Sunday, November 27, 2011

Giants: Saints game preview

Under normal circumstances, based on personnel and match ups, I would say that the Giants have a chance in this game. Saints have a strong offense, especially at home. Their OL is good, their QB is superior and their offensive skill position players are dangerous. However, their running game is good but not great and their TE, Graham, is making lots of catches, leading all TEs in receptions, in fact, but is not a real deep threat. Defending the outside receivers has been a decent part of the Giants defense this year. The weakness has been in the middle of the field and the Saints TE will be a big challenge for the Giants defense. Of course, their WRs can run crossing routes in the middle of the field as well, like everyone has been doing against Giants defense, but that is not their particular strength. At some point, the Giants DL will make a reappearance and at some point the Giants will figure out how to defend the soft medium depth middle zone even with Boley out of the game. Herzlich has been praised by Coughlin as someone who is a quick study and does not make the same mistakes twice. Let's see if he can pick up his pass defense this week, because the Giants really need it. I think Herzlich showed ability - speed and strength - but was caught in rookie assignment mistakes on several pass plays. Prince Amukamara played well last week, especially considering that it was his first snaps in a game. The Saints pass the ball very well, especially in their dome and a good game from the Prince would be timely help.

On defense, the Saints do not have a big pass rush or a particularly strong overall defense. They are weak both against the pass and against the run. I think the Giants should be able to move the ball against the Saints, presuming the OL actually makes it out onto the field this week (they clearly did not show up against the Eagles last week).

So with all that, if the Giants DL and OL makes a reappearance this week, I would say that the Giants have a chance. But their season has been so choppy, I just don't know which Giants team will show up. Will we see the Giants that played such a strong defensive game and gave a gritty effort against the Patriots on the road three weeks ago? Or will we see the Giants that showed up last week against the Eagles with such a weak effort. Hard to say, but there is a lot riding on this game - 1st place in the NFC East, playoff chances, coaching staff's jobs. Not to mention - erasing the bitter taste of last two weeks losses and removing the reputation that the team has of second half chokes. If that's not motivation, I don't know what is.

Giants have announced that they will move Diehl out to LT and slide Boothe into his position at LG. This is the smart move, but it could indicate that Beatty will be out for a while.

At this point in the season, after 10 games it's probably about time that Gilbride realized that the running game is not going to be a big weapon for the Giants this year. As my son pointed out to me in an email earlier this week, the Giants are 4th best in the league in yards per attempt in the passing game and second worst in the league in yards per carry in the running game. That strongly argues that the Giants should pass first to soften the defense and then run to keep the ball. The statistics I quoted about yards per pass attempt and yards per carry need a little more analysis and I will do that in a  post early next week (I promise - I've already started working on it). But for now, I am concentrating on the Saints and the murky playoff picture. The Cowboys pulled out two very close games the last two weeks. These were games they could have easily lost, both of which were won on FGs kicked by them as the last play of the game. Cowboys have a very good offense but a vulnerable defense. They are not an unbeatable team; the Giants have to win some games so that they are in position to make the Cowboys games matter to them when they play them. 

On defense, I am almost willing to give Fewell a little pass. They have had so many injuries and have so many players playing out of position - JPP shifted to DT; Kiwanuka shifted to LB; rookie LBs pushed into the starting lineup; absence of LBs leading to more 3-S look with Grant as a quasi-LB; Rolle pushed up as a slot defender in absence of CBs. But still - they should play better than they have last few games. I would shift JPP back to DE, where he is a natural and can use his athletic ability in a little more space. To get some more players to log the snaps at DT, I would activate Kennedy, play Rocky Bernard a little more and even give Tuck some snaps at DT. Giants are desperate for a pass rush and they have not been getting it with JPP at DT.

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