The New York Giants dropped a dud in their Week 1 matchup with the Dallas Cowboys. In a game that had a Super Bowl-like feel to it, the Giants came up short on several key plays that left them in sole possession of last place in the NFC East heading into Week 2.
That said, while losing the first game of the season is not the end of the world, starting off 0-2 would put the Giants in an early hole that their schedule may not allow them to recover from. Needless to say, Big Blue's bout with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday may go a long way in determining the Giants' ability to make the playoffs.
Let's take a look at five things all die-hard Giants fans should be expecting to see come game time.
The Run Game Will Falter
It's no secret that the Giants' anemic rushing attack has necessitated the team to transform into a pass-first offense. A year ago, Big Blue finished last in the NFL in rushing, averaging just above 89 yards per game. While the aerial attack has enabled the Giants to sustain one of the NFL's more potent offenses, the ground game has been complementary and will continue to be as the season wears on.
The issues with the Giants rushing attack do not lie in the running back position. The aging offensive line has been completely ineffective at creating a push at the point of attack. There is rarely a viable hole to run through, which forces Ahmad Bradshaw and co. to improvise and appear ineffective. In reality, they usually don't have anywhere to run in the first place.
Last week, the Bucs only gave up 10 total rushing yards to the Carolina Panthers rushing attack. Gerald McCoy was all over the field, and the Panthers offensive line was overwhelmed by Tampa Bay's front seven. The game on Sunday still needs to be played, but on paper it looks as if the Giants are going to have a miserable time establishing a consistent ground game.
All Eyes On David Diehl
As Will Beatty continues to rehab his injured back, the Giants are going to have a decision to make on the offensive line in the near future. With Sean Locklear playing better than expected in Beatty's absence, the team may have a tough time taking him out of a starting role once Beatty is ready to go.
The odd man out in this scenario would undoubtedly be right tackle David Diehl. Diehl's struggles over the last several seasons have been well documented by his detractors, and his lackluster performance in the Giants season opener did nothing to help his cause. In fact, Pro Football Focus has calculated Diehl to be the worst pass-protecting offensive tackle in the NFL over the last three seasons.
All eyes will be on David Diehl's performance this Sunday. As a member of an offensive line that generated little ground production and gave up three sacks a week ago, offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride may be looking to shake things up. Sean Locklear has played batter than Diehl so far this season, and moving him over to the right tackle position where he is a more natural fit would only improve his performance.
With Will Beatty expecting to return in the near future, David Diehl is most likely playing for his job this Sunday.
Victor Cruz Will Catch The Ball
Victor Cruz played terribly in Week 1. His lack of concentration on three Eli Manning passes resulted in critical drops that could have changed the course of the game. As apologetic as Cruz was after the Giants loss, many fans have began to wonder whether we will see a drop off in his production this season.
While it may be unfair to expect Cruz to break the Giants' all-time receiving yards record again, his ability to catch the ball will not hold him back. We saw Cruz have issues with securing the ball last season against the St. Louis Rams, and he did just fine for the rest of the year.
The Giants receiving core should overmatch the Bucs secondary. If Cruz can get open out of the slot, he will have his opportunities to make plays over the middle of the field. Look for him to rebound in Week 2. We may even see him salsa dancing for the first time this season.
Jayron Hosley Will Have An Increased Role
After injuries to Terrell Thomas, Prince Amukamara and Michael Coe, the Giants have serious issues with their secondary depth heading into Sunday's matchup. Although Coe looked serviceable in Week 1, his hamstring injury could preclude him from playing at full strength. With Justin Tryon behind him on the depth chart, the Giants could look to rookie Jayron Hosley to play alongside Corey Webster at cornerback.
In short, the Giants secondary looked lethargic in Week 1. Kenny Phillips refused to hit anyone over the middle of the field, Corey Webster couldn't stop tripping over his own feet and Justin Tryon looked lost after he replaced an injured Coe.
The only potential solution left on the depth chart is Jayron Hosley. Although Hosley is not a physical corner, he has the ability to run with any receiver in the league. Against Dallas, the Giants cornerbacks played with their backs to the sideline and gave the Cowboys the middle of the field to work with.
The Giants were petrified that Dez Bryant and Miles Austin would beat them deep. There was no press coverage from Big Blue for the entire game, and Tony Romo beat the Giants defense over the head with a series of slant routes that played an huge part in Dallas' offensive success throughout the night.
There's no reason for the Giants to keep Hosley on the bench this Sunday. Tryon is inept, Coe is hurt and Prince Amukamara is questionable to play. At worst, Hosley has a terrible game and gains valuable experience. At best, the Giants catch lightning in a bottle. Either way, defensive coordinator Perry Fewell needs to inject some youth into a defense that appears to have aged a lot in just one season.
Eli Will Lead The Way
The Giants have question marks in several areas on the roster heading into this game. Hakeem Nicks may not be at full strength, the offensive line play is questionable, the secondary is in shambles and the pass rush from the defensive ends was almost nonexistent for the entire game last week.
However, Eli Manning is good enough to cover up all the Giants' shortcomings. As long as he gets the ball out of his hands quickly and accurately to the Giants' big-play receivers, Big Blue will be able to generate offense against the Bucs. Look for Eli to have a big game this week,
New York Giants : 24
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 21
The Giants are the more talented team, and they are playing at home. With that, they will surely be motivated to get the bad taste out of their mouths after dropping a big game to Dallas in Week 1. Tampa Bay is talented and will give the Giants more trouble than some pundits are predicting. However, Eli Manning will be enough to get the Giants their first victory of the season.