Will the good times, and the playoff dreams, keep rolling for the New York Giants on Sunday against the Tennesee Titans? Here is what your Big Blue View contributors think.
Not for the first time, I have to confess to having no real idea of what to expect from the Giants.
The Giants have been on a winning streak of late, scoring 27.2 points per game and somehow managing to (arguably) be the best team in the NFC East in spite of how they started the season. But that being said, they needed all the help they could get from back-up quarterbacks, with three pick-sixes (Two of which covered the margin of victory in separate games) and extra offensive possessions after taking advantage of errors by the other team.
We also saw the Giants run the ball 12 times for 40 yards against Washington (outside of Barkley’s two runs for 130 yards), the team need a pick 6, a trick play, and overtime to sneak past the Chicago Bears, and the offense reduced to 65 yards and 3 points in an entire half against the Philadelphia Eagles. We have seen flashes of that woebegone team from the first half, and against better competition, will that be all we see?
And the Titans are better competition than what we’ve seen over the last few weeks. However, they are incredibly inconsistent in their own right, on top of missing key contributors in Jack Conklin and Jonnu Smith. But, the Giants have tackled terribly on the perimeter and generally melted in the face of mobile quarterbacks. That doesn’t bode well when they’re facing a team that thrives on using a hard-to-tackle running back on off-tackle runs and has one of the most athletic quarterbacks in the NFL.
I don’t mean to be a pessimist or a downer. Instead, I’m looking at the final three games of the season, particularly these games against the Titans and the Indianapolis Colts as a litmus test for what kind of team the Giants actually are now. Have they truly grown and improved after the bye week, or was it a mirage and they are still the team we thought they were in week 8?
I would feel much better with Odell Beckham Jr., who’s receiving ability makes it much easier for the offense to overcome their inefficient running game, active for the game. But I still believe the Giants have the offensive talent to out-score Tennessee should they commit to using it. This game is anybody’s to win, and will likely come down to which team (and coaching staff) makes the fewest mistakes.
I’m defaulting to my early-season stance that this team needs to earn my confidence.
Final score: Titans 24, Giants 20
Season record: 6-7
To pick a game against the Titans is to figure out who the Titans are and which Titans team is going to show up in a given week. That’s been damn near impossible. Football Outsiders captures Variance, which is the week-to-week consistency in DVOA over the course of the season. Tennessee ranks 30th, which means only two teams have been less consistent on a week-to-week basis. The Titans can blowout the Patriots one week then get blown out by the Colts the next. That happened in Weeks 10 and 11.
One thing the Giants have to stop is the play-action game. Tennessee runs the seventh-highest rate of play-action in the league per Sports Info Solutions charting from Football Outsiders. Their 8.1 yards per play on play-action is 13th in the league and 1.9 yards better than their average on straight drop back passes. The Giants are still a team that gets fooled by the fake. Only six defenses get play-action run on them more than the Giants and only six allow more yards per play on those attempts.
The Giants will have to take advantage of no Jack Conklin at tackle to get some pressure on Mariota. Taylor Lewan was limited earlier in the week, but was a full practice participant Thursday and Friday.
On offense, the Giants have to figure out their game plan without Odell Beckham. Last week it was hoping for a big Saquon Barkley run against a defense that was bad against the run. The Titans, though, are a much better defense against the run (13th in DVOA) than they are against the pass (22nd). Despite the resources spent at cornerback, Tennessee is 30th against No. 1 receivers and 28th against No. 2’s. Sterling Shepard should be a big part of the plan, but I’m not sure it will be. Instead, it will probably be a run-heavy offense and dump offs to Barkley against a team that’s fifth in DVOA defending running backs in the passing game.
Final score: Titans 28, Giants 20
Season record: 9-4
Which Titans team is going to show up Sunday? Will it even matter given how red hot the Giants have been?
The answer is probably not. The Giants pretty much match up well against the Titans, but here’s the thing: They need to shut down Derrick Henry and force Marcus Mariota to beat them, something he’s struggled to do in five of the Titans’ six losses this season when opponents have shut down the Titans running game.
On the flip side, if the Giants can control Jurrell Casey, who is a major disruptive force, there should be no reason why Saquon Barkley and friends won’t be able to run all over the Titans, much like they did last week against Washington.
Bottom line: The Giants are in the zone as they try to do their part to sneak into the playoffs. It’s still a long shot and still unlikely that all the dominoes they need will fall into place, but it we’re looking at what they can control, which is this game, their chances are looking pretty good.
Final score: Giants 33, Titans 24
Season record: 4-9
While the Giants have been on a tear as of late, their success has been the product of tremendous luck. Every team they have beat has been decimated by a major injury at quarterback, or at multiple positions. The Tennessee Titans are the first complete team they will face since their bye week. While Marcus Mariota continues to be below average, he is supported by a very strong defense. Saquon Barkley will likely have another heroic effort, but his shoulders can only carry so much of the weight. Eli Manning has been sub par recently, and will not be anything short of a disappointment on Sunday.
The game will be a tight one, but do not expect the Giants to be on the right side of it.
Final score: Titans 27, Giants 24
Season record: 6-7
The Giants are one of the hottest teams in all of football, reeling off four wins in their last five games. Sunday, I believe, Big Blue wins its fifth game in six tries, against a very stingy Tennessee Titans defense. I can see Eli Manning struggling a bit but I think that Saquon Barkley will carry the load offensively for New York. The Giants will pull this one out with a last-second Aldrick Rosas kick.
Final score: Giants 23, Titans 20
Season record: 7-5
The dominoes will continue to fall.
So many things have to break properly for the Giants to make the playoffs that it’s almost impossible to believe all of them will happen. The first domino is that the Giants need to continue to win, and this weekend I believe they will do their part.
I know Odell Beckham Jr. isn’t playing. I know the Titans are a better team than the 49ers, Buccaneers or Redskins. I know Marcus Mariota is real, live, starting quarterback. I have serious doubts that the Giants are going to win out and get to 8-8. I just don’t think the dream dies this week.
Final score: Giants 24, Titans 17
Season record: 6-7