New York Giants face test from streaking Jacksonville Jaguars
The alarm is sounding on Big Blue’s season. The Giants are now faced with a slew of injuries and challenged by an incoming Jaguars team ready to pounce on Sunday at the New Meadowlands Stadium (1 p.m., CBS).
The Giants (6-4) have impressed no one in their past two losses, with the offense’s issues with turnovers continuing to plague the efforts of a talented defense. Eli Manning has thrown five interceptions during the team’s two-game skid, bringing his season total to 16, and he’s without his top two receivers for the foreseeable future.
Perched atop the AFC South, Jacksonville (6-4) is on a three-game winning streak and trying to shake away its inconsistency from earlier this season. With the Jags looking for separation in their division, the G-Men will have to match Jacksonville’s ferocity.
Goes without saying?
The Giants have had eight multiple turnover games this season, and Manning is the leading culprit with six games of two picks or more. Although Manning is facing Jacksonville’s 28th-ranked pass defense, ball security remains critical with Big Blue’s top two receivers — Hakeem Nicks (leg) and Steve Smith (pectoral muscle) have combined for 109 catches, 1,317 yards and 12 touchdowns — out of the lineup.
Run them off the field
The Jaguars were dominated by 22 points or more in their four losses this season, meaning Jacksonville can be forced into submission with strong running and clock-killing play. Brandon Jacobs, starting ahead of fumble-prone Ahmad Bradshaw, was limited against Philadelphia and Dallas, but his power-running style (good for a 5.0-yard average per carry) should be a mismatch against Jacksonville’s 19th-ranked rush defense.
Roll to Jones-Drew
Maurice Jones-Drew is the NFL’s fourth-best running back and the versatile threat that powers Jacksonville’s offense. To stop the fifth-year back, defensive coordinator Perry Fewell should employ the same strategy that helped the Giants neutralize Arian Foster: Play man-to-man at the line of scrimmage and make safeties act as extra linebackers. Tight coverage on defense should also disrupt any timing patterns in the Jags’ passing arsenal.
Flush the rush
Manning should be able to exploit Jacksonville’s secondary if he and his new stable of receivers have a strong enough rapport, but he might need his best running cleats against the Jags’ defensive line. Jacksonville harassed the Browns last week and notched six sacks on Colt McCoy. The Giants offensive line must keep Manning upright while giving him sufficient time to track down Mario Manningham and the ragtag group of receivers.