Diary of a Giants Fan: Giants – Packers Preview
In the throes of a three game losing streak, and mired in a swamp of injuries, poor effort and mediocrity, the Giants will host the undefeated Packers. Oh boy.
In the immortal words of Cole Trickle, portrayed by Tom Cruise in the absurdly underrated early nineties NASCAR classic Days of Thunder, “Oh this is gonna hurt.” Let’s face it Giant fans, Big Blue is reeling. Badly. They’re in the midst of a three game losing streak and has looked, to put it kindly, lifeless in the past two weeks. Those two vomit-enducuing outings have been disasters of poor effort and worse execution and culminated in a lifeless second half in which the Giants defense was repeatedly beaten about the head by Drew Brees and company in a 49-24 loss that was never really that close.
But hey. Things happen in the NFL. Sometimes a team can lose focus and string together a few bad games. They’re certainly capable of rallying if they put those games behind them and look forward to…Oh, crap. Green Bay. Okay, things look bleak. Really bleak. I don’t think I need to spell out the stats; I’ll just say it this way: The Packers are really freaking good. Like. Really good. And the Giants get to play them on short rest, after playing another brilliant team, the Saints. Picture a boxer who gets dominated and knocked out by Mike Tyson, wakes up, and immediately has to fight Ali in his prime – sorry about the wait sir, the Undertaker will see you now.
Sadly this Giants season isn’t that far away from needing a pine box. After losing three straight they stand at 6-5. If they lose on Sunday they’ll be 6-6 and would need to win out to ensure themselves a playoff spot. So a win on Sunday would be a huge boost for the Giants’ playoff hopes, not to mention my psyche. Is it likely? Hell no. Is there a long-shot chance? I’m not sure I would even go that far. If this was a thoroughbred horse race, the Giants would be the three legged donkey that somehow managed a spot in the starting gate. It’s possible. But who’s putting their money there?
Alright, perhaps I’m exaggerating. The Giants do have a lot of talent. There’s Terrell Thomas, Ahmad Bradshaw, Osi Umenyiora, Michael Boley – Oh wait. That’s the injured list. My bad. There were so many names on it I just figured it was the roster…But seriously folks, the Giants could win this game, but it’s hard to see them taking anything but a loss. If they are to get a win I think the they have to rely on the running game. Ahmad Bradshaw has said that he plans to play on Sunday – and thank God. I don’t think I could take another week of Brandon Jacobs’ recent “let’s try and sneak up on the defensive line” running style. With the Giants’ dynamic running back talent back, it is time for them to really try and establish that part of their offense. Run the ball, control possession, and use that to set up Eli Manning’s game winning heroics. Oh – and one more key for the Giants offense: CATCH THE DAMN BALL!
Defensively, the key for the Giants remains rushing the passer. If Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell hadn’t figured it out before Monday night, certainly he knows now: This secondary can’t cover anyone. Anyone. The Giants’ zone pass defense has gaps so wide in it that they simply have to be there by design, right? Furthermore, I’m not sure the Giants linebackers and secondary, with the injuries, are fast enough to run with good receivers (though I can’t be sure of that. They’re rarely given the chance to play man). Honestly, if Perry Fewell, Tom Coughlin and Kevin Gilbride went trips left on this defense, one of those three is going to be wide open – and would probably break a tackle or two. It’s that bad. That leaves the defensive line as the group that must be the difference maker – a task made all the more difficult by the absence of Osi Umenyiora. #72 joined the long list of injured Giant players due to his sprained ankle. He’s out indefinitely. Even with Umenyiora in the lineup, however, the D-line wasn’t exactly a model of effectiveness. This season they’ve been largely feeble in the first three quarters of games and they’ve been irrelevant during the losing streak – which the Giants just can’t have. When you have seven, at times eight, defensive backs who can’t cover AND a defensive line that can’t rush the passer, that’s when you lose 49-24.
So instead of steadfastly refusing to adapt, I suggest the Giants steer into the skid. Instead of defiantly shouting “NO! THIS MUST WORK! THERE CAN BE NO OTHER OPTONS! WE MUST RUN THIS INCREDIBLY SIMPLE DEFENSE WITH NO WRINKLES WHATSOEVER! EVEN IF IT IS GETTING BURNED BY QUARTERBACKS WHO WOULD BE PASSED OVER BY CFL TEAMS THAT DIDN’T MAKE IT INTO THE GREY CUP!”, I suggest Perry Fewell investigate the renegade strategy known as “blitzing.” No amount of Giant players can cover effectively. Four pass rushers can’t reach the quarterback. So why not give up on both ideas and try to manufacture confusion and pressure? Mix up coverages, bring corner/safety blitzes, bring linebackers, rush six, rush seven, do anything except what you’ve been doing! It’s been time for the Giants defense to adapt for a while now, but if such an adjustment doesn’t come this week you’ll have to wonder about the effectiveness of this coaching staff.
Still, I’m not sure any adjustment will be enough to get a win over this Packers team. They’re just so dang strong where the Giants are so glaringly weak. The Pack’s only weakness appears to be their defense, but even that is better than everyone is giving them credit for. They haven’t looked great defensively because in most games all they have to do is not give up forty points for the win. I think this Packers team, as you saw on Thanksgiving, can play D when they need to. When it was a close game the Pack kept the Lions off the scoreboard; it was only when the game was well in hand that they gave up points.
As for the actual game: To win the Giants need to run the ball well to keep the Packers off the field and get pressure on Rodgers to keep him from completely destroying the secondary (he’ll only somewhat destroy them if they get a good pass rush), two things they’re historically very good at. Encouraging. Also encouraging? Well, generally these Tom Coughlin coached teams respond well. In games that they have no business keeping close, let alone winning, the Giants always seem to find a way, and I have a feeling – despite their play – that this Giants team has a bit of a comeback in them. But I don’t think they’ve hit rock bottom quite yet. In a bit of foreshadowing to my preview of Cowboys-Giants (depending on how this game plays out), I think the Giants have one more dud in them before a possible turnaround. I’m normally overly optimistic when it comes to Big Blue and these scenarios, but I’ve had all the defiance torn from me. The Packers are just too damn good, and the Giants just too damn sad. Rodgers and crew will tear the secondary apart, and while I expect the Giants to score some points, I just can’t see them doing enough to get the win. They may keep it close. May. But they won’t win. 69-12 Packers.
Okay, for real though. 38-24 Packers.
Check back here after the game for my wrap-up, if you can see it through the blinding anger, and follow me on twitter @JoeBianchino. Go Giants!