September 15, 2006 Edition > Section: Sports > Printer-Friendly Version

Jets and Giants Both Have a Date With an Old Friend
Football

BY SEAN LAHMAN
September 15, 2006
URL: http://www.nysun.com/article/39734

A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T

The thrill of kickoff weekend is over, and now it's time to get down to business.The Jets and Giants both face the toughest teams in their respective divisions in matchups that will start to determine this year's new pecking order.

Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb leads a team that was ravaged by injuries last year.They're looking to unseat the Giants as champions of the NFC East and return to the title game for the fifth time in six seasons. Coming off a loss in their opener, the Giants can't afford to drop to 02 (and let the Eagles improve to 20) if they hope to win the division again.

The Jets, meanwhile, face their biggest rival in a game that will really show how much progress they have left in their rebuilding effort.Beating up on the Titans last week provided a nice emotional boost, but the Patriots are smart, tough, and hungry to return to the playoffs themselves.

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

WHEN THE GIANTS HAVE THE BALL

The Giants offense seemed to be clicking on all cylinders last week, with two turnovers marring an otherwise outstanding performance. Tiki Barber continues to make the case that he's the best all around back in the league, and quarterback Eli Manning did a good job of spreading the ball around to different receivers. Defensive tackle Mike Patterson and middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter anchor the Eagles run defense, but their leaders are hard hitting safeties Brian Dawkins and Michael Lewis. The Eagles love to blitz, but the Giants line did a good job of containing a much better pass rush last week by the Colts. If the Eagles can't get pressure on quarterback Eli Manning, the Giants passer could have a big day.

WHEN THE EAGLES HAVE THE BALL

Last week's game showed that the Eagles offense will be just fine without Terrell Owens in fact, they're probably better. Former Saints wideout Donte' Stallworth scorched the Texans with six catches for 141 yards and a touchdown in his Eagles debut. It's the kind of production that the team got from Owens in their Super Bowl season, minus the sideshows and off-field distractions. The Eagles don't have a dominating ground game, but running back Brian Westbrook is dangerous out of the backfield as both a rusher and receiver. He had 132 combined yards from scrimmage last week, and the Giants defense will need to find a way to keep him contained.

KEY TO THE GAME The Giants need to pressure McNabb and chase him out of the pocket. When he is on the run, his mechanics suffer and he ends up throwing a lot of low passes. If McNabb is allowed time to throw, his strong arm and soft touch will let him pick apart any team's secondary. One way to keep this from happening is to get linebacker LaVar Arrington more involved in the pass rush. That's his greatest strength, but last week he spent most of his time dropping into coverage.

Lahman's Pick: Giants 21-17

PATRIOTS (1-0) AT JETS (1-0)
(Sunday, 4:15 p.m.,CBS)

WHEN THE JETS HAVE THE BALL

Any questions about the health of quarterback Chad Pennington were dispelled last week. He was named the AFC's Offensive Player of the Week, but more importantly, gave Jets fans reason to think that the road back to the playoffs might not take so long. The revamped offensive line allowed only two sacks on 35 pass plays against the Titans. That's not a great performance, but with two rookies among the five starters, it could have easily been worse. The bigger problem is the lack of a running game, and until that changes, any talk about the playoffs is mere fantasy. Derrick Blaylock managed just 36 yards on 19 carries an anemic 1.9 average. Kevan Barlow wasn't much better (11 for 35). The Patriots 34 defense is very tough up front, anchored by two future Hall of Famers in DE Richard Seymour and inside linebacker Junior Seau.

WHEN THE PATRIOTS HAVE THE BALL

The Patriots just have so many ways that they can beat you. It's not enough that they have quarterback Tom Brady, who is blessed near-perfect mechanics, uncanny field vision, and the remarkable ability to stay calm under pressure. Now it looks as if they may have a dominating ground game. Last week we saw the emergence of rookie running back Laurence Maroney, a first round pick from the University of Minnesota who rushed for 86 yards against Buffalo. He shared the carries with veteran Corey Dillon, who added another 73 yards on the ground. If the Patriots can keep both runners fresh by rotating them in and out of the lineup that takes the pressure off of Brady and a depleted receiving corps.

The Jets didn't allow a run over nine yards last week, suggesting that their run defense has improved. They also sacked Kerry Collins twice and forced three interceptions. Gang Green needs to remain aggressive and try to force mistakes against a New England team that doesn't make them very often.

KEY TO THE GAME The Jets need to find a running game, or this game will get out of hand quickly. This New England defense is much more talented and knows Pennington all too well. They'll try to confuse him with different looks and lots of blitzes. Some tough inside running would help put the Patriots defenders back on their heels and force them to take the bullseye off Pennington's chest. Barlow is an explosive inside and outside runner who has been cramming to learn the playbook since being acquired in an August 20 trade with San Francisco. It's time to turn him loose and see what he can do.

Lahman's Pick: Patriots 24-14

September 15, 2006 Edition > Section: Sports > Printer-Friendly Version

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