By Aaron Weiss
The New York Giants defied the odds and any semblance of logic, rolling over the now 3-2 Denver Broncos by a score of 23-10. While there are a good number of things to criticize (such as Janoris “Jackrabbit” Jenkins getting beat all night by Demaryius Thomas, although he redeemed himself with a critical pick six), considering the Giants got their first win of the season, in primetime, against a Super Bowl contender and their premier defense, with their top three receivers, starting center, top EDGE rusher, captain linebacker, and star slot corner out, I’m going easy on the G-Men. Let’s breakdown everything that happened and look forward to the Giants last game before their bye!
Evan Engram – With the Giants top three receivers out this week (and two of them out for the year), Engram was thrust into the top spot as it comes to receiving options, and he did not disappoint. He had more targets, yards, and touchdowns than the Giants 3 wide receivers combined, and he caught 45% of the Giants completions, had 64% of their receiving yards, and their lone offensive touchdown. Sterling Shepard will return either next week or after the bye week, which will lighten the load on Engram somewhat, but there’s no doubt that the continuing success of the Giants offense is going to depend on Engram putting up numbers like he did on Sunday.
Jason Pierre-Paul – Denver RT Menelik Watson is the weak link on the Broncos’ offensive line, coming into the contest with a PFF score of 40.2, and he had the unenviable task of going up against Pierre-Paul. JPP definitely won the matchup, notching 6 tackles, a sack, a tackle for loss, and a forced fumble, all in the first half (which was as far as Watson would make it in the contest, he’d get hurt and be replaced by Billy Turner and his 38.9 PPR grade in the 2nd half). Despite not having Olivier Vernon to draw primary or even double coverage on the other side, JPP totaled 3 sacks, 3 tackles for loss, 2 QB hits, and a QB hurry, continually spooking Trevor Siemian even when he wasn’t generating pressure. JPP reminded the world why he remains a premier edge rusher in this league.
The Offensive Line – The offensive line hardly qualifies as above average yet, but perhaps they’ve found their best iteration. The Giants moved star LG Justin Pugh to RT, moving RG John Jerry to LG and backup OL DJ Fluker to RG (also with C Weston Richburg out Brett Jones played center, although that will undoubtedly revert to Richburg when he’s healthy). I don’t know if this is the “we need our best OL at tackle” gameplan, or if it’s the “lets put our best OL on their best DL,” which in this case is Pugh vs Von Miller, but either way, this o-line kept the pressure on Eli Manning limited while absolutely punishing Denver in the run game (especially with Orleans Darkwa in the backfield). With the Giants’ wide receives not doing a whole lot, credit this offensive line for keeping this offense on the field.
Mike Sullivan – For the first time since Ben McAdoo joined the Giants as their offensive coordinator, McAdoo wasn’t calling the offensive plays, passing off those duties to current offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan, and in Sullivan’s first opportunity he showed what he brings to the offense. He didn’t call any crazy plays, and you have to wonder how much of the play calling changes are due to Sullivan and how many are due to the new receivers the Giants are stuck with, but Sullivan was incredibly solid, sticking to the ground game while not overextending Eli or making him rely on his new receivers (the Giants ran the ball 32 times while passing a mere 19). McAdoo also looked more in control without having to call the offensive plays. Sullivan will almost certainly call the plays next week and for the immediate future, and we’ll see if he can continue to be successful, but tonight Sullivan earned his pay as the Giants’ offensive coordinator.
The Little Three – With the big three of Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard, and Brandon Marshall out, the Giants turned to the new lesser three in Roger Lewis, Tavarres King, and Travis Rudolph, and…it didn’t really work out. They combined for 2 catches on 4 targets in the first half, collectively getting outworked by TE Evan Engram. As mentioned above, Shepard will return to the lineup and inherit the top receiving spot, but GM Jerry Reese should be looking to find outside help this week. Perhaps disgruntled Pittsburgh WR Martavis Bryant could be an option going forward.
The Giants had a couple of players banged up, with players like Jay Bromley and BJ Goodson briefly going down on the field, but the only significant injury was to rookie linebacker Calvin Munson, who had a quad injury in the game and was unable to return. While he is a backup, meaning his loss isn’t as critical, the Giants are currently paper thin at linebacker, with Jonathan Casillas missing the contest with a neck injury. Should Munson be out for an extended period it would be wise of the Giants to acquire some depth at the position.
NFC East Picture:
Dallas had their bye week, so they remained in third place at 2-3. However, their stock in the division fell dramatically with news that star RB Ezekiel Elliott had his suspension reinforced immediately, meaning that, barring further legal directives, he will miss the Cowboys’ next six games. Philly won a tight battle against Carolina on Thursday night football, going to 5-1, and Carson Wentz and his Eagles continued to show they’re in a different class than their division counterparts. Finally, Washington eked out a victory against the now 0-6 San Francisco 49ers, leaving them in second place at 3-2.
Next Week: The Giants come home to face the Seahawks before they go on their desperately needed bye week. Seattle comes into the game at 3-2, coming off of their bye week, which means they’ll be fresh against a Giants team that could not be more battered. On the other hand, Seattle is 1-2 on the road, although those losses came against a Mariota-led Titans and a Rodgers-led Packers. Still, the Giants showed they’re capable of contending with top defenses with mediocre offenses, and while the Seahawks offense is much better than Denver’s, their putrid offensive line will mean more JPP sacks and pressures, keeping this one close. Look for a slugfest, but considering what the Giants have as receiving options, look for Seattle to edge out a victory.
Prediction – Seahawks win 17-13