By Paul Dottino
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How much wiggle room do the Giants have?
Not much when you are 0-3, but at least the NFC East does not appear to be nearly as strong as it was expected to be.
The really bad news for coach Tom Coughlin is that his struggling offensive line is badly banged up, with center David Baas and right guard Chris Snee sidelined. And the Kansas City Chiefs have one of the best pass-rushing front sevens in the NFL.
Here are three of the key matchups to watch in the game:
1) Chiefs NT Dontari Poe vs. Giants C Jim Cordle or Kevin Boothe: The Giants must decide if it’s easiest to put Cordle at center and James Brewer at right guard or — if they are able to get David Diehl (hand) cleared — insert Diehl in as one of the guards and slide Boothe to center. Despite returning to practice for three days, Diehl won’t be cleared to play until his hand passes a strength test.
Regardless, the Giants must prevent Poe (6-foot-3, 346 pounds) from dictating play. He is a force in the run and has 3 1/2 sacks this season. If he’s not tough enough to deal with, the frenzied Arrowhead Stadium crowd is apt to cause communication issues for the line as well. Kansas City runs a 3-4 base, but has been known to show a 4-3 scheme and a 2-3-6 dime package.
2) Chiefs RT Eric Fisher vs. Giants LDE Justin Tuck: Kansas City QB Alex Smith has been sacked 10 times this season because he’s been taught that it’s better to get dropped than to throw an interception. He has yet to throw a pick in 105 attempts this season. Fisher, the Chiefs’ first-round pick, has been beaten for three sacks and flagged for three penalties. In short, he’s a rookie, and should be susceptible to getting beaten by some of Tuck’s veteran moves.
Tuck has just a half-sack and two quarterback hits through the first three games and hasn’t played up to par since the opener in Dallas. But he ought to be able to use some leverage against the 6-foot-7 Fisher.
3) Chiefs LOLB Justin Houston vs. Giants RT Justin Pugh: This is the flip side to matchup No. 2, with the Giants’ first-round pick having to deal with the opponent’s best pass rusher. Houston has 17 tackles and 7 1/2 sacks this season, including 4 1/2 sacks against the Eagles last weekend.
The linebacker stands at 6-foot-3 and weighs 258 pounds, only giving up an inch and nearly 40 pounds to Pugh (beaten twice for sacks last weekend against the Panthers). Kansas City already has 15 sacks this year.
PREDICTION: Chiefs 23, Giants 10
PREDICTION RECORD VS. SPREAD: 1-2
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