Stillers-Giants Preview(Game #14)
The Stillers and Giants both come into this critical game with 2-game winning streaks and in a must-win situation. The Giants are fighting it out with Philly for the NFC East crown, while the Stillers have slim but do-able hopes of an AFC wild-card spot. With both teams in a must-win situation, this should be the kind of football game that hard-core fans love to see this time of year�.intensity, aggression, and hustle should be sky high for both teams. Ironically enough, each team is quite similar in stature, performance, and modus operandi. Both possess stout defenses and good ground game. The Giants have gotten a little bit more from their passing game, but they�re still not to be confused with the �84 Dolphins. If you like hard-nosed, helmet-smashing football, this should be a most enjoyable game to watch on Sunday.
* When the Giants have the ball, they�ll bring a somewhat similar attack as Oakland did last week, and a somewhat similar attack as the Stillers. NY likes to pound the ball on the ground with their Thunder & Lightning running game. Ranked 2nd in the NFC in rushing/game and getting 4.2 yard a crack on the ground, NY is led by the shifty Tiki Barber, who averages a gaudy 5.3 yards/carry. Doughboy Dayne spells Barber and obviously provides more of a battering ram effect. Veterans H. Cross and Pete Mitchell do the TE chores, and while each is adequate, neither is a huge threat like a Dudley or a Gonzalez. The OL is a fairly solid gang. I�ve long viewed Blomas Brown as being over-rated, but he�s still adequate. While this gang isn�t loaded with superstars, they do yeoman-like work and have given the Giants good run blocking and pass protection. QB Kerry Colins has resurrected his career with a solid season for the Giants, having tossed 17 TDs and serving as a key leader for the offense. The Giants average over 215 passing yards per game, so they�re getting decent production from their passing game. Collins is by no means great, but he�s a capable QB who can zip the ball in there, especially when he isn�t harassed in the pocket. The WR duo is Amani Toomer and Joe Jurevicius, both of whom are big men who can go up and get the ball. Toomer has been especially effective on 3rd downs for the Giants. Hilliard may play at WR; I reckon it�ll be a game-time decision. The key matchup will RB Tiki Barber against the Stiller defense. NY will be looking to pound the ball and control the clock. Barber is the kind of runner who, like Dillon and Taylor this season, can give the Stillers fits. Kaufman was a bit hobbled last week, and played sparingly, so the Stillers managed to dodge that bullet. I have no concerns about Dayne -- the Stillers, as they did to Wheatley last week, typically don�t have many problems with a big plow-back like that. The concern is that Barber might exploit over-pursuit, as well as dash around end, for big gainers. If Barber is gaining consistent yardage, it will take the burden off Collins.
* When the Stillers have the ball, it�ll be the usual grind-it-out offense, led by RB Jerome Bettis. The Giants bring some talent and toughness with their front 7. DT Keith Hamilton is having a strong & stellar season, and Mike Strahan, while not quite as dominating as his sterling season a couple years ago, is still a force at DE. Faneca and Duffy are really going to have their hands full in trying to contain Hamilton. Marvel Smith, who has had continual problems dealing with brute power from big, tough DEs, will be lucky to hang on as he tries to fight off Strahan. The Giant LB corps is tough and experienced. Hard-hitting Mike Barrow, who long ago peeved Stiller fans with his feisty play with Houston, mans the middle, flanked by the solid Jesse Armstead and Ryan Phillips. Obviously, of these three, Phillips is the weak link, and it is incumbent upon Gilbride to exploit this as often as possible. Dave Thomas and Jason Sehorn play the corners, and Garnes and Williams play the safety spots. Sehorn isn�t quite the same player he was before the hideous leg injury from the �98 pre-season, but he�s still a quality CB who does everything well. However, the pass defense is NY�s Achilles heel. Their run defense is ranked 2nd in the NFL, but their pass defense is considerably more generous, allowing 236 yards/game. Thomas was often susceptible in Jax, and there�s no reason we shouldn�t take a few stabs deep against him. I respect the Giant run defense, but I have to wonder how good it really is, considering they�ve fattened up their stats by feasting on the woeful likes of AZ (twice), Dallas (twice), Chico, Atlanta, Clev, and Detroit. However, I believe they are stout enough -- much more than the Raiders -- to limit Bettis� success. The Bus will gain a few yards here and there, but I expect the going to be a whole lot rougher than it was against the Giants, especially with the Giants being able to pick apart the film of our win over the Raiders. The key matchup will be the Stiller passing game against the Giant passing defense. Ward, Shaw, and Troy are going to have to come up with big plays against this suspect secondary, and Stewart is going to have to get the ball there with accuracy and timeliness (ie, hitting a receiver in stride, rather than making him stop & wait.) Our OL is really going to have their hands full in trying to stave off the Giant pass rush. The Giants have 35 sacks and have linemen and LBs who can get after the QB. For the most part, Stewart was given ample time last week. I doubt he�ll have that same luxury this week, and his throwing problems have most often occurred when he was harassed and hurried in the pocket.
* Spec Teams: For once, the Stillers go into a game with good momentum on their spec teams. The coverage teams have really clamped down, and Josh�s pooching inside the 10-yard line has been first-rate. Kris Brown seems destined to boot shallow KOs, but he�s a bit better FG kicker than NY�s Daluiso. Hank Poteat gives the Stillers a solid threat to gain good yardage in the return game.
*Make sure your chin-strap is on tightly, folks�.this will be a doozy. I expect a low-scoring, hard-hitting defensive battle. Naturally, emotion and turnovers will play a big role in this kind of game. So, too, will coaching. I�ve always been impressed with what Fassell has done with a modicum of talent in NY. I believe the Raiders took the Stillers lightly last week, but given our win over Oakland, I doubt the Giants will make that same mistake. With the Giants playing for a playoff spot in front of their home crowd, and possessing a bit better passing offense, I expect the Giants to hold on for a hard-fought 16-13 win over the Stillers.