Fittingly, in this the 25th anniversary of Super Bowl XXV (“Wide Right”), the New York Giants and Buffalo Bills will face off once again in the battle of metropolitan vs upstate New York. Both teams are coming into this game feeling good about themselves. The Giants are coming off of a big win versus the Washington Redskins, their first of the season, while the Bills have steamrolled the Colts and Dolphins. Who will win the battle of New York? Stick around for Overtime’s comprehensive game preview.
The biggest story out of Buffalo so far has been that of unheralded Tyrod Taylor taking over the quarterbacking reigns with his stellar performance. Taylor is a major dual threat QB; he has thrown for 714 yards and 7 touchdowns in addition to 96 yards and a touchdown on the ground. The Giants don’t usually fare well against speedy QBs, but they will be prepared with a spy deployed on most plays. For the Giants, it’s all about Eli Manning. Manning hasn’t thrown an interception yet in the 2015 season, but has mismanaged the clock on at least two occasions, costing the Giants two wins in the process. Manning is missing favorite target Victor Cruz, but still has weapons all around to throw to. Taylor has a big arm, but Manning’s savvy gives him an edge.
The Giants’ rushing attack has pretty much been as advertised: no one has really stood out on the ground, but the combination of Rashad Jennings, Andre Williams, and Shane Vereen allows for the Giants to mix and match as they see fit. Versus the Bills’ stout defensive front, expect Vereen to be utilized out of the backfield as a receiving option for catch and run potential. Meanwhile in Buffalo, starter LeSean McCoy will miss this week’s game with a hamstring injury. In his stead, rookie Karlos Williams has accumulated 186 yards and 3 touchdowns; bs will appreciate the larger role. Boobie Dixon is a change of pace, heavyset back. The Giants have a bit of an edge here in terms of bigger names, but don’t forget that Williams and Dixon play behind a better offensive line.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:
Both the Giants and the Bills are missing big playmakers to injury. New York will be without Victor Cruz, while Buffalo will attempt to make do without Sammy Watkins. Big Blue is a bit thin on receivers now; only stud Odell Beckham Jr., take-him-or-leave-him Rueben Randle, and unproven Dwayne Harris and Geremy Davis will dress. Due to this, Vereen and tight end Larry Donell need to have big games to take the coverage off of Beckham and Randle. The Bills have Percy Harvin and Robert Woods as starters sans Watkins, while Chris Hogan is a tertiary option. Tight ends Charles Clay and Matthew Mulligan are matchup nightmares, and Williams can catch out of the backfield. Due to injuries, this matchup looks to be even come Sunday.
Must I even write this column anymore? I think it is evident that the Giants will have an inferior line against anyone they play against. However, Big Blue’s unit is coming together. Ereck Flowers is questionable, but Justin Pugh is dependable no matter where he starts. Weston Richburg and Geoff Schwartz are steady inside, and even Marshall Newhouse has exceeded expectations at right tackle. Buffalo starts 6’6″ Cordy Glenn at left tackle, convicted bully Richie Incognito at left guard, and reliable Eric Wood at center. Right guard John Miller is questionable to play Sunday, and 6’7″ 331 pound Seantrel Henderson bookends the line. The Bills’ unit is solid and the Giants have no chance versus the Bills’ vaunted pass rush, making this an easy call.
Buffalo’s awesome defense makes its bones through its pass rush. After leading the NFL in sacks last year, the team has even more weapons to send this year. “Mr. Big Stuff”, $60 million man Marcell Dareus is always a threat to opposing quarterbacks. Factor in expensive Mario Williams, rising Jerry Hughes, and run stopping Kyle Williams, and you’ve got a legit front four. The Giants will be without their most complete non-Jason Pierre-Paul end, Robert Ayers Jr., due to a hamstring injury. In his place, Kerry Wynn, George Selvie, DaMontre Moore, and rookie Owa Odighizuwa will attempt to generate pressure to varying degrees. Inside, Jonathan “Big Hank” Hankins will stop the run and veteran Cullen Jenkins can play inside or outside. Missing JPP and Ayers hurts the Giants here, but they were never going to have the edge her anyway.
The heart of the Bills’ defense is their pass rush, but their soul is their linebackers. Preston Brown and Nigel Bradham are sure tacklers as well as leaders. Manny Lawson is a quality strong side backer in his own right. On the Giants side, Jon Beason is the X-Factor. If he’s healthy, the captain is an excellent leader by example. If not, Uani’ Unga could still see a healthy portion of snaps. Devon Kennard is always impressive; look for him to be an active blitzer versus Buffalo. J.T. Thomas and Jonathan Casillas will alternate spying on Taylor. The Giants’ backers are improving, but the Bills’ squad has the edge here.
A healthy Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will assist the Giants big time versus the shifty Bills. DRC and the always dependable and rather underrated Prince Amukamara can shut down anybody. Trumaine McBride and Jayron Hosley are steady nickel and dime options. Landon Collins and Brandon Meriweather have been shockingly good at safety, but its a bit early yet to be confident in them. In Buffalo, rookie Ronald Darby has amassed 2 interceptions already, and Stephon Gilmore is a sound starter. Nickell Robey appropriately plays nickel back quite well, and safeties Aaron Williams and Corey Graham patrol center field. Let’s consider this one a draw.
For the first time in a long time, the Giants finally have solid special teams. Josh Brown, Brad Wing, and Zak DeOssie are great at what they do, and the return coverage has increased despite allowing a garbage time kickoff TD last week. Dwayne Harris is a great return man as well. The Bills have Dan Carpenter kick field goals and Jordan Gay handle kickoff duties. Colton Schmidt has a strong leg at punter, and Garrison Sanborn is the snapper. Percy Harvin returns kicks and punts for the Bills, a scary thought for Big Blue. Let’s give the Giants an edge here, although the Bills are no special teams slouch.
Despite the Giants’ shortcomings, they simply must win this game. Knowing this, I expect the Giants to put up a good fight versus a Buffalo team thought to be out of their league. It will be close, but the Giants might be able to squeak out a key win versus their intra-state foes. Doing so would boost their confidence to sky high levels.
Prediction: 24-21 Giants