The New York Giants can begin to really pull away in the NFC East with a home victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers this week, especially with Dallas and Philadelphia both drawing tough Week 9 matchups.
Here's my final preview of Sunday's Pittsburgh-New York matchup in Jersey, along with my prediction.
What New York must do to win, offensive edition: Get the running game going against a defense that will crush a one-dimensional attack.
What New York must do to win, defensive edition: Lend reinforcements to a secondary that could otherwise be killed by a deep, fast receiving corps.
How New York can lose: By getting toasted by Ben Roethlisberger and Co. That secondary is vulnerable, man.
Five most important non-quarterbacks: Ahmad Bradshaw, Corey Webster, Prince Amukamara, Jason Pierre-Paul, Linval Joseph
Bradshaw has to step up considering that the passing game could be in trouble against the league's top-rated pass defense. Webster and Amukamara have to hold up against Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders. Pierre-Paul will again lead the pass rush, and Joseph will be counted upon to contribute as a pass-rusher and run defender.
Injury analysis, Giants edition
Out: Chase Blackburn (hamstring), Jacquian Williams (knee)
Doubtful: Keith Rivers (calf)
Questionable: Ahmad Bradshaw (foot), Bear Pascoe (ankle), Kenny Phillips (knee)
Probable: David Baas (ankle, elbow), Rocky Bernard (quadricep), Victor Cruz (calf), Antrel Rolle (concussion)
The Giants won't likely miss Blackburn, who's been having a rough year, but not having the rangy Williams still hurts. With Rivers also hurt and unlikely to play, they'll be very thin with Mark Herzlich starting. Getting Phillips back would be nice
Injury analysis Steelers edition
Out: Marcus Gilbert (ankle), Troy Polamalu (calf), Stevenson Sylvester (hamstring)
Doubtful: Jonathan Dwyer (quadricep), Rashard Mendenhall (Achilles)
Probable: Baron Batch (shin), Ryan Clark (concussion), Brandon Johnson (hamstring), Isaac Redman (ankle), LaMarr Woodley (hamstring)
Looks like Isaac Redman will carry the rock, which is a relief for the Giants considering that Jonathan Dwyer was on a roll and New York's linebacking corps is depleted. And it's always nice to face a Pittsburgh defense sans Polamalu.
B/R NFC East blog prediction
I feel as though the Giants are due for a bit of a letdown. They've been cutting it close as of late, and the Steelers really need this game. Plus, I don't think New York matches up well with Pittsburgh's superb pass defense. The Steelers prevail.
Steelers 27, Giants 23