Giants find themselves in win or else situation. If they win, it's still a virtual three-way tie atop the NFC East with three games to play. If they lose, they might as well start making offseason plans.
Will they rise to the occasion or shrink from it? For the better part of three seasons now, we have seen the Giants generally shrink from these situations.
Jarvis vs. Odell
Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry have promised some pre-game fireworks.You can bet that their friendly competition will extend into the game, with each trying to outdo the other. From the Giants' perspective, let's hope Beckham is able to focus on helping the Giants and not focused on trying to do something spectacular to either outdo Landry or please the Monday Night Football audience.
Can the Giants run the ball?
Kevin Nogle of The Phinsider tells us that the Dolphins don't defend the run very well. The numbers back that up, as Miami is 31st in the league against the run, giving up 134.8 yards per game. We know the Giants will try to run. Head coach Tom Coughlin and offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo have told us that over and over. And the Giants have tried -- and failed -- over and over. The Giants are 29th in the league running the ball. Something has to give. Will it be Miami's bad run defense or the Giants' bad run offense?
The Giants' offensive line
Who is going to be playing for the Giants on Monday night? Right now, no idea. Ereck Flowers (ankle) and Marshall Newhouse (back) traveled to Miami with the team so there is a possibility both will play. There is also a possibility neither will play. So, we won't have any idea what the line will look like until game time. That's not comforting.
The Giants' pass rush
We know the pass rush really hasn't been much to speak of all season. Well, Moore is now looking for a job and Robert Ayers is questionable with a neck injury. Linebacker Devon Kennard (foot) has already been ruled out. Can the Giants find a way to create a pass rush? If Ayers is unable to play, it's difficult to see where that might come from.
... And one more thing
I know, I know, this makes six. I have to toss in in here, though. Can someone other than Beckham make a play? On offense or defense. Can someone come up with a big catch? Break a tackle? Make something out of nothing? Create, and recover a fumble? Actually catch an interception? Make a critical tackle instead of missing a crushing one? Say whatever you want about coaching and clock management and late-game decisions and on and on, but things would certainly look better for the Giants if the guys wearing the uniforms had simply made some of the plays that have been there to be made.
Coaches don't block, tackle, run, throw or catch. Players do. When they start making the plays that are there to be made the Giants will start winning games.