There are no if and or buts about it, the New York Giants are in a must-win game this Sunday against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium.
The honeymoon is over for New York Giants head coach Pat Shurmur. There was optimism when Shurmur was named head coach because he had a reputation of being an offensive guru, and most felt he would be an upgrade over Ben McAdoo.
But after two games, the Giants are 28th in total offense and sit at the bottom of the NFC East at 0-2. This Sunday’s game against the Houston Texans will be the first gut check time for Shurmur and his team as they’re facing a must-win game.
Getting a win won’t be easy as the Texans are also facing a must-win game in their home opener.
If the Giants are going to avoid starting the season 0-3 for the second year in a row, the team and in particular the offense is going to need to come to life on Sunday.
Here are the keys to victory for the Giants:
Make no mistake about it; the offensive line has been bad this season and has been dreadful for years. But it’s also been a while since Eli Manning has played at a high let alone an elite level. Even when the offensive line has given Manning time, he’s seldom surveyed the entire field, hasn’t stepped into his throws, and has been off the mark when throwing the ball downfield.
Manning is currently 24th in total QBR this season and has committed a turnover in each of the Giants first two games.
If the Giants offense is ever going to get on track Manning has to play better. Even when he’s under pressure, he needs to step into his throws and give his playmakers such as Odell Beckham Jr. and Evan Engram a chance to make a play on passes downfield.
2. O-Line Must Improve
The Giants offensive line has been so bad in the first two weeks that at this point you would settle for them just playing average. The offensive line has lost the battle of the line of scrimmage and has been fooled on stunts repeatedly.
Last week was particularly embarrassing as they gave up six sacks and Saquon Barkley was held to 28 yards rushing on 11 carries.
— NFL (@NFL) September 17, 2018
The line faces a tough task this week as John Greco will start at center in place of Jon Halapio who is out for the year with a fractured ankle, and they go up against J.J. Watt and the talented Texans defense.
If the line plays the way they did in the first two weeks, the Giants have no chance of winning.
3. Stop The Texans Ground Game
The Texans come into this game with the number one rushing attack in the league at 157.5 yards per game. It’s imperative that the Giants contain running back Lamar Miller, and contain quarterback Deshaun Watson on read-option plays.
Blake Bortles and Dak Prescott have run for big gains against the Giants the last two weeks on read-option plays. Watson is one of the most mobile quarterbacks in the NFL so the Texans will look to exploit this until the Giants show they can stop it.
Pat Shurmur spoke on Wednesday on why his team has struggled to defend zone reads.
“It’s just the way we were playing it, just got a little bit undisciplined with it and that’s what happens, trying to stop the other portion of the run.”
If the Giants are undisciplined again on Sunday, they’re in for a long day.
4. Don't Get Beat Deep
Janoris Jenkins has been beaten deep on the first drive in the Giants first two games of the season. In Week 1 he gave up a 31-yard completion to Keelan Cole, and last week he gave up a 64-yard touchdown to Tavon Austin on the Cowboys third offensive play of the game. These plays put the Giants in a hole early and set a tone for the game.
— SNF on NBC (@SNFonNBC) September 17, 2018
Look for Watson to try to test the secondary deep with DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller. Jenkins and the rest of the secondary have to make sure they do not give up big plays especially early in the game.
5 Force Turnovers
The way the Giants offense has been sputtering, the defense will need to force some turnovers to set the offense up in good field position. They should have their opportunities to create turnovers as the Texans have turned the ball over three times this season.
As of Thursday, three of the Giants defensive players, Eli Apple, Olivier Vernon and Connor Barwin, are all questionable for Sunday, so this puts even more emphasis on the Giants to create turnovers if they’ll be without key players.
With the way the Giants offense has looked over the first two weeks, it’s hard to expect them to win, especially when they’re playing a team that also in a must-win situation. Unless the New York Giants score on defense or special teams, the offense won’t generate enough points for the win.