Can the Giants win back to back games? The Giants travel to Houston, Texas to take on the Texans. (Sunday, 1 pm ET on Fox). This game depends on FOUR factors:
1. Will Texans' WR Andre Johnson play? If so, how effective will he be?
2. Can the Giants' defense stop the top ranked Texans rushing attack?
3. Can Fewell's defense put pressure on Texans QB Matt Schaub?
4. Can the Giants' offensive line protect Eli Manning?
Injured Texans' big play wide receiver Andre Johnson will be a game time decision. Johnson, nursing a high ankle sprain, was limited in practice on Thursday. Without Johnson in the lineup, the Texans offense is ordinary. Perhaps the best wide out in the game, Johnson is an excellent deep threat who can stretch the field. In 2009, Johnson caught a total of 101 balls and 31 of those catches were 20 yards or more.( 22 catches for 20 plus yards and 9 for 40 plus yards) Last week against the Raiders, Texans' wide receivers caught five balls for 47 yards. Notwithstanding, the wide outs did not play a factor in their win over the Raiders. If Johnson does not play, the Giants safeties can move closer to the line of scrimmage. Thus, they will be able to help in run support.
Speaking of the run, the Texans have the number one rushing attack in the NFL. After four games, the Texans are averaging a whopping 172 yards per game. Their rushing attack is spearheaded by the surprising Arian Foster. Foster leads the NFL with 537 yards rushing. Currently, he is averaging an incredible 6.3 yards per carry. In addition to Foster, the Texans have an old friend Derrick Ward and Steve Slaton. Based on tape review, the Texans offense revolves around their running game. If they run the ball well, this sets up the play action pass. And boy, do the Texans use the play action pass. On their first possession against the Raiders, they had a six play scoring drive. Of the six plays, four were passes ( they used the play action pass on three out of the four passes) and two were runs. As the Texans continued to run the ball for positive yards, this makes the play action pass much more effective. And as a result of using play action, on a fourth quarter possession in the red zone, Schaub hit a wide open Foster for a touchdown. Nevertheless, if the Giants' defense can stop the run this will kill two birds with one stone. Stopping the run reduces the effectiveness of the play action pass.
Watching Texans quarterback Matt Schaub on tape, he is an excellent passer. However, if flushed from a collapsing pocket, he is an ordinary quarterback. Unlike Ben Roethlisberger and Tony Romo, Schaub does not have an uncanny ability to improvise out of the pocket. So far, through four games, Schaub has been sacked ELEVEN times. According to NFL.com, with eleven sacks allowed, the Texans offensive line is 8th in this category. Being in the top 10 in sacks allowed, the Texans are having problems with pass protection. With this being said, the Giants defensive line is their strength. Therefore, they must exploit this mismatch. Fewell must put pressure with his front four as well as sprinkle in blitzes. Get in Schaub's face. Since he is not a threat to run or make a play out of the pocket, this also plays into the Giants hands.
While the Texans have problems with their offensive line, the Giants have problems on their offensive line too. Despite allowing NINE sacks, Eli Manning has been hit 22 times. Unfortunately, opposing teams are getting good hits on Eli. This must be music to Texans' star defensive end Mario Williams. Williams is on the cusp of being the best in the league. More importantly, he will go up against Giants' LT David Diehl. Diehl has a history of having difficulty blocking speed rushers. What makes this troublesome for Diehl and the Giants is Williams has size and speed. This ultra-talented young man has come into his own in 2010. Only two players have more sacks this season than Williams (five). And he is one player on this list who is continually double-teamed. Few players look the part like Williams, and his skill set is off the charts. He has power, the body and closing speed. Now he is putting it all together. The league is taking notice. Not only can Williams beat Diehl off the edge, most likely, he can overpower him. Williams is a big man. He is listed at 6'6" and weighs 290 lbs. Williams weighs more than Julius Peppers ( 283 lbs) and Dwight Freeney( 268lbs). Let us hope the Giants have two guys blocking him. Oh by the way, the Texans are ranked last in the NFL against the pass. If the Giants offensive line can give Eli time to throw the football, they will win this game. Are you listening Kevin Gilbride?
Prediction: Giants win 23-20.