For just the second time this season the New York Giants are prepping for an opponent while coming off a win.
The Giants face a particularly short turnaround as they travel to face the Washington Redskins in Washington on Thanksgiving night. Both teams are coming off overtime games, but with different results. The Giants’defense stood strong and gave their offense and special teams the chance to come away with the win. Washington fell to the Saints after giving up a pair of touchdowns in the final two minutes of regulation to get to overtime and a field goal to end the game.
However, the Redskins put up 31 points on a vastly improved Saints defense in New Orleans, while the Giants just put up 33 points in their previous two games combined.
Can the Giants keep pace with the Redskins’ dangerous offense?
By the numbers
Rushing Yards - 92.0 (26th)
Passing Yards - 216.5 (19th)
Total Yards - 308.5 (24th)
Points - 16.2 (30th)
Rushing Yards - 114.6 (20th)
Passing Yards - 249.0 (25th)
Total Yards - 363.6 (24th)
Points - 26.6 (31st)
About Chad Wheeler ...
We pretty much have to start with the undrafted rookie out of USC. Wheeler started at right tackle for an injured Justin Pugh. In the first start of his career, Wheeler almost certainly earned a second chance this Thursday.
Wheeler wasn’t perfect against the Chiefs, he gave up a quick pressure which Manning avoided, and Justin Houston had some success against Wheeler in the run game. However, Wheeler kept the All-Pro edge rusher quiet and his quarterback upright in pass protection. All things considered, that is about all we can ask.
Both Wheeler and Ereck Flowers — who hasn’t given up a sack since Week 2, a consecutive streak of well over 300 pass protection snaps — will have their hands full dealing with the duo of Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith. Wheeler had a great first game against one of the best in the league. He will have to have a repeat performance against a team looking to redeem itself at home after a disappointing loss.
What will the Giants’ offense look like?
With the absence of Sterling Shepard, and desperately needing a spark on offense, the Giants actually looked past the appetizers on their massive play menu and looked at the entree and desert sections. They relied more on more unconventional (for them) personnel packages and alignments than in recent memory. The result was an offense that was probably more fun than anything they have fielded since 2015 — even if it took them most of five quarters of football to score 12 points.
Hopefully, Shepard’s migraines are in the past (I can personally attest, they royally suck), but that begs the question: Will the Giants keep defenses guessing with their best receiver back?
They also relied on the run more than they had at any point in 2017 except for their Week 6 win at Denver.
Can the Giants both remain creative on offense while disciplining themselves to take the air out of the ball if they have Shepard in the lineup?
It would be a good strategy. Washington cornerback Breshad Breeland had a great day against the New Orleans Saints, but their run defense is only middle of the pack. Since the Giants began starting Orleans Darkwa, D.J. Fluker, and Brett Jones, they have had one of the most efficient running games in the NFL. The Giants will be without Fluker when they take the field in Washington, but recent free agent addition John Greco is a powerful run blocker in his own right.
Will the Giants be able to stick with what has worked? Or will they go back to a pass-happy “11” personnel offense if Shepard is back on the field.
Get Evan Engram back on track
Rookie tight end Evan Engram is being credited with helping to spark the Giants during the week. However, he had a quiet day against the Chiefs, recording just one catch for 9 yards. One of the hardest things for a rookie to do is to adjust to opposing teams’ adjustments to them. But on a short week, such as what the Giants are facing this week, teams need to rely on what they do best, and for the Giants that is a multiple tight end offense, and getting the ball to their dynamic first round pick.
Fortunately, the Redskins are almost as bad at defending tight ends as the Giants are. Through 10 games they have given up 56 receptions and 756 yards to opposing tight ends, both more than the Giants have surrendered — though the Giants have them beat, 9 touchdowns to 6.
Despite being a rookie, Engram has been one of the most productive tight ends in the NFL this season. He was on his way to a historic season, but was held to just one catch for 9 yards (and no touchdowns) on six targets against the Chiefs.
The Giants will want to get their most dynamic weapon involved early and often against one of the league’s more prolific offenses.