NFL Preview - N.Y. Giants (5-2) at Seattle (4-3)
By Michael Rushton, Contributing NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - The New York Giants did their best during the bye week to hold onto the momentum created from a four-game winning streak. They'll need it as they're set to visit a city they haven't won in for more than 19 years.
The Giants head out West this Sunday and will look to deal the hobbled Seattle Seahawks their first loss at Qwest Field this season.
After starting the season with two losses in three games, New York ripped off four consecutive victories prior to last weekend's bye, with its most recent triumph coming over the NFC East-rival Dallas Cowboys on Oct. 25. That win has the 5-2 Giants alone at the top of the division, one game ahead of the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Giants trailed the Cowboys by 17 points at one point, but knocked Dallas quarterback Tony Romo out of the game and strung together 31 straight points in the second and third quarters to claim a 41-35 victory. The defense held the Cowboys to just 254 yards of offense, while quarterback Eli Manning rebounded from three interceptions to match a career best with four touchdown passes.
New York will now hope the layoff, as well as a trip out West, doesn't impact the club on the field.
"Well, that's always the challenge, not just to come back where you were, but to come back and escalate the quality of your performance, lift your game to another level, which is the constant message," said Giants head coach Tom Coughlin.
New York is aiming to win five straight for the first time since it began the 2009 season 5-0, but will have to win in Seattle for the first time since Oct. 18, 1981 to do so.
The Seahawks, who at 4-3 lead the NFC West over 4-4 St. Louis, have won all three of their home games so far in 2010 and bested the Arizona Cardinals by a 22-10 count in their last game at Qwest Field. However, Seattle visited the Oakland Raiders last Sunday and was pounded, 33-3, to fall to 1-3 as the guest this season.
Seattle yielded eight sacks and managed just 162 yards of offense in the loss. It has been outscored 84-20 in its three road defeats.
"It has been pretty clear that our ability to get turnovers has all happened [at home] and we haven't been able to get the ball away from people when we're on the road, so it's just been a big factor," said Seattle head coach Pete Carroll. "We've had such a difference in that aspect of it."
While Seattle does get to return to the Emerald City, it does so with numerous injuries. Rookie offensive tackle Russell Okung (ankle), fullback Michael Robinson (hamstring), cornerback Kelly Jennings (hamstring) and defensive tackle Brandon Mebane (calf) all missed the Oakland game, while quarterback Matt Hasselbeck (concussion) was among the new injuries suffered this past weekend.
Hasselbeck has been ruled out for Sunday's game, with backup Charlie Whitehurst to make his first career start in the veteran's place.
Also, both left guard Ben Hamilton (concussion) and defensive end Red Bryant (knee) suffered season-ending injuries against the Raiders, while defensive tackle Colin Cole has been ruled out due to an ankle injury and wide receivers Mike Williams (knee) and Golden Tate (ankle) are both hobbled.
The Giants have won eight of 13 lifetime meetings with Seattle, including a 44-6 shellacking at the Meadowlands during Week 5 of the 2008 season. New York hasn't had the same success on the road in this series, however, having lost in each of its last four stops in the Emerald City. The Giants' last victory over the Seahawks as the visitor occurred on Oct. 18, 1981, a 32-0 triumph at the Kingdome, and Seattle handed New York a 42-30 loss in 2006 during the G- Men's most recent trip to Qwest Field.
Coughlin is 2-5 against Seattle in his career, including 1-3 while at the helm of the Jacksonville Jaguars from 1995-2002. Carroll, a head coach for the New York Jets in 1994, went 1-0 against both Coughlin and the Giants in regular- season play during his tenure with New England from 1997-99. Coughlin's Jaguars did earn a 25-10 win over Carroll's Patriots in a 1998 AFC Wild Card Playoff, however.
WHEN THE GIANTS HAVE THE BALL
New York's offense possesses a threat in both the passing and running games, thanks to Manning and the dual backfield threat of Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs. Manning (1785 passing yards, 14 TD, 11 INT) threw for 306 yards versus the Cowboys, his second 300-yard passing game of the season, and has put up at least two touchdown passes in five of seven games this season. New York is averaging 388.7 yards per game (3rd overall), with 145.4 of those coming on the ground. Bradshaw (708 rushing yards, 3 TD) paced the Giants' fourth-ranked ground attack with 126 yards versus Dallas and is second in the NFC in rushing yards. He is just 71 yards shy of surpassing his career high of 778, set last season. Jacobs (282 rushing yards, 5 TD), meanwhile, had a rushing touchdown against Dallas to give him five in the last four games. Wide receivers Hakeem Nicks (45 receptions, 8 TD) and Steve Smith both made nine catches last time out, with Nicks grabbing two of Manning's four touchdown throws. He is tied for the NFC lead in touchdown receptions, while Smith (43 receptions, 2 TD) and Mario Manningham (21 receptions, 3 TD) also hauled in scores in the win. One negative from the Dallas game was that center Shaun O'Hara suffered a sprained right foot and could miss this game. Adam Koets would start in his place.
Seattle's 26th-ranked defense (368.3 ypg) figures to have its hands full this weekend, though the unit is allowing just 100.6 yards per game on the ground. However, the losses of Bryant (18 tackles, 1 sack), Cole (29 tackles, 1 sack) and possibly Mebane could open up room on the line for the Giants. Kentwan Balmer will take over the right end spot for Bryant, while Craig Terrill will step in for Cole. Also, if Mebane misses a fourth straight game, Junior Siavii will get the start with Balmer shifting to the end. Jennings (17 tackles) has missed two straight games and fellow corner Walter Thurmond (18 tackles) sat out last week with a head injury, but both returned to practice on Wednesday. Seattle failed to force a turnover last weekend and was led on defense by corner Marcus Trufant (35 tackles, 1 INT) and safety Lawyer Milloy (40 tackles, 3 sacks), who had six tackles each. Rookie free safety Earl Thomas (35 tackles, 4 INT) added five tackles and leads all NFL rookies in interceptions. He needs one more to match the single-season club rookie record set by Michael Boulware in 2004. Defensive end Chris Clemons (25 tackles, 6 sacks) has at least a half-sack in four of his last five games.
WHEN THE SEAHAWKS HAVE THE BALL
Seattle's 30th-ranked offense did next to nothing versus the Raiders, with the running back tandem of Marshawn Lynch (304 rushing yards, 1 TD) and Justin Forsett (334 rushing yards, 1 TD) combining for just 18 yards on 14 carries. Despite his injury, Hasselbeck (1411 passing yards, 6 TD, 7 INT) played most of the game and threw for 160 yards on 13-of-32 passing. However, he wasn't cleared to play this week and will give way to Whitehurst, who has yet to throw a pass in the NFL. He's going to need better protection after Hasselbeck was dragged down eight times versus Oakland. Carroll hopes Okung can return this week, given that backup Tyler Polumbus is also ailing. The Seahawks would prefer that Chester Pitts replace Hamilton at left guard, but he'll slide to the tackle spot if Okung and Polumbus can't go. That would leave third- stringer Mike Gibson as the starter at left guard. Williams (33 receptions, 1 TD) could play this weekend despite his injury, but made just one catch last week. With all the injuries, tight end John Carlson (20 receptions, 1 TD) and wideout Deon Butler (16 receptions, 2 TD) could be in for bigger roles.
Though the Cowboys put up 35 points on the Giants back in Week 7, the defense wasn't at total fault. Seven points came on a punt return for a touchdown, while Dallas picked up two meaningless touchdown passes with under five minutes to play. The Giants, who are second in the league in total defense (263.3 ypg), third against the rush (85.4 ypg) and second against the pass (177.9 ypg), held Dallas to just 41 yards on the ground and picked up three sacks. Linebacker Michael Boley (42 tackles, 1 sack), former Seattle safety Deon Grant (26 tackles, 1 sack, 2 INT) and defensive tackle Barry Cofield (30 tackles, 3 sacks) had one each, while cornerback Terrell Thomas (39 tackles, 2 INT) and safety Antrel Rolle (43 tackles, 1 INT) had six tackles apiece. Though he didn't get to the quarterback versus Dallas, defensive end Osi Umenyiora (18 tackles, 8 sacks) has seven sacks and six forced fumbles in his past four games. Fellow end Justin Tuck (37 tackles, 4 sacks) has four sacks, three forced fumbles and a pair of recoveries over his last four games. New York officially lost end Mathias Kiwanuka (11 tackles, 4 sacks) for the season when they placed him on injured reserve last Thursday. He hadn't played since Sept. 26.
Though his interception number is a little high, Manning has been a solid fantasy contributor and has a good matchup this weekend. Both Nicks and Smith went over 100 yards receiving versus the Cowboys and are good WR plays, though Manningham and tight end Kevin Boss haven't been big contributors. Even though the 'Hawks have good numbers versus the run, injuries should open up holes for Bradshaw and Jacobs. Bradshaw gets the bulk of the work, but Jacobs is worth a play given his touchdown total. The Giants' defense is a great play this weekend, while kicker Lawrence Tynes is 7-for-10 on field goals with a pair from longer than 50 yards out.
The Seahawks are a mess right now and offer very little in terms of fantasy production this week. Hasselbeck won't play and Whitehurst has zero experience, plus he figures to be under pressure all game. Lynch and Forsett will also have little room to work with, though Lynch is the better option of the two. Carlson could be a sleeper if Whitehurst has to get rid of the ball quick. Avoid Seattle's defense and kicker Olindo Mare, who missed a pair of tries last weekend to end his consecutive field goals made streak at 30, might not get a lot of chances.
There are a few factors working in Seattle's favor that might keep this game closer than it should be. The Seahawks are very good at home and the Giants often struggle out of the bye. Add in a trip out West, and it might take New York some time to get its motor going. That being said, the Seahawks are just too banged up to be competitive in this one, and they'll lose some ground in the NFC West race while the Giants are likely to escape with a fifth straight win.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Giants 20, Seahawks 14
11/04 16:53:18 ET