Sunday, January 08, 2006

Here We Go
By Imtiaz Mussa

The last memory Giant fans had of their beloved Big Blue in the playoffs was January 5, 2003 in San Francisco as the Giants blew a 24 point lead against the Niners to lose. The argument can be made that it effectively ended Jim Fassel’s time as head coach as the 4-12 record the following season would prove. And now, here we are. Three years later the Giants are back in the playoffs with a team that would like to forget about the disaster in SF. Some players are still around, Michael Strahan, Will Allen, Amani Toomer, Jeremy Shockey, and Luke Petitgout all have significant roles then and now and Tiki Barber while being a good running back at that time has become a great one now. Winning the NFC East was a pleasant surprise as the Eagles imploded this season and the reward for it is a home playoff game against the Carolina Panthers.

I picked the Panthers to not only go to the Super Bowl but also win it by dethroning the defending champion Patriots. At the beginning of the season, I saw a team with a great defense and an offense that would do enough to get the job done. The defense has had it’s ups and downs as had the running game but Steve Smith’s triple crown made up for it. The deserved his NFC Comeback Player of the Year award. While I’d love to stick with my Super Bowl pick and I have always been happy to see former Giants defensive coordinator John Fox do well as head coach, I’m going to have to root hard for my Giants.

How the Giants can Win This Game
The formula to Giants success on offense is simple. Get the ball in Tiki Barber’s hands as much as possible. In the Giants’ eleven victories, Barber touched the ball approximately 27 times. In their five losses, Tiki touched the ball 24.5 times but remember, he touched the ball 31 times in the overtime loss against Seattle. A game the Giants should have won had it not been for Jay Feely. Nevertheless, good things happen when Barber has the ball in his hands. Now yes, the Panthers are fourth in the NFL against the run but they are prone to letting good back have big games. In week 16, Julius Jones ran for 194 yards as Dallas went on to win. Tampa Bay’s Cadillac Williams ran for 112 yards in week 14 as the Bucs went on to win. In a week three win for the Dolphins, Ronnie Brown rushed for 132 yards. Without a doubt, Barber will be the best back Carolina has faced this season and there is no reason why he cannot have a big game.

Defensively, the Giants turn to their all pros on the line. Osi Umenyiora and Michael Strahan have been phenomenal this season and their ability to rush Jake Delhomme will determine their success. Make DeShaun Foster beat you and force turnovers.

And finally, don’t be stupid on special teams. That means no silly penalties, no fumbles, and make easy field goals!

Bottom Line
Plenty of Tiki can open up the offense and force Delhomme into tough spots.

How the Giants can Lose This Game
If Eli Manning has to be the one who has to carry the offense, the outcome will not be good. While he has had some big games in some very big spots, this offense goes through #21. Umenyiora and Strahan might be the best DE tandem in the NFL but Julius Peppers and Mike Rucker are not far behind. They will get in Eli’s face and force him to make bad throws.

If Umenyiora and Strahan can’t touch Delhomme, the Giants are in big trouble. It will force defensive coordinator Tim Lewis to blitz more than he wants to and hence, leave Smith in a one on one. There is no one who can cover Steve Smith. Will Allen can barely cover Keary Colbert. If Smith has the sort of game that Santana Moss did in week 16, the G-Men are toast. We will also have a better idea of the linebacking situation. Since Oakland gave up on the run in the first quarter, we were never sure if this group could do the job.

Bottom Line
There is no doubt that the Giants are the most banged up team in the playoffs and that will catch up to them sooner or later.

They may be banged up but the way this team plays at home is making me hopeful. Tiki Barber has a big game again and the Giants win a tight one to move on to Chicago.


Blogger The Armchair Quarterback said...

You were right about what would happen if the Giants had to rely on Manning. He's not ready yet. Still I think they'll be good again next year.

10:12 PM  
Blogger Zachary Geballe said...

Eli's comin'
Eli's comin' (Eli's a-comin')
Well you better hide your heart, your loving heart
Eli's a-comin' and the cards say... a broken heart

Thank you Three Dog Night

11:21 PM  
Blogger Birdman said...

Ouch. NY got mugged today. Should have stayed with Carolina. Their still the best team in the NFC. Great D, can throw and run.

Great blog, guys. Adding you to my links.

8:03 AM  

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