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Giants vs. Titans: 3 storylines to keep tabs on

Jason Pierre-Paul needs to get after Zach Mettenberger for the Giants to succeed thisGetty Images

The Giants enter this weekend dealing with a 2014 rarity -- actually being the better team, on paper, in a matchup.

As they prepare for the 2-10 Titans, the 3-9 Giants still aren't going into Tennessee as an overwhelming favorite. New York has holes everywhere and is trying to overcome debilitating injuries at numerous positions.

How they deal with the loss of starters and key contributors will be a major factor in seeing if they can get that winning feeling back again -- an emotion that has avoided them since Oct. 5.

Metro takes a look at three key storylines to watch as Big Blue tries to end a season-worst seven-game losing streak.

1. Zach attack

Week 14 will be another encounter in which the Giants get to face a rookie quarterback who flashes potential, but is prone to turnovers. Tennessee signal caller Zach Mettenberger is reeling from a sprained AC joint in his right (throwing) shoulder, but said that he is "definitely playing." Despite being a rookie and being known to forcing throws (six picks in six games), Mettenberger is also a legitimate deep-threat passer with a big arm. He's currently ranked fourth in the NFL in percentage of attempted passes over 15 yards (25.8 percent of his 155 attempts), which shows he's willing to stretch opposing defenses. Conversely, that also means that the burgeoning passer is sometimes vulnerable to the big turnover. Whichever version of the gunslinger shows up will go a long way in determining the outcome.

2. Eli ain't the worst

Mettenberger's counterpart, Eli Manning, has actually had a very solid comeback campaign compared to last season. All of the critics want to focus his shortcomings -- particularly last week's second half in Jacksonville where he was a big reason for the offense's mishaps. But looking deeper into the Giants' situation, a lot the offense's struggles could be attributed to injuries along the offensive line, at wide receiver and at running back. Manning has been forced to carry the offense for most of the season, but his 22:12 touchdown-to-interception rate and 63.2-percent completion mark are actually closer to the league's upper echelon than with the dregs. Simply put, the Giants could do a lot worse at the quarterback position this season, so look for Manning to have a bounce-back game against a Titans defense that ranks 30th overall and 25th against the pass.

3. Rely on JPP

New York's defensive front four used to be among the most-feared outfits in the league. But it's been a long time since guys like Michael Strahan, Justin Tuck, and Osi Umenyiora harassed opposing passers. Big Blue still has at least one star who can get after the quarterback, defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, but he's the only Giants defensive lineman to rank in the top-50 of player efficiency, according to Advanced Football Analytics. Pierre-Paul trails only All-Pro end J.J. Watt in player efficiency, as he's registered 35 tackles, six sacks, six passes defensed, a forced fumble, and eight tackles for a loss. While he's not the preeminent playmaker that many thought he'd be following his second season, Pierre-Paul could still be a major factor in disrupting the Titans' 29th-rankedoffense (27th in passing), and in helping the Giants get back that winning feeling.

 
 
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