The New York Giants may have survived the first half of their schedule, but they’ll need a better run game to continue playing in January.
While you may have read any number of columns celebrating the Giants’ 122 yard rushing performance on Monday night as some sort of signal that the New York Giants have figured out their run game, don’t be fooled. New York’s run game still has a long way to go.
Despite a much improved performance against Cincinnati, the Giants are still only averaging 74.2 yards per game on the ground, good for 31st in the league, ahead of only the Minnesota Vikings. New York has created a system where their offense is completely one dimensional, which is hardly a recipe for success down the stretch in the NFL.
Those of you who purely want to look at the rushing yardage total for the Giants as the signal that the run game is somehow back on track are ignoring a simple fact: the Giants virtually abandoned the run game in the second half. Apart from their final drive, where they basically ran the ball in order to use up Cincy’s timeouts and ice the game, the Giants ran 21 plays in the second half against the Bengals. Just seven of those plays were designed runs.
While that is just slightly below their season average of 36.8% of total plays being designed runs, it signals how much New York has lost faith in their ability to run the football. The Giants have faced a number of running back and offensive line injuries to a unit that was considered far from stellar entering the season. Thus, they’ve been left with a virtually nonexistent rushing attack that is only successful once the pass has been so firmly established that teams expect the Giants not to run the football.
If that doesn’t change by the time the playoffs roll around, New York could be in serious trouble, despite a 6-3 record.
Consider this, the Giants’ remaining opponents are as follows: Chicago, at Cleveland, at Pittsburgh, Dallas, Detroit, at Philadelphia, and at Washington. Not one of those games is in a dome. Not one of those games is in the south or California. All of those games will be direly important to the Giants’ playoff chances.
Anyone who grew up in the northeast knows how cold it gets in the winter, especially in MetLife Stadium, where chilly nights and swirling winds have eaten many passing offenses alive over the years. Unfortunately for Giants’ fans and their dreams of a high octane passing attack, the same is true of Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C., especially in late November and December.
The fact of the matter is, teams with the Giants’ schedule, who can’t run the football, rarely succeed.
Certainly, it’s fair to look at the next two games as likely wins, with Chicago and Cleveland being two of the worst teams in the NFL, but once New York gets past that, there are very few gimmes. Sure, they beat Dallas and Philly already, and lost a close one to Washington, but after this two week stretch, there are no easy opponents left on the schedule.
Especially when you consider the potential weather implications these games could bring, it becomes clear how badly New York needs a balanced offense. Bad weather games typically favor the team that can run the ball the best, and unless they’re playing the Vikings, the Giants will be the underdog in that category against any team in the NFL.
As they stare at the home stretch of their season, and their first playoff birth in four years directly in the face, the Giants will need to dig deep and find a running game, or the talented NFL defenses remaining on their schedule will pick their one dimensionplal offense apart.