Can the Giants really be this bad? The good news is that they remain just two games off the pace in the NFC Least.
The bad news is that they cannot hide their numerous deficiencies, the worst being an offensive line that is as bad as it gets.
The Bears are an unimpressive 3-2, coming off two straight losses. They have been mistake-prone on offense, and rely heavily on turnovers on defense. Protecting the ball is huge against the Bears; the problem is the Giants lead the league in turnovers.
Giants on Offense
The offensive line only allowed one sack last week, but that didn’t mean it played well. Eli Manning had to duck and chuck too often, while the running and short-passing games remain non-existent.
It all starts up front, and unfortunately, the Giants’ offensive line isn’t getting it done. What’s worse is that there are no reinforcements waiting in the wings, either.
The insertion of David Diehl at right guard last week didn’t hurt, nor did it fix anything.
The unit’s best performer is a rookie (Justin Pugh), and the tight ends are no help. As a group, they seem to be just as bad at communicating as they are at running and hitting.
All of which leaves Manning and his talented wide receiver corps to have to win all the battles out there, but Manning is under duress too often and eventually runs out of choices. He may just have to eat the ball more often this week.
By the way, this is the same Manning who scorched two sets of quality playoff opponents on his way to two recent Super Bowl MVP honors. Nothing’s wrong with Manning; it’s his cast of characters that’s changed.
Hakeem Nicks is still working himself back into shape. Last week, his second half performance was disappointing. Fatigue seemed to bring him back down to earth after a good first half.
Despite his two touchdown catches, Rueben Randle is not always reliable. Victor Cruz should be Manning’s guy to move the chains, but he’s being doubled early and often.
The pathetic running back situation (David Wilson is out, Brandon Jacobs is limited, and coach-killer Da’Rel Scott is back) provides little threat on the ground or in the air.
Chicago’s defense is probably licking its chops at the opportunities for turnovers that they are confident will be there. Defensive end Julius Peppers is as good as it gets and will need to be constantly double-teamed. The Bears linebackers are experienced and solid. Their corners are aggressive.
This match-up of units favors the Bears in a big way; there’s no two ways about it.
Giants on Defense
The Giants defense’s inability to get off the field or make a big stop is nearly as problematic as the offense. Again, it all begins up front.
The defensive ends simply refuse to attack the pocket. The contain mentality, which makes sense against the mobile quarterback, should have been ditched when Michael Vick left last week’s game, but the pass rush remained sluggish throughout.
This once-proud defensive front is now content to play the run, which it does very well, but even when they get opposing offenses in long-yardage situations, they seem to give up as many yards as the offense needs.
Turnovers would help, and Bears quarterback Jay Cutler has a tendency to be careless with the ball. He still has to be pressured into these mistakes. Who will hurry Cutler?
The coaches have to define a role for rookie Damontre Moore, whose pre-season shoulder injury really set him back. This kid has legitimate talent and he needs to get on the field, given one thing to do, and told to do it. The question is will a balky hamstring keep him out again this week?
The other rookie, defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins, had a stellar first NFL game last week and surely has earned a bigger role. Hankins looks like a top-shelf run stopper with enough dance in his feet to shoot some gaps.
The other eye-opener last week was the play of safety Will Hill. The coaches played the entire game in the nickel using a three-safety look, and Hill really shined. Against Chicago’s more conventional look, let’s hope the coaches still find a way to get Hill on the field.
Finally, with Mark Herzlich’s toe injury, will the coaches throw recently acquired veteran linebacker Jon Beason right into the mix in the middle? There sure are many intriguing options to watch for on defense this week, starting with Beason.
Cutler has a big-time target in receiver Brandon Marshall, who will likely draw cornerback Prince Amukamara and double-teams all night long. Running back Matt Forte is a good, all-around back and old friend Martellus Bennett is playing well at tight end.
The Bears have talent on offense, but they also make mistakes. Will they do that again this week?
Giants on Specials
All you need to know about the Bears’ special teams is one guy – Devin Hester. The Giants can’t let him beat them. This guy is an all-time great returner and needs to be taken out of the game.
We have confidence in the Giants’ coverage units that now have Will Hill, Allen Bradford, Damontre Moore, and others running under kicks.
Blocking however needs to improve. We’re still waiting on the coaches to double-team an opposing punt gunner but apparently, that’s no longer in the game plan.
Rueben Randle is reliable catching punts, but rookie Charles James, recently activated from the practice squad, should be the primary returner in our opinion. This kid showed speed and courage in pre-season, while Randle needs to focus on his receiving game.
To answer our opening question, yes we do think the Giants are this bad. The Bears will be out for blood to end their two-game losing streak.
We are not sure where the Giants’ collective head is at, but they seem far from being confident, and have shown in five weeks that it lacks mental toughness. They have not shown the collective will or the leadership to fight through these hard times, and sadly, we don’t think that changes this week.