Having, like every other NFL fan, watched the Giants win two Super Bowls over the last six seasons, with teams that were completely mediocre throughout the regular season*, I find myself unwilling to believe the 2013 Giants are actually as bad as they’ve looked thus far. Underneath their veneer of shoddy blocking and wobbly INTs, there’s a good team ready to strike, right? It’s not crazy to expect the G-Men to rise up this weekend and give the Seahawks all they can handle, is it? Perhaps not crazy — almost nothing is crazy in the NFL today (Did you watch the games last weekend? Hell, did you watch the game last night?) — but it’s almost certainly irrational. Past Lombardi Trophies aside, the evidence suggests the ’13 Giants aren’t just superficially bad, they’re bad bad.
It starts with Eli Manning. It’s safe to say Little Brother has seen sweller days. Consistently throughout his career, he’s been an above-average, borderline top-10 QB; this year he hasn’t been, not by a long shot. He’s been dreadful. His interceptions are way up (a league-leading 20) without the touchdowns to even things out. He’s currently throwing a pick and a quarter for every time he finds the end zone, a rate surpassed only by Geno Smith (who has a Stan Gelbaugh-esque 20-to-9 INT-to-TD ratio in his rookie season). And by DVOA Manning ranks 36th in the league, behind luminary signal callers like Christian Ponder, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Chad Henne.
What’s going on? Does Eli suddenly suck now? Should the Giants look to upgrade at QB in the offseason, maybe put together a package for Jason Campbell or Matt McGloin, two other signal callers who’ve supremely outplayed Manning this year? Well, as Balki Bartokomous would say, “Don’t be ridiculous.” A big part of Eli’s problems aren’t Eli’s problems; his offensive line — one of the most reliable pass-protecting units in the league over the past half-decade — has been lousy this season (24th in the league according to FO). Some quarterbacks can overcome shoddy protection (ahem … Russell Wilson**), Eli Manning is not one of them. He might be the least mobile of the Manning brothers, and his competition is a 37-year old with a bad back and a 39-year old with spinal stenosis. If the Giants can shore up their offensive line a bit in the offseason (a big if, given the health and contract statuses of Chris Snee and David Baas), a return to form for Lil’ Manning is probably in the cards. If they can’t do this, well, then perhaps I broke out the Bronson Pinchot reference a bit prematurely; moving Manning (for a much more substantial haul than a replacement-level QB, obviously) might makes some sense. Not that the Giants actually have any intention of doing this, or that I have any idea what the Giants’ intentions are. I’m just spitballing here.
And anyway, what the Giants do in the offseason won’t have any impact on the game this weekend. Sunday, the Seahawks are bringing the number one pass defense in the league to the Garden State, and Eli and his maligned O-line will just have to deal with it. And it’s not like the G-Men can fall back on their stout ground game. The New York offensive line has been even worse at run blocking (28th in the league) than it has been at pass protection. Further, it was just announced that Brandon Jacobs is done for the year. This might not seem like a big deal — Jacobs is more washed up than the ice skate in Castaway Tom Hanks uses to knock his tooth out — but the tandem of Jacobs and Andre Brown has been solidly average all year, a huge step from the Peyton Hillises and Da’Rel Scotts of the world. It seems unlikely the Giants will be able to run the ball on the ‘Hawks, and thus it seems unlikely they will be able to move the ball much at all. If I don’t see at least two Brandon Mebane bellyrolls this Sunday, I will be quite disappointed.
One thing the Giants do have going for them is that their defense is pretty good and profiles similarly to the Rams’ — very strong up front. We all remember how Seahawks’ O versus Rams’ D played out a month and a half ago. It’ll be interesting to if Seattle’s mostly healed offensive line can now hold its own against formidable defensive lines in consecutive. I suspect it can.
A huge thing the Giants don’t have going for them is their special teams. It would be the worst unit in the league, if not for the Giants’ rivals in our nation’s capital, who almost don’t count because they’ve been an NFL team in name only this season. (They’ve been 90% car fire, 10% professional football squad.) New York is especially bad at punt coverage, so maybe Golden Tate can do some damage if he gets the opportunity.
Overall, if the Seahawks play anything close to the way they have all season and the Giants return the favor, it will be ‘Hawks and only ‘Hawks. My doppelganger game is this one (minus the garbage-time flurry at the end). My prediction: Seahawks 42, Giants 10. Also, I predict Eli will at some point look downtrodden on the sidelines.
*The 2007 team finished the season 14th by DVOA, with an expected win total between eight and nine; the 2011 team was 12th in DVOA, with an expected win total between seven and eight. Yes, the ’11 Giants won the Super Bowl in a season in which they gave up more points than they scored. That is absurd.
**Notice FO rates the ‘Hawks’ pass protection on the season as worse than the Giants’, and still Russell Wilson has been one of the best QBs in the league. Here’s why (spoiler: it’s because he’s fucking awesome).