Give a welcome to our newest writer – David Aitken. For his debut article, he takes a closer look at the New York Jets week 13 opponent, the 5-6 New York Giants.
Both teams are looking at this game with no margin for error after blowing games that set up favorably as a clear path to the playoffs. Four of the Jets’ five losses have been by a possession or less, while the Giants have lost five of such games, including three determined by three or less points. Jets fans are still actively thinking about whether Devin Smith’s fumble or tight end red zone failures against Buffalo will be their undoing, while Giants fans can practically write the book on heartbreak after crushing last-second losses in Dallas, New Orleans, and at home versus the Patriots. For whatever reason, they also share the honor-less distinction of being two of the four teams that couldn’t figure out the toothless edition of Chip Kelly’s Eagles.
Look at the big picture, and the Giants look like a team on an all too familiar trajectory. This time last year the writing was on the wall for Rex Ryan, who after two early playoff runs was about to coach the Jets to four straight seasons without playoffs. Should the Giants fail to make the postseason this year, it’s a very similar narrative (granted, what Coughlin actually did accomplish is infinitely more impressive). The teams even share similar quirks – the Coughlin Giants and Ryan Jets could show up and hurt themselves more than the opponent ever could in any given game, and yet they were one of the most dangerous teams in the postseason if they could ever get there.
This Sunday, it’s a fresh beginning versus one last hurrah. If it’s another season without playoffs for the Giants, they’ll certainly follow in the Jets’ revamping footsteps.
The Odell Beckham Show
Since entering the league last year, no player has single handily transformed an offense the way Beckham has for the Giants. In 23 games, Manning has completed 163 passes (65.73% of attempts) for 2,314 yards (9.33 Y/A), 21 touchdowns and just 5 interceptions toward Beckham. The system change in 2014 has partly attributed to less turnovers by Eli, but it’s hard to imagine the Giants offense being anything more than a dink-and-dunk attack without Beckham’s transcendent talent.
Rueben Randle (61 targets), Shane Vereen (50 targets) and Dwayne Harris (42 targets) share what’s left over. Keep an eye on Vereen, who could be a feature in trying to exploit linebackers in coverage like other teams have already done this season, but the key remains slowing Beckham down. With Revis all but ruled out already and Marcus Williams looking iffy, consistent pressure on Manning will be key.
Offensive Line Woes
Struggling bookends, right guard out for the season, banged up center, a new left guard the most consistent performer. Sound familiar?
The Giants were shocked by Washington last week largely because they were missing all three interior starters who have been their best linemen overall. Justin Pugh and Weston Richburg sound ready to return, but Geoff Schwartz was placed on IR after suffering an injury in the Washington loss. The Jets should still feel good about their chances however, as both rookie Ereck Flowers and veteran right tackle Marshall Newhouse have been two of the league’s three worst tackles in terms of pressure allowed. With Lorenzo Mauldin seeing an increase in snaps, this could be the game where he really breaks out.
Strength vs. Strength
Even should Darrelle Revis play on Sunday, there would be an argument that the corner in Metlife Stadium playing the best football at the moment will be one wearing blue and red. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has yet to give up a touchdown and his 48.7 passer rating against is second only to DPOTY candidate Josh Norman. Joined by a healthy Prince Amukamara, the Giants cornerback duo are as good a pair Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker will face all season. If Marshall carries his performance level from last week into this Sunday it is hard to imagine anybody stopping him, but this looks a game where in go-to situations it’ll be Eric Decker’s work in the slot that will make or break the success of the Jets offense.
Risk and Reward
Steve Spagnuolo has certainly injected some life once again into the Giants defense, but they’re more opportunistic than traditionally stout. 6.1 yards-per-play is amongst the league’s worst totals, 24.8 points-per-game is just about in the bottom third, and their sack total is tied for league worst with just 12. What they have done well is take the ball away. As a group they’ve picked off 14 passes and have forced 14 fumbles, recovering 8. The Jets should be able to move the ball – they just cannot shoot themselves in the foot. Fitzpatrick is typically good for a turnover a game, and it’s hard to envision a clean performance with what the Giants do well, even after last week being arguably his best in this regard. If this is the case, red zone opportunities will be key. The Jets failed here in Buffalo, but have otherwise been one of the league’s best red zone teams.
*All stats are courtesy of Pro Football Focus except the Giants team defense numbers, which were taken from the official NFL website.