The New York Giants did it again against the New England Patriots last Sunday in Foxboro—they pulled out another come from behind, fourth quarter victory under the leadership and poise of Eli Manning.
What made this win so special for the Giants (and worthy of celebration) was that the victory was not brought about by luck, controversy or another team’s meltdown—it was a product of designing and executing an excellent game plan.
The Giants exploited an ill-performing Patriots pass defense, and orchestrated two excellent late-game drives that resulted in touchdowns. On the defensive end, they were able to force Tom Brady into making critical mistakes, leading to the takeaways that could have put the game away.
When a turnover by Eli gave momentum to the Patriots, the Giants stuck to the game plan, and even brought new life to the seemingly fading star of Brandon Jacobs, who rushed for 72 yards and a touchdown.
The Giants’ upcoming five-game schedule is among the most difficult in football, and the Giants are looking at back-to-back games against the current No. 1 and 2 seed in the NFC, with the rest of their opponents being currently in the playoff picture or are looking to stake their claim.
The Giants bought a lot of breathing room with this victory, but they need to take advantage of their opponents like they did against the Patriots to improve their odds of success and keep the wins coming.
Let’s look at the weaknesses of some upcoming teams that the Giants will be facing—and how the Giants can capitalize on them.
If the Giants' pass rush can give Tom Brady trouble, they should be able to give the less seasoned Alex Smith a scare or two while in the pocket.
Even though the 49ers have a run mentality, the Giants can make the 49ers settle for a lot of field goals, if they are on their game against Alex Smith.
NFC West Rust
The 49ers currently hold a five-game lead in the NFC West. Although home field advantage and a first-round bye in the playoffs are very good motivators, the 49ers may not be able to play with the same fire as the Giants, who need to stay hot and keep on winning to compete in a tight divisional race.
This is a very subtle weakness to exploit, but Tom Coughlin continues to show he can get the Giants to play four strong quarters with a passion.
Overall Passing Offense
San Francisco ranks among the bottom half of the NFL in yards per attempt and passing touchdowns, and they're among the bottom three in yards and yards per game.
If the Giants defense can slow down the running game or bring Alex Smith to a halt, they will stand a much greater chance of making a statement with a win.
Much like the Giants themselves, the Eagles have a lot of work to do, as far as protecting against the run. Tom Coughlin simplified Brandon Jacobs’ running style, and the running game had been a factor against the Patriots, something the Giants desperately needed.
If the Giants can continue to improve upon the foundation they built last Sunday, they should be able to manage the clock effectively and move the ball downfield.
The Philadelphia Eagles have a minus-seven turnover differential, while the Giants have a plus-seven differential. The Giants have taken away eight fumbles, and the Eagles have given away six.
No team knows more than the Giants how critical a turnover can be. At home, the Giants should be able to put away the Eagles if the teams play to their ratios.
Speaking of turnovers, Michael Vick has thrown eight interceptions. He has also proven time and again that he cannot lead a team, is fragile, and can be easily rattled.
If Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, and the New York Giants’ sack attack is alive, Vick might have to sit out a few plays again and will mess up the Eagles’ flow.
Element of Surprise
Coming into this game, the New Orleans Saints have not faced that many difficult defenses. They have been putting up very high numbers on offense, but against the Colts, Panthers and Texans, they have put up big numbers while giving up many points.
If the Giants pass rush continues to dominate, the Saints might not be able to gun as much as they want to.
Drew Brees has thrown 11 interceptions so far this season.
If Brandon Jacobs and the Giants' running game can step it up and chew up some clock, and if Manning can keep throwing touchdowns on the board, then Brees cannot afford to make any costly errors.
Passer Rating Inconsistency
Brees’ QB rating dwells between 70 and 80 in their two losses, while Manning has maintained a more consistent (albeit lower) rating.
Keep Drew Brees off his game, and good things are sure to happen for the Giants.
The Giants have shown against the New England Patriots that a team with a defense weak against the pass can be overcome, no matter how strong they may be offensively.
Eli has been playing a lot better than Philip Rivers lately.
Sack Aaron Rodgers
Aaron Rodgers is playing on a level that most quarterbacks in this league can't even dream of. He has done a great job on virtually all fronts, with his rating a full 25 points higher than any other quarterback.
One factor in which he doesn’t rank in the top three (or even in the top 10) is in sacks. Against a team playing as well as the Packers, any advantage is important, and it just so happens to be one that the Giants can excel at exploiting.
Man In The Mirror
One weakness the Packers posses is a double-edged sword for the Giants—their similarity on offense. They are within five spots of each other in pass yards, pass yards per attempt, interceptions, and net passing yards per game.
Once again, cracking the key to stopping an elite quarterback will be a deciding factor for this game.
Tony Romo has given away so many games and played so unpredictably that discussions of the Hall of Fame have been replaced with ideas of the Cowboys having a brighter future without Romo.
Eli can outplay Romo any week of the season, and getting the sacks and rushes necessary to disturb Romo should lead to an easy victory.
Dallas are among the worst in the league in red zone scoring, a reflection of a poor overall offense and underperforming quarterback.
One of the Giants’ major strengths have been their red zone proficiency, and the disparity between the two should be a major difference in the game, especially since the Giants have a better Red Zone proficiency at away games.
Being home could be a disadvantage for Dallas.
Whether the Cowboys have played too conservative (against the New England Patriots), too loose (against the Detroit Lions) or just all-out awful (against the Philadelphia Eagles), the roller coaster ride of the Cowboys season can be attributed to bad coaching.
The Giants’ success can be directly attributed to Coughlin and the coordinators leading a consistent attack and giving the Giants an ability to close out games, something that has been a major problem for the Cowboys.