Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Giants ride the ground game to dispose of Vikings

So this is what "ground and pound" is supposed to look like, huh? (take notes Brian Schottenheimer) That's two straight weeks where both Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw have rushed for over 100 yards, this time against the Williams Wall and a top-five run defense.

The Giants run game is jelling at the right time, especially considering their struggles in the passing game. Hakeem Nicks returned this week with a solid 7-catch, 96-yard line but Steve Smith struggled in his first action since Week 9, catching just one pass for 12 yards before leaving with a hamstring injury in the fourth quarter.

It's obvious that Smith is essential to the success of Eli Manning, who is still burdened by poor throws and poor decision-making. Since the start of last season, Smith has served as Manning's Mr. Reliable and without him, Manning really does look lost at times. Nicks' healthy return gives him a big-play threat, but not a sure-handed guy he can trust on third down. That's Smith.

There were questions heading into this game about whether New York was rushing their receivers back and in Smith's case, maybe they did. Obviously a hamstring injury has no correlation to his previous chest injury, but his availability for the Giants' most important game of the season to date, this week against Philadelphia, is now up in the air. If he was rested this week, he'd be ready for sure. But hindsight is 20-20.

The Giants defense rendered the Vikings offense essentially useless with Brett Favre breaking his streak of 297 consecutive starts. Tarvaris Jackson looksed lost on every play and without much of a passing threat, Adrian Peterson had no holes to run through against the Giants defensive front. Minnesota had just 164 total yards for the game.

As for what to expect against the Eagles, I see no reason why the Giants won't continue to pound the run successfully. They had just 61 yards on 19 carries the last time these two teams played and you can be sure they will make a point to establish the run early, especially if Smith can't go. The Eagles have a good run defense but it's no better than Minnesota's and the Giants are coming off of two straight 200-plus-yard weeks on the ground.

If the Giants come out running the ball well and can keep Michael Vick off the field, I like their chances at home. They contained Vick in the last meeting; his 34 rushing yards were his second-fewest since his return from injury and he didn't pass for a touchdown.

It's a tall task to ask this defense, no matter how good it is, to contain Vick once again but if they do, there's no reason to think they can't win this game and pull ahead in the NFC East with two games left. Keep Vick in check, establish a strong rushing attack and limit turnovers (looking at you, Eli) and the Giants should come out with a win. But if they only do one or two of those things, I think Philly has a great chance to sweep the season series and essentially clinch the NFC East.

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