Folger’s Forecast: Giants vs. Denver

In week two, the Giants get the Broncos.  It’s also the Manning Bowl.  Wonder if the brothers will be filming any commercials while Peyton’s in town?  Let’s hope not.

The Broncos avenged their playoff loss to the Ravens in style.  Can they sustain that level of focus and intensity?  We don’t think so.  Also, the Ravens actually led at the half before succumbing to Denver’s second half onslaught.  If the Giants can find a way not to shoot themselves in the foot this week, they can win this game.

Giants on Offense
If football is a game of attacking an opponent’s weakest link, the player who we think Denver will target is Chris Snee.  But then, they can also target rookie Justin Pugh or first-time starter James Brewer, if he’s still in the lineup – that will depend on if David Baas, who’s returned to practice this week, can play.

Snee, coming off hip surgery, was not sharp against the Cowboys and needs to pick it up.  Working alongside Pugh may have slowed down Snee’s thinking processes, but both blockers need to be ready because the Broncos will come after them early and hard.

The Giants’ offensive line has a lot to prove, especially in the running game.  If they can’t run the ball then it’s going to be a long season.

Despite the injuries and ball security issues in the running game, Tom Coughlin will probably insist on balance. The head coach knows the value of balance, despite the fact that the offense’s obvious strength is its passing game, because if you don’t have the threat of the run, then pass blocking becomes impossible.

The spotlight has been on David Wilson all week and with good reason.  He’ll likely overcompensate this week with two hands on the ball at all times, which will just slow him down.  He has to find that middle ground, between ball security and running to daylight, which will only come with experience.

The arrival of Brandon Jacobs brings some much-needed veteran fearlessness to the backfield.  Even though Jacobs is long past his prime, he can still block, and he can still mentor the kids.  The offense could sure use Jacobs’ toughness.

Getting Henry Hynoski back up to speed will also ratchet up the toughness level.  Hynoski was feeling his way last week and needs his reps.  Don’t expect a jumbo backfield of Hynoski and Jacobs yet because the offensive line can’t get any push.  Toughness up front is something else that’s needed, especially in short yardage.

The good news is the downfield passing game looks very dangerous.  All three starters are healthy, while Louis Murphy is lurking in the wings.

Tight end Brandon Myers looks ready to help Eli Manning move the chains, which is something that Manning must commit to this week.  Though the deep ball is in his blood, moving the chains (and thus keeping Peyton off the field) has to be a priority.

Denver plays a 4-3 most of the time, and they are tough to run against.  They got an unexpectedly huge game from pass-rush specialist Shaun Phillips last week.  With playmaker Von Miller on the suspended list, Phillips came up big.  Doubling him on passing downs is another priority.

MLB Wesley Woodyard is Denver’s best front-seven player.  Woodyard is very active.  Denver likely won’t get CB Champ Bailey back this week from injury.  They play lots of zone and try to funnel the passing game towards their two safeties, who are good tacklers.

Denver will try and take away the big play by dropping their linebackers, which should leave lots of room in the short zones for Brandon Myers to exploit.  Eli Manning needs to be patient and take what Denver gives him.  We don’t think the Giants will run the ball much despite the need and desire for balance, but the short passing game should compensate.

Giants on Defense
How will the Giants defend Peyton Manning?  It’s primarily a short-throwing scheme based on timing, and boy does Peyton have some horses to make it go. Wes Welker is an ideal extension of Manning’s arm and brain in the slot, while huge wide out Demaryius Thomas is a big play waiting to happen on the outside.

Priority #1 is that Terrell Thomas has a big game vs. Welker.  Thomas looked pretty good last week and should only get better.  The Giants safeties will also be key, as we suspect that one of them will be brought up often to not only defend the short stuff, but to help against the run.

Denver did not run the ball well last week and will try to establish it this week.  Knowshon Moreno is their main man.  The Broncos don’t have a fullback which means they’ll frequently line up with two tight ends.  Manning likes to throw to the tight end.  Last week he put no-name Julius Thomas on the map with 110 yards and two touchdowns.

We think the tight ends will be a bad matchup for the Giants’ linebackers.  On passing downs, Spencer Paysinger and Jacquian Williams will probably be on the field, but we are concerned when Mark Herzlich and Keith Rivers are out there, as coverage is not their respective strong suit.

Getting pressure on Peyton will not be easy, as he will keep the tight ends in to block.  Jason Pierre-Paul was a shell of himself last week and needs to get up to speed.  Justin Tuck was the defense’s best pass rusher against Dallas.  We’d sure like to see Damontre Moore on the field because this kid can be disruptive, but his shoulder injury has really set him back.

We were encouraged by the play of the secondary against. Dallas, and the defensive line appears to be stout.  There’s good depth up front when back-up defensive tackle Mike Patterson is making plays and Linval Joseph is penetrating.  We’re still waiting on Shaun Rogers to put his stamp on a game.

Peyton could pick apart a pass defense that is often designed to give up a cushion somewhere on each and every down.  The only way to slow him down is to get in his face, and the best way to do that is up the middle.

The other key will be tackling. Safeties Antrel Rolle and Ryan Mundy were very sharp last week in their reads and wrap-ups.  That has to continue.  Limiting big plays is paramount.

Giants on Specials
With kickoff returns pretty much removed from the game by big-legged kickers, special teams have come down to the punting game.  The Broncos have a good one in Britton Colquit, who hasn’t had a punt blocked yet in his five-year career.  The Giants’ Steve Weatherford is comparable.

The Giants’ return game is nothing special, but Denver’s Trindon Holliday has had some big returns in his 4-year career.  Holliday’s on the Injury Report, which means Wes Welker might be called on to return punts.  Welker muffed a punt last week but has historically been very reliable.

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