Three keys for the Giants to come away with a "W" on Sunday :
Ben McAdoo started the week by addressing the elephant in the room: postseason contention.
At 8-3, the New York Giants take a six-game winning streak into the month of December, which begins with a road trip to face the Pittsburgh Steelers. It doesn't get any easier from there as the team then hosts two division leaders in the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions before finishing the season on the road against the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins. The final five opponents have a combined record of 34-20-1.
"We're going to have a week-to-week mentality," McAdoo said. "I think it's important to address the elephant in the room, so to speak. Everything gets cranked up a notch in December with everyone jockeying for position. We just need to make sure we play our best football moving forward."
With that in mind, here are three keys to victory for the Giants on Sunday:
WRAP UP, LIMIT BIG PLAYS
A Steeler currently leads the NFL in yards after catch, but it's not the one you're thinking. Running back Le'Veon Bell, not All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown, is first in that department with 491 yards, despite missing the first three games of the season while serving a suspension for violating the NFL Substance Abuse Policy. A former All-Pro himself, Bell has 1,136 yards from scrimmage this year: 699 yards and three touchdowns on 151 carries to go along with 437 yards and a score on 57 receptions. Brown, meanwhile, leads the league with 82 receptions for 998 yards and 10 touchdowns.
The Giants have climbed to a fifth-place tie in scoring defense (19.4 points per game allowed), but McAdoo said coming out of the Browns game that "we need to get back to tackling the way we're capable of." That also applies to taking down Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh's 6-foot-5, 240-pound quarterback. The Giants are tied for the league lead with 21 sacks during their six-game winning streak, but the two-time Super Bowl champion can frustrate defenses by extending plays.
"I've been watching that since I was a kid," said Landon Collins, who just became the first safety in franchise history to be named NFC Defensive Player of the Month. "I was always saying, 'How do you miss a sack on him?' Well, he's really strong and big. He's tough. If he keeps that arm loose like he always does, he always hits his guys no matter what."
WIN THE RED ZONE
Offensively and defensively, the Steelers are one of the best teams inside the 20-yard line. Their defense allows touchdowns on just 41.7 percent of opponents' drives in the red zone, the best mark in the NFL. Their offense, on the other hand, finds the end zone on 63.3 percent of its trips, good for seventh in the league. Meanwhile, the Giants are no slouches from close range. They are third in touchdown efficiency on defense (44.4 percent) and 13th on offense (60.7).
"They're playing at a high level right there," McAdoo said of the Steelers. "They're multiple, and again, their system is in the bricks. They have playmakers at each level of the defense and they have good veteran leadership and they have young guys who play competitive and play hungry."
PROTECT ELI, PROTECT THE DUKE
During the first five games of the season when the Giants started 2-3, Eli Manning was sacked nine times and threw five touchdowns to four interceptions. In their current six-game winning streak, Manning has been taken down just four times while throwing 15 touchdowns to six interceptions. That's no coincidence.
However, the Giants still rank in the bottom 10 on the season with a minus-five turnover differential, including a muffed punt by Bobby Rainey last week in Cleveland. Pittsburgh, on the other hand, is in the top 10 at plus-four.
"They show a lot of different looks up front," Manning said. "A lot of different linebackers and guys that can rush the passer. They blitz a number of different guys. They are very multiple and do a good job at disguising. They do a good job a lot of times only bringing four guys. Different guys and all their defensive ends and linebackers in their base defense. They can all play base defense. They do a good job with their blitz packages. We have to have great communication this week."