If the New York Giants can’t figure out their defensive issues on the road, this team could be in big trouble come playoff time.
Anyone who has been a fan of the NFL for any significant amount of time has heard this adage: defense doesn’t travel.
There seems to be a prevailing feeling among the NFL faithful that because of the physicality involved with being a great defensive team, it’s very hard to take the same performances that great defenses have at home on the road. Travel, especially across time zones or to different climates, affects the body in any number of ways, making the split second reactionary moments that oftentimes characterize great defenses that much more difficult to complete.
The New York Giants confirm this saying on a nearly weekly basis.
Compare the previous two weeks against Dallas and Detroit, where the Giants’ defense was absolutely dominant at home to their mediocre performance against the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday night. Against the Lions and Cowboys, the Giants surrendered a combined 13 points and won the turnover battle by two. In just the first quarter against Philadelphia, New York gave up 14 points including an interception that was returned for a touchdown.
While the contest against Philadelphia was just one game, it offers a beautiful microcosm for the Giants season.
New York is just 3-4 on the road this season, including a neutral site victory over the Los Angeles Rams in London where the Giants were technically the road team. Compare that to their 7-1 record in the friendly confines of MetLife Stadium, and it’s clear that this team much prefers playing in East Rutheford, NJ than anywhere else.
Furthermore, the Giants are giving up 19.5 points per game on the road, compared to just 17.1 per game at home. While that may not seem like much, for a team whose success is built on winning close games with tough defense, 2.4 points per game can easily mean the difference between winning and losing.
Additionally, it’s worth mentioning that the Giants games on the road against tougher opponents have been non-competitive for New York. Fans will remember watching contests against Pittsburgh, Minnesota, and Green Bay, where the Giants had no chance from the opening whistle.
Realistically, apart from the one point victory to open up the season in Dallas, the Giants haven’t had an impressive road win all season.
However, it is worth mentioning that not all of the Thursday night loss to Philadelphia falls on the defense. Eli Manning’s three interceptions, including the pick-six to Malcolm Jenkins in the first quarter, certainly did not help the Giants cause.
Additionally, the absence of Janoris Jenkins, a man who has successfully shut down nearly every number one receiver he’s faced this season, seriously hurt the Giants. It’s safe to say that Nelson Agholor‘s breakaway second quarter touchdown doesn’t happen if the Jackrabbit is matched up with him on Thursday night.
Despite the absence of their best corner, and a number of turnovers, the Giants still should have beaten Philadelphia. The Eagles came into the game 5-9, with virtually nothing to play for, while the Giants had a chance to clinch a playoff spot. For a team ready to take the next step into the playoffs, a road victory over a division rival would be paramount.
Furthermore, for a team that is likely going to play the majority, if not all of its playoff games on the road, these statistical trends do not bode well for the Giants. If their defense cannot play at an elite level, they have virtually no chance at winning a playoff game, let alone making a Cinderella run to the Super Bowl.
Week 17 against Washington will be a massive test to see if this defense can step up on the road when it truly matters.