New York Giants: 5 Preseason Stats That Must Carry Over to the Regular Season
With the 2014 preseason in the books, it’s time to turn our attention to the regular-season campaign, where forecasters have been quick to put the finishing touches on their prognoses for each team’s win-loss record.
In looking over some of the New York Giants' team stats from the preseason, partially compiled by starters as well as players who are no longer part of the team, five stats jump out as being trends that the Giants must continue to generate if they’re to be successful in 2014.
The following slides looks at each of these stats and explains why it would behoove the Giants to continue maintaining these statistical trends if they hope to make it back to the playoffs.
Net Yards Rushing (Offense and Defense)
If football begins and ends with the run, then if the Giants offense and defense can replicate their respective preseason successes in this aspect of the game, they can potentially be competitive this year.
Let’s start with the offense, where New York averaged 134.6 net rushing yards per game, the fifth-best mark in the NFL.
Breaking down that average further, the Giants collective ran for at least 100 or more yards in all but one of their preseason games, the exception being against the Colts, when they ran for 83 yards.
Not surprisingly, the 27-26 final score of the game against the Colts was the closest of the Giants’ wins.
Moving over to the defensive side of the ball, the Giants allowed opponents an average of 87.8 rushing yards per game, which was the sixth-lowest mark in the NFL this preseason. They held all but one opponent, the Jets, to under 95 yards (the Jets accumulated 146 rushing yards).
Why is that significant? Because by not bottling up the Jets’ run, the Giants’ time of possession was a preseason low 26:35, which, of course, means the lower the time of possession, the less time the offense has to move the ball.
For as sluggish as the starting offense looked at times, the one stat that should at least draw smiles from Giants fans is that quarterbacks Eli Manning, Ryan Nassib and Curtis Painter combined to throw zero interceptions.
That’s right. Zilch. Nada. A big, fat goose egg.
As Giants fans know, last season saw Manning alone throw a career-high 27 picks. Well, as the old saying goes, you’re not going to win ballgames if you turn the ball over.
Truer words were never spoken, and the Giants showed why. Of their nine losses, the quarterbacks turned the ball over in every loss except one, that coming in the Week 12 game against Dallas.
Oh, and that six-game losing streak? Manning threw 16 of the team’s 29 interceptions (two interceptions were contributed by Curtis Painter).
During that stretch, the Giants were outscored by their opponents 209-103.
Sacks and Passes Defensed
If you blinked, you probably missed the fact that the Giants’ 14.0 sacks were tied with the Green Bay Packers for the preseason league lead.
Let’s start with the sacks, which averaged out to 2.8 per game. Last year the Giants went 5-3 in games in which the defense recorded multiple sacks.
If we round that 2.8 average up to 3.0 to use as a baseline, we find that the Giants went 4-1 in games in which they had three or more sacks.
Now over to the passes defensed. As I noted in this analysis, the number of passes defensed breakups, especially by the defensive linemen, declined in each of the past three seasons, from 23 percent in 2011, the last year they went to the playoffs, to 16 percent in 2013.
This summer, the defense has made a much better effort to get its hands on balls to knock them down. Seven of the 27 passes defensed, or 25.9 percent, were recorded by the defensive front.
That means the defenders are no longer remaining passive if they hit a wall. It will be interesting to see if they continue this practice and if any of those batted balls turn into interceptions moving forward.
For years, head coach Tom Coughlin has referred to the red zone—the space between the opponent’s goal line and the 20-yard-line—as the “green zone” because, according to Sam Borden of The New York Times, Coughlin associated the colors red and green in the same way as one would view the lights on a traffic signal.
“Green is go and red is stop,” he told Borden. “What are you trying to do in the green zone? You’re trying to score. It’s not the red zone. If you’re on offense, it’s green.”
Call it whatever color you want—I prefer to use red—but last season, the Giants’ red-zone performance was an average of 1.1 touchdowns per game, tied for last in the NFL with Tampa Bay and Jacksonville.
If a team is settling for field goals or, worse yet, is coming up empty in the red zone, it’s not going to win many games, as the Giants found out.
This preseason, despite the struggles with the first-team offense, the Giants’ red-zone performance was actually improved. They made 12 trips inside of the opponent’s 20-yard-line, scoring on 11.
Of the 11 scores, nine were touchdowns (81.8 percent). If a team can achieve that kind of red-zone production in the regular season, chances are good that it will be winning more than just a few games.
5-0 Record in 1st 5 Regular-Season Games
Wouldn’t it be nice for fans who had to suffer through a 0-6 start last year if the Giants could somehow start the year 5-0, which happened to be their 2014 preseason record?
OK, maybe that’s asking a lot, but still, let’s break down those first five regular-season games to see if it's possible.
New York will play three of those first five games at home, where they were 4-4 last year.
However, the two road games, Week 1 at Detroit and Week 4 at Washington, are both in prime time where the Giants traditionally haven’t done too well.
The Giants are 23-33-1 overall in Monday night games, which includes a 15-25-1 road record. Their last road game victory on Monday night (not counting their 21-3 win over Minnesota in a game that as scheduled for Monday night but which was moved to Tuesday night in Detroit after the old Metrodome’s roof collapsed following a blizzard) was October 25, 2010 at Dallas, a 41-34 victory.
If all things stay the same (meaning no injuries or unexpected twists) the Giants should be able to win three of their first five games, with wins projected against the Lions win Week 1, Texans in Week 3 and at Washington in Week 4.
If the Giants are to have a chance at winning the division, they'll want to enter their Week 6 game against the Eagles having built up some positive momentum.
Naturally a win against the Eagles would be huge in that it would give the Giants a leg up in the head-to-head competition should there be a year-end tie.
Again, to get to that point, the Giants probably need to build up some momentum, and a 3-2 record, which is very realistic, would be ideal in their first five games.