The New York Giants won the Super Bowl despite an 0-2 start in 2007, but the odds would still be stacked heavily against Tom Coughlin's squad if they were to fall to the sneaky-good Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday.
Starting 0-2 is one thing. Starting 0-2 at home against two conference foes is another.
What New York must do to win, offensive edition
The Giants simply have to be better—both through the air and on the ground—than they were against Dallas. Eli Manning has to use his great field vision to attack weak links like Eric Wright and Mark Barron while avoiding dangers like Aqib Talib and Ronde Barber. And they absolutely have to open up more holes for Ahmad Bradshaw and David Wilson.
What New York must do to win, defensive edition
Coughlin's squad has to shut down Vincent Jackson and don't overlook Doug Martin. Josh Freeman can't beat the Giants without those guys.
How New York can lose
If the offensive line continues to struggle in pass protection and the Bucs' front seven comes to play, as they did last week against Carolina, the Giants could be in trouble.
Five most important non-quarterbacks
Corey Webster, Prince Amukamara, Jason Pierre-Paul, David Diehl, Sean Locklear
Webster has to bounce back against Jackson after a terrible season-opening performance, while Amukamara will likely have his hands full with Mike Williams in his season debut. If Amukamara isn't healthy enough to go, replace him with Michael Coe. JPP and his two pass-rushing sidekicks have to actually hit Josh Freeman this week, while Diehl and Locklear have to be better as both pass-protectors and run-blockers.
Injury analysis, Giants edition
Out: DE Adewale Ojomo (hamstring)
His absence just means less support for the big three up front.
Doubtful: LB Keith Rivers (hamstring)
Rivers was one of the best defensive players on the field against Dallas, so this hurts. Michael Boley will be thrust back into the starting lineup, but he's not expected to be 100 percent just yet. This could really help the Bucs find space in the second level.
Questionable: WR Hakeem Nicks (foot), CB Prince Amukamara (ankle)
The Giants can survive without Amukamara if Coe is good to go, but he's less than 100 percent, too. This secondary could have problems if Freeman is locked in with Jackson and Williams.
PROBABLE: DT Marvin Austin (back), C David Baas (hip), T James Brewer (back), CB Michael Coe (hamstring), WR Victor Cruz (excused*), RB Da'Rel Scott (knee)
Cruz was attending his grandmother's funeral and will be fine for Sunday. He'll face a lot of heat with Talib in coverage and Nicks still hurting.
Injury analysis, Buccaneers edition
Carl Nicks and LeGarrette Blount are both probable, while right tackle Jeremy Trueblood is questionable. That offensive line could be tested heavily against New York's overpowering defensive front, especially if Trueblood isn't able to go and Nicks isn't 100 percent.
B/R NFC East Blog prediction
The Giants are mentally tough and the Buccaneers are young. I don't think New York will be able to run away with it because of the issues the team's having in the secondary and on the offensive line, but I can't see the G-men losing back-to-back home games to start the year. They'll capitalize on Tampa's inevitable miscues to pull it out.
Giants 24, Buccaneers 21
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