By Paul Dottino
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Giants coach Tom Coughlin often uses a phrase or a word as a mantra for his team.
“Build the Bridge” didn’t work so well in the opening night loss to the Dallas Cowboys. A suggested word for Sunday’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers might be “Redemption.”
The Giants should have learned last season that, despite being a talented team, they were not good enough to bring less than their best and expect to win. Such is the case again this season. Do they have more talent than the Bucs and the Carolina Panthers, their next two opponents? Absolutely. And could the Giants lose to these teams if they play sloppy, uninspired football? Absolutely.
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So lets get to this weekend’s three key matchups for the the game against Tampa Bay:
1. Giants offensive line vs. Buccaneers front seven. Although we’d prefer to be more specific, the Bucs rely on a quick and speedy front seven — a la the Falcons or the better Cowboys teams of the recent past — to suffocate the running game and force the opponent to become one-dimensional.
They held the Panthers to 10 yards rushing last weekend: DeAngelo Williams had a team-long run of 7 yards and finished with minus-1 on six carries. Left defensive tackle Gerald McCoy does an exceptional job of clogging the middle and pushing the front of the pocket – he will draw double teams from center David Baas and right guard Chris Snee.
Lavonte David is their only three-down linebacker – he’s got the quickness to get sideline to sideline in the sub packages while leading a wave of defenders to the ball. Nine of the Bucs’ 11 starters were drafted no later than the third round, with CB Eric Wright (Lions) and DE Micheal Bennett (Seahawks) being the only veteran imports.
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2. Buccaneers WRs Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams vs. Giants cornerbacks. It’s understandable that backup Michael Coe and then Justin Tryon would have some difficulties against the Cowboys, but the usually reliable Corey Webster also did not play well in the opener.
No team can get a sub-par performance out of both corner positions on a given Sunday and expect to win – it’s a passing league. It’s likely the Giants will glue Webster on Jackson, a tall weapon who came over from the Chargers. QB Josh Freeman already has showed a strong propensity to telegraph throws to him, which should make Webster’s job a bit easier.
Coe (hamstring) expects to start in front of Williams, although Prince Amukamara (ankle) has done a lot of work in practice and may be part of this defensive equation.
3. DT Rocky Bernard vs. LG Carl Nicks. Nicks, who got big money to leave the Saints, is the best guard in the NFL. He’s a brick wall who punishes anyone who attempts to invade his space.
He’ll get help from converted guard Jeremy Zuttah at center as the Bucs try to establish a running game with first-round pick Doug Martin. Offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan was an assistant with the Giants for several years, so you will see the running game attempt to open up the play-action pass.
If Nicks and the rest of the Bucs’ interior line can open holes, it will take a tremendous amount of pressure off Freeman, who was able to control the clock for more than 37 minutes against the Panthers.
Prediction: Giants 20, Buccaneers 16
Prediction record vs. the spread: 0-1
What’s your prediction for Giants-Bucs? Let Paul know in the comments below!