September 22, 2006 Edition > Section: Sports > Printer-Friendly Version

Jets, Giants Travel to Unfriendly Confines
Football

BY SEAN LAHMAN
September 22, 2006
URL: http://www.nysun.com/article/40155

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

With last week's dramatic win, quarterback Eli Manning refuted all of the critics who said he lacked the big-game ability necessary to make him an elite quarterback. He has no time to rest on his laurels, as the Giants head to Seattle to face the defending NFC champions. It's a rematch of a game from last November's game, which the Seahawks won in overtime.

The Jets head to Buffalo to face Willis McGahee and the Bills. The two teams enter the weekend tied for second place in the AFC East. It's a matchup that should reveal which if either of these teams has progressed far enough to be considered a playoff contender.

GIANTS (1-1) AT SEAHAWKS (2-0)
(Sunday, 4:15 p.m., FOX)

WHEN THE GIANTS HAVE THE BALL

The Giants come into this game with the league's third ranked offense, having found success both on the ground and through the air.They'll face a stingy defense in Seattle, one that has allowed just 16 points in their first two victories. The Seahawks led the NFL in sacks a year ago and are holding opponents to 52 rushing yards a game this season. Their secondary was vulnerable last year, but they've improved as a group, and the return of injured free safety Ken Hamlin provided a big boost.

Last week's thrilling comeback gives the Giants offense momentum and confidence. With 12 catches against the Eagles, wide receiver Amani Toomer now leads the league in receptions and is showing that the Giants still have a playmaking option when opposing defenses neutralize Plaxico Burress and Jeremy Shockey. What makes the Giants such strong contenders is that they have so many ways they can beat you.

WHEN THE SEAHAWKS HAVE THE BALL

Running back Shaun Alexander skipped practice this week with a sore foot, but he is expected to play Sunday. The NFL's reigning Most Valuable Player led the league with 1,880 rushing yards last year and tied the single season record with 27 rushing touchdowns. Seattle's offense relies on that dominating ground game, but Alexander's injuries and the struggles of the offensive line have kept the offense in check so far. The loss of guard Steve Hutchinson in free agency and preseason injuries to three starters have resulted in a group of linemen that are out of sync. Against weak opponents in Detroit and Arizona, the Seahawks have been held to just 30 points.

The Giants have managed just two sacks this season, and their inability to generate more pressure is the main reason they rank 31st in passing yards, allowed. In the long run, the Seahawks passing game will be helped with the addition of wide receiver Deion Branch, acquired late last week in a trade with the Patriots. However, with only a week to get acclimated, he's not likely to have much impact this weekend.

KEY TO THE GAME

The Seahawks' defense looked impressive in wins against the Lions and Cardinals, but neither team is in the same class as the Giants. The Giants should challenge Seattle's secondary early, using their passing game to set the tempo.Alexander gives the Seahawks an edge in a battle over ball control and field position.The best way to neutralize him is to put points on the board.

Lahman's Pick: Giants 2417

JETS (1-1) AT BILLS (1-1)
(Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS)

WHEN THE JETS HAVE THE BALL

Receiver Laveranues Coles leads the league in receiving yards, but he missed Wednesday's practice with a calf injury and is listed as questionable for Sunday's game.That creates a huge concern for the Jets' passing game. Quarterback Chad Pennington has thrown for more than 300 yards in each of the Jets' two games, and he needs Coles to remain productive to keep the offense afloat.

The Jets' running game has been horrid, and it's more than a little surprising that second-year back Cedric Houston has been inactive the last two weeks. Kevan Barlow has been a disappointment thus far, and Derrick Blaylock appears to be incapable of more than a part-time role. Houston lacks their elusive speed, but he could be effective as an inside runner because of his size and strength. Things probably couldn't be any worse with Houston getting the carries than they are now.

Buffalo leads the AFC with 10 sacks, and the new Tampa-style cover-2 defense of coordinator Perry Fewell has allowed just two touchdowns in the first two games. Injuries have ravaged the Bills' secondary, forcing them to start rookies at both safety positions last week.

WHEN THE BILLS HAVE THE BALL

The Bills offense is the mirror opposite of the Jets offense. With Willis McGahee, they're running the ball well.The passing game, on the other hand, is a disaster. Quarterback J.P. Losman has averaged just 123 passing yards a game, mostly because the Buffalo coaching staff has kept the ball out of his hands. He attempted just 18 passes last week while McGahee and backup Anthony Thomas combined for 30 carries. They'll try to control the clock by keeping the ball on the ground and fighting for field position.

Run defense is not the Jets' strength. Patriots backs Corey Dillon and Laurence Maroney combined for 145 yards on the ground last week. If the Jets can't do a better job in Buffalo, they have no hopes of winning.

KEY TO THE GAME

Run the ball and stop the run. It's a simple formula for success, but the Jets haven't been able to do either well this year. In his last three meetings with the Jets, McGahee has averaged 129.3 yards a game. If the Jets can't find a way to dramatically reduce that number, the Bills will steamroll them.

Lahman's Pick: Bills 2110

September 22, 2006 Edition > Section: Sports > Printer-Friendly Version

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