New York Giants: Next Level preview

Next-Level Preview: Giants vs. Eagles

December, 27, 2012
The Giants host the Eagles Sunday and will attempt to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.

Philadelphia and New York met in Week 4 with the Eagles prevailing, 19-17, after a late Lawrence Tynes' missed field goal. The Eagles are looking to sweep the season series with the Giants for the third time in the past four seasons.

The Giants are coming off a lopsided 33-14 loss to the Ravens that saw Baltimore tally 533 yards of offense, the most allowed by the Giants since Week 12 of 2011 against the Saints. Meanwhile, the Eagles, who have lost 10 of their last 11 games, are coming off a 27-20 loss to the Redskins.

The Giants need to win Sunday and get plenty of help in order to make the playoffs. Here are several areas to keep an eye on for Week 17:

Eli Manning has been unable to replicate his success from last season, partly due to his inability to stretch the field with Hakeem Nicks.

Manning has eight touchdown passes on throws outside the painted numbers, after throwing 20 touchdowns on such passes last season, tied for the second-most in the NFL. He has only connected with Nicks for one touchdown on those throws, after Nicks had seven touchdowns on throws outside the numbers in 2011, tied for third most in the league.

Overall, Manning has completed just 54.1 percent of his passes targeted for Nicks, down from 58.5 percent last season and the lowest percentage since Nicks came into the league.

• Last season, Manning was one of the best quarterbacks in the league when facing five or more pass rushers, especially in the fourth quarter. He threw a league-leading 18 touchdown passes against five or more pass rushers in 2011, 10 of which came in the final period.

This season, Manning has thrown seven touchdowns against added pressure, only three of which have been in the fourth quarter.

• Since entering the league in 2009, LeSean McCoy has dominated the Giants. In that time span, he has more rushing yards (649), rushing first downs (26) and rushing yards after contact (183) against the Giants than any other running back.

McCoy has been able to get to the edge against the Giants, averaging 7.4 yards per rush outside the tackles, compared to 5.1 inside the tackles. He should continue to have success on the edge Sunday, as the Giants have struggled to stop rushes outside the tackles all season. They have allowed 711 yards and 7.04 yards per rush on such rushing plays, the most in the NFL.

• The Giants inability to get to the quarterback with their four-man pass rush is one reason the defense has struggled. The Giants have only two sacks when sending four or fewer pass rushers over the last four weeks and are averaging a sack once every 19.7 dropbacks when sending standard pressure.

Last season, they averaged a sack once every 13.6 dropbacks when sending four or fewer pass rushers and had 34 sacks when sending such pressure, the second-most in the NFL. Jason Pierre-Paul's play has followed a similar pattern to the Giants’ pass rush.

Through 16 weeks last season, Pierre-Paul had 15.5 sacks and 23.5 dropbacks disrupted, each of which ranked in the top five in the NFL. This season, JPP has not had the same impact, with just 6.5 sacks and 11.5 dropbacks disrupted entering Week 17.

• The Giants will have to deal with the dual threat of Michael Vick Sunday, who is back at quarterback for an injured Nick Foles.

Vick had a season-high 90.1 Total QBR against the Giants in Week 4 and was 8-for-12 for 125 yards and a touchdown when the Giants sent five or more pass rushers. He was also effective on the ground in the teams’ first meeting, rushing for 49 yards and averaging 8.2 yards per rush, his second-most in a game this season.

Next-Level Preview: Giants at Ravens

December, 22, 2012
The Giants head to Baltimore on Sunday for a must-win game against the Ravens that will have major playoff implications. The Giants are coming off of a 34-0 loss to the Falcons in Week 15, in which they were shut out for the first time since Dec. 1, 1996. Eli Manning threw an interception on his first pass of the game and never recovered, recording no touchdowns, and a Total QBR of 4.8, his lowest QBR in any game during the last five seasons.

The Giants are facing a Ravens team that has lost three games in a row, including a 34-17 home loss to the Broncos last week. The Giants will try to win on the road for the first time in four games, and may need to do so to make the playoffs. Here are some areas to keep an eye on Sunday:

• Eli Manning has struggled in the Giants' last four road games, throwing one touchdown and five interceptions, en route to posting a Total QBR of 47.3. In the first six weeks of the season, Manning had a Total QBR of 79.2 on the road, which ranked fifth in the league. But in the Giants last eight games Manning has not found the same success away from MetLife Stadium, and the Giants have won one of their last four road games. Overall, Manning’s Total QBR of 63.7 this season on the road is on pace to be his lowest since 2008 (54.5).

Jason Pierre-Paul hasn’t been the same player he was last season, and the Giants’ pass rush has struggled because of that. A disrupted dropback measures how many times a defensive player records a sack, defends a pass (including batted balls at the line of scrimmage) or gets an interception. Last season, Pierre-Paul disrupted 24.5 dropbacks, second to only Jared Allen and had 16.5 sacks (fourth most in the league). Pierre-Paul has not had a sack since Week 9 against the Steelers and has only 6.5 sacks this season, which is tied for 34th most in the league. Through 15 weeks this season, Pierre-Paul has seven fewer sacks, four fewer passes defended and ten fewer dropbacks disrupted than he had through the first 15 weeks in 2011.

• Fortunately for the Giants’ under-performing pass rush, they face a Ravens offensive line Sunday that has struggled to protect Joe Flacco of late. Flacco has been sacked 13 times in his last four games, tied for fifth-most in the league during that span. Last week against the Broncos, Flacco was sacked or under duress on 32.6 percent of his dropbacks, his highest percentage in a game since Week 3 of 2011 against the Rams. Flacco has been sacked 14 times this season when defenses send five or more pass rushers (tied for second most in the league) accompanied by a 29.8 QBR, which ranks 31st among 37 qualified quarterbacks.

• Pressuring Flacco will be very important because the Giants' pass defense has struggled this season, allowing the fifth-most yards through the air (3,779) and the most 30+ yard passing plays (25). They have been particularly bad on throws more than 10 yards downfield, allowing a 95.2 Total QBR, 13.8 yards per attempt (highest in the league) and a 54.9 completion percentage (second-highest in the league).

Next-Level Preview: Giants vs. Saints

December, 8, 2012
The Giants return to MetLife Stadium on Sunday to play host to the New Orleans Saints in a game filled with playoff implications. After their 17-16 loss to the Redskins on Monday Night Football in Week 13, the Giants lead in the NFC East is down to one game. Despite out-gaining the Redskins in total yards Monday, the Giants were unable to capitalize with touchdowns, settling for four field goal attempts, one of which was missed by Lawrence Tynes. The Giants struggled to stop the run against Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris, allowing 207 rushing yards, tied for their second most in the past three seasons. On Sunday the Giants will need to focus on stopping Drew Brees and the explosive Saints offense if they are going to maintain their NFC East lead.

Here are some areas to keep an eye on:

• The Giants’ rush defense had a tough time tackling against the Redskins on Monday, allowing 69 yards after initial contact, tied for their fifth most in the past four seasons. Over their first six games this season the Giants allowed 34.7 yards after contact per game, and were 4-2 in those games. But over their past six games (where they’ve gone 3-3), the Giants are allowing an average of 49 yards after contact per game. Fortunately for Big Blue, they’re facing a Saints team that ranks 28th in yards after contact this season, averaging 43.9 yards per game.

• One of the biggest differences between Drew Brees and Eli Manning in 2012 has been their success in red-zone passing. Brees has excelled in such situations, garnering the highest QBR in the league along with the second-highest completion percentage among qualified quarterbacks. Manning, on the other hand, has struggled, with the third-lowest completion percentage. Brees is averaging a touchdown every three attempts while Manning is averaging a touchdown every 5.7 attempts.

• Manning’s struggles in the red zone may continue against the Saints' defense. The Saints' defense has allowed a 70.8 QBR in non-red zone situations (fifth worst in the league) but a 42.1 in red zone situations (10th best).

• The Saints' defense has allowed the most rushing yards in the NFL (1,846) and are the only defense to have allowed more than five yards per carry (5.1) to opposing rushers. New Orleans has given up a league-high 743 yards and 34 first downs outside the tackles, an area the Giants do not typically attack. The Giants have attempted only 57 outside rushes this season, sixth fewest in the NFL, but when they rush outside, the Giants are effective. New York rushers average 5.3 yards per rush outside the tackles, tied for 10th highest in the league. Ahmad Bradshaw, who is averaging 5.8 yards per carry on outside rushes, could have a big game outside the tackles if the Giants choose to exploit this Saints weakness.

Next-Level Preview: Giants at Redskins

December, 2, 2012
The Giants head to FedEx Field on Monday night for their second meeting of the season with the Washington Redskins. In Week 7, the Giants escaped with a 27-23 victory, largely due to Eli Manning's 77-yard touchdown pass to Victor Cruz with 1:13 left to play.

The Giants are coming off of a convincing 38-10 win over the Green Bay Packers. In that game, Manning broke out of his scoring slump with three touchdown passes, including strikes to favored targets Hakeem Nicks and Cruz. The Redskins, meanwhile, beat the Dallas Cowboys 38-31 on the strength of Robert Griffin III's four touchdown passes.

Here are some areas to watch for on Monday:

• Griffin has been one of the best quarterbacks on throws more than 10 yards downfield. He has nine touchdowns on such throws (tied for third in the league), including 26- and 30-yard strikes to Santana Moss against the Giants in Week 7. Griffin is accurate with his deep passes, under- or overthrowing his targets only 18.4 percent of the time, second-lowest in the league. The Giants' defense, meanwhile, has struggled defending such throws, allowing the highest yards per attempt (13.1) in the league. They have also given up 10 touchdowns on throws more than 10 yards downfield, the total amount they allowed all of last season.

• The Giants will not only have to deal with RGIII's arm, but also his legs. The Redskins run the zone read -- where the quarterback has the option of either handing off to his running back or keeping it for himself -- more than any team in the NFL. In their Week 7 matchup against the Giants, the Redskins ran the zone read 14 times for 74 of their 248 rushing yards. The Giants will need to stay disciplined and maintain their assignments to contain the Redskins' rushing attack.

• The Giants have struggled to defend rushes outside the tackles, allowing the fourth-most rushing yards (446) and the third-highest yards per carry (6.4) in the league. The Redskins have two of the top-three rushers outside the tackles this season. Griffin has an NFL-best 438 yards outside the tackles and has rushed for 20 first downs, tied with Arian Foster for most in the league. Alfred Morris has the most rushes outside the tackles (68), more than half of which have come on pitches. As a team, the Redskins run outside the tackles on 40.2 percent of their rushes this year, highest in the league.

• The bye week did Manning a world of good last. Last Sunday, he posted his highest Total QBR (87.9) in the last five weeks and threw three touchdowns, all of which came on third down. How Manning plays on third down has been key to the Giants' success this season. When Manning plays well on third down, the Giants usually win.

Next Level Preview: Week 5

October, 6, 2012
The Giants will look to get back in the win column this Sunday when they face the Cleveland Browns at MetLife Stadium. New York is coming off a 19-17 loss to in Philadelphia, where Lawrence Tynes' last-second field goal fell just short of putting the Giants atop the NFC East.

Running the ball was an issue for the Giants in Week 4, as they rushed for just 57 yards, tied for their third-fewest in a game since the start of the 2009 season.

The Browns are 0-4 to start the 2012 season and rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden has struggled, throwing three touchdowns and seven interceptions, the second-most in the league. Here are some areas to keep an eye on in Week 5:

• The Giants' run game was quieted by the Eagles in Week 4, as they rushed for 3.0 yards per carry, their fewest in four games this season. Rushing outside the tackles is an area where the Giants have particularly struggled in 2012, as their 63 yards ranks in the bottom third of the league through the first four weeks. In its two losses, New York has averaged just 1.5 yards per carry outside the tackles, compared to 4.5 yards on those rushes in its two wins. The Giants will be facing a Browns defense in Week 5 that has been stout against rushes outside the tackles, allowing 2.9 yards per carry, which ranks seventh lowest in the league entering Week 5.

Eli Manning continues to create big plays this season, excelling on throws of more than 10 yards downfield. Manning threw for 151 yards on such throws against the Eagles and had four pass plays of at least 30 yards in Week 4. Through the first four weeks of the season, Manning has nine pass plays of at least 30 yards, tied with Joe Flacco for the most in the NFL. While Manning has thrived on throws of more than 10 yards, Weeden has underperformed on those throws. Weeden has an NFL-worst 13.3 Total QBR on such throws and is completing just 34.6 percent of his passes on those throws, also worst in the league among qualified quarterbacks.

• Though Weeden has struggled on throws of more than 10 yards, he'll be facing a Giants' secondary that has allowed plenty of big plays in 2012. The Giants have allowed 629 passing yards and five touchdowns on throws more than 10 yards downfield, tied for the second-most touchdowns allowed in the league. Partly due to their injury-depleted secondary, the Giants have allowed at least one pass play of 30 or more yards in each of their four games, and are one of eight teams in the league to allow at least seven plays of 30 or more yards.

• One of the Giants' biggest strengths last year was their ability to get to the quarterback with four or fewer pass rushers. The Giants recorded the second-most sacks (34) at the second-highest rate (once every 13.6 dropbacks) when sending four or fewer in 2011. They have not replicated that production this year, recording only three sacks (T-25th) when rushing four or fewer defenders, an average of once every 30 dropbacks (26th). The Giants' three sacks when sending four or fewer pass rushers are tied for their fewest in the first four weeks of the season since the start of the 2008 season.

Fortunately for New York, Weeden has struggled against that type of pressure, posting a league-worst 12.4 Total QBR and averaging 6.2 yards per attempt when facing four or fewer pass rushers, the fourth-lowest rate in the league.

Next-level preview: Giants vs. Buccaneers

September, 13, 2012
The Giants eye getting into the win column for the first time this season when they host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at MetLife Stadium on Sunday. New York is coming off a disappointing 24-17 loss to the Cowboys on opening night and will have had 10 days of practice since that game to correct their mistakes. While the Giants struggled, the Bucs had an impressive showing against the Panthers in their opening game, using a strong rush defense to hold off their NFC South foe, 16-10. Here are three areas to watch for Sunday afternoon:

• The Giants had issues stopping the run against the Cowboys, allowing 143 yards and 5.5 yards per carry. New York’s defense was especially porous on yards after contact. The Giants allowed Dallas to gain 67 rushing yards after the initial point of contact, the fourth-most New York has allowed in a home game since the start of the 2008 season. 49 of the 67 yards after contact came on DeMarco Murray’s 48-yard run in the third quarter. New York will need to improve on its Week 1 performance on Sunday against the Buccaneers, especially against Tampa Bay rookie Doug Martin. In his first career NFL game, Martin had 24 carries for 95 yards, with 55 of those yards coming after contact.

• Offensively, the Giants will be facing a tough Tampa Bay rush defense, which allowed just 10 yards on the ground to the Panthers in Week 1, tied for their fewest in franchise history. The Bucs also allowed just five yards outside the tackles against Carolina, their fewest since the start of the 2011 season. Last season, Tampa Bay allowed 969 yards outside the tackles, the most in the NFL and 166 more than the next closest team. Rushing outside the tackles was not a strong point for the Giants in Week 1 however. They averaged just 1.5 yards per rush outside the tackles and David Wilson had a costly fumble on one of those six rushes.

• Throwing the ball downfield is one area where Eli Manning and his receivers may be able to take advantage of the Bucs on Sunday. In Week 1 Tampa Bay allowed 152 yards passing on throws of 15 or more yards, the sixth-most in the league. While Manning was just 2-for-6 with 65 yards passing on such throws in Week 1, he excelled on these throws last season. Manning’s 2,041 passing yards on throws of 15 or more yards in 2011 ranked first in the NFL.