BERGEN COUNTY, N.J.– “[The win over the Texans] definitely builds confidence in playing and so, when you get a win, you definitely try to keep that going into the next week and just keep rolling.” Those words were spoken to me by Alec Ogletree, New York Giants defensive captain, who had a game-sealing red zone interception in the fourth quarter. With a newfound confidence, the Giants are looking to earn their first winning streak of the season on Sunday at the Meadowlands (4:25pm) against the 2-1 New Orleans Saints. Both quarterbacks, Eli Manning and Drew Brees, are destined for Canton, Ohio. Here are my keys to victory for both teams:
This interview was recorded at Boone Enterprises Authentic Autographs in Pompton Plains, NJ.
KEYS TO A GIANTS VICTORY
- Get in QB Drew Brees’ face: Listed at 6’0″, Drew Brees is one of the shortest starting quarterbacks in the National Football League. (If I’m not mistaken, the only starting quarterback shorter that Brees is the Seattle Seahawks’ Russell Wilson- listed at 5’11”). Ogletree told me: “[Brees is] a guy, like you said, that’s going to be a Hall of Famer one day and for us, it’s going to take everybody, the same as we did last week, to come together and play well.” Clearly, Brees has adapted his play to continuously succeed at a high level in the NFL, but all three Giants defensive linemen (Damon Harrison [6’3″], Dalvin Tomlinson [6’3″], and B.J. Hill [6’3″]) will need to keep their arms up on his release to be as disruptive as possible. A few batted balls at the line of scrimmage, coupled with a consistent pass rush, would rattle anyone’s confidence in the pocket. Surprisingly, Brees has the same number of rushing touchdowns as Saints running back Alvin Kamara-so that is also something to watch.
- Contain RB Alvin Kamara: Kamara has rushed for the second most first-downs in the NFL, but more importantly, the Saints seem to be using him much like the Giants are using Saquon Barkley. Last week, Brees targeted Kamara 20 times! As a result, his yards per catch almost doubled his rushing yards. “He’s a guy that’s very explosive. I had a chance to go against him last year and he came onto the scene with a burst and hasn’t slowed down yet“. Expect the Giants to bring some blitz packages on Sunday. Ogletree, with a big smile, told me: “If I do blitz, hopefully I get him on the ground, I mean, that would definitely help – it doesn’t do any good if you don’t get him on the ground!” Kamara is a threat in the backfield and in the secondary. The Giants are embracing the challenge: “it’ll be a challenge for us this week, but we definitely look forward to it” said Ogletree.
- Protect Eli Manning: Disbelievers were reminded last week what Manning can do with a little time in the pocket. More time was afforded to him after a third different configuration (in as many weeks) to his offensive line: John Greco at center for Jon Halapio (season-ending injury) and Chad Wheeler at right tackle for a colossally underperforming Ereck Flowers. The Giants may have finally jammed enough puzzle pieces together to make a smooth, flat picture. Coach Shurmur, in his press conference after the Texans game said, emphatically: “Eli played a good game, I should say a damn good game…. He did what you expect a quarterback to do, and he did it at a high level against a pretty good pass rush.” Last week, Eli Manning was undoubtedly and unmistakably elite. The Giants a repeat performance from him again this week.
— New York Giants (@Giants) September 26, 2018
KEYS TO A SAINTS VICTORY
- Exploit the Giants defensive line: After being one of the worst teams against the run throughout the first two weeks, the Giants held their own against the Houston Texans, limiting the rushing attack to: 59 rushing yards on 19 attempts. The Giants may have a huge question mark on Damon “Snacks” Harrison’s ability to play Sunday. He left week three action with an apparent knee injury. One day after action in Houston, Ogletree didn’t “know much about [Harrison’s injury]”, but Coach Shurmur told members of the media on Tuesday it was: “Just normal wear-and-tear… I think Snacks is going to be fine”. Ogletree added: “At the end of the day, it’s a team effort. Every man that dresses on Sunday, [has] to be ready to play.” If the Saints win this game, it is because they returned the Giants’ rush defense back to where it was in weeks one and two.
- Pressure Manning: Although the Giants new right tackle, undrafted Chad Wheeler, held his own against one of the NFL’s premiere pass-rushers (Texans’ J.J. Watt) last week, he is still a great unknown. The Saints’ Alex Okafor, still looking for his first sack of 2018, must have a productive game for the Saints to win. To make Manning hurry his throws, to keep him on his back, and to ultimately re-lose his confidence in his offensive line will be the key to the Saints’ defense.
- Wil Lutz: With a little clock management, this game might come down to a special teams play on a final possession. This year, Lutz is kicking a tick higher (85.7%) than his career average (84.4%)- the only field goal he’s missed this season was in the 40-49 yard range. He is a reliable kicker: against the Atlanta Falcons, Lutz’ extra point with just over a minute remaining in the fourth quarter sent the game into overtime. The Saints eventually went on to win that game. Remember, though, that the Saints first three games have been played in a domed stadium: two at home and one in Atlanta. Lucky for Lutz, Sunday’s forecast for East Rutherford is predicted to be perfect football weather: 59% humidity, 69 degrees, and a steady wind of only 5 miles per hour. He could be the Saints’ difference maker on Sunday.
— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) September 23, 2018
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Giants are returning home with a little momentum and the right mindset. As Ogletree told me after last week’s win over the Texans: “We didn’t play a perfect game. Nobody plays a perfect game. We made enough plays to win the game but, in order to be an elite team, you have to fix your mistakes. Even when you win, you have to still have to approach it the same way as you lost.” I expect a shoot-out style game (which is great for fantasy owners) with many lead changes. After gaining over 100 yards in two of the first three games, this week four matchup will feature Odell Beckham, Jr.- his 2018 coming-out party, if you will. Beckham’s 2018 touchdown drought will end on Sunday: I predict 2 receiving touchdowns.
Alec Ogletree has a message for fans after being excited having seen so many of them in Houston: “Get ready Big Blue, we’re going to be in the house and hope to have everybody there, cheering loud just like they did and came to Houston”.
Score prediction: Giants 31, Saints 28
Earlier in the week, I joined Sports1280 New Orleans’ host Chris Gordy to discuss the Saints @ Giants game. Below is the link to the segment!