THE SCOUTING REPORT
WHAT: Giants (2-2) vs. Houston Texans (3-1)
WHEN: Sunday, 1 p.m. at Reliant Stadium, Houston, Tx.
SERIES RECORD: This is only the third time the franchises have faced each other. They split the two previous meetings.
LAST MEETING: Nov. 5, 2006. The Giants won 14-10 as Eli Manning hit Jeremy Shockey with a 3-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter for the decisive tally. Tiki Barber scored the decisive touchdown on a 16-yard run.
INJURIES: Giants – DE Mathias Kiwanuka (neck), FB Madison Hedgecock (hamstring), LB Keith Bulluck (toe), C Shaun O'Hara (Achilles/ankle) and T Will Beatty (foot) are out. RB Ahmad Bradshaw (ankle), S Kenny Phillips (knee), and CB Terrell Thomas (hamstring) are questionable. DE Osi Umenyiora (knee) and C Adam Koets (knee) are probable.
Texans – WR Jacoby Jones (calf) is doubtful. WR Andre Johnson (ankle), RB Derrick Ward (ribs) and DE Mario Williams (groin) are questionable. S Dominque Barber (ribs), TE Owen Daniels (hamstring), DE Jesse Nading (knee), S Bernard Pollard (neck), LB Daryla Sharpton (ankle) and S Eugene Wilson (hamstring) are probable.
WHY THE GIANTS WILL WIN: The Giants got plenty of juice out of last week's pounding of the Bears, especially on the defensive side of the ball. That will have to carry over this week as they face a zone-blocking team that creates creases and cutback lanes for super second-year running back Arian Foster. There's no doubt first-round rookie Jason Pierre-Paul will step up as he assumes a bigger role in the DE rotation in the absence of Mathias Kiwanuka, and the Giants will need him to put pressure on Matt Schaub so the ball never gets in the air to super receiver Andre Johnson or Kevin Walter. Osi Umenyiora had three sacks last week against a replacement left tackle, and will now face another replacement in Rashad Butler, subbing while Duane Brown serves out a suspension. The Texans line allowed 11 sacks in the first three games before it held Oakland sackless last week, so obviously Schaub is reachable. The Giants will play a lot of nickel as they look to double-team Johnson. But it'll have to be a hard-nosed coverage because Foster, powerful as well as elusive, can catch passes out of the backfield, too. This one could definitely be decided on field position, so the improving – granted, by baby steps – Matt Dodge will have to have a quality day.
WHY THE GIANTS WILL LOSE: They won't be able to play a lot of big nickel stuff unless Kenny Phillips makes it back from a sprained MCL. Losing him would mean a minimum of the three-safety alignment, which would certainly help against the 500-yard rusher Foster. Though MLB Jonathan Goff has looked good and seems to have progressed, Foster is a different animal than the rest of the running backs he's faced. And he hasn't played as much as he'll play in this one, as he's come off for the extra defensive back. The real worry, however, is on the strongside, where underachieving Clint Sintim will get a lot of time in place of the injured Bulluck. He's a pass rusher, but he has shown little evidence of run-stopping ability. If the Texans start running at him, they may never stop. And if that pass rush doesn't get to the mobile Schaub, he could cut up the secondary. His receivers are great at knowing where the sticks are, and he'll throw on any down, including first. The best way to stop all of that is to control the clock, but that could be tough as Ahmad Bradshaw comes off an ankle injury. Still, the Texans sport the worst-ranked pass defense in the league, so Steve Smith (22 catches, 211 yards), Hakeem Nicks (21-279-4) and Mario Manningham (14-238-1) need to secure everything thrown their way and not create the senseless turnover. That hasn't happened so far. David Diehl gets the NFL's top sacker in Mario Williams (five sacks), who can outmuscle him. Diehl will probably get some help from TE/FB Bear Pascoe, but it remains to be seen if the kid can do the blocking job out of the backfield.
PREDICTION: The last team the Giants faced with this kind of balance, Indianapolis, cut them to pieces. Call these Texans a poor man's Colts, only with an even more dangerous ground game. Still, the Giants are feeling pretty good about themselves after last week, and there could be an emotional carryover. They'll keep Foster out of the end zone, and the offense will do just enough. Giants 21-17.