A game so big, even the preview needs a "preview"
Every week, I post a Giants "Things to Do" list for their upcoming game. I'm not ready for it just yet. I need to warm up...
This Sunday's trip to Heinz field is a big one, as the Giants find themselves in the familiar position of having to prove themselves (once again) to the rest of the NFL community. Its a position they seem to relish; the underdog. After what they accomplished last year, and starting off 5-1 this year, they still aren't taken as serious contenders. Now that the Cowboys are faltering and the NFC Central is a logjam of .500 teams, the Giants are getting some attention again. However, with their loss to Cleveland and lackluster showing against San Francisco, "experts" do not see them in the same light as Tennessee or Pittsburgh. Maybe that's fair, afterall.
This weekend's matchup is quietly bubbling beneath the suface. Below was a comment I'd made on the Winner of NY Giants-Pittsburgh? thread started by "WestCoastGator". The thread has kept its momentum these past few days, with a hardy debate and some bold predictions. There's some disagreements, and of course fans are staying true to their teams, but the comments are civil and well thought out. It's almost a reflection of the teams themselves. Upper echelon teams and classy organizations. So classy in fact, that no one's really getting down in the mud fighting yet. But there's a momentum building - this wave of energy that's picked everyone up to carry them right up until 4:15 Sunday - that is undeniable. It's arguably the "biggest" game of the year because there hasn't been a meeting of such closely matched powerhouses because of the up and down nature of team performance in the NFL today. And there's the 'Ben vs Eli' thing.
I'm not bold or stupid enough to predict a NY victory, especially against a club like the Steelers. It's not in my nature. What I've done instead is provide three reasons I LIKE the giants' chances this weekend, and three reasons I DON'T like their chances.
Why I LIKE the Giants chances vs. the Steelers
1. Versatility in the running game: If Brandon the bulldozer can't get it done, they can go to Ward who's speedy and has a quick burst out of the backfield. If Ward struggles, they can go to Bradshaw who's elusive and hard to drag down. Both teams have talented running backs, but the Giants are averaging 60 more yards per game and 5.6 per carry versus the Steelers 3.9. With both teams having strong defensive fronts, the Giants might have more success in the running game
2. Getting to the Quarterback: Fair or not, Big Ben has been known to hold the ball too long, and sometimes he takes sacks when he should be throwing it away. Manning has been sacked 6 times this year compared to Roethlisberger who's been sacked 19 times. Granted - 9 of them were against philadelphia, but he went down 3 times in each of his games with Baltimore, Cleveland & Jacksonville, and 2 times in the opener against Houston. Does it mean very much in terms of this week's game? Maybe not, but it means that a good defense can get to Roethlisberger at least 3 times a game.
3. Plaxico out to prove himself: He wants to prove something to Pittsburgh. What that is, I don't know - either that they're missing out on something special, or that he can get through a game without cursing out his head coach. But ususally when Plax has something to prove, he has his best games. He also wants to put the garbage of the suspension and sideline antics with Coughlin behind him. he'll either implode or play lights out. I think he'll play lights out. in addition, Pittsburgh's secondary is banged up right now - it looks like McFadden is out. Polamalu may play, but will he be 100%?
Why I DON'T LIKE the Giants chances against vs. the Steelers.
1. Is the Captain healthy? If Antonio Pierce can't go, Chase Blackburn gets his second consecutive start at MLB. Blackburn did a commendable job against the 49ers on Sunday with 8 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble. Not only did he play well but he managed the defense and handled the radio signal calls. That was on Sunday. Last Sunday, at home. Against San Francisco.
This ain't home, and this ain't San Francisco.
2. Eli's downfield awareness: Manning had his first rough outing this season against the Browns. While he was more accurate than the stats imply from Sunday's 49ers game (16 of 31, which might have been 21 of 31 if it weren't for dropped passes), he nearly threw 3 interceptions. One was right in the hands of a defender that couldn't hold on, and one was read perfectly by Nate Clements that just sailed out of his reach. There's not a chance that Eli knew he was there, and if he did I wouldn't be able to understand his decision to throw there anyway. He got lucky, but he's got to scan the field a whole lot better this week or the Steelers will make him pay.
3. The Secondary: Perhaps Steve Spagnuolo has tweaked the defensive scheme to account for the loss of Pierce - perhaps he had to do this against the Browns knowing Pierce wasn't going to have the speed to cover anyone and had lost Gerris Wilkinson . Perhaps. Or perhaps it's something else. In any event, Aaron Ross has been lit up the past two weeks and the d-backs, overall, look slower than usual. They look as if they're reacting as opposed to covering.