Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Gameday Preview, Week 5: Seattle Seahawks

Giants look to break the bye-week trend against Seahawks

Heading into Week 5's showdown with the Seattle Seahawks, three story lines from the past two weeks lend a new level of drama and significance to the game: the defending champion Giants are undefeated and in 1st place in NFC East; they have a dismal 4-15 record after the bye week; and they will try to buck that trend this week without suspended wide receiver Plaxico Burress.

QB Eli Manning's play is one reason why the Giants are
currently on top of the toughest division in football.


At 3-0, the Giants have exclusive possession of first place in a very talented and competitive NFC East. Dallas and Washington trail with records of 3-1, and Philadelphia brings up the rear at 2-2. As the Giants enter a four game stretch against non-divisional opponents, it presents them with a great opportunity to keep a one game cushion before the final 9 games of the season when they have to play 5 divisional games.

The NFC East arguably features the four best teams in the conference this season. It's an extremely talented and competitive division, and every game counts...

This tight competition adds another layer of relevance to this week's match-up with the 1-2 Seahawks. The Giants lead the overall series 7-5, but Seattle has won the previous two meetings, both of which were played at Qwest Field, home of the infamous "12th man." This week's game will be played at Giants Stadium, and the Giants are hoping that the Big Blue faithful can function as a 12th man in their own right. The G-men should take whatever help they can get if they're hoping to shake the post-bye week pattern...of losing.

Listening to the "experts" discuss this trend, there sounds like there is no single cause to blame for the Giants' lack of success following the bye. It seems as though it could just be an unfortunate coincidence...that has haunted Big Blue since the bye week's inception in 1990.


Remember this though, the Giants had a bye week last January. The following week they won the Super Bowl. If any Giants team can kick the habit this week, it's the 2008 Giants, for precisely the reasons I've been emphasizing this whole year: a champion's attitude, excellent preparation, and getting the job done on game day.

Seattle is also coming off of a bye week. Under current coach Mike Holmgren, they too have fared poorly, going 2-7 following the bye. Other facts of note: the Seahawks have gone just 3-8 in their past 11 games east of the Mississippi River. And under Holmgren, the 'Hawks are 14-25 in the East, and only 6-19 since 2003. In the last two seasons away from Qwest field, they are a mediocre 7-9, compared with a 12-4 record in front of their home fans.

Favored to win the NFC West at the beginning of the season, the Seahawks have been decimated by injuries, mostly at wide receiver, and have struggled to find wins early in 2008. Their only win came in Week 3 against the lowly Rams. While they post some impressive numbers offensively - 11th in the league in points and yards per game (25.7 and 336.7, respectively), and second in the league in rushing yards per game at 166.3 yards per game - Seattle also struggles in some categories. They are 26th in the league in points allowed (26.7 points a game), and 25th in the league in pass yards allowed per game (226.3 yds per game). This could be an excellent opportunity for Eli and company to break out the deep ball they've been so keen on since training camp.


That task may be complicated this week though as the Giant passing attack will have a different look: they will be without their top weapon - suspended receiver Plaxico Burress. I haven't spoken much about this issue on the blog, but here's the breakdown:
  • First, it sucks that this had to happen but I think it was the right decision. Team comes first and nobody, no matter how productive, is above the team. That's how you win games; that's how you win rings.
  • Second, football aside, there may be some bigger problems here that I hope Plax and his family can resolve. There's been talk about domestic disputes, police, and other things. He's got an infant son at home, and that is no kind of environment for a baby to be in.
  • Third, Plaxico has had a history of disciplinary problems his entire career. There's been rumors circulating that he's been fined around 40 times since joining the Giants. Maybe so, but no one can deny that he hasn't proven himself on the field. He went out for every game last season when he couldn't even practice and had a career year. If this suspension does not affect him or the locker room negatively going forward, then I say forget about it, move on, play football.
  • Finally, this could potentially be a blessing in disguise. The Giants are loaded at WR with talented players not dressing or seeing any playing time come game day. Without Burress, everybody moves up the depth chart and Sunday's game could be a prime opportunity for the young guns - Smith, Hixon, Sinorice Moss, and Mario Manningham - to show what they can do, not only to the fans but also to the coaching staff. I mentioned in my Bye Week Report that maximizing the use of offensive talent would be crucial to the Giants' progress this season. Week 5 forces the coaches to put these guys under the spotlight. I think they'll like what they see...


And that brings us right into the Key Match-ups for this week's showdown.
  • Giants' young WRs vs. Seahawks' secondary: Domenik Hixon will start in place of Burress, while Steve Smith will stay in the slot. These two are already proving themselves as reliable targets for Eli Manning and both have already made an impact on the passing attack this year. Third year player Sinorice Moss only has one catch this season and has seen little action, but as I've mentioned before on the blog, he had a strong preseason and is healthy for the first time in his career. Rookie Mario Manningham has yet to be active for a game, and this week he is battling an illness that may or may not affect his availability for Sunday. How these young players perform in Week 5 will have a critical impact on the outcome of the game.
  • Giants' running game vs. the Seattle front 7: The Giants' talented offensive line should have something to prove this week. Not only are they going up against an athletic, talented Seattle front 7 that can get after the quarterback, but they'll also be looking to rebound in the running game after struggling against Cincinnati. In Week 3, the Giants' running attack failed to generate its usual momentum, as the Bengals shut down Brandon Jacobs and threw off the rhythm of the entire Giant running attack. Look for a faster start this week to set up the vicious three-pronged ground game. When Jacobs can pound it successfully, Ward becomes all the more dangerous, and Bradshaw becomes all the more explosive.
  • Giants' LBs vs. the Seattle running game: Seattle currently boasts one of the strongest running attacks in the league, albeit in part because of compensating for a depleted passing attack. The Giants defense is coming off of a lackluster performance against the Bengals in which they gave up nearly 5 yards a play and converted on nearly 60% of their third down attempts. With a stout front four, it will fall to the Giants' Linebackers to shore up the run defense and take away the Seahawks' running attack. This will put more pressure on QB Matt Hasselbeck and feed into the Giants' pass rush.
Seattle WRs Bobby Engram and Deion Branch
will make their season debuts this Sunday.

  • Giants' secondary vs. the Seahawks' WRs: Seattle will have a healthy wide receiving corps for the first time all season as play-makers Deion Branch and Bobby Engram return to action. It will be up to the Giants' secondary to shut them down and take away as many of QB Matt Hasselbeck's weapons as possible.


Those are some key match-ups that will have considerable impact on the outcome of this game. Here are a few other general things to pay attention to on Sunday:
  • Gilbride and the WRs: How are the young wide receivers used in their new roles. Can Gilbride dial up the right plays and take full advantage of the talent at his disposal?
  • Eli and the WRs: How comfortable will Eli be without his favorite target out there on the field? Will he still maintain his outstanding early-season form?
  • Turnovers: The Giants need to start taking the football away from the other team. It's been a point of emphasis during the bye week, and players have had their opportunities in the first three games. With any luck, this week they will start taking those opportunities.
Now for a few players to keep your eyes on...


Normally, each week I spotlight one offensive and one defensive player to keep your eye. Well, this week, in the interest of not being repetitive and telling you to watch out for Domenik Hixon again (you should really pay attention to all the young WRs), I've decided to spotlight two defensive players instead.

DE 97 Mathias Kiwanuka
- Kiwi's been dealing with a sore ankle for the last two games. He has said the bye week allowed him to rest it and the ankle is feeling much better. He got his first sack of the season in Week 3, I look for him to add to that this week. If he's as healthy as he can be, he will only be more explosive and dynamic, and that will open up opportunities for the rest of the front four to get at the QB.

CB 27 Sam Madison - The old timer saw some of his first action of the season in Week 3 and showed up to make a big time bat-down in over time. One of the best players in the secondary last season in my mind, I expect Sam could see more playing time now that he's healthy again, especially if the defense is struggling to get off the field or missing opportunities to get a take away.

... ...

I'm looking forward to Big Blue getting back in action this week, in what should be a great game. I look for both teams and the crowd to come out fired up. If the Giants bring their A game and successfully make some needed improvements in areas I've mentioned above, I think they'll take it.

Prediction: Giants win, 27-16

... ...'s preview of Seahawks@Giants's Seahawks Scouting Report

... ...

Please leave your COMMENTS!

SITE NEWS: You can now subscribe to Giants' Steps via e-mail, or, for all the Blogger users out there, you can become a Follower of the Giants' Steps blog. Both can be accomplished by consulting the features in the left-hand column.

And the rest of it here.

No comments: