This week 2 match up is the Giants game that I am most looking forward to this season. This is for a very simple reason; I will be sitting in row 1 of Metlife Stadium with 80,000 other Giants fans. I will be writing a lot more about my day at the Meadowlands in the run up to it and afterwards (including copious photos) but what I want to do today is purely concentrate on the story lines around this game and the key match ups that I will be watching unfold on the field.
The last two meetings of these teams have been Giants wins in Florida, 24-0 in the 2009 regular season and and 24-14 in the wild-card round of the 2007 post-season.
This is a very different Buccaneers team to those that the Giants saw in those two games. Under Raheem Morris this young team had an excellent 2010 season (narrowly missing the play-offs with a 10-6 record) behind the arm and legs and exciting young QB Josh Freeman. In 2011 they failed to mature into that promise as a ‘youngry’ (young and hungry) team and finished with a disappointing 4-12 record and cost head coach Raheem Morris his job.
So the 2012 team is an enigma. They are certainly stacked with young talent but potentially may be lacking some veteran locker-room leadership. The question is which team will show up in New Jersey in mid-September? The focused and (at times) lucky Buccaneers from 2010 or the in-disciplined sloppy team that played in 2011.
I’m interested to see how new head coach Greg Schiano has been able to shape and lead this team through the off-season, pre-season and into week 1. He certainly is no stranger to dealing with, and getting results from, young players. Schiano spent the last 11 seasons as the head coach of Rutgers University.
Update 07/08/12: A nice article about Buccaneers training camp.
For the Giants, defending their position as champions, this is a game that they should win if they are going to be taken seriously. They will have a lot of time to prepare for this game and correct any issues from their game against the Cowboys, as their Week 1 game will played over 10 days before.
The key for them will be limiting Josh Freeman, not just hitting and sacking him, but holding him in the pocket. It is important that they force Freeman to win the game with his arm and not by leaking out of the pocket and gaining yards with his feet.
The other key will be stopping the Buccaneers bruising running game behind LeGarrette Blount. If the Giants can take an early lead and establish the run then the Buccaneers should struggle to win the game with Freeman’s arm.
My score prediction for this one is a comfortable win to the Giants if they execute their game plan – maybe 21 – 10.
Key Match Ups
Buccaneers Guard Carl Nicks vs Giants Defensive line
Carl Nicks is a big guard and a former pro-bowl player for the Saints but when the Giants get into a pass rush situation and move Tuck and Pierre-Paul into interior line positions whilst rushing Umenyiora and potentially Kiwanuka from the edges that is a lot of firepower for O-Lines to face. If the Bucs get caught in long 3rd down situations or chasing a big Giants lead then Nicks will be tested by the Giants line.
Carl Nicks is reportedly having an excellent training camp with the Buccaneers.
Buccaneers Secondary vs Victor Cruz
The Bucs’ Defensive Backs are young and athletic but Cruz made a living last season running the ‘option’ route from the slot and getting open against wily veteran backs. I’d be surprised if they have the talent to contain Victor Cruz from the slot as well as Hakeem Nicks and potentially Hixon or Randle outside the numbers.
Buccaneers TE Dallas Clark vs Giants LBs / Safeties
The long-time safety blanket for Peyton Manning’s Colts is one of the veterans the Bucs have added in the off season. Clark is a big target with sure hands and a knack for getting open. If Freeman can avoid the pass rush long enough to find him then he will have an out-let against the rush.
Clark can line up in the slot receiver position or in the traditional Tight-End position and he is a nightmare for a safety or linebacker in man-man coverage. This will be a sleepness night for Jacquian Williams, Antrel Rolle or Matthias Kiwanuka prior to covering him. If there is any doubt what kind of threat a big and skilled receiving tight-end is to the Giants then one only needs to watch film of the NFC championship game and see what Vernon Davis did to the Giants when lined up against a safety in man-coverage.
Buccaneers DT Gerald McCoy vs Giants O-Line
The Giants O-Line and particularly the Center David Baas struggled at times to block a determined pass rush and to open holes for the running backs last season. McCoy is a force on the interior of the line and can brush off blocks and blow up a running play in the backfield. He is the last person that you’d want to see landing on Eli on passing downs. Look for the Giants to double team him in the middle with center and a guard or leave a back into help out in 3rd and medium to long situations.
McCoy demands double teams and lineman consideration and will allow other rushers and blitzers to get free on the edges or through the A & B gaps.
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