By Brad Carroll
The New York Giants season is already on the brink of disaster - and we're only heading into Week 3 of the NFL schedule. The Giants have already lost two games, each more painful than the last. First, the Lions blew out the Giants on national television in the opener. Then, the Cardinals took advantage of a couple of drops by Victor Cruz and a special teams lapse by the Giants in the fourth quarter to come from behind and send Big Blue to 0-2.
Those two losses, and the way they happened, already has people calling for head coach Tom Coughlin to be fired and Eli Manning to be replaced as the team's starting quarterback. While both of those calls shouldn't even be entertained as a possibility right now, it does prove how much this Giants season already hangs in the balance.
Week 3 brings the Houston Texans to MetLife Stadium for a 1 p.m. game Sunday. The Texans are a surprising 2-0 under new coach Bill O'Brien. Houston beat the Redskins, 17-6, in Week 1 and the Raiders, 30-14, in Week 2. The Texans are all about defense and the running attack, which not surprisingly are two areas the Giants have to stop, or at least slow down, Sunday to come away with a season-saving victory.
Here are three keys for the Giants to break their losing streak and get the season back on track with a victory against the AFC South's Texans.
All About Turnovers
Getting right to the point, the Giants can't turn the ball over on offense, and must take the ball away when on defense. If both of those things happen, the Giants likely save their season and beat the Texans. Of course, doing both of those things won't be easy. On offense, the Giants have turned the ball over five times already, including four interceptions by Eli Manning. The interceptions were a killer for the Giants last season, when Manning led the league with 27, and they have been again this year. The passing offense also lost a fumble on a reception by Rashad Jennings last week, which cost the team the game against Arizona. On defense, the Giants are one of just three teams this season not have to have takeaway. To make matters worse, the Texans have turned the ball over just once, and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick hasn't thrown an interception. Houston's defense has forced six turnovers in two games. It's no wonder the Texans, thought by many to be one of the worst teams in the league this year, are off to a 2-0 start. The Giants need to flip that script Sunday.
Force Fitzpatrick To Pass
The Giants must force Fitzpatrick to beat them with his arm, and that means stacking the box to stop the running game. Fitzpatrick is one of the worst starting quarterbacks in the NFL, and might be the worst, so if the Giants shut down the run and force him to throw, they should be able to win that battle. Fitzpatrick has a pair of weapons in wide receivers Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins, who have combined for 278 yards and two touchdowns this season, but after those two, there aren't many other options in the passing game. Only five other players have caught a pass from Fitzpatrick, including defensive lineman J.J. Watt, and that's just for a combined nine receptions. Five of those come from star running back Arian Foster alone. So, if the Giants focus on stopping Foster and the running game, and Prince Amukamara and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie do their part on the outside against Johnson and Hopkins, the Giants should win this game. Jason Pierre-Paul will have a lot to say as well, as if he continues his solid play and harasses Fitzpatrick enough to force him into bad decisions when he does throw it, it only helps the Giants cause.
Keep Watt In Check
It's no secret the Giants have big problems on the offensive line, and it will only get worse if they can't slow down the best defensive player in the league. Watt hasn't had a giant impact this season, his touchdown reception notwithstanding. He has just three tackles, two behind the line of scrimmage, with a sack, one pass defensed and a fumble recovery. But with how poorly the Giants offensive line has played, Watt could break through with a huge game. If he does, the Giants will be in big trouble, especially since he will have the opportunity to force Manning into quick decisions. And that means interceptions. The better Watt is, the better the entire defense is, and that's how the Texans win games. The Giants will need to run the ball well, with Jennings and Andre Williams, to keep Watt honest and beat up the front seven enough to take advantage late in the game. If the Giants do that, they will have their first victory of the season.
UPDATE: Arian Foster is inactive for the Texans today.