7 Keys to Victory in New York Giants' Week 6 Matchup
The New York Giants will once again aim for their first win of the 2017 season, except this time around, they're facing one of, if not their toughest opponents to date in the Denver Broncos, whom they'll meet in Denver for a prime-time game on Sunday.
Sunday nights just haven't been good to the Giants. They're 0-1 this year under the Sunday night lights, having lost the Week 1 opener at Dallas, and 21-28-1 overall on Sunday night, 10-16-1 as the visiting team.
Those few times the Giants have played Denver, against whom they're 6-5 overall in the regular season, haven't been too kind to the former either. The Giants are 1-4 at Denver, with their only regular-season win in the Mile High City coming in 1989, a 14-7 triumph.
What do the Giants need to do if they are to record their first win of 2017 and their second win on the Broncos home turf?
Get Von Miller Blocked
If you thought last week's performance by the Giants offensive line was ugly, you ain't seen nothing yet.
This week, the Giants will meet Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller, who has four sacks in his last three games; in his last eight games against NFC teams, he's recorded 7.5 sacks, two passes defensed, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. Since entering league in 2011, Miller has 77.5 sacks, the most in NFL.
The Broncos sometimes move Miller around to get the most favorable matchup, and this week it looks as though they can take their pick between Ereck Flowers, who has allowed 15 total pressures and four sacks, or Bobby Hart, who has allowed 13 total pressures, including two sacks, per Pro Football Focus.
The Giants' coaching brain trust better make sure they give a lot of chip help to whatever side Miller is on, either that or hope that Branden Albert signs on—NFL Network's Ian Rapoport said he is scheduled to meet with the Giants at some point late this week.
Do a Better Job Against the Tight End
Simply put, the Giants defense can't keep allowing opposing tight ends—this week being the trio of Virgil Green, Jeff Heuerman and A.J. Derby—to run all over them.
In addition to the touchdowns, the Giants have allowed opposing tight ends to catch 29 of 42 passes for 341 yards, often leaving the opposing tight end to roam the field freely.
Green hasn't been a popular target thus far in the Broncos passing attack—he's only recorded six catches for 73 yards and a touchdown.
Don't be surprised if he gets a bigger role in the offensive game plan against a defense that this year has no answers against opposing tight ends.
Get Evan Engram Involved
Even though the Giants' new receivers—Ed Eagan, Tavarres King and Travis Rudolph—were with the team in the summer, only King has playing experience against an opponent's first-string defense, and even that came on a limited basis.
Rookie tight end Evan Engram has that experience. Although McAdoo is confident in the new receivers, don't be surprised if Engram is asked to take on a bigger role in the offense.
Engram's versatility has allowed the coaches to move him all over the field—per Pro Football Focus, he's lined up 185 times in-line, 52 times in the slot, 29 times split wide and four times in the backfield.
While Engram wouldn't reveal where the bulk of his snaps were coming from so far, he did acknowledge that he has to be ready to take on a bigger role.
"We all do," he told me. "For me, when my number is called, whatever they want me to do, I'm going to make sure I'm ready for it."
McAdoo, who normally guards his personnel plans like the Feds guard the combination to Fort Knox's treasures, conceded that this week they'll move Engram around perhaps a little more than in the past.
"We'll see what he can handle," he said, adding, "Evan is a talented player, but he's still a young player, learning."
Pressure QB Trevor Siemian
For whatever the reason, the Giants pass rush has been missing in action since the start of the season.
If that's not bad enough, Olivier Vernon, their sack leader with 2.0 so far, is in jeopardy of missing his second straight game with an ankle injury. But even with Vernon in the lineup, the pass rush has just not been what it was a year ago when guys were defeating their blocks and getting to the quarterback.
As a result, Pro Football Focus noted that the Giants have thus far blitzed 34 percent of the time, up from 29 percent from a year ago.
By sending an extra rusher at the quarterback, that leaves an equally shaky pass defense to hold its own, which it unfortunately has not been able to do with any consistency.
This week would be a good time for the Giants pass rush to get uncorked. Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian has a passer rating of 46.1 when under pressure, having completed just 41.5 percent of his passes, per Pro Football Focus.
He's also thrown three interceptions to two touchdowns when the heat has been applied.
Get Some Runs to the Left Side
There aren't many weaknesses in the NFL's top run defense, a Broncos unit that is allowing opponents an average of 50.8 yards per game.
If there is one area where the Giants could find some success, it would be running behind the left guard—where the Broncos have allowed 4.45 yards per carry on the ground, per NFLGSIS.
The Giants' left guard, assuming he isn't moved, is Justin Pugh, who is perhaps the team's best run blocker at the moment.
However, Pugh can't get it done by himself, which is why it might behoove the Giants offense to send a tight end lining up at fullback up the gut to pick off any defenders who might be lurking at the second level.
With rookie running back Wayne Gallman running so well—per Pro Football Focus, he leads the Giants running backs with four missed tackles as a ball carrier—maybe he and the rest of his fellow backs can repeat last week's 100-yard plus performance against a stout Broncos run defense.
Step Up the Run Defense
While the Broncos run defense has risen to the top, the Giants run defense, which last year was the third-best in the league, has sunk to the bottom faster than a bag of hardened cement.
Reasons for the Giants' decline include missed tackles, guys failing to get off blocks and linebackers failing to fill holes. All of that has led to the Giants allowing opponents an average of 139.0 yards on the ground per week.
This week, the Giants run defense will face a formidable one-two punch in C.J. Anderson and Jamaal Charles, who have combined for 505 rushing yards in four games behind a revamped offensive line capable of blowing out holes large enough to drive a Mack truck through.
This week in practice, McAdoo has had his team really hone in on the fundamentals—such as tackling—but above all, it's going to take tremendous discipline by the members of the Giants run defense to not overstep their individual lanes to where a missed block or being late to fill a hole leads to a big gain by either Anderson or Charles.
Win the Fourth Quarter
If you think things have been bad for the Giants as far as closing out games in the fourth quarter, well, the Broncos haven't had it much better.
Denver has been outscored by its opponents 30-7 in the fourth quarter this season, and a big part of the reason why they've struggled is because they can't sustain drives in the game's final 15 minutes.
Per ESPN Stats, the Broncos are dead last on third-down conversions attempted in the fourth quarter, having converted just 15 percent of their tries.
Theoretically, that should be music to the opposing defense's ears, except the Giants defense has let the opposing team hang around and, as was the case the last three games, come from behind to win games.
They can change their misfortunes by doing one simple thing: getting off the field on third down not just in the fourth quarter, but all game long.
Patricia Traina covers the New York Giants for Inside Football, the Journal Inquirer and Sports Xchange. All quotes and information were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.