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Giants at Texans: 6 things to watch in Sunday’s matchup

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Here are some key factors as the Giants try to avoid 0-3 start

New York Giants v Dallas Cowboys
Can Eli Manning and the Giants offense get things together Sunday?
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

To have any realistic chance of making a playoff run this season the 0-2 New York Giants have to find a way to defeat the also 0-2 Houston Texans on Sunday. Here are some of the things to watch as the Giants try to get their first victory of the Pat Shurmur era.

Somebody set an alarm clock, please!

The Giants need to figure out what time kickoff is, and remember that the first few series of the game actually do count.

In Week 1, the Jacksonville Jaguars scored on three of their first four possessions en route to building a 13-3 lead. In Week 2, the Dallas Cowboys got a touchdown and a field goal in their first two possessions.

Of course, it would also help if someone would tell the offense it’s legal to score early in the game.

Tackle ... the ... quarterback

Speaking of things they aren’t doing right, let’s hope the Giants come up with as better plan for defending the read option this week.

In Week 1, Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles rumbled around left end for a 41-yard gain on a read option. The only thing that kept him from going father? He’s a quarterback and he ran out of gas.

In Week 2, Dak Prescott ran 7 times for 45 yards. By my count, five of those runs were read options.

Through two games, whatever the Giants are doing against the read option isn’t working. It’s a bad plan. They need to get a new one or Deshaun Watson might run for a million or so yards.

The end zone is ... that way, somewhere

The Giants have scored only 28 points in two games. They have only two touchdowns. It’s sort of obvious, but Shurmur said Wednesday that “we’ve got to get in the end zone, quite frankly.”

Yes. Yes, they do.

It will help if they are able to throw some passes down the field against Houston. Throwing two-third of their passes either behind or within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage, like they did last Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys, isn’t going to cut it. Having Odell Beckham averaging 10.8 yards per catch isn’t going to cut it. Being 29th in the league in yards per play and 31st in red zone percentage is not going to cut it. Being last in the league in yards per play on first down isn’t going to cut it.

Can everybody please block somebody?

Dallas made the Giants look silly with rushers constantly heading unimpeded to Manning. The Giants couldn’t seem to get everyone blocked when the Cowboys blitzed last Sunday, even when they had enough blockers. They couldn’t seem to keep track of who was supposed to block whom when Dallas used twists and stunts along the front line. Man on man the Giants seemed to do OK most of the time. It just seemed like far too often Giants blockers had no idea which guy they were actually responsible for.

Per Football Outsiders the Giants offensive line is last in the league in Adjusted Line Yards when run blocking and 24th in Adjusted Sack Rate while pass protecting, Not good.

With a dominant defensive front, the Texans pose a massive challenge for the Giants beleaguered offensive line. Pray that new center John Greco makes the right calls, that guys know their assignments, that Manning moves just enough to stay in one piece and make a few plays along the way.

DeAndre Hopkins vs. Janoris Jenkins

With Eli Apple (groin) almost certainly sidelined on Sunday, the Giants would appear to have little choice but to have Jackrabbit shadow Houston’s All-Pro wide receiver. If Jenkins can play the way he did in memorable 2016 matchups against Dez Bryant, virtually taking the then-Cowboys star out of a pair of games, that would be a massive boost for the Giants.

A little pass rush, please

The Giants have just one sack. It doesn’t look like Olivier Vernon is going to return to action this week. Maybe the porous Houston offensive line, which has surrendered seven sacks in two games, will be the elixir for the missing pass rush which, per Football Outsiders, has been the worst in the league in terms of Adjusted Sack Rate (1.7 percent).