What can we expect from WRs Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz in the Giants' final six games?
In lieu of a Weekend Wrap-Up article, I decided to put together some bold predictions during the New York Giants’ bye week. The team now has six games to solidify its identity, as the playoff race is just around the corner.
New York still has a lot to worry about. With teams like the Green Bay Packers, Atlanta Falcons and Baltimore Ravens still looming on the upcoming schedule, the Giants will need to play their best ball in the coming weeks.
This article will provide five predictions regarding the Giants' final six games of the 2012 season.
After a week off to rest his injuries, Hakeem Nicks will return to his dangerous form.
Last year, Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz became the first New York Giants receiving tandem to record 1,000 yards each in a single season. My first bold prediction is that the pair will repeat this feat in 2012.
Cruz is already in striking distance of the milestone with 743 yards to date. Quarterback Eli Manning likes to target him a lot, so barring a serious injury or complete drop-off in production, Cruz should have no trouble reaching the 1,000-yard mark.
Nicks, on the other hand, has some ground to make up. With only 465 yards through the first 11 weeks of the season, Nicks will need to maintain an average of 89.2 yards per game over the last six weeks in order to ensure his third straight 1,000-yard season.
Nicks will certainly need to pick up his production to catch up to Cruz, and he’ll only be able to do so if Manning breaks out of his current slump. If the bye week helps Nicks recover from some nagging injuries, another performance like his 199-yard one against Tampa Bay in Week 2 could be on the horizon.
We saw a flash of David Wilson's potential against the Browns, he needs to replicate that in the coming weeks.
The Giants' first-round draft pick has been extremely underwhelming thus far. The agility and explosiveness David Wilson displayed in training camp has barely been visible this regular season. In fact, 40 of his 89 rushing yards in 2012 came on one touchdown run against the Browns in Week 5.
According to the list of goals Wilson released before the season commenced, the former Virginia Tech Hokie had his sights set on six 100-yard games along with 10 touchdowns in 2012. Wilson will not reach either of those goals in the Giants’ final six contests, but the rookie will start to find his stride down the stretch.
The coaching staff has been vocal about its disappointment with Wilson’s progression, claiming that his athletic ability has not outweighed his unreliability. With Bradshaw banged up over the bye, Wilson may have assumed he would receive some default touches against Green Bay in Week 12.
Not so fast, rook', the Giants said. The organization brought some squad-less running backs in for a visit earlier this week, including Joseph Addai (last played with Colts in ’11), Mewelde Moore (waived by Colts in October) and Ryan Torain (last played with Redskins in '11).
The Giants’ decision to search for outside help at running back could be a strategic tactic designed to motivate Wilson. The team used a similar approach during a contract dispute with Ahmad Bradshaw in 2011; with a malcontent Bradshaw dangling in free agency, the Giants hosted Falcons running back Jason Snelling.
Bradshaw agreed to terms with New York the very next day.
Lawrence Tynes leads the team and league in points this season with 109.
There are still some who like to discredit kicker Lawrence Tynes’s 2012 production, because he doesn’t have the long-distance range of a Sebastian Janikowski or David Akers. While he may never have a shot at matching the Akers/Janikowski/Jason Elam/Tom Dempsey-held record of 63 yards, Tynes will silence his haters in the Giants’ remaining six games.
Tynes, the NFL’s current leader in points (109), has made 28 of the 31 field goals he has attempted thus far, but only one (three attempted) has been good from over 50 yards. The Giants will find themselves in more than one tight game before the season comes to a close, and I predict Tynes will renew his clutch value with three successful kicks of over 50 yards along the way.
Justin Tuck brought down Ben Roethlisberger twice in Week 9.
It’s well known that Pierre-Paul has the unmatched athleticism to take over the course of a single game, but if the team wants to survive long term, Tuck will need to drag the defense out of the quicksand it appears to be playing in.
The Giants play their best football when Tuck is healthy and on his game. New York’s defense has the chance to make a statement against Aaron Rodgers’s high-flying Packer offense after next Sunday, and Tuck should be the player that leads the defensive turnaround.
With safety Kenny Phillips eyeing down a return to action in Week 12, the Giants can experiment more with their three-safety look. With Phillips, Antrel Rolle and ball hawk Stevie Brown all patrolling the defensive backfield simultaneously, opposing passing attacks will face much stingier coverage, allowing more time for the rushers to reach the quarterback.
I am predicting that Tuck will come out of the bye week a rejuvenated defensive end. In New York's past 26 regular-season games, Tuck has only recorded eight sacks. But against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 9, he had two in one game, proving that his QB-chasing skills have not completely diminished just yet.
I believe Tuck will seriously tap into those skills during the Giants’ final six games in 2012.
Tom Coughlin has coached the Giants to the playoffs in five of the past eight seasons.
New York will win four of its final six games, finishing with an overall record of 10-6. A 10-win season would be disappointing considering the Giants’ 6-2 start, but it would not dash the team’s Super Bowl hopes; the Giants claimed the Lombardi Trophy with 10 regular-season wins in 2007 and only nine a season ago.
The Giants will start to come out of their slump in Week 12 but eventually fall short in a hard-fought battle with the Packers. Head coach Tom Coughlin dismissed the idea of a "moral victory" after his team’s Week 13 loss to the Packers in 2011, but after that game, New York only dropped one more matchup on its way to an unlikely Super Bowl victory.
This season may not be a mirror image of last year’s championship run, but I believe there will be several uncanny resemblances.
Even if the Giants come together in the season’s final six games, I still expect them to have one hiccup similar to their Week 14 letdown against the Washington Redskins in 2011.
The Redskins could hit New York with some déjà vu in Week 13 of this season, or the currently streaking New Orleans Saints, who embarrassed the Giants 49-24 last November, could hand the team an unexpected loss in Week 14.
Considering the Dallas Cowboy’s close games against the directionless Philadelphia Eagles and two-win Cleveland Browns in recent weeks, I believe the Giants will do just enough to hold off their division rivals and earn the franchise’s second straight NFC East title at 10-6.