THE SCOUTING REPORT: Tennessee Titans vs. Giants
WHAT: Tennessee Titans (1-1) vs. Giants (1-1).
WHEN: Sunday, 1 p.m. at the New Meadowlands Stadium.
SERIES RECORD: The Giants lead the series 5-4, but have lost the last four meetings, including one when they were still the Houston Oilers. They have never met in the postseason.
LAST MEETING: The teams last met Nov. 26, 2006 in a game that was infamous for Mathias Kiwanuka's rookie gaffe. In the midst of the Titans' 21-point comeback in the fourth quarter, Kiwanuka had quarterback Vince Young on the way down for a sack on fourth-and-10 that would have effectively ended the game. Instead, thinking that Young had let the ball go and fearing a roughing call, Kiwanuka released his grasp, allowing Young to scamper for a 19-yard gain. That drive ended in a Brandon Jones touchdown catch to tie the game, and Rob Bironas eventually kicked a field goal to give the Titans a 24-21 win.
INJURIES: Giants – T Will Beatty (knee), LB Phillip Dillard (hamstring) and S Michael Johnson (back) are out. C Shaun O'Hara (Achilles and ankle) is doubtful. LB Chase Blackburn (knee) and DE Justin Tuck (shoulder) are questionable. CB Aaron Ross (foot), WR Mario Manningham (illness) and TE Kevin Boss (concussion) are probable.
WHY THE GIANTS WILL WIN: David Diehl said there's no way he's every going to have as bad a day again as the one he had against Dwight Freeney last week. You have to believe him, simply because things could not have gone worse. So one might assume from that Eli Manning will be better protected from Jason Babin, one of the more underrated pass rushers in the league. The line has had problems with the early-game run-blocking, so there has been a commitment this week to come out on the snap better. Having TE Kevin Boss back from a concussion will help, as he is an adequate in-line blocker. And presumed center Adam Koets, in while O'Hara nurses his left Achilles and ankle, could present a fresh and unfamiliar blocking element against the league's No. 1-ranked defense overall. The Giants will need to spring Ahmad Bradshaw for critical yardage to open up the passing game against the league's No. 1-rank pass defense. If that happens, Manning will probably look to avoid good-looking cornerback Jason McCourty and work the other side against Cortland Finnegan. Hakeem Nicks could figure big in this one, as he's looking to become a factor from early on, something that didn't happen last week. If Chase Blackburn returns, it should help the coverage teams. Matt Dodge didn't have a poor game against the Colts, but he'll need to improve even more to force Vince Young into some long drives where he'll likely make some mistakes.
WHY THE GIANTS WILL LOSE: The Steelers laid out the perfect blueprint for beating super running back Chris Johnson. Knock the heck out of him. The punishment and tackling broke his string of 12 straight 100-yard games last week, the second longest streak behind Barry Sanders' 16. But it's questionable whether the Giants linebackers and defensive front are capable of playing that game. Tuck is already having problems with his surgically-repaired shoulder, and and the linebackers are not of the ultra-physical type. Johnson (43 carries, 176 yards) is a north-south runner who also has the speed to get outside, so if he gets going early he'll simply build on that momentum. Stopping him can be a dizzying task, and the Giants cannot afford to have their sometimes suspect tackling technique turn shoddy. On top of Johnson, there is the mobility of Young. As he did in the ‘06 game, he can break the pocket and go for big gains. Michael Boley and Keith Bulluck will have to play a disciplined game on the outside, while Osi Umenyiora, Tuck, and Kiwanuka will have to make sure not to penetrate too far and open up a running lane on the pass rush. Jeff Fisher can always counter their defense of Young by inserting old pro Kerry Collins, who can easily get the deep ball to Nate Witherspoon (seven catches, 122 yards, two TDs) and Justin Gage. TE Bo Scaife (6-57-1) is a solid pass-catcher who can block.
PREDICTION: Johnson wants to get back on the 100-yard track in the worst way, and he may do so. The big thing with him is to keep him away from the big run. The Giants will figure that out. When that happens, Young will go to the air. Don't be surprised if the Giants pick him off a couple of times. If they can take advantage of his turnovers, they'll win this one 27-21.