In preparation for this weeks game, Andy Furman from the excellent UltimateNYG blog (a network partner) and I exchanged questions and answers. Following are his answers to my questions. Check out my responses to his queries right here.
1.) The Giants are favored in this matchup, and rightly so, but the team hasn't won in Seattle since 1981, and no one here will soon forget that 11-false start game a few years back. How does this Giants team play on the road, and what might they do to control for the insanity of Qwest Field?
Well, that 11-false start game was in 2005, and 5 were committed by Luke Petitgout. Petitgout was not resigned when new GM Jerry Reese came in in 2007, and the penalties on the team dropped a lot after he was gone. The Giants have been playing with much more resolve on the road since those days (they won 10 straight road games in '07 when they won the Super Bowl). That does not mean that there will not be a lot of newer players who have yet to see the insanity of Qwest Field. But there are enough older ones (Manning, Diehl, Jacobs, Tuck, Umenyiora.. Grant) to know what it is about. Eli Manning has become very adept at moving out of certain play calls based on his reads, so your crowd will be a factor in preventing him from using that to his advantage.
2.) The Giants pass rush is intimidating. With 24 sacks, they look scary, but a little less so when controlling for the 10-sack Bears game (2.3 sacks/game outside of that). How good is this pass rush, and why are they so dangerous to opposing QBs?
The joke inside the lockerroom is that Osi Umenyiora is more interested in the sack strip than the sack. But the Giants are back to their 2007 ways, when they used to compete with one another in who got to the QB first, not 'if' one of them got there. Tuck and Umenyiora are "relatively" healthy, which was not the case last year. Osi was recovering from knee surgery, having missed all of 2008. Tuck had a bad shoulder and essentially played 2009 with one arm, all because Flozell Adams cheap-shotted him. The interior line of Chris Canty, Barry Cofield and Rocky Bernard are all playing a lot better. Cofield, like Umenyiora, was also climbing back from surgery last year and Canty (calf) and Bernard (pectoral muscle) were both hurt last year too. So this is an experienced bunch of players who know how to pass rush.
3.) Seahawks fans had a love/somewhat-dislike relationship with Deon Grant. He was usually good, never great, occasionally terrible. He appears to be having something of a resurgence in New York. How does Grant fit in the secondary there and what role is he playing in one of the league's toughest defenses?
Deon Grant is playing a lot of "quasi-LBer" for the Giants, moving into the box. We love his leadership and experience. The Giants have a terrific secondary. Perry Fewell is using Kenny Phillips, Deon Grant and Antrel Rolle (acquired in free agency, via the Cards) as a 3-headed Safety monster that gives him a lot of flexibility vs the run and the pass. Grant will wear down if he effectively becomes a Linebacker, but in the meantime we are getting great help from him. Look for these 3 players to prey on the newbie QB, getting an INT or two.
4.) Who is the unsung hero on this 2010 Giants offense?
The emergence of Hakeem Nicks as the X Wide Receiver (replacing the hole left from Plaxico Burress's gun shot to the temple of the Giants) is helping our mangle mitts Offensive Coordinator to scheme a lot better. In short, the Giants offense is loaded with weapons, so even the blind OC can figure it out when he has a wealth of options to go to. Nicks was our #1 pick last year and he is fast becoming a Pro Bowl WR. Smith already is a Pro Bowl WR. Manningham has lethal playmaking ability. Bradshaw leads the NFL in rushing. Boss has great hands for a TE. Ironically it is Eli who is the inconsistent question mark. In Dallas, Eli was weak early and late but awesome in between. With this offense, if he plays 4 quarters, the Giants have a ticket to the Super Bowl.
So far this year it is Osi Umenyiora for his flash, his sacks, his forced fumbles. But in my eyes it is Justin Tuck. The guy plays the pass AND the run as well as anyone when he is healthy. And he is healthy.
5.) How would you gameplan against the Giants?
Attack their LBers. Use your TE and RB and throw to them in space to isolate the LBers in coverage. On defense, beware of Bradshaw on the cutback run. Get in Eli's face and do not give him time or he will get too comfortable back there and rip you apart. The crowd will make noise so that he cannot check out of plays, which is good for you. Diehl at LT is vulnerable to the speed rush. Do not worry about misdirection from the Giants offense, they rarely use trickery and only use play action 3-4 times tops per game. Also, go for broke on Special teams, because the Giants special teams are our weakest link.