Everything you need to know about the Week 15 matchup between the New York Giants (2-11) and Miami Dolphins (3-10):
Eli starts again. For the second consecutive week, Eli Manning will start under center for the Giants. The veteran QB got off to a fast start against the Eagles Monday, completing 11 of 19 passes for 179 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. However, the offense couldn't get going in the second half, leading to Manning going just 4 of 11 for 24 yards in the final two quarters. While the end result was disappointing, Manning did move ahead of Ben Roethlisberger for 7th all-time in both passing touchdowns (364) and passing yards (56,740). The 38-year-old has an opportunity for a big game this Sunday going up against a Dolphins team that has allowed the second-most passing touchdowns in the NFL this season (31). Whether or not Sunday is Manning's last start in front of the home crowd, coach Pat Shurmur knows the two-time Super Bowl MVP won't be overwhelmed by the moment.
"Well, I think with Eli, he's going to stay in the moment and keep playing," Shurmur said. "He's going to play this game knowing there are two more left, and he may be the starter in the last two. He's done it his whole career, staying in the moment. My guess is he's going to do it that way this time."
Injury report. OUT: QB Daniel Jones (ankle), TE Evan Engram (foot), TE Rhett Ellison (concussion), G Kevin Zeitler (ankle/wrist).
Gates gets second start. Kevin Zeitler has been an iron man for the Giants this season, playing in every game while barely even missing a snap. But an ankle injury suffered Monday night will force the starting right guard to miss Sunday's contest, opening the door for Nick Gates to make his second start of the season. Gates started at right tackle in Week 10 against the Jets when Mike Remmers was unable to suit up and performed well. The 24-year-old lineman out of Nebraska will have another opportunity to showcase his skills against the Dolphins this Sunday.
Slayton's breakout continues. Darius Slayton had another breakout performance this past week. The rookie fifth-round pick caught five passes for 154 yards and two touchdowns against Philadelphia, marking his third multi-touchdown game of the season. Despite missing the first two games of the season, Slayton is tied for the lead among all rookies with seven receiving touchdowns and sits near the top of the rookie leaderboard in almost every other receiving category.
"I knew I wanted to come in and make an impact," Slayton said about his expectations for this season. "I knew I could come in and make an impact. I didn't really know how much I was going to be able to do that, but like I said, I've definitely been blessed. Daniel, Eli, having two really good quarterbacks to play with in my rookie season has definitely helped me out a lot."
Smith fills in for Engram. With Evan Engram set to miss his fifth consecutive game, Kaden Smith will again serve as the starting tight end. Over the last three weeks, Smith has caught 13 of 19 targets for 96 yards and a touchdown.
"He's done a good job each week getting better," offensive coordinator Mike Shula said. "He's still learning the offense. He knows the offense, he's a smart guy. But just all the kind of little adjustments that you make last minute or just coverage tweaks or things that the quarterbacks might be looking for. I think he's, from what we've seen, just going to continue to get better. He's proven that he can make some plays and catch the ball, make contested catches and hold onto it. Hopefully he'll stay on that trend."
Converting on third down. The Giants have struggled on third down this season. Through 13 games, they rank 21st with a conversion rate of 35.7% on third down. However, over the last three weeks, the Giants have gone just 8-for-38 on third down, a 21.1% success rate. The inability to pick up first downs played a significant factor in the loss to Philadelphia, as the Eagles were able to control the ball for about twice as long as the Giants. Miami is ranked 26th in third down defense (43.9%), and has allowed their last three opponents to go a total of 17-of-36 (47.2%) on third down.
Love taking full advantage of opportunity. It's been two and a half games since Julian Love replaced the injured Jabrill Peppers at safety, and the rookie has hown that he is up for the challenge. Love put together yet another strong performance against the Eagles, picking up six solo tackles and a tackle for loss. Over the last three weeks, the 21-year-old has recorded 14 tackles (11 solo), one tackle for loss, one pass defended, one interception and one forced fumble.
"He's got a real good feel," Shurmur said. "Some people have a feel for things and some people don't. He's one of those guys that has a feel for it."
Jenkins waived/injured. Following a controversial sequence of events, the Giants decided to move on from cornerback Janoris Jenkins Friday morning. Jenkins engaged in an inappropriate Twitter exchange with a fan on Wednesday.
"This was an organizational decision," Shurmur said Friday. "From ownership to management to our football operations, we felt it was in the best interests of the franchise and the player. Obviously, what happened this week, and the refusal to acknowledge the inappropriate and offensive language, was the determining factor."
Getting pressure on Fitzpatrick. The Dolphins enter Week 15 having allowed the most sacks in the league this season (51). With the Giants set to lean on its young group of defensive backs, including rookies DeAndre Baker, Corey Ballentine and Julian Love, along with first-year pro Sam Beal and second-year veteran Grant Haley, it will be crucial for the Giants' pass rush to get pressure on Ryan Fitzpatrick. The veteran QB is averaging over 285 passing yards per game over his last four outings, and has shown throughout his career that he is not afraid to sling the ball downfield. The Giants defense must generate a strong pass rush in order to keep Fitzpatrick from having too much time to find a receiver downfield.
Expect the unexpected. With new Head Coach Brian Flores at the helm, the Dolphins have shown a tendency to roll the dice quite a bit this season. Whether it's an unforeseen onside kick, a gadget play or something else, opposing teams have had to stay on their toes at all times when going up against Miami. For example, in Week 13, Flores passed on an opportunity to kick a field goal on fourth and goal from the Eagles' one-yard line. Instead, they snapped the ball to their punter, who then flipped a one-yard pass to their kicker for a touchdown. While the Giants must be prepared for anything, Shurmur does not believe that the team needs to go into the game with a different mindset.
"We have to defend what we've seen and anticipate that there will be something that we haven't seen," Shurmur said this week. "It's why it's important that you play with good discipline on defense, get lined up properly, know what you're looking at, and really just trust your rules and play the plays as you see them."
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