Despite being in a playoff race, the Giants are not lookng past Sunday's matchup with the Bears:
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Funny, the Giants weren't getting these kinds of questions early in the season.
Back before the first kickoff, the NFL public and media wasn't sure what to make of a Giants team that had a new head coach and was coming off three consecutive losing seasons. It's likely a 6-3 record would not have been their first guess had they been asked where the Giants would be at this juncture. But a 4-game winning streak has put the Giants in second place in the NFC East, trailing only Dallas, which has a conference-best 8-1 record.
The narrative is now different. Many of those former skeptics now expect the Giants to win. The team's meeting against the 2-7 Chicago Bears Sunday in MetLife Stadium has been labeled by many as a trap game, one the Giants can't look past with teams that are purported to be more formidable on the horizon. The presumption is the Giants need only put on their uniforms and run onto the field to defeat a rival they've been playing for 91 years.
Rest assured, the Giants aren't buying any of it.
"There's no such a thing as a trap game," coach Ben McAdoo said this week. "We have to be ready to play each and every week in this league. Especially this week, coming off of an emotional game on Monday night (when they beat the Cincinnati Bengals, 21-20). We have to make sure we're dialed in."
"We have both been on that side of the stick, so we can't take them lightly," defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul said. "Coach McAdoo has been preaching that all week. We had a game Monday night, had a quick turnaround, but we can't take them lightly. They are going to come in here and they are going to give us all that they have got."
The Bears, coached by former Giants defensive coordinator John Fox, have struggled much of the season, but the Giants see potential danger lurking in many areas. For example, Chicago has lost four of its last five games – but the one victory was against the Minnesota Vikings, who beat the Giants by two touchdowns last month. Their other triumph was against the Detroit Lions, who, like the Vikings, are 5-4.
The Giants are understandably pleased they've improved their defensive ranking from 32nd in the NFL last year to 16th currently (allowing 359.3 yards a game). Well, Chicago is 11th, giving up an average of 341.2 yards per contest. The Bears' 24 sacks are 10 more than the Giants' total. And though Chicago has had quarterback issues this year – they've used three of them, and starter Jay Cutler missed five games with a thumb injury – they're averaging about six more yards a game than the Giants.
Yes, the Bears will be missing Alshon Jeffery, their most productive wide receiver, who will serve the first of a four-game NFL suspension. But their leading receiver is actually tight end Zach Miller, a favorite target of Cutler's. Rookie running back Jordan Howard rushed for at least 100 yards four times in the previous six games, and has 605 yards overall and a 5.3-yard average – despite having 12 total carries in the first three games.
"They're one of the top teams in the NFL in explosive plays (21 passes of 20 or more yards, 26 runs of 10 or more yards)," defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said. "That running back is as good as I've seen all year. Jay Cutler is a good quarterback. Every offense we play, you're going to hear me say it's a scary offense. They're NFL players. They can do anything. We back off that much, we will have a problem. We're not going to do that."
The Bears' 3-4 defense is staffed with a formidable front seven that was strengthened by free agent veterans Jerrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan and first-round draft choice Leonard Floyd. The secondary starts three talented second-year pros in cornerback Bryce Callahan and safeties Adrian Amos and Harold Jones-Quartey, and has a steady veteran in corner Tracy Porter.
There's more than enough talent on the roster to prevent the Giants from slipping into any trap.
"You watch the film, they're better than their record," McAdoo said. "You can take their record and you can throw it out that window over there. It doesn't matter. You have to prepare for what you see on film. They're a dangerous offense and their defense is pretty dang good."
"We have to go about our business," quarterback Eli Manning said. "I have to make sure I'm doing my part and getting myself prepared. Getting everyone prepared for what might occur, and make sure we're all on the same page. You learn quickly in this league, if you don't prepare for the upcoming game, you're going to get embarrassed. I don't look at records. I look at Chicago's defense and I see a good defense. I see a good defensive line, good players, good scheme. They're going to have a good defensive scheme and we have to be prepared for it."
The Giants respect the Bears, but their focus, as it is every week, is on their own play and their quest for constant improvement.
"We're working to be a better team this week than we were last week," McAdoo said. "We want to be better in November, obviously, than we were in October. This week, especially coming off of a primetime game in a short week, we needed to dial in yesterday and Wednesday. We did a nice job of it. We were dialed in (yesterday) and (today) s really going to be a big day for us. It's the second day of practice this week. It's important for us to be dialed in a little bit better and find a way for us to win on Sunday."
Keep an eye on these five players as the Giants face the Bears on Sunday