The New York Giants are back from their Week 9 bye, still holding steady at 6-2 and still in the thick of a playoff berth.
Tucked away in the second half of their season is a brutal five-game stretch against division opponents, starting on Thanksgiving with a meeting against the Cowboys. But as head coach Brian Daboll likes to say, it's one game at a time, and this week the Giants will be focusing on the Houston Texans, who last played the Eagles on Thursday night.
Houston currently has the worst record in the league (1-6-1), as they have been unable to string together consistency over four quarters. But they also have a top-10 rushing yardage leader in rookie Dameon Pierce who rushed for a career-high 139 yards against the Eagles last week and who has 678 rushing yards on 148 carries, his rushing yardage total putting him sixth in the league.
The Giants struggling run defense's task of slowing down Pierce is one of the many developing storylines ahead of this game. Here are a few others.
Hitting the Ground Running
Ever get back from a vacation or a long weekend away only to find yourself struggling to get back up and running? That's natural for most people, but for the Giants, who are 17-34 coming out of a bye, it's something they can't afford to do if they want to keep pace in the playoff race.
Head coach Brian Daboll had the players come in on Monday and will have them practice Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday of this week, ramping them up accordingly. The hope, obviously, is that when they take the field Sunday against the Texans, they are ready to go and look like a team that has fresh (but not sluggish) legs.
Even before news of safety Xavier McKinney's broken hand hit the airwaves, general manager Joe Schoen was facing some tough roster decisions. Armed with only $2.44 million in cap space, Schoen probably figures to use the third and final practice squad elevation on safety Landon Collins this week to help give the Giants some depth at safety (plus to give them some added reinforcement against the Texans running game).
The Giants will also likely need to add depth to the defensive line after losing Nicholas Williams to IR. Ryder Anderson, who's only been elevated from the practice squad twice so far, is an option.
Then there is the matter of wide receiver, where the Giants currently have seven on the roster following the pickup of Isaiah Hodgins. Is the plan to cut one of the receivers to create a roster spot for, say, tight end Lawerence Cager? Or will they stand pat for now, pending the injury statuses of Kenny Golladay (knee), who is expected to practice this week, and Richie James (concussion)?
Giants Counting on Young Pass-rush Duo Down the Stretch
The Giants hope to have Kayvon Thibodeaux and Azeez Ojulari on the field this weekend against the Commanders.
Several Injured Giants Trending in the Right Direction
The Giants are getting healthier just in the nick of time as they enter the stretch run of the season.
Giants Hold Steady in Weekly MMQB NFL Power Ranking Poll
The Giants are still in the league's top half after holding steady in the weekly MMQB power ranking poll.
The Giants have already designated cornerback Rodarius Williams for return off IR, doing so before they went on break. On Monday, they designated Shane Lemieux to return from IR as well. And offensive lineman Nick Gates, who was added back to the 53-man roster after spending the start of the season on PUP, made it through his first game in Week 8 since suffering his horrific leg injury last year.
The Giants will need some of those reinforcements as following what should be a manageable two-week stretch against the Texans and Lions, the Giants embark on a five-game run against NFC East opponents. If they can hit that run at or close to full strength, that will give the coaching staff more options regarding personnel packages.
Last week, the players were dismissed on Monday, but the coaching staff hung around for a few more days to do some self-scouting and evaluating. And as part of that, they no doubt looked at the production (or lack thereof) they were getting from the players, data they're going to use to make necessary lineup changes.
For example, will the coaches make a change at left guard, where the rookie, Joshua Ezeudu, has been playing for Ben Bredeson? Might they instead go with Gates or, if he's ready to come off IR and onto the 53-man roster, Lemieux, or will there be a rotation as there was earlier in the season?
What about at punt returner? Regardless of whether Richie James clears the concussion protocol, it's hard to envision him being trusted returning punts again after he lost two that Seattle turned into 10 points.
At linebacker, will Jaylon Smith and Micah McFadden's snap counts overtake that of Tae Crowder's at some point? Crowder only saw 28 snaps against the Seahawks in Week 8 while Smith saw 54 and McFadden 38. Is that going to be the new norm at the position?
These are just a few obvious changes that could be on the table. There could be more that aren't necessarily tied into the weekly game plan to keep an eye on over the coming weeks.
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