What: Battle for the lead in the NFC
When: Sunday, November 27th, 1 p.m. (PST)
Where: Qwest Field, Seattle, Washington
Weather: 42 degrees, Rain Showers
Giants Key Players:
QB Eli Manning: Manning has played well during his first full season as a starter and he is third in the NFL with 18 touchdown passes. Recently, teams have begun to figure Manning out a little, dropping linebackers and safeties into short zones and it has caused the second-year signal-caller problems. For the season, Manning has completed only 52.1% of his passes for 2320 yards, the 18 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He's a good leader, reads defenses well and has a good, not great, arm. What he lacks is experience and mobility. If teams get pressure on him, he tends to be high with his passes and he bails out early on routes that have a chance to develop. He has the ability to be a great quarterback, but the fact that he is only in his second season is something teams will take advantage of down the stretch.
RB Tiki Barber: Long known to have a fumbling problem, Barber has overcome his struggles hanging onto the ball and it has resulted in his most productive seasons as a back in the league. This season, Barber has racked up 967 yards (good for 4th overall in the NFL) and six touchdowns. For as dangerous as he is as a runner, he may be even better as a receiver. He's added 26 catches, 285 yards and one touchdown to his offensive production. The Giants like to use him on quick hitting plays off tackle, but he is excellent between the tackles as well.
WR Plaxico Burress: When the Giants acquired Burress' services this past offseason, many were hesitant to call it a good move. Those who thought it wouldn't pay off couldn't have been more wrong. Burress and Manning have been a big-play combination all season and Burress is on pace to have the best season of his six-year career. His 54 receptions rank 12th in the NFL, his 819 yards ranks eighth and his six touchdowns are tied for sixth. He is a big target (6-5, 235) who is strong, deceptively fast and has good hands.
DE Michael Strahan: Strahan slimmed down over the offseason and there were concerns he wouldn't be the same player he has been over the course of his record-setting 13-year career. Wrong. He's been outstanding this season, holding up well against the run while also continuing to get pressure on the quarterback. His 7.5 sacks are tied for seventh in the league and his 50 tackles are third on the Giants. He has a strong rip-move when rushing the passer, but he also has enough speed to get the edge on a tackle when needed.
LB Antonio Pierce: Pierce has been a godsend for the Giants defense. He's strong against the run, but he may be even better against the pass. His 84 tackles leads New York and his two interceptions and nine pass breakups are tied for the lead on the team. Pierce is smart, athletic and firey. He is the emotional leader of the Giant stop-unit and he backs up his words with excellent play.
Strahan vs. Seahawks RT Sean Locklear: Locklear continues to impress with his solid play opposite Pro Bowler Walter Jones. There are whispers around the league that Locklear is garnering some Pro Bowl votes from players he's gone up against. Locklear must contain the ever-dangerous Strahan for the Seahawks offense to be effective. If FB Mack Strong or any of the tight ends have to stay in the help the second-year tackle, QB Matt Hasselbeck will have one less option available to attack the Giants' zones.
Seahawks LB Lofa Tatupu vs. Barber: Because he isn't a spectacular performer, Tatupu isn't getting the rookie-of-the-year recognition he well deserves, but offensive coordinators area already game-planning for the football-savvy rookie from USC. Barber is super-strong, very quick in his cuts and has good vision. The Giants like to use Barber on screens and he's adept at setting up his blockers in the open field allowing to get big gains through the air and on the ground. Tatupu will have his hands full trying to keep Barber from gaining big chunks of yardage against the Seahawks offense.
Seahawks RB Shaun Alexander vs. Pierce: Alexander leads the entire NFL with 1,229 yards and 19 touchdowns. Pierce, as stated above, is solid against the run and pass. He causes problems with his athleticism because linemen are unable to get a good angle on him to block. Alexander must get his yardage challenging Pierce so that Hasselbeck can use play-action to hold the playmaker in the middle of the Giants defense.
Burress vs. Seahawks CB Marcus Trufant: Because Burress has been more of a downfield threat this season, he has been tough to defend. He drives corners deep, breaks off his route and then uses his big body to shield the defender on intermediate and short routes or he can just flat fly by a corner. Trufant continues to struggle when the ball is in the air and while he is strong, he can be out-muscled by bigger wideouts. If Trufant, who will be helped out by safeties Marquand Manuel and Michael Boulware, can hold his own and keep Burress from getting the big play, the Hawks should do well against the Giants passing game.
News and Notes: Giants have won all three of their games vs. the NFC West this season; Manning has a touchdown pass in 11 consecutive games, longest in the league; Barber needs 33 yards to notch his fifth 1,000-yard rushing season and would tie Rodney Hampton for the most in franchise history; Giants P Jeff Feagles has played in 282 games during his career and will pass Jim Marshall for most all-time in league history; Seahawks lead NFL gaining 6.1 yards per play and 5.1 yards per rush; Alexander needs one touchdown for 20 this season and would become only the fourth player in NFL history to do that in consecutive seasons; Hasselbeck is 17-3 as a starter at home and has thrown 29 touchdowns vs. 13 interceptions; Giants lead series 7-3 and have won four of last five.
OUT: WR Darrell Jackson (knee); S John Howell (hamstring); LB Jamie Sharper (knee)
QUESTIONABLE: DT Marcus Tubbs (calf)
PROBABLE: DE Bryce Fisher (knee); LB D.D. Lewis (knee)
OUT: DT William Joseph (elbow); CB William Peterson (back)
DOUBTFUL: LB Reggie Torbor (hernia); S Shaun Williams (hamstring)
QUESTIONABLE: CB Curtis Deloatch (illness); C Sean O'Hara (ankle); T Luke Petitgout (knee); TE Jeremy Shockey (chest)
Prediction: Seahawks 31 – Giants 27
Scott Eklund writes and reports for Seahawks.NET and Dawgman.com. Feel free to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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