Before the season, this game looked a little scary. The Giants were pegged to contend for the NFC East, Eli Manning had a bunch of cool weapons on offense to throw to, and a defense that looked remarkable in 2016 had a year’s worth of experience and an off-season of moves to better itself. Then, the Giants started out 0-5, and all of a sudden this game looked like one of the easier matchups on the Seahawks’ schedule. THEN, the Giants went into Denver as something like 13-point underdogs last Sunday night and somehow managed to not just win, but DOMINATE the Broncos 23-10.
And now this game is scary again?
I’ll admit, I didn’t watch a lick of that Giants/Broncos game. Like most everyone in America, I expected the Broncos to win easily. I don’t know if I necessarily expected a blowout, or even a cover of the point spread, but I did think we’d be in for a boring, grind-it-out game where the Broncos would win comfortably by 7-10 points or so (with still a reasonable chance of it being a blowout victory). It feels impressive that the Giants were able to run for 148 yards and a 4.6 yards per carry average against a quality defense like the Broncos. It feels even more impressive that the Giants were able to win at all, considering Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall were out and are officially lost for the season, but, you know, last week was a crazy fucking week. A lot of underdogs won outright. Hell, this SEASON has been fucking crazy with the underdogs; it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before!
But, I digress. The question remains: are the Giants good or not? Obviously, with 5 losses in their first 6 weeks, and all their injury issues at wide receiver, it feels impossible for them to make the playoffs. I’m sure they’ll give it the good ol’ college try, but I can’t see them finishing any worse than 8-2 over the next 10 games and still making the post-season. With the Eagles at 5-1, that probably puts the division out of reach, so they’d have to hope for a Wild Card berth at 9-7 in that scenario, which isn’t impossible, but again, I don’t know if I see 8 more wins on their schedule.
The Giants lost on the road to the Cowboys and Eagles, which feels reasonable. Those are a couple of good teams. They lost at home to the Lions, which isn’t out of the question, as you’re talking about a playoff team from a year ago (largely the same as they were), and a team looking to compete for the NFC North. But, then you tack on a road loss to the Bucs (who look bad) and a home loss to the Chargers (who look worse) and I gotta tell you: I think the Giants are NOT good.
In which case, this should be a win for the Seahawks, right? I’m not saying it’ll be easy. They’ve still got a quality defensive line that should give us fits (as they all do). But, I mean, where are they getting their points from this Sunday? Their best and healthiest offensive weapon is rookie tight end Evan Engram, who legitimately looks like he could be one of the better players at his position. Second year wideout Sterling Shepard should be returning from an ankle injury, so there’s another. But, I mean, come on. I know we like to joke around about the Seahawks’ defense sucking against tight ends, but we’ve actually been vastly improved this year! It looks like Kam Chancellor has taken more of an active role in guarding them one-on-one, and he’s shutting them down pretty good. Instead of being the worst in the league, the Seahawks are right in the middle of the road, which is fine. That sort of improvement is something you can take to the bank. Engram will get his looks, but I hardly think he’ll be a dominant force like we’ve seen from other tight ends in years past.
As for Shepard, he looks okay, but he hasn’t made that leap to elite status (not with ODB hogging all the glory to date), and it’s questionable that he ever will. He looks fine. If Richard Sherman were to follow him all over the field, I have no question whatsoever that he’d be locked down, but something tells me that’s not the gameplan. But, either way, Shaq Griffin has looked better and better every week, and I think he’d be fine against Shepard.
Which leaves their running game. I know the Seahawks have gotten gashed this season, but that was by the likes of DeMarco Murray, Derrick Henry, and Carlos Hyde. Those are some of the most talented and productive running backs in the league this season! That having been said, this defense used to eat even the very best running backs for breakfast, so getting gashed at all is of great concern. But, Orleans Darkwa? Wayne Gallman? Shane Vereen? I’m supposed to be quaking in my boots over this triad of suck?
Even when the Giants had all the receivers in the world, they weren’t able to run the ball effectively. It’s only last week – when they had no one to throw to – where they put all their effort into the running game (and Denver mysteriously didn’t load up to stop it). That one will puzzle me to my last breath, but I guess you could say that since the Giants over the last 2-3 years haven’t put any sort of running game whatsoever on tape, the Broncos just weren’t expecting it and had no evidence on how it could theoretically be stopped?
Well, it’s a good thing the Seahawks were on BYE last week, because they had nothing else going on last Sunday and were able to watch every minute of that game.
It’s also good, because I think you’re going to see incremental improvement in the Seahawks’ run defense over the next few weeks. There’s been a lot of turnover on the D-Line. Tony McDaniel is gone. Ahtyba Rubin is gone. Those guys were instrumental in stuffing the run the last couple seasons. Jarran Reed is getting more playing time. Naz Jones is a rookie. And Sheldon Richardson is new to our system. As they get more experience in practice and games, with gap assignments and whatnot, I expect this unit to gel and return to its run-stopping roots.
So, I mean, if we stop the Giants’ running game, what do they have left? Eli Manning? Please. He should be lunch meat, with or without Cliff Avril.
Speaking of which, that’s a really sad case right there. Avril was knocked out of the Indianapolis game a few weeks back with a neck/spine issue (he was seen, right after the hit, shaking his arm as if he’d lost all feeling, which is pretty terrifying for him). Ever since, he’s apparently been seen by every doctor on the planet, and it’s looking more and more like he’s headed for surgery and the Injured Reserve. At which point, he’d be eligible to return in mid-to-late December. But, given the nature of the injury, and the uncertainty around the surgical procedure, it’s possible he misses the rest of the year entirely.
It’s also possible he’s played his final game in the NFL, which is the biggest bummer of all.
It’s a serious blow to this defense, but not one that’s impossible to overcome. It means stripping away some of our depth at a position of strength, which is always a bad thing. It also means more of a role for Frank Clark. It remains to be seen how that will change things. Will more Frank Clark allow him an opportunity to step up and become a star in this league? If so, that’s fantastic. But, does a little Frank Clark go a long way, and will we see a decline in his production on a per-snap average due to overuse?
Avril is a stalwart. He’s a pro. You can always count on him. He’s also still right there in the prime of his career, as pass-rushing defensive ends tend to age pretty well in this league compared to other positions. Clark is still young, still learning, still growing. I don’t believe he’s yet reached his full potential. Here’s to hoping this accelerates his development and he becomes one of the greats in this league by season’s end.
As for the Seahawks’ offense, your guess is as good as mine. That second half against the Colts feels more and more like an anomaly against a really bad team. Say what you want about the Giants as a whole, but that defense isn’t bad. I think they’re every bit as capable of making our lives miserable as the Rams, 49ers, and Packers. In which case, I guess we’re in for another slow Russell Wilson start, another shitty performance by the running game, with the only signs of life coming in the final two minutes of each half.
Can we win this one 14-9? With that Giants offense, I’d be furious if they reached double digits in points, so I’ll go out on a limb and say yes. But, while a 14-9 victory is still a victory, and you’ll take them however you can get them, it’s still not something that inspires hope.
A good Seahawks team would come out and blow the doors off, winning 44-3 or some damn thing. But, I can’t imagine a scenario where we don’t get more of the same. For the same fucking reasons.
Only now, we’re down our second-best offensive lineman in Luke Joeckel (who used his BYE week to have a cleanup surgery on his knee, and will be out for a month or so). In his place, we’re looking at a combo of Mark Glowinski (the starter at LG last season) and rookie Ethan Pocic (whose natural position is center, and who doesn’t really have much college experience on the left side of the line). For the record, I expect Glowinski to get the start and the lion’s share of the snaps. I also expect him to struggle, and within a week or two I expect Pocic to take over that job until Joeckel returns. Hopefully I’m proven wrong. Hopefully Glowinski takes his recent demotion from the RG spot to heart and returns like a rabid pitbull. But, I just don’t think he has the talent to be a starter in this league. Doesn’t mean he can’t have a long and pointless career as a backup (or move on to another team in the future and have great success, because he’s just not cut out for Tom Cable’s zone blocking scheme).
At running back, I think we’re all hoping for Thomas Rawls to take the bull by the horns, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see a steady stream of handoffs to Eddie Lacy. For what it’s worth, I still like Lacy and I think he fits this offense pretty well. I think he’s a volume-dependant running back though, and I just don’t know if this offense, with this O-Line, has what it takes to give him the volume of carries he needs to succeed.
Here’s to hoping Russell Wilson gets some time to throw, though, because I think some serious gains can be had in the passing game. The Giants are TERRIBLE against opposing tight ends, so you’d think Jimmy Graham would have a field day. And, if they sell out to stop him, then it should open up opportunities for Baldwin, Richardson, and Lockett. Again, though, Russell needs time to throw. We’ll see.
All these games are important, but this one really feels big. The Giants are still banged up, we’re coming off of a BYE, yeah it’s on the road across the country, but it’s a late afternoon game and we’ve had a lot of success playing in this stadium. It’s also a conference game, which becomes vitally important for playoff seeding. And, not for nothing, but the Rams went on the road and beat the Jags last week, regaining sole possession of first place in the NFC West. They play Arizona in London this Sunday and could very well be 5-2 when the weekend is over. We need to win just to keep pace with the Rams! Who could’ve ever predicted saying that sentence before the season started?