By SAMANTHA DESMOND
The Giants come off their bye week facing a disappointing 3-4 record. To make matters worse, they will square off against the fiercest of foes in a highly touted Monday Night Football match-up, hoping to top Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts.
Currently sitting comfortably at 5-3 and first place of the AFC South, Luck and the Colts will visit MetLife stadium to take on Tom Coughlin’s ailing Giants squad. The Colts lead the league across the board, currently first in yards per game (452.2), second in points per game (31.2) and first in passing yards per game (336.5). While most would consider an Indianapolis victory to be all too certain, the Colts are reeling after a sobering 34-51 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 8. The Giants have a chance of making the game competitive, if they can execute in a few key areas.
BEAT THE BEARD WITH DEFENSE
Luck has proven he is Indianapolis’ guy, and there’s a reason why. Besides the fact that his beard likely possesses magical properties, Luck has completed nearly 65 percent of his passes, only giving the ball up nine times. Although the Colts’ offense has allowed Luck to be sacked an ironically unlucky 13 times, it hasn’t stopped him from throwing for 22 touchdowns. Cue T.Y. Hilton, who is catching almost everything Luck throws his way, and a rejuvenated Ahmad Bradshaw in the backfield, and Indianapolis looks almost too well-rounded on the attack. The best thing New York can do is keep Luck and his weapons off the field.
Easier said than done. The Giants lack depth with key injuries to Jon Beason, Cullen Jenkins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. However, they could be better than the Indianapolis defense, which was royally manhandled by Big Ben and the Pittsburgh offense. New York, however, boasts a depleted secondary, resorting to Jayron Hosley and Quentin Demps to defend the slot against Dallas, and the results were painful. This is significant considering that both will likely line up opposite Hilton, who has proven to be Indianapolis’ most versatile receiving threat, creating a strong mismatch.
Receiving aside, the Giants need to lock down the tandem of Trent Richardson and Bradshaw, who have managed to run the ball for 115.2 yards per game this season. That’s quite a feat because the Giants are coming off back-to-back games where they allowed 100-plus yards out of the backfield. The Giants’ defensive line and linebackers will feel the pressure to close the gaps and halt the running advance early, and with promising talent in Devon Kennard and Demontre Moore, Big Blue has a chance to succeed. Hopefully Perry Fewell has studied tape, because his defense can’t allow another 100-plus yard game on the ground.
ELI NEEDS TO BE AS ELITE AS CAN BE
Whether or not “Eli-te” is or was ever a valid concept, Eli Manning needs to take control of the Giants offense. Fortunately, McAdoo’s West Coast scheme favors the kind of decisions that Eli will need to make to emerge victorious at home on Monday. Despite a leaky offensive line that has hardly shown up to play so far this season, Eli is completing nearly 65 percent of his passes, only giving up the ball five times in seven games. But, with only one 300-plus yard game on the year, he is yet to have an elite performance in 2014. Despite McAdoo favoring a high-percentage/low-reward system, I would expect the Giants to take a few shots at the Indianapolis secondary to see if they are still hurting after giving up 522 passing yards to Pittsburgh last week.
ESTABLISH THE RUN EARLY
Rashad Jennings was due to return to the starting lineup after the bye week, but it’s looking like his MCL sprain is a bit more hampering than originally anticipated. Jennings only began running in practice on Monday, and is yet to do any planting or cutting, so he will not suit up on Monday night. Andre Williams will get another start, but the Giants will need increased production on his end after two ineffective and disappointing starting performances.
So far this season, Williams is only managing 3.1 yards per carry. That’s not enough, considering that his productivity as a receiving back is also lackluster, with a measly four receptions for 25 yards. Peyton Hillis, who has far fewer carries and is clearly only in on snaps to give Williams a break, is managing 4.3 per carry during his limited use. Hillis is also a non-entity in the pass game, leaving the Giants with two one-dimensional players in the backfield. That’s if Hillis is a go on Monday, since Coughlin reported that he returned from the bye with an illness and has missed practice time. If Hillis sits on Monday, Michael Cox will likely alternate snaps with Williams, and both should see increased participation as receiving backs.
NO HUDDLE, NO PROBLEMS
The Giants are best when Eli is able to establish a rhythm, which usually occurs in the no-huddle scheme. New York will not succeed against Indianapolis’ defensive unit unless they beat them through rhythm and efficiency. No huddle should be Ben McAdoo’s go-to against a stalwart Colts squad. The Giants have historically thrived in fast-paced situations, and McAdoo would do best to trust that. It’s a perfect opportunity for Eli to spread the ball, targeting his check-downs in a fast-paced situation. Andre Williams, Larry Donnell and Daniel Fells could post significant touches in a no-huddle scheme, which also favors the style of the New York receiving corps of Odell Beckham Jr., Rueben Randle and Preston Parker, who are all speedy off the line of scrimmage and able to secure passes in tight coverage.
Although the Giants are considered a long shot to succeed on Monday night, they have the tools they need to pull out an upset victory. Execution has been the issue thus far, but with the NFC East still open and another playoff-less season on the line, pressure is on for Coughlin and his boys in blue. One thing is certain – Luck and his beard will show up to play. But the Giants will put up a fight after (hopefully) cleaning up their game in the off week.