The Giants have their backs against the wall in Baltimore as they face a critical game against the Ravens.
New York is currently tied at 8-6 in the NFC East with the Redskins and Cowboys. The bad news is the Skins hold the tiebreaker. The good news is the Giants are guaranteed a wild-card spot if they win their final two games.
Three things to watch for ...
1. Where is Ray Rice?
The Ravens fired offensive coordinator Cam Cameron two weeks ago and turned over the reins to Jim Caldwell, who had never held a job in that capacity. It showed in Caldwell’s first game as coordinator last week, as he didn’t feature star running back Ray Rice in a blowout loss to the Denver Broncos. Will the Ravens finally wise up and attack the Giants’ mediocre run defense? Or will he let Big Blue off the hook? The former strategy should definitely be applied. Should Caldwell turn Rice loose, it could mean trouble for the Giants since the former Rutgers star is sixth in the league with 104.1 yards from scrimmage per game -- totaling 1,031 rushing yards and 427 receiving yards on 55 receptions.
2. Which special teams maven will have the better game?
The Ravens have arguably the most dangerous kickoff return man in the league in Jacoby Jones, as he leads the NFL in average yards per kickoff return (32.5) and has two return touchdowns of 105 yards and 108 yards. The Giants can counter Jones’s excellence with rookie running back David Wilson, who’s come into his own as a kickoff returner. Wilson made a name for himself in Week 14 when he had a team-record 227 return yards, which included a 97-yard jaunt. Both return specialists won’t need to reach the end zone to have an impact, but with their respective track-star speed, they each have the capability to be the difference for their respective teams.
3. Can the Giants’ pass rush get to Joe Flacco?
The 6-foot-5 Joe Flacco is the quintessential pocket passer, and the perfect elixir for a Giants pass rush that hasn’t put fear in any quarterbacks lately. Big Blue didn’t get to Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan in last week’s 34-0 blowout loss, and the previous week only got to Saints quarterback Drew Brees once in a 52-27 win. None of the above passers are known to be fleet of foot, so something is definitely wrong with New York’s once-vaunted attack. Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul has only 6.5 sacks to lead the team. It’ll be up to the front four to apply the pressure, so defensive coordinator Perry Fewell can drop seven men in coverage to make up for a banged-up secondary.
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.