Keep an eye on these five players as the Giants take on the Titans Sunday
Here is what you need to know about Sunday's game between the Giants and Titans:
1. The thrill of victory. The New York Giants (5-8) host the Tennessee Titans (7-6) on Sunday at MetLife Stadium. The Giants' 24-point margin of victory last week vs. Washington was their largest since a 36-7 triumph on Dec. 7, 2014, against the Titans. Tennessee, meanwhile, is coming off its own lopsided victory over Jacksonville to continue its playoff push. While the Giants have much more work to do – both in and out of their control – the two teams with new head coaches can stay alive for a spot in the postseason with a win on Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
2. The agony of reading about it. The fact the Giants are still in the playoff hunt, albeit on the fringe, after their 1-7 start is a testament to coach Pat Shurmur and the players brought in by general manager Dave Gettleman. People had the Giants penciled in for the top pick in the draft at the bye week, but since then, the team has won four of the past five games.
"I just stay in the moment," Shurmur said of how he and his team have maintained their focus this season. "We've spoken, or I've answered that question a numerous amount of times. I don't google my name. Although you guys do a great job doing what you do, I don't listen to it, good or bad. You've heard me say it before, [Baseball Hall of Famer] Mike Schmidt, you remember what I said? 'The thrill of victory, the agony of reading about it.' You just stay away from that and you just stay the course, and I think that's the message to the players as well."
3. Odell to miss second game in a row. Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. has been ruled out for Sunday with a lingering quad injury. The three-time Pro Bowler was leg-whipped on the final play of the Giants' Week 12 game in Philadelphia. He played the following week in the team's overtime win against Chicago, a game in which he threw and caught a touchdown pass, but was limited leading up to the Washington game. On that Saturday, the Giants announced he had not made the trip with the team. Beckham did not participate in practice this week and underwent further evaluation outside of the Quest Diagnostics Training Center on Thursday.
4. Offense going off since Week 10. Wiatching on TV, Beckham saw the Giants race out to a 40-0 lead last week as Eli Manning threw touchdowns to three different receivers. The Giants have now scored 157 points since their bye week, the second-most in the NFL in that span. Manning has a 106.5 passer rating with 10 touchdowns to two interceptions in the past five weeks. He has also completed 11 passes of at least 25 yards.
5. Run it through 26. Keeping up with Saquon Barkley's achievements has been a full-time job this season, so here are two to whet your appetite: 1) Barkley, who scored on a 78-yard touchdown run last week, has five scrimmage touchdowns of at least 50 yards this season, the most by a rookie in a single season since Pro Football Hall of Famer Randy Moss (five touchdowns in 1998). Only Billy Howton of the 1952 Green Bay Packers had more such touchdowns as a rookie in a single season (six). 2) Barkley has 12 games with at least 100 scrimmage yards in 2018, tying Edgerrin James (12 games in 1999) for the second-most games with 100 scrimmage yards by a rookie in NFL history. Only Pro Football Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson (13 games in 1983) has more such games.
6. Oh, Henry. Titans running back Derrick Henry, the AFC Offensive Player of the Week, rushed for a franchise-record 238 yards in a 30-9 victory over the Jaguars in Week 14. He had four rushing touchdowns (tied with Earl Campbell and Lorenzo White, a former teammate of Shurmur's at Michigan State, for most in franchise history), including a 99-yarder that featured punishing stiff-arms. "He was just throwing guys off of him like it was high school," Barkley said.
7. Heisman pose. The Titans boast back-to-back Heisman Trophy winners in Henry and quarterback Marcus Mariota, who won it the year before the running back. Since he was drafted second overall in 2015, Mariota is fifth among quarterbacks in rushing yards (1,252) and rushing touchdowns (11), and has an 87-yarder on his NFL resume. He is completing 69.1 percent of his passes this season with 11 touchdowns to eight interceptions.
8. Clash of the Titans. Tennessee comes in with the No. 4 scoring defense in the NFL, largely due to shutting down opponents in the red zone. The Titans have allowed 16 touchdowns inside the 20-yard line, the fewest in the league. Three-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Jurrell Casey is the biggest disruptor for the unit. He has 7.0 sacks, 10 quarterback hits and 11 tackles for loss.
9. New Nashville. Tennessee's Mike Vrabel is the second of three new head coaches on the Giants' 2018 schedule. They defeated Matt Nagy's Bears in Week 13 and will face Frank Reich's Colts on the road in Week 16. The Titans take after their their Coach, a three-time Super Bowl champion linebacker who faced Manning three times in his playing career, including Super Bowl XLII with the Patriots, and once as a linebackers coach with the Texans in 2014. Vrabel's defensive coordinator is Dean Pees, a former linebackers coach and defensive coordinator for Bill Belichick in New England. Giants left tackle Nate Solder knows a thing about the Patriot Way that they are trying to instill in Nashville.
"Well, Dean Pees and Vrabel, they've got a lot of experience, lot of time under their belt," said Solder, who played in four Super Bowls with the Patriots and won two of them. "They understand how to win games, so they put up multiple fronts, they put up multiple blitz schemes, lot of stunts and blitzes and games and things up front. Then they got really good players, so you mix that combination of guys, it becomes a pretty salty defense.
10. You Bettcha. After recording just 11 sacks in their first 10 games, the Giants have racked up 13 in the past three weeks. Outside linebacker Olivier Vernon has ccounted for 3.5 in that span, notching 2.0 against Chicago and 1.5 in last week's victory in Washington. Meanwhile, the turnovers have also come in bunches for James Bettcher's defense, which kicked off last week's game with a pick-six from safety Curtis Riley. Linebacker Alec Ogletree has five interceptions this season, tying Jerry Hillebrand's record set in 1963 for most by a linebacker in franchise history.
Take a look at the projected starting lineup for this week's opponent.