The Giants accomplished only three of the five Giants360 keys to victory against the Washington Redskins last Thursday, but did so with such efficiency that the three checked off outweighed the two they failed to meet resulting in the blowout 45-14 victory for the Giants. Eli Manning had his finest day in Ben McAdoo’s offense, throwing for 300 yards and 4 touchdowns. The defense generated six turnovers, including four interceptions, and Kirk Cousins was largely contained other than on designed run that went for 12 yards in the first quarter.
Special teams are still a mess, with big returns being wiped out by sloppy penalties and punt protection still spotty. Pass defense is still vulnerable down the middle of the field, with Cousins completing 13 of 16 passes for 185 (of 257) yards and his only touchdown in that area. None of his four interceptions were between the numbers. Having Devon Kennard return and take over for the abysmal (in coverage) Mark Herzlich will help improve pass intermediate pass coverage, and Will Demps was an improvement deep. The Giants miss Will Hill’s coverage skills in the secondary.
Against the Falcons, the Giants will win the game if they accomplish the following:
- Run the Ball. The Falcons surrender an average of 150 yards per game on the ground and have already given up 9 rushing touchdown this season. Their average of 4.55 yards per carry surrendered ranks in the bottom third of the league and screams run the ball as the focus of the Giants game plan for this week. The only one of the Falcons first four games where an opponent ran for less than 139 yards was their Thursday night massacre of the Buccaneers when Tampa Bay only attempted 18 rushes. Expect big games from both Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams.
- Do Not Kick the Ball to Devin Hester. The 31 year old Hester has experienced a career revival in his first season in Atlanta after spending eight years as a Chicago Bear and already has a touchdown rushing, receiving, and on a punt return. The Giants have given up a punt return touchdown to Ted Ginn, jr. of the Arizona Cardinals that shifted momentum in that game and cannot afford to test their shaky special teams against the NFL’s top punt returner. Weatherford needs to kick it out of bounds even it it costs the Giants 5 yards of field position. That’s better than giving up 30 yards or a touchdown to a Hester return. I’ve given up on the Giants having an impact kick or punt return until I see a flag free game on special teams. I’m beginning to think that might not come until 2015 and not in a game refereed by Ed Hochuli.
- Throw Deep to Odell Beckham At Least Three Times. As stated in Key One, the focus of the Giants game plan will and should be running the football. However, with important division games on the horizon against the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys, it’s important to get Beckham, the twelfth overall draft pick with game changing speed, on film running deep. This will force upcoming opponents to take the threat seriously and open up worlds of possibility for the Giants suddenly potent offense. Remember how effective the Giants running game was in 2008 before Plaxico Burress shot it, and himself, in the leg? It was part offensive line, and part opposing defenses respecting Burress’ deep speed. Beckham can have that same effect. If Manning connects on one of the deep throws, it’s that much better.
- Bring the Pressure on Defense. The Falcons offense line is in shambles with two starters on injured reserve, and another not practicing. Matt Ryan will be throwing quick passes to offset the shaky protection and the Giants need to pressure him into making errors. This key has absolutely nothing to do with my starting the Giants defense in two of three fantasy leagues this week.
- Don’t Overlook the Falcons. With the divisional match ups coming up, and the Falcons limping into Metlife Stadium, this is the type of game where the Giants have historically come out flat. The team is improving, but not yet good enough to win ugly. The Falcons have enough talent to beat them if they don’t bring their A game from the first quarter.
There’s our five pack for the game – it’s a sandwich game, a downtrodden team in between two divisional match ups. Tom Coughlin will do his best to keep his troops focused and from getting carried away in their press clippings. Falcons head coach Mike Smith is an excellent tactician and will have a game plan designed to exploit the Giants two main vulnerabilities – special teams and pass defense down the middle. The Giants coaching staff corrections made over their mini-bye will go a long way towards determining the outcome.