By Paul Dottino
The Giants have already pushed their season to the brink.
They followed their three-game winning streak — in which they won by an average of 18 points — with three straight losses that’s left them at 3-5. Maybe even more puzzling is that their average margin of defeat for the season is 17 points per game.
It’s impossible to predict which Giants will show up Sunday in Seattle. But we know one thing for sure, coach Tom Coughlin is bringing a wounded roster to the West Coast. He’s got three of his top four cornerbacks on in injured reserve (Prince Amukamara, Walter Thurmond, Trumaine McBride). Ditto for No. 1 receiver Victor Cruz and starting middle linebacker Jon Beason. And they probably won’t have starting running back Rashad Jennings (knee) with them, either.
Can the rest of this roster summon the heart and fight that safety Antrel Rolle has been seeking? If so, will that fight be enough to knock off the defending Super Bowl champions in their building, where the Seahawks have won 78 percent of their games since it was built? Those two answers will determine if the Giants are at least competitive into the fourth quarter.
Here are three key matchups to watch:
Giants LB Jameel McClain vs. Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch. Lynch loves to set the tempo and his power running, specifically the way he compiles yardage after contact, energizes the Seahawks. Lynch appears to be having a subpar season (549 rushing yards, 4.2 avg.) but he’s not running any differently. McClain will have a do a stellar job of freeing himself off blocks to get a clean look at Lynch and respond with equal force as he hits the hole. McClain also will need some help. The Cowboys were able to limit Lynch by corralling him with multiple tacklers that swarmed and gang-tackled him, making it harder for him to tussle with an individual defender.
Giants returners vs. Seahawks kicking game. The Giants are averaging 5.8 yards on punt returns (Preston Parker and Odell Beckham have split the duties) and 22.6 on kickoff returns (Michael Cox has taken over for Quintin Demps). They simply must do better against the Seattle coverage teams, which are allowing an abysmal 14.7 yards per punt return and 24.5 yards per kickoff return. This should be the easiest avenue for the Giants’ offense to improve their field position, which can lessen the aggression of the Seattle defense as well as the impact of the crowd — the legendary 12th Man.
Giants RBs Andre Williams and Peyton Hillis vs. Seahawks LB K.J. Wright. Wright has been playing stellar ball while leading the Seahawks with 63 tackles. Considering how Seattle’s crowd makes life difficult in passing situations, the Giants need to run the ball well early in each series to create manageable second- and third-down situations. However, the Seahawks rank fourth in the NFL, allowing just 3.2 yards per carry, and they’ve only given up three rushing touchdowns. If Coughlin ever needed a unit to play above the Xs and Os, as he’s asked for, this would be a great time for the running backs to find additional yardage every time they carry the football.
PREDICTION: Seahawks 30, Giants 16
PREDICTION record vs. the spread: 6-2
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