By Paul Dottino
EAST RUTHERFORD – How many of you have put the Giants’ horrific loss in Indianapolis behind you? Okay, so some of you have and some haven’t. After listening to the swirling emotions running through the locker room this week, it’s best for the Giants (1-1) that they remember – and take out their anger on the Tennessee Titans (1-1).
The Titans have issues of their own, given that quarterback Vince Young got yanked for Kerry Collins during last week’s 19-11 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Young must be looking over his shoulder after coach Jeff Fisher said he thought Collins’ experience and arm strength were better suited to attempting a comeback. Somebody might want to remind Fisher that Young, a former first-round pick, is in his fifth pro season and shouldn’t need a caddy to direct a rally.
Here are three significant matchups to watch in the game:
1. Giants C Adam Koets vs. Titans DTs Jason Jones and Tony Brown. We can put an asterisk next to Koets’ name because this becomes the most important battle for the Giants should starting center Shaun O’Hara (Achilles) be unable to play after missing significant practice time this week. Koets played well enough during the final two weeks of the preseason to hold onto his roster spot, but he’s never started a regular season game. In fact, the fourth-year pro has appeared in only three games – and those cameos came on special teams and as a blocking tight end.
Brown (6-3, 305), in his sixth season, is considered stout against the run while Jones (6-5, 276) is a third-year pro who relies on his quickness to get to the ball. Lucky for Koets, this is a home game and the friendly crowd will be less of a noise factor when he’s hovering over the ball.
2. Giants DT Chris Canty and Barry Cofield vs. Titans RB Chris Johnson. Coach Tom Coughlin is likely to activate at least one of his other two defensive tackles for this game – Linval Joseph and Rocky Bernard – given the way the Colts gashed the interior of the Giants’ defense. Johnson, one of the most dangerous cutback runners in the league, was a 2,000-yard rusher last season. The Titans are very willing to spread the formation with three- or four-receiver sets, allowing him to take advantage of open lanes.
Pittsburgh limited Johnson to 34 yards on 16 carries last week, stopping his run of 12 straight 100-yard games and leaving him behind only Barry Sanders (16) in NFL history. The best way to stop Johnson is to make sure at least two defenders make initial contact with him because one player is going to have a tough time stopping him. At least one of remaining players in pursuit needs to fill the cutback lane to prevent Johnson from escaping containment.
3. Giants OLB Keith Bulluck vs. Titans’ front office. Bulluck spent 10 years as the heart-and-soul of the Titans’ defense but insists the front office did not have any intention of retaining him after the 2009 season – even if he did not require major knee surgery in December. Bulluck has a lot of pride and his feelings run deep. Coach Jeff Fisher repeated this week that he’s got nothing but the kindest words for his former player, going as far as to say that he wanted Bulluck to return.
The bad news for Fisher is that Bulluck’s about to take out all of his feelings toward the front office on the coach’s team. Coughlin would be wise to keep Bulluck on the field as much as possible rather than limiting him to specific packages. The more chances Bulluck gets to make plays, the more plays he will make – you can count on it.
PREDICTION: Giants 24, Titans 16
PREDICTION RECORD: 2-0
AGAINST THE SPREAD: 0-2