GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 02: Kevin Kolb #4 of the Arizona Cardinals looks to pass as Osi Umenyiora #72 of the New York Giants attempts to knock the ball away at University of Phoenix Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
Match-ups to key in on.
Football is the ultimate team sport but the nuts and bolts of the game always falls to match-ups. Specifically, exploiting favorable match-ups. The Seahawks are facing some tough odds on the road as they travel to New York, where they haven't won since 1983 and the marquee matchups almost exclusively favor the Giants. If the Seahawks can win in a few of these areas, they'll have a chance. Here are some match-ups that could play a big role in today's game:
The Seahawks have given up 14 sacks this year, 30th in the NFL, and the Giants have recorded 12 sacks thus far, 5th in the NFL. Luckily for the Seahawks, Giants' DE Justin Tuck is likely to miss Sunday's game, but Osi Umenyiora and Jason Pierre-Paul are definitely ready to step in and cause some trouble. On the Seahawks' side, 2nd year LT Russell Okung has been nothing but solid all season, save for a few false start penalties. On the other side, rookie RT James Carpenter hasn't been as dependable. That being said, he's steadily improved in all of his starts and both him and Okung will face probably their stiffest test in defensive ends this season.
These matchups will be key -- protecting Tarvaris Jackson, in my mind, is the number one priority if the Seahawks hope to have any sort of rhythm or success on offense, both passing and rushing.
The Seahawks don't match up man-to-man with their cornerbacks, rather sticking to sides - Brandon Browner on the right, Marcus Trufant on the left. Hakeem Nicks is the Giants best receiver and a budding superstar. He's another in a long line of elite to near elite receivers this Seahawks' secondary has to face and keeping him in check will be very important.
Nicks is coming off a 10-catch, 162 yard, 1 touchdown performance from last week, and last year against the Seahawks caught 6 passes for 128 yards and a touchdown.
The Giants have struggled running the ball lately and don't figure to break out against this Seahawks' stout run-defense. With that in mind, Eli Manning will look to pass, and pass often. Trufant and Browner will have to keep Nicks in front of them and avoid giving up the big, back-breaking plays.
The Giants' offensive line vs the Seahawks defensive line.
As I said, the Giants have struggled running the ball and have turned to Manning to lead them to a 3-1 record so far this year. The Giants are averaging 87.5 yards per game on the ground - 24th in the NFL-, and a paltry 3.3 yards per carry - 29th in the NFL. This bodes well for the Seahawks strong run defense and stout defensive line as they'll look to get the Giants off the field and avoid giving up long, clock-eating possessions.
The Giants have also given up 11 sacks - 5th worse in the NFL, and if the Seahawks hope to contain the Giants passing defense they'll have to get pressure on Manning and force him to make bad decisions. Forcing turnovers on the road is the best way to neutralize the home-field advantage and the Seahawks will absolutely need to make some big plays to have a chance in this game.
Jon Ryan vs the Giants special teams.
Another way to improve your odds on the road is to win the field position game. Because the Seahawks lack a high-powered offense but possess a pretty strong defense, keeping the Giants in their own end as much as possible is going to be very important. Jon Ryan has been nails thus far this year in the punt game, and if he can keep the Giants at bay by pinning them into their own territory, he'll give the Seahawks' offense a chance at beating the odds.