Teams with heady safety play tend to fare better against the Giants, and Harrison Smith might be the very best in the NFL. The Vikings are loaded with smart, aggressive cover corners and likely won’t struggle as much against the Giants as they did against, say, the Panthers (even then, not much of a struggle). In watching some of Minnesota’s tape from last week’s win over Carolina, the X-Factor was Greg Olsen, who could win some 1-on-1 matchups against linebackers, helping them move the chains. While New York’s three-headed monster of Beckham, Victor Cruz and rookie Sterling Shepherd is formidable, it is hard to see them being any more of a threat than Kelvin Benjamin, Denvin Funchess and Ted Ginn.
Believe it or not, Giants head coach Ben McAdoo is a very unpredictable play caller. Advanced NFL stats show his propensity to throw or pass on common downs like first-and-10 or second-and-1 to 5 are almost exactly 50 percent (his passing numbers, from short left to long right, deep center and short middle are almost exactly even as well). This was thanks to a deep stable of experienced veteran running backs, but now that luxury is gone. Without Rashad Jennings or third-down back Shane Vereen, the Giants will likely be forced to open.
Terrell Suggs was among a group of Ravens players who took a knee during the national anthem, which included former Ravens great Ray Lewis. It appeared all the other players on the Baltimore Ravens’ sideline locked arms while standing in a sign of solidarity — coach John Harbaugh among them.
A large group of Jaguars players took a knee while many others stood and locked arms before the game, with team owner Shad Khan and coach Doug Marrone among them.
“When we played him, you could see him and Josh going back and forth, you could see that the whole team was getting caught up in that and they wasn’t focused in the first half, that’s why we were able to jump out to a big lead,” Davis said of the Panthers’ 38-35 win over the Giants in 2015. “They kinda settled down later in the second half in the football game and they were able to come back. It was just really evident that they were not a focused bunch when he was doing all of that.”
The well-worn Beckham emotion storyline has almost become cliché. Many have tried to get in Beckham’s face and hope for a meltdown. The Packers don’t have a trash-talking corner of the Norman ilk, but they’ll surely try to spur Beckham early Sunday afternoon. Don’t bet your house on emotions unraveling Beckham in his first playoff appearance.
“I think as a team, we always pride ourselves on being prepared. So when I saw the pictures, I was a little disappointed,” Eli Manning joked. “Obviously, they didn’t pack accordingly. They didn’t have any shirts, all long pants, no shirts, no flip flops. I was disappointed on the packing and them not being prepared.”
Vereen has spent the past two seasons with the Giants, operating as a passing-down specialist who caught 59 balls for New York in 2015. Last year’s campaign was cut short when Vereen landed on injured reserve with a triceps injury. The 28-year-old back returned late in the year only to re-tear his triceps in Week 15.
The Giants need help at running back. Paul Perkins had his moments last season, but New York is a strong candidate to tap the draft for help. Vereen is a nice piece on third down when he’s healthy, but his role could suffer if a rookie were to hit the scene and steal the show.
Cruz’s most recent statement is a far departure from his comments immediately following the trip. The veteran wideout told WFAN’s Mike Francesca shortly after the trip “we get photographed everywhere we go. Whether it’s Miami or New York City, it doesn’t matter. I mean, obviously, we understand it’s news, but if it ain’t about Green Bay, we’re not talking about it.”
Cruz caught three balls on four targets for 30 yards in New York’s loss in Green Bay, while Odell Beckham dropped three passes on 11 targets and earned the brunt of the criticism.