Friday, January 04, 2008
Giants have a small margin for error.
Perhaps the most difficult contest in the NFL to handicap this weekend is the game featuring the New York Giants at Tampa Bay. Tampa is 6-2 at home while the G-men are 7-1 on the road. The Bucs rested some of their key starters for nearly two weeks; the Giants, meanwhile, went all out last Saturday against the Patriots. That being said, the Giants should have the mental edge Sunday in Tampa. Resting your players out fear of injury is a wimpy way to enter the playoffs...that point alone will not be lost on a very physical Giant football team that manhandled the Patriots. Secondly, New York probably has a smaller margin for error. Consider, the Bucs have a plus ratio of 9 meaning they rest on turnovers to inspire an anemic offense. On the surface, it seems all the Giants have to do is eliminate mistakes to win. Thirdly, Tampa Bay's offense struggles in the red zone; hence, their third down conversion rate is a feeble 30%. Consequently if they get a lead, its doubtful they can put their opponent in the refrigerator. Lastly, quarterback, Jeff Garcia, is 2-0 against New York beating them with the 49ers in 2002 and last year while subbing for Donovan McNabb. Even so, Garcia's mobility can create problems because it allows him to improvise out of the pocket; unlike the past however, the Giants speedy linebackers can nullify that aspect of his game. Although the G-men are 0-3 in wild card games, their past failures should give them plenty of motivation to finish this job. Looking at the schedules, the common opponents were the Detroit Lions also the Redskins. The Giants won in Motown and walloped the Skins twice. The Bucs were beaten soundly in Detroit and were handed the game by the Redskins. Washington committed six turnovers in the first half but still had a chance to win in the closing seconds. More importantly, Tampa Bay was being out muscled by the 49ers before Gruden removed some of his starters. Out of respect for John Gruden also Bruce Allen, they have done a remarkable job in turning around last year's 4-11 team, but asking for more than a crippled South division title is getting greedy with this squad. By the way, two noted experts, Chris Collingsworth also Chris Carter are picking the New York Giants. Yet, this game is still a tossup. The Giants have been a lackluster bunch all season playing down to the level of their opponents. Highly touted, Eli Manning, struggles - in part - can be traced to ruinous drop passes by some of his receivers; other boneheaded Giants, meanwhile, have committed costly penalties. In other words, the Giants are far from being a lock...but take them and the points. In Pittsburgh, I expect the Steelers to eke out a victory over the Jaguars. This game will be a hard hitting affair, but Heinz Field is a weird place to play due to chronic poor field conditions also unpredictable winds. The Steelers will need all the magic in world to overcome a big physical Jaguar football team. I like the Redskins to continue their masterful run in Seattle, so take the Skins and the points. Finally, take the Chargers to cover against the Titans.