Last week the Giants managed only 82 yards rushing on 19 attempts last week. The ground game just never was able to gain momentum and was essentially a non-factor all night long. The Buccaneers, are coming off a win against the Carolina Panthers in which they allowed just 10 yards rushing on 13 carries after allowing an average of 164 yards per game all preseason.
The Giants will need to establish the run game early to take some of the heat off of Eli Manning and the passing game. In order for this to happen the Giants offensive line will need to open lanes for Ahmad Bradshaw, and, if he is out of Tom Coughlin’s doghouse, David Wilson.
The Giants benched Wilson after he lost a fumble on his second career carry and he never made it back on the field. Right now, it looks like Wilson might be riding more pine this week which could mean some carries for Andre Brown or Da’Rel Scott. Combined, the two have less than 8 carries between the two in regular season games.
Also look for a much improved game from Victor Cruz who caught only 6 of the 11 balls thrown his way for a paltry 58 yards. He is also dealing with the death of his grandmother who had a great influence on his life. It would be hard not to see Cruz having a much more productive outing against an older Buccaneers secondary.
Meanwhile, the Buccaneers will look to exploit a Giants defense that was susceptible to the run, allowing DeMarco Murray to gain 131 yards on 20 carries. Murray struggled early on but the Cowboys were able to exploit the Giants and was able to break some big runs, including a 48-yard run.
Buccaneers running back Doug Martin was able to run the ball effectively in his debut, gaining 95 yards on 24 carries. He also showed he can be a threat in the passing game, catching 4 balls for 23 yards. The Giants will need to key on Martin and prevent him from taking control of the game. The Giants will look to force Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman to beat them through the air.
Behind Martin the Buccaneers feature former New York Giants’ running back D.J. Ware and former 1,000-yard rusher LeGarrette Blount so there is talent behind Martin.
The key to the game might just be the Giants pass rush. Last week they rarely pressured Tony Romo and recorded only 2 sacks. It will be imperative for the Giants to pressure Josh Freeman and force him to hurry and make mistakes. Freeman now has Vincent Jackson to throw the ball to so if he is given time he could burn the injured Giants secondary.
The Giants front four must alleviate the pressure being placed on reserve cornerbacks as they are asked to step into significant playing time. Last week, Michael Coe and Justin Tryon were burned often by Kevin Ogletree and even Corey Webster blew coverage. The Giants will need to make sure their coverage stays tight against the Buccaneers.
The Giants surrendered 433 yards to the Cowboys and must improve defensively if they want to escape opening the year 0-2. If the Giants can force the Buccaneers to abandon the run early and pressure Josh Freeman they should be able to walk away with the win. However, if they fall into the same lapses as last week this could get ugly early.
I expect the Giants to have a bounce back game and right the ship a little bit. My prediction, Giants 33, Buccaneers 20 but I wouldn’t be shocked if the Giants were upset.