5:50 PM EST, December 4, 2013
The Sports Xchange
NFL Team Report - New York Giants - INSIDE SLANT
Under normal circumstances, the New York Giants would be considered one of the hottest teams in the league with five victories in their past six games. Alas, little is normal this season for the Giants, who have beaten only one team that current has a winning record - the Philadelphia Eagles (8-5) - and are on the very periphery of the playoff picture at 5-8.
"Once you go out there and win a game, you do have that confidence that you know how to do it now and everyone starts to buy in and you're doing things the right way; the attention to detail, the small little things that really make up the difference between winning and losing because it's so hard to win in this league," said linebacker Jon Beason.
The problem for the Giants is that their wins have come against competition that was either not at full strength or already struggling worse than New York at the time of meeting.
That won't be the case this weekend when the Giants head west to face the San Diego Chargers, who at 5-7 have played better than their record indicates and are currently the 10th seed in the AFC playoff hunt.
At the helm of the Chargers offense is quarterback Philip Rivers, the New York Giants' first round draft pick in 2004 who was traded in the Eli Manning blockbuster deal. Rivers has completed 70 percent of his pass attempts this season, the league's best mark among quarterbacks who have thrown more than 100 passes.
"He's got great weapons around him, but he's a gamer," Beason said. "He's a gunslinger."
Rivers is also pretty good when it comes to converting third down attempts, as the Chargers' 46 percent success rate is second in the NFL.
"That's the money down. That's what we call it because this is how you either get off the field or you extend drives and get points," Beason said.
Despite their production on offense, Beason believes that the Chargers can be slowed down if an opponent takes away what they do best.
"They run the ball well with (running back Ryan) Mathews. They have (tight end Antonio) Gates, who's a matchup nightmare for everybody. If you can take those two guys out of the game, you have an opportunity to win," Beason said.
The Chargers also have a good set of receivers in rookie Keenan Allen and veterans Vincent Brown and Eddie Royal.
And don't forget about 5-8, 200-pound running back Danny Woodhead, who's averaging 3.7 yards per carry and is a versatile weapon in the passing game.
"He's one of those guys who overcame the odds and I think he keeps that chip on his shoulder," Beason said of Woodhead. "He never feels like he's arrived, so from a distance you're a fan just watching him.
"I remember playing against him in New York when he was here with the Jets. He's a great football player, but he does some things out of the backfield with 4.4 speed. It's hard to contain those guys out of the backfield."
Given all the weapons the Chargers have on offense, the Giants will have to find a way to keep them off the field and allow Manning and company to have the bigger day.
"We've got our hands full and our work cut out for us but we know that it's on us this week," Beason said. "We've got to stop their offense because that's what makes them go."
SERIES HISTORY: 11th regular-season meeting. The two teams have split the series, 5-5. In their last meeting, on Nov. 8, 2009, the Chargers topped the Giants, 21-20, at Giants Stadium. New York is 2-2 against the Chargers on the road, the last such game being played on Sept. 25, 2005.
NFL Team Report - New York Giants - NOTES, QUOTES
--It has been a frustrating season for defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul.
After finally starting to turn the corner in his rehab from back surgery, Pierre-Paul suffered a shoulder injury on Nov. 10 vs. Oakland.
After playing the following weekend against the Packers, Pierre-Paul's injury began to worsen to the point where he was limited against the Cowboys and inactive against the Redskins.
This week Pierre-Paul is hoping to make enough progress to return to the lineup in order to help keep his team in the playoff hunt by winning in San Diego.
"I'm going to take it day-by-day," he said. "I'll continue to come in and get treatment twice daily and rehab it. As far as playing, I can't really tell you when I'm going to play."
Pierre-Paul, who had back surgery in June, has already declared that he probably won't be 100 percent until next season after he has had a chance to rest his body. Given this latest injury, he's simply holding onto the hope that he won't need to shut things down or have offseason surgery.
"(Surgery) would set me back some more," he said. "I'm pretty sure it's nothing that needs surgery on; it just needs rest. I've been rehabbing it 24/7, even at home, so hopefully it can get better before the season's over with."
--Coach Tom Coughlin praised defensive end Justin Tuck, who had four sacks last week against the Redskins, for his play this season.
"He's played solid, he really has," Coughlin said of Tuck, who has recorded five of his 6.5 sacks this season in his last two games.
"To me, he's played solid, he's practiced hard, he's worked hard, he's done things by example. He's been one of the guys that I've referenced when I talked about if we got credit for the sacks that we've kind of missed or whatever, he's one of the guys that I would include there," Coughlin added.
Tuck's four sacks against the Redskins last week earned him NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors. According to Pro Football Focus, three of those four sacks were of the coverage variety, with Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III holding the ball at least 3.8 seconds per attempt.
--One of the side stories in this week's Giants-Chargers matchup is that 10 years ago, quarterbacks Eli Manning and Philip Rivers were involved in a blockbuster trade that saw the Giants acquire Manning in exchange Rivers, the Giants' 2004 third round pick and the Giants' first- and fifth-round picks in 2005.
"I remember (former Giants general manager) Ernie Accorsi making that deal, of being 100 percent in belief that this was the right thing to do for our franchise," said Tom Coughlin, who was in his first season as coach of the Giants.
"I remember that Ernie had studied Eli since he was a freshman in college and had really a strong, strong feeling about him. I remember the fact that he had the confidence and the constitution, if you will, to push the deal through."
Coughlin said that it wasn't an easy deal for Accorsi to make given the risk involved, but because Accorsi was so convinced that it was the right move for the franchise to make, the team's two late co-owners, Wellington Mara and Bob Tisch, gave their blessing.
"There was solid agreement," Coughlin recalled. "I don't know that Ernie needed us, but he was convinced of what he wanted."
Manning has always been reluctant to discuss the trade or his reasons for reportedly wanting out of San Diego.
"Nothing against San Diego as a city," he said on Wednesday, after initially telling reporters that he "forgot" why he was against playing for the Chargers.
Instead, Manning preferred to discuss the present and playing against the team that made him the number one overall draft pick in 2004.
It should be an exciting game and obviously kind of a must-win for both teams," he said. "I'm just looking forward to going out there and seeing if we can get a win."
As for that historic trade, both teams emerged with their franchise quarterbacks, the Giants seemingly getting the better of the deal given Manning's two Super Bowl MVP awards.
"Philip Rivers has had an outstanding career in San Diego and Eli Manning has had an outstanding career here, so I think you have a win-win situation there," Coughlin said.
BY THE NUMBERS: 4 - Number of quarterbacks from the 2004 draft class that remain in the NFL. That class includes Eli Manning of the Giants and Philip Rivers of the Chargers, who were swapped in a blockbuster draft-day trade back in 2004. Ben Roethlisberger (Steelers) and Matt Schaub (Texans) are the other two.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "There are a couple things in the hallway you might want to look at." -- Coach Tom Coughlin, when asked if he was happy with how the Giants' trade for quarterback Eli Manning worked out. Coughlin was referencing several framed newspaper front pages hanging in the hallways of the Quest Diagnostic Training Center that captured the Giants' last two Super Bowl victories engineered by Manning.
NFL Team Report - New York Giants - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
There are several reasons why the Giants don't look to rush young players into the lineup before they're ready, but when those players do ultimately step in, they've tended to fare well in live action.
Take for instance defensive end Damontre Moore and cornerback Jayron Hosley, both of whom were pressed into action due to injuries at their respective positions.
Moore, the team's third-round draft pick this year, was slowed in training camp and at the start of the season with injuries that coach Tom Coughlin said stunted the rookie's development.
"I think if this young man wasn't hurt in the preseason for the length of time that he was that he might be more advanced than he is now," Coughlin said of Moore, who helped provide an extra body with Jason Pierre-Paul inactive.
"Right now he's a very aggressive, solid part of special teams and we're trying to work him in as best we can. He is a necessary part of the rotation right now."
Hosley, in his second season, also has dealt with injuries, most recently a hamstring strain that he suffered in Week 4 vs. the Chiefs and which kept him out of action for five games.
With Trumaine McBride (groin) and Corey Webster (ankle) nursing their injuries, Hosley stepped in last week against the Redskins and held his own.
"He did okay," Coughlin said of Hosley's performance. "We were just so fortunate to get him in the game and play and play well and stay in the game so I think that has helped a lot. I think this will help him."
Both Moore and Hosley could be called upon again this week to face a tougher challenge in the Chargers as Pierre-Paul, Webster, and McBride look questionable for Sunday.
--C Jim Cordle, who was placed on injured reserve last week after suffering a partially torn patella tendon in his left knee, underwent surgery earlier this week.
--RB Brandon Jacobs (knee), who is on a managed practice schedule, was limited on Wednesday. If Jacobs has no setbacks, he'll continue to be limited and he should be able to play on Sunday.
--CB Trumaine McBride (groin) was limited in Wednesday's practice. His status for Sunday is not yet known.
--DE Jason Pierre-Paul (shoulder) did not practice on Wednesday, but did do some work on the side with trainers, which is an improvement from last week when he was mostly kept inside to get treatment. Pierre-Paul is a question mark for this weekend.
--CB Terrell Thomas (knee), who is on a managed practice schedule, did not work on Wednesday, but is scheduled to be limited on Thursday and Friday.
--CB Corey Webster (ankle) remains limited in practice as he tries to make his way back into the lineup.
GAME PLAN: The strength of the Giants' offense has been their running game, and while the numbers on the surface aren't eye-popping - New York has averaged 87.7 yards per game - the team has made just about every yard count.
Not only have the Giants done better with their short-yardage gains, the biggest result to come from their running game is that they're scoring every 32.2 carries, which is good news considering the Chargers' run defense has been very inconsistent.
On defense, look for the Giants defensive secondary, which had a bit of a cake walk last week as far as having to defend deep passes, to have their hands full against receiver Keenan Allen, who leads the Chargers with 843 receiving yards, and tight end Antonio Gates, second on the team with 726 yards.
Receiver Eddie Royal, with a team-leading seven touchdowns, hasn't seen as many opportunities thanks to the emergence of Allen, the rookie, but he is still very much a threat to break one open down the field.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Giants LT Will Beatty and LG James Brewer vs. Chargers RDE Corey Liuget. Beatty has had a nightmarish season, giving up 10 sacks, according to Pro Football Focus. Meanwhile, Brewer, who will make his third start (and second in a row) this season at left guard, played well last week but is still trying to develop that chemistry with Beatty. Their task this week won't be easy as they'll lineup across from Liuget, who leads the Chargers with 6.0 sacks. Giants quarterback Eli Manning has already been sacked a career-high 31 times with four games to go.
--Giants pass rush vs. Chargers offensive line. The Chargers have done a good job of protecting quarterback Philip Rivers this season, allowing just 22 sacks, or an average of 1.8 per game. The Giants pass rush, meanwhile, seems to have caught fire, recording 13 sacks in its last four games, an average of 3.2 per game. Rivers, however, tends to get rid of the ball quickly being in that West Coast offense, and that has been a problem for New York, whose only success this season against that kind of offense came against Green Bay and its backup quarterback, Scott Tolzien.
Copyright © 2013, Reuters