By Paul Dottino
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EAST RUTHERFORD - The puzzle pieces got knocked off the table again and Giants coach Tom Coughlin is taking the high road in putting them back together.
He could have beaten up his team over their up-and-down play. Rather he’s told the Giants, who hold a one-game lead in the NFC East at 7-5, they have to win their final four games. Coughlin is well aware of how they would lose tiebreakers to Dallas and Washington, doesn’t wish to leave the door open for either team and almost is trying to will his team to locking up the division title.
It’s a good strategy because the team already has tried to do some soul searching to explain its inconsistent play and it hasn’t gotten them anywhere. The Giants have dropped three of their past four games and have a difficult offensive threat in the New Orleans Saints coming town on Sunday.
Here are this week’s three matchups to watch:
1. Giants RBs Ahmad Bradshaw and David Wilson vs. Saints front seven. The Giants’ offense is not scoring enough touchdowns, so it would be a mistake to enter a track meet against the Saints, who lead the NFL in the red zone at 70 percent. Therefore, the Giants must keep the ball away from QB Drew Brees, a better option given the Saints own the league’s worst rushing defense (154 yards per game). New Orleans specifically is weak defending the edges, which would be a target for Wilson’s speed, should the Giants decide to give him a bigger portion of the workload.
2. Giants DT Chris Canty and Linval Joseph vs. Saints C Brian de la Puente, LG Ben Grubbs and RG Jahri Evans. The Saints make no secret about it – they rely on QB Drew Brees to put points on the board. He leads the NFL with 31 touchdown passes while ranking second with 3,674 yards. Yes, he can move out of the pocket, but the best way to disrupt the 6-foot-tall Brees is to push the front of the pocket and clog his passing lanes – which is why the Saints always have built a solid interior offensive line to keep his vision clear. Brees threw five interceptions against the Falcons, who snapped his string of consecutive games with a touchdown pass at 54 even though he only was sacked once.
3. Saints coverage units vs. Giants KOR David Wilson and PR Rueben Randle. The biggest reason the Giants lost in Washington, other than penalties, was that their average drive start was the 15. They cannot allow the Saints to tilt the field on special teams because that would permit ex-Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo to widen his playbook (even though he’s got the league’s worst defense at 441 yards per game) while reducing the Giants’ offensive options – and in turn, allowing less real estate for Brees to navigate.
Prediction: Giants 23, Saints 21
Prediction record vs. the spread: 5-6-1
What are your predictions for Giants-Bengals? Give it your best shot in the comments below…