Also of high importance is keeping the running game going to shorten the game and keep the Tampa Bay offense off the field. It may be true that Byron Leftwich is just about washed up, but he can still fling it. Just remember the list. Tuck's a gametime decision and probably won't be there. Phillips, Ross, Dockery, Canty; all gone. And Osi Umenyiora needs desperately to redeem himself after a horrible game against Dallas in which he over-pursued numerous times against the cutback. Mathias Kiwanuka will start in place of Tuck, but Dave Tollefson will get major time in the rotation. He's a good pass rusher, but not so much a run-stopper. He'll have to step it up, though.
Leftwich, using tight end Kellen Winslow and wide receiver Michael Clayton, proved the Bucs can still hit the big play. And there's also fast Antonio Bryant out there, too. Without Phillips' ball-hawking prowess back there, the secondary becomes ever more vulnerable. The pickup of Aaron Rouse off Green Bay waivers wasn't bad, since he, too, is a ballhawk. But he's got so many more holes in his game than Phillips that one can't help but assume a major hit on the dime. C.C. Brown will have to be ultra-disciplined at starting strong safety, especially when he's called to stack the box against the two-headed monster of Cadillac Williams and Derek Ward. The physical Brown will also be called upon to play the deep centerfield spot, but that could cause problems since he's known as more of a hitter than a coverage guy. He'll miss tackles, too. The Giants can compensate for that by playing free safety Michael Johnson in the box at times. "There are ways to maneuver so that one guy is up and one guy is down the majority of the time," Tom Coughlin said. "It is not going to be an all of the time thing. But both guys have to be able to play at the line of scrimmage and play in deep center field position – or deep half."
Speaking of Ward, Tuck has been forwarding some of his trash-texts to his teammates. "He's been texting since the preseason," Tuck said. "Says he's going to run all over us."
He'd best not, for the Giants' sake. After allowing 251 yards and three touchdowns last week, and a total of 336 yards and four TDs for the season, they desperately need an improved attack whether they're doing it with half a roster or not. If the Bucs get the ground game going, then Leftwich will be that much more effective in the air.
Of course, if the Giants get their ground attack going, then the play-action to Kevin Boss or the wide receivers comes into play. Whatever they do, they should probably consider staying away from fullback Madison Hedgecock as a Red Zone receiver. Maybe this is the week third-rounder Ramses Barden makes his appearance on the end zone fade. Or perhaps somebody else. Anything besides running Jacobs straight into the line to try and break their 0-for-8 Red Zone streak.
If they don't score from in close in hot Tampa, it could turn into a long, fruitless day.
PREDICTION: Tampa Bay is regarded as one of the worst teams in the league, but that doesn't mean they're not dangerous. And just because the Giants' haven't gotten their running game going yet doesn't mean it won't happen. They'll make it happen against the Bucs, and this one won't have to come down to a fourth-quarter comeback. The defense doesn't score, but the Giants score two Red Zone touchdowns. Giants 23-10.
T-Rock's Pick: Yeah, okay. That's not the eminent Tom Rock from Newsday. But it's pretty darned close. We've decided to use him as our guest forecaster this week because, well, he's a real nice guy. You have to be when you travel 500 miles every day from the east end of Long Island just to give his readers the latest. Anyway, he'll be in sunny Tampa with the rest of the guys and gals come Sunday. His pick: Giants, 27-17.