New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning said, “We feel we have a great opportunity to change things around and get some momentum.”
Receiver Hakeem Nicks said, “I think we’re going to come together; you can feel it now.”
Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul said, “I’m pretty sure we’ll come out with a win this week.”
Well, as they say in Missouri, home of the Kansas City Chiefs, who, by the way, are the Giants’ next opponent: “Show me.”
The Giants, who were absolutely humiliated last week by the winless Carolina Panthers, are back to talking up a good game, telling reporters how they’re having great practices, how things are starting to come together, how things are going to be much different this week, how they’re going to overcome adversity, and so on, and so forth.
Sound familiar? If it does, it's because it's what they were saying when they were 0-0, 0-1 and 0-2.
So why should we believe that this week, when the Giants hit the road to face a 3-0 team led by old frenemy Andy Reid, a man who for years as the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles went 15-13 in regular-season games and 2-1 in postseason games against the Giants, will be different?
We shouldn’t, because we have heard this song and dance before, and there just comes a time when “Wolf!” is cried one time too many.
A wise, old gentleman who has been known to wander the halls of the Quest Diagnostics Training Center, Giants team headquarters, once said, “Talk is cheap; play the game.”
The Giants players would probably be best served to heed that sage’s advice rather than to keep talking about the positive energy and activity that occurs in a closed practice, the results of which have yet to transfer over to the playing field.
The Giants and Chiefs have met 12 times in the regular season, with the Giants leading the series, 10-2. These two teams last met on Oct. 4, 2009, a 27-16 Giants win at Arrowhead Stadium.
While the sacks are certainly not his fault, the eight interceptions that quarterback Eli Manning has thrown is a huge red mark against his 2013 stat line, as a fair number of those picks are on his shoulders.
In addition, while Manning has a very healthy-looking 931 passing yards, when it comes to completion rate, Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith, who is 64-of-105 for 669 yards and four touchdowns, has his 61 percent completion rate ahead of Manning’s 58.8 percent.
The Giants running game has been virtually nonexistent through three games. To put things into perspective about just how bad it’s been, Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles has rushed for 224 yards on 52 carries with two touchdowns.
By comparison, the Giants’ trio of David Wilson, Brandon Jacobs and Da’Rel Scott have combined for 111 yards on 46 carries and one rushing touchdown among them.
Chiefs tight end Anthony Fasano hasn’t been involved much in the passing game, catching four balls for 34 yards. Brandon Myers, meanwhile, is second on the Giants with 16 receptions for 173 yards and a touchdown.
The Giants’ “big three” receivers—Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz, and Rueben Randle—have combined for 613 yards on 35 receptions and four touchdowns.
The Chiefs’ top receiving trio, which excludes the versatile Charles, who is the team leader in receptions with 18, includes Donnie Avery, Dwayne Bowe and Dexter McCluster, has combined for 338 yards on 26 receptions with two touchdowns.
Another week, another potential lineup for the Giants offensive pit men. Thanks to injuries to both right guard Chris Snee (hip) and center David Baas (neck), the Giants are, once again, scrambling to find a combination that will, hopefully, keep their franchise quarterback from being beaten up again this week.
Meanwhile, the Chiefs pass protection hasn’t been that much better, as Smith has been sacked 10 times, one less than Manning. The difference, though, is that the Chiefs have managed to put the same unit on the field for the last two weeks, and there’s something to be said for continuity in the trenches.
The Chiefs run a 3-4 scheme, their front seven having recorded 13.5 sacks so far. Of those, 4.5 are by defensive linemen Tyson Jackson and Dontari Poe.
The Giants? Their front seven has just two of the team’s three sacks this season, all by the front four, as the Giants continue to try to figure out a way to rush a passer who is releasing the ball a lot faster than what they were accustomed to seeing in 2011 when their sack numbers were off the charts.
Justin Houston, Derrick Johnson and Akeem Jordan make up three-fourths of the Chiefs’ linebacker unit. They also happen to rank first, second and fourth respectively on their team in total tackles and have eight sacks—Houston being the leader with 7.5—among them.
Mark Herzlich, Spencer Paysinger and Keith Rivers, the Giants starting linebackers, have no sacks amongst them, but what’s even more alarming is that they are ranked fourth, seventh and 13th, respectively, in total tackles.
That’s not a good sign for a defense when the linebackers are not among the team leaders in tackles because that means too many ball-carriers are getting through to the last line of defense.
You want playmakers? How about Chiefs safety Eric Berry, who has a 38-yard interception return for a touchdown on the season, or cornerback Brandon Flowers, who has a 32-yard interception to his credit?
The Giants, meanwhile, have just two interceptions this year, one belonging to starting cornerback Prince Amukamara, who’s been consistent for New York, and the other to reserve cornerback Aaron Ross.
Giants kicker Josh Brown ruined his perfect streak with a missed 38-yard field-goal attempt last week. If the snap and hold are good, as was the case on this attempt, a pro kicker has to be able to convert inside of the 40—no questions asked.
Meanwhile, punter Steve Weatherford had a slightly better showing than he did in Week 2, though he’s still not quite at where he needs to be as far as his consistency is concerned.
The Giants’ return game has been virtually eliminated. On kickoffs, David Wilson is averaging 24.2 yards per return, with most of the opposing kickoffs going for touchbacks. Quintin Demps of the Chiefs is averaging 39.3 on kickoff returns, albeit with half of the total (three) to Wilson’s six.
Finally, on punt returns, Dexter McCluster’s 11.1-yard average is head and shoulders above Rueben Randle’s 4.7-yard average.
Tom Coughlin denies he’s panicking and, in fact, seems willing to stay the course to help right the ship, but the bottom line is, the schemes he’s allowed offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride have not worked and probably will continue to not work, unless an opponent fails to study the tape of the Giants' previous games.
Meanwhile on defense, coordinator Perry Fewell likes to say that opposing teams are getting rid of the ball quicker in order to defeat the pass rush, yet what he fails to mention is that other NFL teams are probably doing the same to pass rushes that have managed to actually get some production.
On the other hand, Reid and company seem to have their act together in that they’re not only well on the plus side of the ledger in turnovers, they actually have managed to achieve the one thing that Coughlin is yearning for on offense: balance.
The Chiefs' front seven is, no doubt, salivating over the prospect of facing the Giants' banged up offensive line in what is, perhaps, the game’s biggest mismatch.
So if the Giants want to make sure they keep quarterback Eli Manning upright, they must consider starting with short passes, quick slants and quick outs that require a three-step drop and challenge Manning to throw the ball away quickly.
The Giants' signing of fullback John Conner, who is expected to make his debut for the Giants on Sunday, is key because it allows the coaches to keep tight end Bear Pascoe, the best blocker of the tight ends, up on the line.
Assuming the Chiefs line up outside linebacker Justin Houston over rookie Justin Pugh, the coaches might want to give Pugh some extra help to help slow down Houston’s rush.
The Chiefs dynamic running back, Jamaal Charles, can do it all—he can run, and he can catch. And if a defense is to have any kind of success against the Chiefs, it needs to figure out a way to circumvent Charles’ effectiveness.
The first thing the Giants need do to, obviously, is crowd the line of scrimmage. If the Chiefs are fooled into thinking a blitz is coming on almost every down, they might resort to throwing the ball, where their offense can be vulnerable, given quarterback Alex Smith’s history of making mistakes with his passes.
If Charles should get the ball, the defense must wrap him up as soon as possible. Right now, the Giants defense is making far too many tackles after a running back or receiver has picked up several yards, and that needs to stop so that the Giants can force the opponent into a few long-yardage situations on second and third downs.
Unfortunately for New York, their linebackers have not shown the consistency or the speed to make plays in the short zones.
What They’re Saying
Once you get to pointing the finger, you get that cancer in the locker room like that, it can fall apart easy. This is a team game. We come into every week, every game, as a team, we leave every game as a team. We win or lose as a team together.
—Defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins on head coach Tom Coughlin’s urging his team to stick together
I don’t get caught up in that. I know they’re well-coached and I know they have good players.
—Chiefs head coach Andy Reid when asked about the Giants 0-3 start
Giants Injury Analysis
This week, the Giants have three offensive linemen, two linebackers and two cornerbacks on their injury report. Let's take a look at each of these key areas.
At offensive line, veterans Snee and Baas, who make up two-thirds of the interior, are ailing. Diehl, meanwhile, is on track to return to action this week.
The depth at this position represents a significant dropoff in talent, but with so few salary cap dollars, the Giants will have to make do with what they have.
Assuming both Snee and Baas aren't able to go on Sunday, there are a few possible combinations tht Coughlin might go with in the interior. The first, from left to right, is David Diehl-Jim Cordle-James Brewer; the second is David Diehl-Kevin Boothe-James Brewer.
It's too soon in the week to handicap which way the Giants are leaning, as much will depend on whether Snee and/or Baas are able to practice.
At linebacker, Allen Bradford, who was picked up off waivers from Seattle, will almost certainly see some snaps with the defense, perhaps in the middle. If Williams, who is the nickel linebacker can't play, Bradford could also see snaps at that spot.
At cornerback, Webster probably won't play on Sunday, despite telling reporters on Monday that his hip was "feeling great." As for Thomas, his practice reps are being managed in order to make sure he stays on the field.
However, despite what the team says, it's still somewhat curious that all of a sudden they feel the need to manage Thomas' practice reps for the rest of the season, as in the past when they have taken that approach—running back Ahmad Bradshaw and receiver Plaxico Burress were two examples—the Giants were usually aware of something being physically wrong with the players.
This Week’s Game Stats and Facts
(courtesy of the NFL's Communications Office)
The Chiefs are looking for their first 4-0 start since 2003, when they began that season 9-0. The Chiefs also have an NFL-best (plus-9) turnover ratio this season and will be looking for their third straight win against the NFC East.
Giants QB Eli Manning is 2-0 against the Chiefs.
Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles is averaging 104.1 rushing yards per game since 2010 vs. NFC teams. His 18 receptions tie him for most among NFL running backs.
Giants receiver Victor Cruz has seven career 70-plus-yard touchdowns and has had 100 or more receiving yards in two of his past three games.
Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston has 7.5 sacks in three games this season. He has 12.5 sacks in 10 games vs. NFC opponents.
Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul has eight sacks in his past 10 games against AFC opponents. His bookend, defensive end Justin Tuck, has five sacks in his past six games against the AFC.