By Paul Dottino
» More Columns
EAST RUTHERFORD – Co-captain Justin Tuck doesn’t want the Giants to fall into a trap, understanding that last week’s dominant defensive effort in the 17-3 win over the Chicago Bears doesn’t automatically carry over into Houston.
“This week, I mean, our feeling is don’t let that be wool over your eyes,” he said. “Don’t think you are going to come out and get 10 sacks every week.”
Tuck, himself, had seven tackles, three sacks and a forced fumble in the victory. One can assume that he saw the Giants’ definitive edge in the trenches going into the game and, although he won’t say it, must have known the front four was going to be treated to a good night against a pass-heavy offense.
But the Texans provide a different challenge – they can afford to mix up their attack because they run it was well as they throw it. Therefore, the Giants’ front four won’t have the luxury of emphasizing their pass rush.
So let’s get to this weekend’s three key matchups:
Giants LBs vs. Texans RB Arian Foster. Foster has a blend of agility, decent speed and very strong tendency to break tackles. He’s shown all these things on his way to leading the NFL in rushing with 537 yards (6.3 avg.) and four touchdowns. Given the Texans’ balance, this may be the first week the Giants heavily use their base defense for four quarters – which also means they’ll badly miss OLB Keith Bulluck, who had his best all-around game against the Titans (during which he suffered a turf toe that’s got him sidelined).
Second-year OLB Clint Sintim is expected to make his first NFL start after seeing only limited action last week because the defense primarily used its sub packages against the run-deficient Bears. MLB Jonathan Goff comes off his best game as a pro and must be disciplined enough to hold his ground while the Texans attempt to take him laterally with their zone-blocking scheme. Ditto for OLB Michael Boley, whose athleticism sometimes prompts him to get caught out of position. Foster makes the most of a defense’s mistakes – if the defenders maintain their fit in the rushing lanes, he’s not strong enough to barrel through or speedy enough to scoot around them.
Giants C Adam Koets vs. Texans DTs Shaun Cody and Amobi Okoye. Koets suffered a sprained MCL in his right knee last week and didn’t return to practice until Thursday, after which his leg appeared very stiff. The Giants think he’ll be able to play, but LG Rich Seubert needs to be ready to slide over. Should Seubert have to move, Shawn Andrews will come off the bench – either at left tackle (with David Diehl shifting inside) or at left guard.
Although the Texans’ rushing defense ranks second in the NFL at 70.2 yards per game, teams have run for nearly 5 yards per carry when attacking up the middle. MLB DeMeco Ryans is a terrific player, but obviously he’s making too many tackles beyond the line of scrimmage because the guys in front of him aren’t as stout as they need to be.
Giants TEs Bear Pascoe and Kevin Boss vs. Texans OLB Brian Cushing. Cushing adds tremendous speed and intensity to a defense that’s already got a dominant pass-rusher in RDE “Super” Mario Williams. Cushing is as adept at coming on the blitz as he is dropping into coverage and, as Giants RB Brandon Jacobs noted, the linebacker is going to be revved up since he’s making his season debut following a four-game suspension for violating NFL policy.
In addition, Cushing’s likely going to throw another log on his fire, given that he grew up in Park Ridge, N.J. and he’ll want to make in impact for all of his friends/family watching back home. He’s too fast off the edge for Diehl or RT Kareem McKenzie to control solo, so Pascoe (a TE but filing in for FB Madison Hedgecock, who’s out with a strained hamstring) and/or Kevin Boss will required to help clearing a path for the backs and/or providing time for QB Eli Manning.
PREDICTION: Texans 27, Giants 17
PREDICTION RECORD: 3-1 (1-3 vs. the spread)