They say that you just have to get in the playoffs and it’s like a whole new season.
The 2016 New York Giants started the regular season with plenty of questions. How would Ben McAdoo perform as a rookie head coach? Would their defense investments pay off? Unlike 2015, could the Giants finish and close out a game? Could they get the monkey off their back and win a week 1 game?
Over the course of the season they answered those questions, largely with positive answers. Going in to their first post-season game in five years, the first trip to week 18 for many players, the Giants have a whole new set of questions to answer.
1. How Will Ben McAdoo Handle The Post Season?
Despite the fact that the Giants haven’t seen the playoffs with McAdoo on the coaching staff, he does have playoff experience as a member of the Green Bay Packers’ coaching staff. He is aware of the pressures involved and the delicate balance of keeping his players motivated without having them playing out of control.
The question is whether or not he can strike that balance. He does have a pair of assets in Steve Spagnuolo, who has done his job at the highest level with the Giants, and Eli Manning, who’s defining trait is his consistently even-keel. But ultimately the onus for the team falls on the head coach. Can he get the team to hold that razor edge in the cold of Lambeau Field and play at a high level?
2. Does The Offense Have Anything Up Its Sleeve?
By Week 18, it’s fairly safe to assume that you are who you shown you are. For Giants, that largely means that they have mostly been uninspiring and frustrating, with flashes of brilliance and ineptitude.
The biggest problem with the Giants’ offense is that it can never seem to play up to its talent and potential. Eli Manning and Odell Beckham have arguably been the most prolific (and exciting) combinations in history over the previous two years. This year they have hooked up plenty, but the offense has largely been stale.
However, we have seen moments, series, quarters, and even halves, where the Giants play like we thought they would coming in to the season. They would use formations, plays, and concepts that we largely hadn’t seen before. But then after that success, they would retreat back into their 11 personnel, shotgun formation shell. The fact that they used those concepts means they ARE in the offense. Will we see them this game? Has McAdoo slyly leaning on his defense to conceal (at least) part of his offensive scheme to take post-season defenses by surprise?
We’ll find out this evening.
3. Can The Defense Perform?
The defense has their work cut out for them against Green Bay. The Packers’ offensive armory is well stocked and Aaron Rodgers is using them like an 80’s action hero. The defense will need to defend a variety of options, from their big three receivers, to tight end Jared Cook, to running back, nee` receiver, Ty Montgomery. Can the Giants cover them and finish their tackles without giving up any (or many) yards after contact?
They also have the unenviable task of trying to pressure Rodgers while not being over-aggressive and letting him get loose and wreck their game plan.
Olivier Vernon has a tough matchup against left tackle David Bakhtiari is playing at an elite level. The Giants will need their other pass rushers to win their battles, but not do so in a way that opens up scrambling lanes for Rodgers. Can they get it done?
4. How Will The Young Guns Perform?
We’ve already noted that the Giants have plenty of players who have never played in the post season. Players like Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard, most of the offensive line, Rashad Jennings, Paul Perkins, the entire defensive line, Devon Kennard, Janoris Jenkins, Eli Apple, and Landon Collins.
How will they handle the pressure? Will they come out prepared and ready to play? Will they be able to live up to the moment? Will they let their emotions get the better of them?