September 30, 2005 Edition > Section: Sports > Printer-Friendly Version

It's All About The Quarterbacks
The Giant and Jets

BY SEAN LAHMAN
September 30, 2005
URL: http://www.nysun.com/article/20847

Quarterbacks have been the focus of much of the discussion in New York this week. Eli Manning had his best game as a pro last Sunday, and despite their loss, the Giants have reason to feel optimistic. The Jets, on the other hand, were dealt a major blow with the season-ending injuries to quarterback Chad Pennington and backup Jay Fiedler. The Giants hope to build on their offensive momentum as they return home, while the Jets hope to keep their season from sinking as they take to the road. Here's a look at the challenges they'll face on Sunday.

JETS (1-2) AT RAVENS (0-2)
(Sunday, 4:05 p.m., CBS)

WHEN THE JETS HAVE THE BALL Nobody knows what to expect from quarterback Brooks Bollinger. He has impressive speed and a decent arm, but you can bet the Jets will be running a simplified offense to avoid overwhelming the kid in his first NFL start. Facing the renowned Baltimore defense is tough under any circumstances; for a novice quarterback, it could be a nightmare. The key is to avoid mistakes.

It doesn't help that the ground attack has been sputtering. Curtis Martin is playing on a sore knee and has averaged just 2.8 yards per carry. The Ravens will be gunning for Bollinger, so if the running game doesn't pull its weight, the Jets are in big trouble.

WHEN THE RAVENS HAVE THE BALL Luckily for the Jets, the Ravens offense may be in even worse shape. Like the Jets, the Ravens lost their starting quarterback to injury and have seen their normally dominant running back struggle. Kyle Boller remains out with a hyper extended toe, so journeyman Anthony Wright will start at quarterback. Meanwhile, halfback Jamal Lewis has gained just 57 yards in the Ravens' first two games.

KEY TO THE GAME The Ravens are coming off a bye week, and they know a loss could wreck their hopes of reaching the playoffs. The defense never has trouble getting fired up, and the offense will probably go back to the basics. The Ravens will try to establish their ground game by running to the left side behind tackle Jonathon Ogden and guard Ed Mulitalo. The pressure will be on Jets' defensive end John Abraham and linebackers Jonathon Vilma and Victor Hobson to stop them.

Lahman's Pick: Ravens 17-10

GIANTS (1-2) AT RAMS (0-2)
(Sunday, 1 p.m., FOX)

WHEN THE GIANTS HAVE THE BALL The Giants have had success running the ball with the 1-2 punch of Tiki Barber and Brandon Jacobs. The ground game doesn't figure to be a big factor on Sunday, though, since the Rams high-scoring offense will probably force the Giants to the air in order to keep pace. Offensive coordinator John Hufnagel seemed to loosen the reigns in San Diego last week, and Eli Manning responded by throwing for 352 yards and two touchdowns. St. Louis ranks 27th in pass defense, and their small cornerbacks will have a tough time matching up with the Giants' receivers. At 5-foot-10, Travis Fisher is going to have a hard time containing 6-foot-5 Plaxico Burress. Strong safety Adam Archuleta is a big hitter, but he still gives away 30 pounds to Jeremy Shockey. There are mismatches here, and Manning will have another big game if he can exploit them.

WHEN THE RAMS HAVE THE BALL Big Blue will face one of the league's most prolific passing attacks without their best cornerback. Will Peterson could be out for the rest of the season with a back injury, forcing rookie Corey Webster or second-year pro Curtis Deloatch to start in his place. Rams receiver Torry Holt leads the league in receiving yards, and is a threat to score every time he touches the ball.

Fortunately for the Giants, the rest of the St. Louis offense is banged up. Quarterback Marc Bulger has sore ribs - not a surprise considering he's been sacked 15 times in three games. Running back Stephen Jackson, who has supplanted Marshall Faulk as the starter, is listed as questionable with a chest injury. Veteran receiver Issac Bruce probably won't play because of a sore toe.

KEY TO THE GAME The Rams have always had trouble playing on the road, and a dose of cooler fall weather this weekend will only make things worse. The Rams aren't sure who will be lining up at right tackle across from Michael Strahan, but whoever it is will have a long day. If Strahan can get in the backfield and be disruptive, he can keep the potent Rams offense from being explosive.

Lahman's Pick: Giants 24-17

September 30, 2005 Edition > Section: Sports > Printer-Friendly Version