BERGEN COUNTY, N.J.- Sunday, the New York Giants (0-2) and the Houston Texas (0-2) will face off at 1pm from NRG Stadium in Texas. The good news: one team has to win this game. Both teams are experiencing a less-than-favorable start (to put it lightly) and both desperately need a win in week three.
KEYS TO A GIANTS VICTORY
1. Eli Manning: Through the first two weeks of this season, Manning, a future member of the NFL Hall of Fame, ranks 24th among the 32 active quarterbacks in terms of total quarterback rating. Everybody in the world knows that he is not a mobile quarterback, but he still has two functioning legs and needs to realize when it is time to step up in the pocket in order flush out the rush. There is a sense of optimism, however: Eli Manning has never lost to Houston as a starting quarterback, registering wins in 2006, 2010 and 2014.
2. Flush Out Texans’ Defensive Pressures: This week, it is quite possible that Manning has been jarred awake in the middle of the night in cold sweats with nightmares of a blitzing J.J. Watt. With one of (if not) the worst offensive lines in the National Football League, do you blame him? The Giants have given up eight sacks through two games (tied for fifth-most in the NFL) and have yet to face as premiere a pass rusher as Watt. He told reporters last night that he’s “starting to play the way [he] wants to play”. That’s terrible news for Manning and Co. and has “disaster-waiting-to-happen” written all over it.
Watt: “I feel good out there. I’m starting to play the way I want to play.” pic.twitter.com/gPHy4EhtKN
— Houston Texans (@HoustonTexans) September 20, 2018
3. Offensive Playcalling – I get it, and I have experienced it: as a quarterback, when you see a barrage of savage opponents that want to disrupt everything you’re doing bearing down on you, it is near impossible to get anything accomplished. You do not even have time to put your eyes downfield to locate an open receiver, never-mind raise your arm to throw it there. Head coach Pat Shurmur (primary play-caller) and offensive coordinator Mike Shula absolutely need to get more creative with the Giants’ predictable, almost scripted, offense. What is absolutely unacceptable is this stat from the New York Daily News’ Pat Leonard:
Eli Manning threw 9 of 20 1st-half passes BEHIND the line of scrimmage. He threw 15 of 20 passes no further than 3 yards. And he checked the ball down on NINE when he had sufficient time & protection from the O-Line. Dave Gettleman made a HUGE mistake. https://t.co/VomdC3SavZ
— Pat Leonard (@PLeonardNYDN) September 17, 2018
The Giants scored exactly zero points in the first half with the strategy that Leonard mentioned. The Giants need to open up the playbook and take a few shots downfield to open up the box and give a little breathing room to Saquon Barkley.
KEYS TO A TEXANS VICTORY
1. Deshaun Watson: Watson has only been marginally better than Manning in terms of QBR (Watson-44 vs. Manning-37.3) but the playing styles of Watson and Manning could not be any more different. Where the Giants are especially anemic is in preventing the quarterback from beating them not with his arm, but with his legs. This is good news for the Texans. Watson is third in the league in rushing yards for a quarterback behind Tyrod Taylor and Cam Newton. Now, Jaguars’ quarterback Blake Bortles is no Watson, Taylor, or Newton and the Giants allowed him to run a 40-yard dash right through their eleven defenders. If the Texans can force the Giants to put a spy on Watson, in order to prevent him from breaking away from the defenders, it will expose them in coverage. Coach Shurmur told the media: “until we fix the zone read stuff, we will continue to see it”. Defensive coordinator James Bettcher told the media today: “[It] starts with me. I have to coach it better and collectively, as a group, we have to execute it better. There is no magic pixie dust to sprinkle on it.”
— New York Giants (@Giants) September 20, 2018
2. Run the ball: The Giants still have not figured out a way to plug up their opponents’ running game. Through two weeks, the Texans lead the league in rushing, averaging 157.5 yards per game. Through [the same] two weeks, the Giants are one of the four worst teams in the NFL stopping the run, yielding 137.5 yards per game. Without belaboring the point, this includes stopping Watson, the Texans’ second most productive rusher, in addition to their featured back Lamar Miller.
3. Relentless pressure on Manning: For years, the Giants’ offensive line does their best impression of Swiss cheese each week. Even with their off-season changes, it does not seem as though they have found the right combination of players to protect their aging quarterback Manning. The Texans should take a the Cowboys’ idea in getting after Manning with their front four only. He seems to throw the ball away at the first inclination of peril. Lucky for the Texans, the anchor of their defensive line is one of the most efficient and effective men in football: Watt. Look for Watt to line up opposite the struggling Ereck Flowers.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Fantasy owners: I would double-down on Houston’s running back Lamar Miller. He will have a breakout game against this pitiful Giants rushing defense. New York’s center Jon Halapio, who earned the spot in training camp, exited last week’s game with a broken ankle and is out for the season. Perhaps in plugging in veteran John Greco, the Giants will have found the magic solution, but still, the line’s play is quite disjointed. Forget Odell Beckham, Jr., Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram, and Saquon Barkley – if the line doesn’t give (and hasn’t given) Manning enough time to make decisions and execute them, there is no use for them.
Final Score Prediction: Texans 21, Giants 10