Key Matchups Against Surprising Texans, Plus A Prediction

By Paul Dottino
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It’s time for the Giants (0-2) to look in the mirror and figure out how they need to play.

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The Texans (2-0) come to town Sunday, following the same three-part blueprint the wayward Giants need to follow — except Houston has been able to execute while coach Tom Coughlin’s team has failed to do so. The evidence is overwhelming.

A. Run the ball. Houston’s Arian Foster (241 rushing yards, 4.4 avg.) has put up two 100-yard games and the Texans call on their ground game on first-and-10 a whopping 73 percent of the time. The Giants have averaged 2.7 yards per carry over the first two weeks.

B. Play tough defense and win the turnover battle. The Texans have allowed a total of 20 points and are tied for second in the NFL in turnover ratio at plus-5. The Giants have give up 60 points (six points charged to special teams) and own the NFL’s worst turnover ratio at minus-6.

C. The quarterback must manage the game instead of forcing big plays. Houston’s Ryan Fitzpatrick owns a 68 percent completion mark for 345 yards without tossing an interception in 41 throws as part of their low-risk offense. The Giants’ Eli Manning is at 61 percent complete for 440 yards with four interceptions in 72 throws, although two were off deflections.

Here are three key matchups to watch:

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1. Texans RDE J.J. Watt vs. Giants LT Will Beatty. This battle can be a bit deceiving since Houston will move Watt up and down the defensive front, altering the look while adding a multiple blitz package to its 3-4 scheme. The Giants insist Watt’s relentless motor is his best attribute, so they’ve always got to have a helmet on him. He has just one sack to go with six quarterback hits this season. The Giants only allowed QB Eli Manning to get hit twice (both on sacks) last weekend against the Cardinals.

2. Texans RB Arian Foster vs. Giants MLB Jameel McClain. Foster is going to pound away between the tackles – he rarely runs around the edge – and he carries to either side with the same frequency. Assuming MLB Jon Beason (toe) will not be able to play, the Giants will need a big game out of McClain. McClain’s a smart player who not only will have to read the proper run fits, but also will have to hit Foster with enough force to allow a second tackler to finish off the back.

3. Texans QB Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. Giants secondary. Why so generic with the defensive backs? Because it doesn’t matter who intercepts Fitzpatrick – who’s been prone to turnovers in the past – as long as SOMEBODY picks him off. CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will draw leading receiver Andre Johnson (12 catches) while Prince Amukamara lines up opposite DeAndre Hopkins, who has caught one TD pass in each game this season.

PREDICTION: Giants 20, Texans 17

PREDICTION RECORD vs. the spread: 1-1

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