3TFO: Giants @ Chargers, Week 14
Chris Phillips looks at the three keys to a game the Chargers need to win in order to stay in the playoff hunt.
3TFO: Giants @ Chargers, Week 14
One of the Week 14 matchups this week, will feature two (5-7) teams in the New York Giants and the San Diego Chargers. The Giants come to Qualcomm Stadium as winners of five of their last six games. They trail the Cowboys and Eagles by two games each. With only one division game left, the Giants are holding on to very slim playoff hopes. An overall look at the Giants gives us a very up and down picture. The Giants have had a great run defense all year as they rank 5th in our cumulative rankings. Yet the Giants pass rush (once the strength of the team) is ranked toward the bottom of the league. The Giants’ offense has been given a boost by the return on Andre Brown. His 81 carries for 343 yards gives the offense the threat of a running game. This helps a struggling offensive line which has failed to protect Eli Manning all year.
The Chargers come into this game only a game behind the Baltimore Ravens for the last playoff spot in the AFC. They finish the season with games at the Broncos and with the Raiders and Chiefs at home. A win here at home could at least give them some momentum. San Diego’s offense has carried them all season. In our cumulative team grades they rank 8th overall and 1st in pass offense. The Chargers problems are straight forward. They have a terrible defense. The Charger defense is ranked 31st in our rankings including 32nd in pass coverage. The only consistently solid performer has been Eric Weddle whose +6.1 overall grade ranks in the top ten out of all safeties. Players like Donald Butler and Kendall Reyes who both flashed potential last year, now rank toward the bottom of all players at their positions. The San Diego corners are even more of a problem and lead to our first matchup.
Giants’ Receivers vs. Chargers Corners
Leading the way for the Giants’ receivers is Victor Cruz, who leads the Giants with 66 receptions for 931 yards. Cruz has been targeted 62 times in the slot, second only to Wes Welker’s 81 targets. Hakeem Nicks has had a disappointing season for his standards. He has dropped 6 passes and has still yet to catch a touchdown. Rueben Randle has been Eli’s big play receiver with 35 catches for over 500 yards, and a team leading 6 TDs. Other than Victor Cruz, none of the names really strike fear into you, but after looking at some of the San Diego corners they might.
There are four corners that have seen major time on the field for the Chargers in Shareece Wright, Derek Cox, Johnny Patrick, and Richard Marshall. None of these four cracks our top 90 graded cornerbacks. Shareece Wright currently has the worst PFF coverage grade at -16.3. When targeting these cornerbacks QBs have ten touchdown passes, almost a 70% completion percentage, and a rating over 110. The San Diego secondary will need a big game to slow down Victor Cruz and Co.
Antonio Gates and Danny Woodhead vs. NY Giants Secondary
This game has the look of a potential shootout. As much as the Chargers could struggle with the Giants’ receivers, the Giants could struggle just as much the other way around. Leading the way for the Chargers’ receivers are Antonio Gates and Danny Woodhead. Gates is still making a positive impact in the passing game. Despite only having 3 touchdowns, he leads the chargers with 64 catches. Right behind him is Woodhead with a running back leading 61 catches and five touchdowns. When Philip Rivers is not finding impact rookie Keenan Allen or Eddie Royal down the field, he will have no problem checking down to these two all day.
Matching up with Gates and Woodhead will be the Giants safeties. Will Hill leads the Giants’ secondary with his +9.3 overall grade. The undrafted free agent from Florida has been a bright spot for the Giants. Ryan Mundy and Antrel Rolle have each made a positive impact as well. Jacquian Williams is another player that could see some time in coverage against Gates or Woodhead. Williams is a hybrid type of player as he has a safety body type but plays outside linebacker. Williams’ +6.2 pass coverage grade puts him in the top ten out of all 4-3 outside linebackers. The Giants have some young talent in the middle of their secondary and Sunday the Chargers veterans will put them to the test.
Chargers Tackles vs. Giants Defensive Ends in the run game
The Chargers have had to shuffle around the offensive line in the last few weeks. The injury to King Dunlap forced them to move rookie right tackle DJ Fluker to left tackle and play Jerome Clary at right tackle. Dunlap is said to be practicing this week, but it is unclear if he starts and what changes that will bring to the offensive line. King Dunlap has been the most dominant run blocking tackle this year when healthy. His +9.1 run blocking grade is 4th overall despite him having half the snaps of the tackles ahead of him. If Dunlap starts, that will move Fluker back to right tackle. Fluker was starting to really own the right tackle position until all of these injuries hit. If Dunlap can’t play Sunday, then DJ Fluker gets the nod at left tackle and taking DJ Fluker’s spot on the right side will be Jerome Clary. The Chargers have been getting respectable play out of the tackles despite the injuries, but this could be a tough matchup for them.
As the Chargers have had to shuffle things around the Giants have an injury of their own to worry about. Jason Pierre-Paul has been banged up and might not make much of an impact or even play at all this week. Paul and Justin Tuck (when healthy) have been dominant against the run this year. Their +21.2 combined run grade only falls behind Cincinnati’s Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson for the best 4-3 end combo. They both also rank in the top ten in our run stop percentage rating. If Pierre-Paul is not able to play, the drop off will be steep. Mathias Kiwanuka (the likely replacement) is ranked 49th out of 50 defensive ends. He has generated little quarterback pressure and has struggled against the run. His -6.4 run grade is a far cry from Pierre-Paul and Tuck. It would be great to see everyone in this match-up healthy. Fluker vs. Tuck and King vs. Pierre-Paul would be some great football. We can only wait and see.
You can follow Chris on Twitter: @PFF_CPhillips