The popular consensus in the media is that this weekend’s game against the Carolina Panthers is a “must-win” game.
Sorry folks, I’m not jumping on that train of thought (see what I did there, by the way?) because in my estimation, every game should be a “must win” for a team, regardless of the sport, regardless of the competition level. If a game is not considered important enough to be a “must win,” then something I really, really wrong with the team’s internal goals.
What this weekend’s Giants game is, though, is a statement game, a chance for the Giants to rise up and prove to themselves, each other and the rest of the National Football League that they’re not a group that talks a good game about practicing during the week, when no one is watching, only to stumble through turnovers, missed assignments, and other breakdowns that leave them on the short end of the stick.
The Giants are healthy. They are united. And they want to win one this week for their head coach, Tom Coughlin, whose brother suddenly passed away on Monday after a tragic accident.
The game is there for the taking, but only if the Giants reach out to grab it.
The Giants lead the regular season series 4-3. These two teams last met on Sept, 20, 2012, a 36-7 rout by New York at Bank of America Stadium.
New York Giants
Out: Tackle David Diehl (thumb), tight end Adrien Robinson (foot)
Doubtful: Cornerback Corey Webster (hip)
Probable: WR Hakeem Nicks (excused from Friday’s practice), quarterback Ryan Nassib (ankle), guard Brandon Mosley (back)
Don’t expect Robinson, who appears to have had a setback when he didn’t practice on Thursday or Friday after being limited on Wednesday, to play until he gets a couple of solid weeks of practice in. It also doesn’t sound like Webster is going to be able to go; Aaron Ross would get the start in his place.
Out: Running back Kenjon Barner (foot), safety Quinton Mikell (ankle), cornerback Josh Thomas (concussion), and cornerback D.J. Moore (knee)
Questionable: Defensive tackle Dwan Edwards (thigh) and cornerback James Dockery (thumb/shoulder)
Probable: Fullback Mike Tolbert (knee), linebacker Thomas Davis (leg), tight end Ben Hartsock (foot), linebacker Jon Beason (knee), and cornerback Josh Norman (thigh)
KEYS TO GIANTS VICTORY
No. 1: Take what the defense gives you.
The Panthers defensive secondary is about as banged up as a unit can be, a factor that might influence how they ultimately end up deploying their linebackers.
If I was Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott, I would seriously consider having the linebackers, the strength of the defense, play a shade or two further back to provide coverage support to the defensive secondary. This would help ensure that the Giants don’t burn the Panther with the deep ball, which is a strength for the Giants offense.
As for the underneath stuff, I take my chances with the Giants hurting me with the running game. Thus far the Giants running game has struggled because of random breakdowns occurring up front that the players have been saying since the preseason will be cleaned up, yet which keep happening.
No. 2: Kick the ball away from Ted Ginn Jr.
How many more times do the Giants need to get burned by a dangerous return man who is given a low, line drive kick down the middle of the field? In my opinion, twice is enough, which is why I think punter Steve Weatherford, who had a lousy game last week, will bounce back from last week’s poor showing and deploy more directional kicking to make sure that Ginn’s chances are limited.
No. 3: Don’t press too hard.
The opportunity is right there in front of them against a Panthers team, that, like them is winless, and which, like the Giants, is desperate. Adding to this week’s incentives is the players’ collective desire to put a smile on the face of their head coach, who the day after the game will begin the formal process of burying his brother.
Sometimes though when one is too desperate to accomplish something, they overcompensate or press to make things happen. And when that happens, especially in football, that’s when teams tend to get in trouble.
If I’m a Giants player, I simply play my game and not try to take on too much that might weigh me down, or do anything that’s outside of my assignment or skill set that might end up being a detriment to my team.
Yes, 0-3 doesn’t look very good and yes, it would be a big letdown to not justify the head coach’s faith and commitment to his team with another sloppy performance. However, the Giants have to block out those outside factors and focus on the man lining up in front of them on each play.
MISCELLANEOUS STATS OF THE WEEK
* Giants receiver Hakeem Nicks needs three more touchdown receptions to reach 30 for his career.
* Defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins is one tackle away from posting 400 career tackles.
* Defensive end Justin Tuck needs two more forced fumbles to hit 20.
* Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul needs 1.5 more sacks to reach 30.0.