As we approach Week 3 of the NFL regular season, the New York Giants are 2-0. Coming from a great win while spoiling Jerry Jones’ stadium-opening party, it is safe to say that the Giants are gaining momentum.
However, standing in the Giants way is a hungry Tampa Bay Buccaneers team. Moving on with my weekly previews, this is what the Giants are up against next Sunday.
New York Giants @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers—Sept. 27
Eli Manning and his young wide receivers have shown in the last two weeks a glance of a very bright future for this offense, and proved in a national stage, and before the biggest crowd in NFL history, that the Big Blue passing game is far from dead.
The highly doubted group of wide receivers has been, so far, one of the team’s biggest strengths. Steve Smith and Mario Manningham have emerged as legitimate threats, and they both currently rank as the best 1-2 punch at the WR position in the NFL.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers reach Week 3 with an opposite record from the Giants. Coming from two straight losses, to the Dallas Cowboys and the Buffalo Bills, this team is hungry for a win, and should be playing with a lot of heart come Sunday.
With several changes performed in the entire roster in the off-season, this Tampa Bay team is still struggling to find its own identity, to come into their own as a team. Nevertheless, in the first two games of the season, they showed that they can be competitive.
The Buccaneers’ running game, featuring the likes of Cadillac Williams, former Giant Derrick Ward, also known as “Wind”, and Ernest Graham (all very talented backs) had a great performance against the Cowboys, but struggled in Buffalo.
Even so, there is no doubt that these guys can torch any defense, and the presence of “Wind” in this mix is worrisome, as he knows the Giants defense pretty well, which brings us to Task One: stop the running game.
The Giants defense must not allow this group of RBs to get things going, as with the constant change of pace between the backs, it can be hard to stop them. Anyone doubting the success of these players should just watch their game against Dallas.
Stopping the run means making the Bucs’ offense one-dimensional, and put the game into Byron Leftwich’s arm.
Signed this off-season, Leftwich has been solid so far, tossing 574 yards, 4 TDs and 2 INTs, but with the Giants pass rush, there is a good chance he will have a long afternoon this Sunday.
It is a known fact that Leftwich is a statue in the pocket, and has a slow-motion release, which may prevent him from escaping the pressure applied by the Giants. In the game against Buffalo, he had two interceptions, and one of them returned for a TD.
By stopping the run, the Giants are going to put Leftwich on the hot seat to make things happen, and with the Giants' ferocious pass rush, the defense might be able to capitalize on more turnovers committed by Leftwich.
Moving to the Giants offensive side, we come to Task Two: know when to change the pace.
Even now that Steve Smith and Mario Manningham embarrassed the Cowboys in their house, it is likely that no team in the NFL is completely sold on the Giants passing game. This why I see the Bucs stacking the line, just like Dallas and Washington did.
Make no mistake, though. People know that Eli has people to throw to now, and once the Tampa Bay defense gets burned a couple of times, I think they will stop putting eight men on the box and start playing the pass too.
This may allow the Giants to display their so much wanted balance. If Tampa tries to cover the pass, Jacobs and Bradshaw will most likely run all over them, and if they stack the line, Smith and Manningham will get the job done.
If the G-men are able to sustain this balance, offensive success is imminent.
Following this, we face Task Three: keep the focus. It is true that Tampa Bay lost both their games, and that their defense is not what it once was, being past its recent glory days, but don’t fool yourselves, the Buccaneers are still a dangerous team.
If New York goes out thinking they already won, taking this Bucs’ team for granted, the Big Blue might be upset. I realize this is not the New York Giants profile, but too much focus can never hurt.
Facing Dallas and Washington, Tampa Bay kept themselves in the game until the fourth quarter, when they fell behind on the scoreboard.
Because of this fact, they will be playing even harder to remain in this game until the final whistle, and finally win their first game of the season. The fact that they will be in front of their fans in the Florida heat can become a factor as well.
This fact leads us to a Recurrent Task Four: Make the most of the opportunities. Against the Dallas Cowboys we continued to struggle in red zone situations.
The Giants need to fix this problem in this game, and the sooner they are able to do that, the sooner they may be able to put this game away. Converting red zone trips into touchdowns is crucial, and it is past the time for Kevin Gilbride to figure it out.
As I said last week, if the Giants are to continue winning in this league, playing in the though NFC East, they have to stop wasting opportunities to score.
The Giants are a lot better positioned to win the battle in the trenches on both sides of the Ball, so I believe that Tampa’s running game won’t be able to do much. On offense, the Giants O-line is likely to get the job done, and keep Eli on his feet all game.
With Byron Leftwich having to carry the team to victory while the Giants D-line wreaks havoc, there may be some turnovers committed by Leftwich’s part, and the Giants can capitalize on that.
This is controversial, though, as the Dallas Cowboys were better positioned too, and ended up giving 174 yards through the ground.
Concurrently, while initially worried about stopping the run, the Buccaneers will stack the line, but only to be burned downfield by Steve Smith and Mario Manningham early in the game.
This may cause the Bucs’ defense to play the pass. After that, the Giants balanced offense will thrive, and Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw will be the ones who put the game away, bringing a W back to New York.
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