After an 0-2 start many New York Giants fans are having deja vu.
Many are harkening back to last season when the club started out 0-6 and effectively buried their season before it even started. With key injuries on defense, and an offense in flux, things could snowball fast if the Giants are not careful.
While you hate to use the term “must win” loosely, Sunday’s game with the Houston Texans is indeed a very important game for the Giants if they have any ideas of having a productive season. After finishing with the worst record in the NFL last year, the Texans are a much-improved team and now sit 2-0. However, they are beatable and have their weaknesses.
Here then are five things to watch for in Sunday’s game
Will Eli Manning show more improvement on Sunday?
You know, even though some booed him at home last week, Manning wasn’t all that bad and he isn’t the one you should pin your blame on.
After all, he did complete 26-39 passes for 277 yards and two touchdowns, while throwing two interceptions. The offensive line continues to be an Achilles heel for the Giants and if Manning can get some time against an aggressive Houston front, he can make the Texans pay.
If Victor Cruz can avoid the dropsies and Rueben Randle and Larry Donnell keep playing well, this offense can conceivably start to come alive. While you shouldn’t expect dominance, improvement is all we should be looking for and this is a game where Manning can be somewhat effective if given time to throw.
Is Rashad Jennings the only hope the Giants have on offense?
If you read above, you would notice I said Manning has a chance for success in this game, but the bread and butter of the Giants offense thus far has been Jennings and he should continue to be.
Simply put, the Giants need to feed him the ball. He has been one constant this year with 110 rushing yards and a touchdown on 34 carries. With Andre Williams still not seeing many carries, Tom Coughlin is trusting Jennings to be the main man in the running game.
For the Giants to have a shot in this game, Jennings will need to be above average in the running game and make plays with his speed.
How do the Giants contain Texans stud defensive end J.J. Watt?
As mentioned above, the Giants’ offensive line is a work in progress and how they handle Watt is of utmost importance on Sunday.
Watt is simply a beast and he can cause havoc regardless of who’s guarding him. The job of guarding him this week will likely be up to Justin Pugh, and he has been solid, but expect him to get some help on double and, perhaps, triple teams.
You could be a Hall of Fame tackle and you’ll still have trouble containing Watt. He’s that good. So, for the Giants sake, the hope here is that he is somewhat contained, while the line gives Manning time to connect with his receivers.
Can Giants contain Arian Foster while forcing Ryan Fitzpatrick to throw?
First of all, Foster is questionable to play at the moment, but expect him to play.
He is off to a fantastic start, having rushed for 241 yards and a touchdown on 55 carries thus far. He is carrying the Texans offense right now. So it would be wise for the Giants to load up the box and dare Fitzpatrick to beat them. While the Texans have good receivers in Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins, Fitzpatrick has his faults though and is not a trusted quarterback at this stage of his career.
So, get to Fitzpatrick and the Giants chances of a win go up. Just don’t let Foster beat you.
Who will step up in the linebacking corps in place of Jon Beason and Devon Kennard?
With the linebacking corp beat up with the loss of Beason and Kennard, some guys are going to have to step up their game this Sunday.
Considering how well Foster has started out, the play of the linebackers will be critical on Sunday. The Giants will need big afternoons from Jameel McClain, Spencer Paysinger, Jacquian Williams and Mark Herzlich.
Tackling will be the theme of the day and these guys have to bring it or the Giants will be in trouble.
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