THE SCOUTING REPORT
WHAT: Jacksonville Jaguars (6-4) vs. Giants (6-4)
WHEN: Today, 1 p.m. at The New Meadowlands Stadium.
SERIES RECORD: The teams have split four meetings. This game represents a meeting between the Jaguars' only two coaches in their history, Tom Coughlin and Jack Del Rio.
LAST MEETING: Nov. 20, 2006. Eli Manning threw for 230 yards and two interceptions in the 26-10 loss in Jacksonville. The Giants' only scores came on a field goal by Jay Feely and a 25-yard touchdown pass to Plaxico Burress.
INJURIES: Giants – OL David Diehl (hip and hamstring), C Shaun O'Hara (foot), WR Steve Smith (pec) and WR Hakeem Nicks (leg) are out. T Shawn Andrews (back) is doubtful. KR Will Blackmon (chest) is questionable. CB Aaron Ross (illness), DE Justin Tuck (quad), DE Osi Umenyiora (knee), and LB Gerris Wilkinson (hand) are probable.
Jaguars – T Eugene Monroe (head) is out. RB Maurice Jones-Drew (abdomen) and WR Mike Sims-Walker (ankle) are questionable. DT Tyson Alaulu (knee), S Sean Considine (thumb), LB Justin Durant (shoulder), DE Larry Hart (shoulder), and FB Greg Jones (ankle) are probable.
WHY THE GIANTS WILL WIN: As many key injuries as the Giants have, the Jaguars have their own problems, especially up front where starting T Eugene Monroe will be missing. That should leave some opportunities to get the pass rush cranked up again. DE Justin Tuck comes off a monster game in which he had three sacks, so the combination of him and Osi Umenyiora from the outside, and Barry Cofield in the middle should be able to pressure mobile quarterback David Garrard. The secondary, especially Terrell Thomas and Corey Webster, will also be in line for some interceptions, as last week's miracle win over Cleveland proved that Garrard, with three interceptions, is perfectly capable of making mistakes. The Jaguars turned the ball over six times against the Browns. The Giants switched their featured running back from Ahmad Bradshaw to Brandon Jacobs to try to solve their ball-security issues. But Jacobs will also add a power element to the ground game, which suffered its first sub-100-yard effort against Philadelphia last week. They'll need that as they try to power through the Jacksonville front seven. Look for a lot of two-tight end formations, with new wide receiver Michael Clayton blocking downfield. Eli Manning (231-of-352 for 2,595 yards with 21 touchdowns and 16 interceptions) needs to keep his throws to high percentage ones, using tight end Kevin Boss as a major target in place of any big-play receivers. Derek Hagan gets only his second career start as he steps in for Nicks, while Mario Manningham remains in the No. 1 spot for the injured Smith. Manning hasn't been sacked in three games, but he needs to take advantage of the time his blockers give him and make smart throws. The Giants must come out on fire, as they have backed themselves into a playoff corner. The season is about to fly out of control, and a win here would immediately return it to the right direction.
WHY THE GIANTS WILL LOSE: Whether Manning admits it or not, he's obviously feeling the pressure of dealing with a lack of offensive personnel. He was personally responsible for four turnovers last week, and few teams can win with that many mistakes. Besides, the Jaguars appear to be on a lucky streak of late, surviving six turnovers last week and winning on a seldom-successful desperation throw against Houston two weeks ago. Clearly, the Jags' three-game roll gives them the momentum, and teams with momentum tend to have good fortune. The Jags don't have much of a pass rush, accumulating just 20 sacks so far. But that could change with Will Beatty stepping in at left tackle for the beefy and experienced Shawn Andrews. Whatever pressure the Jags do generate comes from the middle, where DT Terrance Knighton leads with 4 1/2 sacks. When he stays away from interceptions, Garrard (17 TDs, 10 INTs) has turned into an effective passer. But he throws mainly high-percentage passes, leaving the bulk of the offense to a great ground game paced by Maurice Jones-Drew. His 878 yards with four touchdowns ranks him fourth among league rushers. Jones-Drew is tough to bring down, so the Giants will have to be sure tacklers. He can catch out of the backfield, too, and comes off a game where he set up the winning score off a 75-yard screen pass. Umenyiora hasn't had a sack in three games, so he's due.
PREDICTION: As much as one hates to use injuries as an excuse, they have beaten down the Giants' offense to near ineffectiveness. It's hard to believe they'll generate enough offense with fill-ins and new faces up front and at wide receiver. The defense will do its part in keeping the score low, but in the end the Jags win this one 17-14.