The Giants (1-1) are looking to rebound after last week’s huge let-down against the Colts. Rolling into the New Giants Stadium is Chris Johnson and the Tennessee Titans (1-1), who are looking to do some rebounding of their own.

AP



What To Watch For:
— Giants’ Front Seven vs. Chris Johnson

After holding the Carolina Panthers running game to a combined 74 yards, the Giants were slashed for 163 yards on 40 carries and one touchdown by the Colts’ running backs. So it’s difficult to gauge where this defense stands right now, because they were torched by an average running game yet shut down an elite one. This game speaks volumes about the path this defense will go down the rest of the season.

This is a statement game for this defense. They were riding high after the second half of the Carolina game, but not so much anymore after last week. Michael Boley made a statement last week with 16 tackles. The only other player that made a statement, to me at least, was Antrel Rolle on WFAN. Two players, that’s it; and just one on the field. Big Blue needs at least 11 players to make a statement on defense on Sunday.

In the Titans’ game last week against the Steelers, one thing was made clear to me: the Giants need to play like the Steelers’ front seven. Their ‘backers and linemen were fast, they were physical, and they were wild. Even without defensive tackle Casey Hampton, Tennessee’s running game was nonexistent, as Chris Johnson was held to only 34 rushing yards on 16 carries. Steelers’ LB James Harrison believed Johnson quit in the third quarter after getting hit so hard time and time again. That’s the type of game Johnson needs to have again in order for the Giants to have a great chance at winning. The Giants defense needs to play with the mindset of “eleven helmets to the ball”; everyone, on every play, pursues to the ball and doles out some legal punishment.

— Big Blue Defense – Forcing Turnovers

Perry Fewell’s Tampa Two scheme is centered on forcing turnovers. It abused Matt Moore and Carolina in week one, so we’ve seen exactly what this defense is capable of doing when it’s clicking. Last week, the Titans had seven turnovers. They had seven turnovers. Vince Young had a turnover party with two interceptions and two fumbles, and he was lifted for Kerry Collins. That Big Blue defense, especially the front four, needs to be relentless in its attack. Young is susceptible to turnovers when he’s under pressure, and Fewell’s Tampa Two can bait him into turning the ball over; but it all starts up front.

— Giants’ Pass Offense vs. Titans’ Pass Defense

So far through two weeks the Titans’ currently have the NFL’s top-ranked pass defense with 171 total yards allowed, one TD, and eight sacks. However, they’ve played the Radiers and the Steelers, so that says more about the Raiders’ and Steelers’ passing games than it does the Tennessee defense. They haven’t faced a quality NFL quarterback yet. They don’t even practice against one.

Week one saw a lot of catchable passes that weren’t caught – three of which that turned into interceptions. Week two saw a different, more serious problem: a lack of pass protection. The offensive line was awful last week, exposed by the Indianapolis pass rush. The Titans’ secondary is suspect, but like any secondary it feeds off of the pressure of the defensive line. The Colts speed rush off the edge gave our tackles nightmares. If the Giants’ offensive line fails to pass protect and Eli is under attack all game again, the chances of the Giants winning this game are slim.

Key Players: Chris Johnson (TEN); Giants’ O-Line

— The Giants go from facing perhaps the best quarterback in the NFL in Peyton Manning, to facing perhaps the best running back in the NFL: Chris Johnson. You need to know where #28 is on every single play. Every gap up front needs to be accounted for on run plays, and the Giants’ linebackers need to pursue relentlessly. He has 4.2 speed; his ability to burst through holes is tremendous; his elusiveness and agility are unbelievable; and his ability to find the open hole, and to cut-back, is unrivaled. There is not a more dangerous running weapon in the NFL today. Not one.

Fewell did a good job in using five and six defensive backs last week against the Colts – they are a passing team after all – but even that didn’t work against Manning because there was no pressure by the front-four. Because of the no-huddle offense, we couldn’t get more linebackers on the field for run situations. With six DB’s on the field and only five or six guys in the box, the Colts were able to run the ball down our throats.

That won’t be a problem this week, as Vince Young doesn’t scare anyone. Okay, he scares strip club managers. That’s only a single group of people. There are no strip club managers on this defense (as far as you and I know).

Anyway I digress. The Steelers punished Chris Johnson last Sunday. If the Giants can punish CJ2K like he was punished last week, the game gets placed in the hands of Vince Young. And that bodes well for a Giants victory. If one assignment is missed, however, all it takes is one play for Johnson to take over a game. And the Giants will pay if they allow him to do that.

— The offensive line is the key to the Giants winning this game. Period. Eli was assaulted last Sunday. Once regarded as one of the best units in the League just a couple years ago, they have fallen pretty far to the point where they are the weak spot of the offense. And it figures to be even weaker this week, as they will most likely be without Shaun O’Hara. David Diehl was abused by Dwight Freeney last week. Rich Seubert is on the last legs of his career and I will be absolutely shocked if he keeps his left guard job all year. Take a look at these numbers from Pro Football Outsiders:
– After two games, the Giants are 22nd in the league in ‘Adjusted Run Yards per play’ with 3.47.
– Twenty-five percent of their running plays have been ‘stuffed’ – meaning they either lost yardage or went for no gain. Only seven teams in the league have a worse percentage.
– The Giants are 31st in the league in ‘power running’ success, having converted only 25-percent of third and fourth down runs when two yards or less was needed.
– The Giants are 24th in the league in pass protection, getting Eli Manning sacked 7.6 percent of the time he drops back to pass.

Not pretty. Creating holes for the backs and trying not to get Eli killed are priorities 1 and 1A.

Vegas’ Take: The Giants are 3-point favorites.

Injuries:

Here is this week’s injury report: LB Phillip Dillard (hamstring); S Michael Johnson (back); C Shaun O’Hara (ankle, Achilles); TE Kevin Boss (concussion); WR Mario Manningham (illness); CB Aaron Ross (foot); LB Chase Blackburn (knee); T Will Beatty (foot).

Tom Coughlin said he’ll go “day-to-day” with O’Hara, although he sounded more pessimistic than positive. Backup Adam Koets is (oh no) more than likely to get the first start of his career. Chase Blackburn was more optimistic about his availability on Sunday after getting some work in during practice this week. He’ll hopefully get even more reps today, and he’s aiming toward playing. Beatty, who we could really use, is out for at least six more weeks. Boss was a full participant in practice Thursday for the second straight day, and is on track to play on Sunday. Manningham is fine, and Ross will be good to go again on Sunday.

Fearless Projections:

Vince Young: Two interceptions (one returned for a TD) and a lost fumble
Chris Johnson: Less than 120 total yards
Jacobs, Bradshaw: Combined 170+ total yards

Prediction:

Giants 20
Titans 17

From the outside of the Giants’ organization, it seems like 2006 all over again. Players are sniping at each other, there’s unrest in the locker room, the head coach is on the hot seat, and the finger is on the panic button. Come on. We’re right where we should be at 1-1. Coughlin has his team under control, at least for the time being. He spent this week talking to Antrel Rolle and to Brandon Jacobs. Jacobs completely turned around his mindset: he says he’s happy in his role as the number two back and he will embrace making the most of every opportunity he’ll get. And Rolle’s statements about leadership and attitude seem to have hit the nail right on the head. Nobody was fired up and ready to play last week. Thanks to Rolle, that changes this week.

The Giants enter this game “refocused”, according to defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka. The defense felt embarrassed after the Colts game, as they should. With pressure up front from Tuck, Osi and Co., the defense will get plenty of opportunities this week to make plays, and they will capitalize on those chances. The mix of Jacobs and Bradshaw will do big things Sunday against a solid, but unspectacular, defense. Steve Smith, Hakeem Nicks, Manningham, and Boss will spread the field if the offensive line can give Eli the time to throw. And the run game will be (and should be) prominent early, often, and throughout.

Let’s Go Giants