Saturday, October 3, 2009

Game 4 Scouting Report


THE TEAMS: This is the last of three straight road games for the Giants. Now they head into Arrowhead Stadium, a venue notorious for ending winning streaks. Since 1995, the Chiefs have ended 13 significant streaks there, ranging from the 49ers' 11-game streak in 1997 to Denver's three-game streak last year. Tom Coughlin has also made the Giants' mindful of what happened last season when, at 4-0, they went into 1-3 Cleveland and lost. "He didn't have to remind us. We know how that felt, going in there undefeated," DE Justin Tuck said. "We went in feeling good about ourselves and got our butt whupped. In this league, you've got to take everybody seriously." The Chiefs are the league's second-youngest team next to Green Bay, with an average age of 25.89 years. And they're sixth-youngest in the league with an average experience of 3.92 seasons. Their closest game so far has been a 13-10 loss to Oakland, the other two coming by 14 and 20 points to Baltimore and Philadelphia.

THE HISTORY: The Giants lead the series 9-2 and have won their last three matchups, most recently in 2005. That was a 27-17 win at Giants Stadium. The Chiefs haven't defeated the Giants since 1995, when they beat them 20-17 in overtime at Arrowhead Stadium.

If the Giants win this one, they'll join some elite company. Since 1990, only seven times out of 106 three-game road trips has a team swept the set. Not coincidentally, Tom Coughlin's 2001 Jaguars was one of them. Another was his playoff Giants of 2007, which won games in Tampa, Dallas, and Green Bay en route to Super Bowl XLII. They're already in good company, though. Only 29 teams have even won two out of three.

THE INJURIES: Giants -- DT Chris Canty (calf), WR Domenik Hixon (knee), CB Aaron Ross (hamstring) and RB Danny Ware (elbow) are out. LB Clint Sintim (groin) is questionable. WR Hakeem Nicks (foot), CB Kevin Dockery (hamstring), RB Ahmad Bradshaw (foot and ankle), T Kareem McKenzie (knee), G Rich Seubert (shoulder) and DE Justin Tuck (shoulder) are probable.

Chiefs -- WR Dwayne Bowe (hamstring) is questionable. LB Derrick Johnson (groin) is probable.

WATCH THIS: The Giants' running game finally got into gear last week, but with Bradshaw probably limited, if not out entirely, a large part of his carries may go to Gartrell Johnson. He did a good job in mopping up last week, but whether he's ready to work in a significant portion of the game remains to be seen. Meanwhile, Brandon Jacobs will want to continue the upward swing he took with a 16-carry, 92-yard performance last week. He needs to hit the hole quicker and show more of the old power that made him what he is. The thing is, he's tired and exasperated with the questions surrounding exactly that issue. Not exactly a fan of Tony Siragusa, either, who started the whole thing with his "I don't think defenses are fearing him right now" comment last week. A little extra motivation, perhaps? The Chiefs, ranked 19th against the run and 21st overall, will counter that with a three-man front that features a good, young defensive end in Glenn Dorsey and a run-stopping linebacker in Demorrio Williams, the team leader with 26 tackles. Opponents do have five rushing touchdowns against the Chiefs, so if the nicked up, but still intact, Giants line can handle the edges, they'll be able to exploit their second opponent in a row. The Chiefs have shown improvement in that area over the last two games in holding the Raiders and Eagles to 52 rushes for 160 yards, an average of 80 yards per game.

The Giants appear to have gotten past their own problems stopping the run, having held Tampa Bay to just 28 rushing yards last week. With Justin Tuck ready to take on more time, the front seven should have little problem with a slow-starting ground attack led by Larry Johnson. Johnson has looked old and slow so far, certainly not the running back that carried 31 times for 167 yards and two touchdowns in their last meeting in 2005. Instead, he's struggled to 136 yards on 54 carries and no touchdowns, including a 19-for-38 mess against Philadelphia. The Chiefs have yet to score a rushing touchdown. And second running back Jamaal Charles showed more flashes of speed and efficiency than Johnson last week in a 6-for-36 outing against Philadelphia.

The Giants' passing game will see the re-appearance of Nicks. Not that he'll start -- Steve Smith and Mario Manningham would probably remain the two starters -- but the Giants are dying to see what Nicks can bring. He took all the practice snaps this week and reported no pain in the foot. They'd probably move Hixon down and keep him as a kick returner once he gets back. Whatever happens, a receiving corps that has been surprisingly productive will go against a secondary that features an aging safety in Mike Brown and little else. Nobody back there has an interception, as the Chiefs' lone pick comes courtesy of linebacker Derrick Johnson. And the pass rush, led by young DE Tamba Hali, has just three sacks so far. Yes, that's the same number as the Giants, but the Giants' pressure has produced four more interceptions than the Chiefs' pressure. Smith ought to be able to work easily against a defensive backfield that, outside of Brown, has just eight total seasons of experience. He's starting to draw double teams, but has shaken them so far.

The Chiefs have little in the way of receivers outside of Dwayne Bowe, who leads with nine catches for 96 yards and two touchdowns. Quarterback Matt Cassell has proven something less than a world-beater this year as the Chiefs try to establish the run. He threw just 18 times last week for 90 yards and two touchdowns. Terrell Thomas will start again at right corner after Aaron Ross' setback in practice this week, but Kevin Dockery should be back at nickelback to strengthen the unit overall.

Meanwhile, Eli Manning hasn't thrown a pick in two games, and has only one on the season. His 104.1 rating ranks him fourth among NFL passers. Look for him to send Smith over the middle constantly, while also making increased use of tight ends Kevin Boss and Travis Beckum in matchups against the aging, ex-Patriots outside linebacker Mike Vrabel.

Field position will be a big issue for the Giants this week, as their punt and kickoff coverage units rank in the lower half of the league. Part of that is due to Lawrence Tynes' short kickoffs. But he does have the capability of putting them in the end zone, too, so Tom Coughlin will be looking for more consistency there. The offense has finally started to find the end zone consistently, which means perhaps Tynes won't have to try one of those pesky chip-shot field goals he keeps missing. He has hit the big ones, though, including the game-winner twice in Dallas.

PREDICTION: This is the ultimate trap game here; a bad, young team looking to save its season vs. a streaking NFC power. Even Coughlin's motivational tactics couldn't keep his team from falling into it last year. But this time around will be different. With some guys coming back from injuries, the hunger to produce and contribute will be there in ample supply. Giants 30-14.

Ralph's Pick: Wow. A human head shot. That's a first for this blog. That handsome young man to the left is Ralph Vacchiano of the Daily News, and he is our guest predicter this week. He's a good friend, too. Real multi-media personality, as you can read him in the paper, read him in the blog, look at him on TV, and listen to him on the radio. In his leisure time, he sits at his press room cubicle and makes fun of me. Whatever. Here's his prediction, in his own words. "Giants 37, Chiefs 10. The Giants may not be looking past this game, but I certainly am. Mentally I'm focused on the Oct. 18 showdown in New Orleans. But if you care about this game, here's what you need to know: If you thought Tampa Bay was bad, you ain't seen nothing yet. The Chiefs stink. The Giants are good. And now they've got an angry Brandon Jacobs who's going to rip them for 150 yards."


1 comment:

  1. How often does Tynes put it in the end zone? U seem to think he can do it with some degree of regularity but I would be willing to bet his percentage the last few years has been in the bottom third.