New York Giants: ryan fitzpatrick

W2W4: New York Giants

September, 20, 2014
Sep 20
The 0-2 New York Giants take on the 2-0 Houston Texans at 1 p.m. ET Sunday at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. Here are a few things we'll be watching as the Giants try to avoid a second straight 0-3 start:

1. How are they going to handle Watt? Houston's stud defensive lineman J.J. Watt is the best defensive player in the league and a terror for opposing offenses due to his ability to rush the passer, bat down passes, react in the run game ... really do everything you need a defensive player to do. Watt can rush from an interior line spot or from a defensive end spot, and the Texans move him around to try to keep offenses on their heels. The issues the Giants continue to have at guard and center this year make them especially vulnerable to Watt in the middle. Larry Donnell has been a good pass-catcher so far this year, but his deficiencies as an in-line blocker leave him unlikely to be able to help much against Watt. I'm thinking the running backs will have to help, either by staying in to block or by at least chipping as they head out into their routes. That could mean a rough day for Rashad Jennings, or more snaps than usual for Peyton Hillis, but if it helps Eli Manning and the passing game move the ball, it could be worth it.

2. Can they get a takeaway? Through the first two weeks of the season, the Giants are one of three NFL teams that does not have a takeaway on defense. Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has yet to throw an interception. Coach Tom Coughlin spent the week drilling his players on the importance of turnovers both ways -- protecting the ball on offense and finding a way to take it away from the other team on defense. Given Fitzpatrick's history (he hasn't had three interception-free games since 2008), you have to think the Giants get their first pick of the season in this game. If they can create a turnover or two and avoid giving the ball away on offense and special teams, that could be the biggest thing that puts them in position for their first win of the year.

3. Will they get another break? (And can they take advantage of it this time?) Houston has leaned heavily on the run in the first two games -- likely the biggest reason Fitzpatrick has yet to thrown an interception. Their 80 rushing attempts were the most in the league (by nine!) through the first two weeks, and they're averaging 3.8 yards per carry and 151.8 rush yards per game. However, star running back Arian Foster was limited in practice all week due to a hamstring injury and is listed as questionable for the game. Last week, the Giants caught a break when quarterback Carson Palmer was unable to play due to a shoulder injury and the Ariznoa Cardinals started backup Drew Stanton. But in spite of having a 14-10 lead going into the fourth quarter, the Giants couldn't take advantage and lost due to their own mistakes. With middle linebacker Jon Beason out, the Giants are weakened against the run. It would be a lot easier for the shorthanded defense to stop someone like Alfred Blue than it would be to stop Foster.

Final Word: NFC East

December, 23, 2011
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 16:

Wow, does something have to give: The Minnesota Vikings have played nine games in a row without intercepting a pass -- the longest such streak in the league since the NFL-AFL merger. Their six interceptions for the season is the lowest total in the league, obviously. But this week they get to face Washington Redskins quarterback Rex Grossman, who has thrown at least one interception in 10 straight games and whose 18 interceptions for the season are one short of Ryan Fitzpatrick's league lead -- remarkable considering Grossman has played in only 11 games. One of these streaks ends Saturday. Which way are you betting?

[+] EnlargeHakeem Nicks
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesHakeem Nicks and the Giants' receivers are among the NFL leaders in dropped passes.
Third and wrong: The New York Giants are working on a streak of five games in which their opponent has converted at least 50 percent of its third-down opportunities. That's the longest such streak since the merger, and the Giants are 1-4 in those games. The good news is that the Jets' third-down conversion percentage of 36.5 is only the 18th-best in the league, much worse than that of any of the five teams the Giants have played during that stretch.

Hang on tight: Even if the Giants' offensive line can keep the Jets away from quarterback Eli Manning, Manning will need his receivers to catch the ball. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Giants receivers have 28 dropped passes this season, second-most in the league behind the Cleveland Browns. Hakeem Nicks' drop of what would have been a long touchdown pass early in the Week 15 loss to Washington stands out, but the team has five drops in the past two weeks. Victor Cruz leads the team with seven this season, and Nicks, Jake Ballard and Mario Manningham have five.

Thank the big guys up front: Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy is in the midst of a special and historic season, having already set a team record with 20 touchdowns and amassed 1,579 yards from scrimmage. But a large part of his success as a runner is due to the job the Eagles' offensive line has done blocking for him. According to ESPN Stats & Info, McCoy leads the league in the percentage of his yards that are gained before initial contact -- 64.4 percent. Of his 1,274 rush yards, 820 have come before he has been hit. McCoy is extremely shifty and excels at finding his way through holes. But his line is also doing a great job of making those holes for him.

Playing clean: Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has played three games in a row without throwing an interception and has just two interceptions (against 18 touchdown passes) in his past seven games. If he can avoid turning the ball over against the Eagles, the Cowboys will greatly improve their chances of winning. Philadelphia leads the league with 35 turnovers, and its minus-12 turnover margin is the second-worst in the league.