For the second time in the 2018 season, the New York Giants have the opportunity to go on a winning streak. But to do so, they will have to do something they haven’t done yet this year (apart from winning games in back-to-back weeks), and win a game at home.
The Giants enter this Sunday’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a scant 1.5 point favorite at home. Eli Manning, Odell Beckham Jr., Saquon Barkley, and company will have to keep up with one of the league’s most prolific offenses in the Buccaneers. Fortunately, they will be attempting to do so against a defense which has been porous at best.
Let’s take a look at what the Giants will have to do on Sunday to go on their first winning streak since 2016.
Stats that matter
Keep Eli Manning upright
After playing well — particularly in a come-from-behind game winning drive at the end of the game — Eli Manning will almost certainly be under center against the Buccaneers. The trick for the Giants’ offense will be keeping him upright and confident in his protection.
The offensive line protected well against the San Francisco 49ers. However, that was a game in which the strength of the defense’s rush (its defensive tackles) lined up against the strength of the Giants’ offensive line (guards Will Hernandez and Jamon Brown). Meanwhile, the 9ers don’t have much in the way of pressure off of the edges.
This week, however, the Giants will see the return of Jason Pierre-Paul to the Meadowlands. JPP has rebounded to the form he showed before his sports hernia in 2016 since being traded to Tampa. The former Giant currently has 8.0 sacks (two fewer than the entire Giants’ team), ranking him eighth in the league and one sack behind J.J. Watt, Von Miller, and Myles Garrett who are tied for third most in the league.
JPP primarily plays the right defensive end position, which will match him up against Nate Solder for most of the game.
Solder has not been the pass protecting upgrade the Giants were expecting when they signed him in free agency, but the team could help him out by sliding protection his way. Unfortunately, the Buccaneers also have Gerald McCoy (who is still an excellent defensive tackle) Carl Nassib (who has 4 sacks of his won this season), and Vinny Curry, who can be a problem off the edge as well.
The Giants need Manning’s pass protection to hold up well enough for the QB to feel some kind of comfort in the backfield. They face a stiffer test this week than last, and the coaching staff might have to help the line out with bootlegs or misdirection such as jet action.
Exploit a weak secondary
Assuming Manning feels comfortable enough for the offense to function, the Buccaneer’s secondary is ripe for exploitation by the Giants’ talented skill position players.
On one side is 35-year old cornerback Brent Grimes, while rookie Carlton Davis mans the CB position. Tampa typically employs either Cover 1 or Cover 2 looks with safeties Jordan Whitehead and Justin Simmons. They also occasionally use former Giants’ starting safety Andrew Adams in three safety packages.
Additionally, Pro Bowl and All-Pro linebacker Lavonte David seems likely to miss the game with a sprained MCL.
All told, the opportunity is there for the Giants to find very favorable match-ups for Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram, and Saquon Barkley in the passing game. The question is whether or not they will take advantage of them.
This will not be the first time the Giants have faced a defense with a (very) vulnerable secondary. Previously, they have failed to make a concerted effort to attack the obvious weaknesses. Will the Giants do so this week?
How long will Shurmur wait before opening up the offense?
It should be obvious by now that there is an offense that Pat Shurmur wants to run, and then one that he has to run.
The former is a cautious ball control offense which seeks to use quick, safe passes to supplement the running game. The offense Shurmur wants to run is efficient, doesn’t put the ball or quarterback at risk, chews up the clock, and given enough opportunities, eventually leads to big plays from playmakers like Barkley and Beckham.
Then there is the offense the Giants HAVE to run. Thanks to a lack of a viable run game, poor pass protection, and an inability to score touchdowns, the Giants have spent most of the season playing from behind. When they eventually trail by more than one possession, Shurmur has had no option but to open the offense up and throw downfield. When he does, the offense wakes up. By getting the ball to the playmakers further downfield, they don’t have to beat as many would-be tacklers to pick up chunk yardage — and frankly, they are all difficult coverage assignments for even the best of defenders.
Against San Francisco, the Giants waiting until the 49ers capped a drive which ate half the third quarter with a touchdown to put them up 10 points to open up their offense. One of the under-the-radar story lines this week is whether or not winning while using an aggressive quick-strike offense will be the positive reinforcement the Giants need to keep their foot on the gas, or if they will once again revert to a more cautious gameplan.