3TFO: Giants @ Chiefs: Week 4
Who would have thought before the season started that the Giants would come into this game winless, and the Chiefs would be undefeated? The Giants have allowed more points (115) than any other team in the league, and it’s not even close. In fact, they’ve given up at least 36 points in every game. Plagued with turnovers, lack of a running game, and an inability to move the ball consistently, the Giants need a complete turnaround in order to have a shot against one of the hottest teams in the league.
On the strength of a swarming young defense, the Chiefs have started the season as well as anybody could have hoped, already winning more games than all of last year. The defense has put loads of pressure on opposing quarterbacks (15 sacks), forced nine turnovers, and scored two touchdowns. Throw in the ability of Jamaal Charles to break off chunks of yardage behind a quality offensive line, and you have a team that has not even needed much out of the passing game. However, it’s still very early in the season, and in the NFL a reversal of fortunes can happen very quickly. Let’s look at how some of the key players and matchups might sway the outcome of this game.
A quarterback’s win-loss record may be an overrated stat, but the Giants have not had a losing season since 2004, when Eli Manning was a rookie. He definitely causes a lot of ups and downs for Giants fans, often times looking as good as any quarterback in the league, and other times looking like a rookie. Overall this season, Manning has earned a grade of -0.1, about as average as it gets. While he still has piled up the passing yards, his Accuracy Percentage of 68.8% ranks 25th in the league, and his eight interceptions lead the league. Still, Manning remains capable of putting forth the type of performance that carries his team to victory regardless of opponent. If he can get some chemistry going early with Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks, it could open things up for the running game to finally make an impact. In 31 routes last week, Nicks was targeted just once, and that pass fell incomplete.
Battle for the Edges
Pressure off the edges can have an enormous impact on games. If you don’t believe that, go back and watch Justin Houston and his demolition of the Eagles last week. By our count, (we tally sacks slightly different than the NFL) Houston went off for four sacks, one hit, three hurries, two batted passes, a forced fumble, two fumble recoveries, and seven stops. Sheer dominance. While the Giants need to account for him, they can’t forget about Tamba Hali on the other side. Hali has quietly produced some good work as a pass rusher and against the run on his way to a +3.0 grade through three games. Left tackle Will Beatty struggled mightily against DeMarcus Ware and Greg Hardy earlier, while on the other side Justin Pugh had plenty of issues against Charles Johnson a week ago. They won’t have it any easier this week, and the Giants will need to find a way to minimize the impact of the Chiefs’ outside linebackers.
For the Giants, defensive ends Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck have both performed well against the run, but poorly as pass rushers this season. Both rank in the bottom five among 4-3 defensive ends in Pass Rush Productivity, but also in the Top 10 in Run Stop Percentage. A strong performance in both facets would give a big boost to New York’s defense. The Chiefs must be happy to still have the services of Branden Albert, whose 96.3 Pass Blocking Efficiency has helped maintain a clean pocket for Alex Smith. However, they have to be disappointed with the start of first overall pick Eric Fisher, as he’s performed equally bad in both run blocking (-3.7) and pass protection (-3.5). Will this week be his coming out party, or will New York’s ends step up their pass rush?
How Much of an Impact Will Jamaal Charles Make?
At the moment, Jamaal Charles sits at 4.3 yards per carry for the season, a full yard lower than last season’s average. While still a respectable average, Charles is used to much more. His long run of the season is only 18 yards, and considering all of the holes in the Giants’ defense, one or two of his trademark breakaway runs could very well be the difference in the game this Sunday. The area where the Chiefs have really been utilizing Charles to the fullest is the passing game. Through three games, he has caught 18 of 24 targets for 151 yards and a touchdown, forcing seven missed tackles along the way. Andy Reid simply knows how to get his running backs going as receivers, and Charles is just the most recent. Averaging 23.3 touches per game, everyone on the field knows that Charles will be the focal point of the offense. The entire Giants defense will have to keep close tabs on him at all times, but the big question is can they contain him for all four quarters?
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