You can feel the pressure. It's palpable. This New York Giants team is 0-2 and trending downward. Ten-point lead turns into a one-point loss. Ten-point lead turns into a four-point loss. Whatever happens on Thursday will set a course for this ship and this team needs to look to its captains for guidance.
Can Tom Coughlin guide this team to the promised land? If he doesn't make the playoffs, this might be it for him, and his coaching staff for that matter. There have been periods where the Giants have started out 0-2 before. In fact, this is the third year in a row. I didn't freak out in those years because it didn't seem so bad. This year feels a bit worse.
The game begins and ends with one man; Eli Manning. Over the first two weeks, we have been witness to some truly incompetent game management, and while that does extend to the coaching and game planning towards the fourth-quarter, it cannot be discussed without Manning's critical errors. At the most inopportune times, Manning put his team in a bad situation.
His problem from the first game -- starting a series of plays on the final drive with too much time on the clock -- reversed itself against the Atlanta Falcons when he couldn't get the snap away before a costly penalty. However, outside of the mistakes we wouldn't expect of a high-schooler, Manning was a decent quarterback in Week 2.
There is still an issue with deep passing, but at least he's on the board now after a 26-yarder to Odell Beckham Jr. Kevin Gilbride's offense was built on this stuff, and Ben McAdoo seems to avoid it like the plague. Manning has the ability to make big plays on his end, and the offense needs to find a balance that puts more faith in his arm, and less in his brain. On a short week, that's the recipe for success.
The Giants are down to their third option at left-tackle and we're only eight days into the season. It doesn't look like the team will push injured rookie Ereck Flowers back into the lineup for Thursday's game, and we all know Will Beatty is a while away from returning, so that leaves a line combination that looks like this:
Justin Pugh - John Jerry - Weston Richburg - Geoff Schwartz - Marshall Newhouse
Fans will be clamoring for Jerry's head on a stick should he let even one Washington player through on Thursday. His playing style as of late has been reminiscent of his namesake, Jerry Gergich, from the former NBC comedy, Parks and Recreation. John Jerry Gergich has a nice ring to it.
Look, it's difficult to predict how this line will hold up; both in terms of strengths and weaknesses. This isn't what we expected and this isn't something we have seen before. For better or worse, this is a new look.
Well, Preston Parker is gone. Happy now? After five drops in two games, the Giants are going to look at another way of replacing the injured Victor Cruz. Because there may be only one more week until he returns, I'm not expecting something drastic like starting Geremy Davis in that spot. Beckham will likely get some looks and Dwayne Harris should see extended playing time.
Elsewhere, there is Larry Donnell, who took home three touchdowns against Washington on a similar Thursday night game last year. Giants fans everywhere would kill for a repeat performance from him because since his hat-trick in 2014, he has just three touchdowns since. Anyone looking for someone who needs to step up during this lull should look at Donnell. It's crucial that he starts pulling his weight.
Lastly, there's the running backs. Shane Vereen is the most promising of the trio and that's predominantly because of his use in the passing game. Rashad Jennings is no slouch in that area, but keeping him fresh for the between the tackles stuff is a solid plan. Then there's Andre Williams; a man so intent on getting yards after contact that he'll run straight at a defender and be tackled immediately.
With great power, comes almost no responsibility. The offense needs to be held accountable for their mistakes and the onus is on this coaching staff to make sure there are no more screw ups. Poor time management, conservative game-planning, and the inability to close out games will cost people jobs if it keeps happening. Nobody is blameless, but nobody is stepping up either. On Thursday night -- with their second divisional game in 11 days -- we get to see what kind of team this is. Roll over and accept defeat. Rise and fight. This is one of the most important Week 3 games in Giants history.