Game of the Week: New York Giants at Pittsburgh Steelers
They roughed up St. Louis, but who hasn't? Also, they barely edged Cincinnati in overtime; they locked down
Then there's the great Cleveland debacle. Giants fans had an easy time shrugging that one off. Heck, New York had won its last eight games; it had to lose eventually. But come on. The Giants breathed life into a corpse that evening. The same Browns squad (plus
Now come the hard ones. New York still has five division games remaining -- all but two of them on the road. It also has Pittsburgh away this week, plus playoff hopefuls Baltimore, Arizona, Carolina and -- accent on the hopeful -- Minnesota.
And if you're doubting a
And with that setup, we move on to the game itself.
So far Manning has been sacked just six times, which is second-fewest among regular starters. That's much better protection than he's ever had (one sack a game in '08 compared to a career average of 1.7), and his passing stats reflect it. His completion percentage is more than five points over his career average and his passer rating is up 15.
As for Jacobs, the Giants' improved line has allowed the 6-foot-4, 264-pound beast to evolve into more than just a point-and-shoot battering ram. Surprisingly, he's pretty nimble at the line of scrimmage, and this year he's managed to pick and choose a little more than usual. And when he hits the open field: Buh-bye.
Against San Francisco last week, Jacobs flashed that brilliance on a first-quarter run between the right tackle and guard. On the play, 317-pound guard
Will Pittsburgh's superb linebackers be such pushovers? Doubt it.
This is his first visit to Heinz Field since leaving Pittsburgh on not-so-good terms four years ago. Granted, Plax might not recognize many faces on this roster -- or on the staff, for that matter -- but a decidedly unchanged Pittsburgh fan base will surely be in his ear all day. Then there's the lingering effect of a suspension levied just three weeks ago. (Burress has caught only seven balls over the two games since and was spotted sparring with coach Coughlin on the sidelines last week; fine pending.) And there's the damaged little finger on his right hand, which Burress has played coy about, to say nothing of the shoulder and neck pain that forced him to miss two practices this week.
Finally, there's his overall indignant demeanor of late. Against San Francisco last week, Burress single-handedly killed a promising second-quarter drive at midfield with an offensive interference penalty and an unsportsmanlike penalty for mouthing off to referee
The player whose responsibility it will be to stoke Burress' flames on Sunday is likely to be
I think the Steelers will get back to the blitz a little bit this week only because of who they're facing. (Give Eli time and he'll burn ya.) But I don't think they'll go crazy with blitzes either. For one, Pittsburgh will be playing with a fully intact defensive line for the first time in weeks, courtesy of the return of 325-pound
Same goes for the Giants. I misdiagnosed Pittsburgh's offensive line earlier this season. In fact, it is atrocious. Absolutely awful. So I don't think New York has to blitz too heavily. I think the Giants got away with using such heavy pressure last week against the 49ers because, well,
"[The Giants'] front seven is still good and their secondary is better because of the pass rush. We couldn't get the ball downfield because of the pass rush. [Defensive coordinator]
"We thought their weakness was going to be the secondary, but the pass rush is so good that the secondary just has to hold up. I think [the secondary] is better this year because their corners are better.
"That is a tremendously cohesive group. They finish each others' sentences. In the pass game, the quarterback is going to get rid of the ball quickly, and when he throws deep they're going to max protect. If you watch an end zone tape, everybody [on that line] takes a step at the same time. That's the way they work together. Individually, they are all good players, but I didn't even cover that with my guys. I didn't cover individual guys; I covered the unit. Even when something goofy happens, they cover each other."
Handicapping isn't my thing, but if I had to lay down money here, I'd put it on Pittsburgh at Heinz Field. I think Roethlisberger takes some serious licks --probably more than Eli. But I also predict Big Ben gets it downfield to his weapons enough to one-up the Giants, who get their first serious defensive test. As a guy who always admired