The Giants (0-3) head to Kansas City to battle the Chiefs (3-0) with many questions yet to be answered through the first three games.
At the top are questions about the team’s collective psyche, its toughness and pride and whether the offense can stop turning over the ball.
Three things to watch for ...
1. Balance of power
The Chiefs have one of the most balanced offenses in the league (90 run plays and 105 passes), so the Giants need to take away one aspect. Defensive end Justin Tuck said after watching a few days of film on them, the task is daunting but not impossible.
“I see a team that’s playing good together in all three phases. They’re not turning the football over and they take what the defense is giving them,” said Tuck.
Tuck also praised the caretaker of the Kansas City offense, quarterback Alex Smith, for not making mistakes. He’s yet to throw an interception or even fumble — something that plagued him in his early years. He also praised the talents of running back Jamaal Charles.
“They give [Charles] the ball a lot [and] I think he’s the leading receiver, too. He’s a guy that’s going to be on the field every play and he’s one of those backs where there’s only a few of them,” said Tuck. “Every time he touches the ball they can hit you [for a touchdown]. We’ve just got to make sure that we try to corral him a little bit. Their running game is something special. Charles is the real deal. And then you add in Alex [Smith]. He’s doing a great job of getting out of a lot of stuff and running the ball, too.”
2. Can Eli Manning survive another ruthless pass rush?
Manning was battered for seven sacks last week in Carolina, and that front seven is nowhere near as good as Kansas City, which leads the league with 15 sacks. Right guard Chris Snee (hip) and center David Baas (neck) will not play, and if veteran right tackle David Diehl (thumb) isn’t ready to go as well, the offensive line could be very inexperienced — including rookie Justin Pugh and lightly-used veterans like James Brewer, Jim Cordle and Brandon Mosley.
Running back Brandon Jacobs thinks the best way to keep Manning clean is to impose a power running game and aggressively pick up the rushers on passing downs.
“You could always be more physical, there’s no question about it. I think up front we need to get back to knocking folks off the ball,” Jacobs said. “Running backs can get up there and hit blitzers in their face and things like that.”
Jacobs is definitely right about the anemic rushing attack. Through three games, the Giants have gained just 133 yards rushing. They’ve attempted 49 runs and have a 2.7 yards per carry average to show for it.
Jacobs said he’s confident the running backs and offensive line will do their parts to complement Manning.
“I think we have a good line, no question about it. We have some talented guys up there, young guys up there. We have good backs [and] we have a mastermind behind it all [in Manning],” Jacobs said. “We have to put forth our best foot forward and run with it. It’s not going to be easy but we can’t lie down and run from the challenge. We have to answer the challenge and meet it halfway.”
3. Can the Giants hold onto the ball?
As good a talent as Manning is, he needs to do his part and stop turning over the ball.
“I think we have to make sure we’re holding onto the football. We can’t turn the ball over, especially against this team, because they do a good job of getting turnovers,” Manning said. “Their offense doesn’t turn the ball over and is efficient, so we have to make sure we have the same attitude. We have to be smart and when we have our chances to make plays, we have to make them. They do a good job of getting pressure and creating some bad plays for the offense, so we have to make sure those bad plays aren’t turned into turnovers and real mistakes.”
Baas never carries the ball, but even he knows Big Blue can’t afford to leave the ball on the Arrowhead Stadium turf.
“First, you can’t turn the ball over. It doesn’t help our defense [and] it doesn’t help our team, so that’s the biggest thing. We just have to do things better and we will,” Baas said, agreeing with Jacobs that a ball control, running game plan may be the best option. “When we’re throwing the ball so much, you have a greater chance of throwing a pick or something like that. It’s definitely something that you sit there and think that we can all help each other out and have the type of offense that we want. We know that we can have it ... and obviously not dig ourselves in the hole.”
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.