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Cover 3: Most pressing questions down the stretch

COVER-3

In this week's Cover 3, the crew discusses the most pressing questions for the Giants down the final stretch of the season.

John Schmeelk: As the Giants head into the home stretch of their season, the big question is whether or not they can win games when they get out of their formula - get a lead, run the ball, don't beat yourself, and play good situation football.

The Giants have gotten early leads in their last two games and have been able to play from ahead. It allows them to stick with their run game, and use a lot of quick game, play-action, and mass protection in the passing game. It keeps the Giants out of catch-up situations, where opposing defenses know they must throw it and can rev up a pass rush accordingly. In such situations, the Giants will have no choice but to run five- and seven-step drops, with limited support for the offensive line.

Once the Giants get into those situations, can their playmakers consistently get open and make explosive plays down the field? Can the offensive line hold up long enough to give Daniel Jones a chance to deliver the football? Can Daniel Jones continue to limit mistakes when he feels the pressure of playing with a deficit late in games? This is the next step for the Giants' offense, including their young offensive line and quarterback.

Coming out of the bye, their three opponents do not have ferocious pass rushes, so the Giants may be able to let Jones stand in the pocket a bit longer to try to create more big plays down the field. It will be fun to see how much Garrett will be able to expand the offense.

The Giants' pass defense remains a worry. They have been able to get multiple late-game stops the last two weeks against Washington and Philadelphia, but will they be able to do it against more efficient offensive teams in the season's final six games? Washington and Philly were two of the least efficient passing teams when the Giants played them. Against the pass this season, the Giants are ranked 23rd in pass yards allowed per game and 21st in pass yards allowed per play.

It will be more difficult against the likes of Kyler Murray, Russell Wilson and Lamar Jackson in the season's second half. Can the Giants apply a consistent pass rush without having to blitz five or six men? Can their zone defense continue to hold up in these games, or will they be able to start playing more man-to-man as their defensive backs get more experience and their players return from injury?

If the Giants can sure up these two areas, they will have every opportunity to win the NFC East.

View the best photos from the first 10 games of the Giants' 2020 campaign as the team enters its Week 11 bye.

Dan Salomone: The biggest question is the only one that really matters: Which NFC East team will get hot? Look, we all know it's a wacky division. The 2020 season has made everyone forget it's the only one in which all four teams have won a Super Bowl. There has not been a repeat champion since the Eagles won four in a row from 2001-04. And a lot of times, just when it looks like no one wants to win it, one team comes out of the woodwork and goes on a winning streak.

Let's look at the past two champions. The 2018 Cowboys started 3-5 and won seven of their final eight games. The 2019 Eagles started 5-7 and won their final four games. As we enter Week 12, all four NFC East teams have three wins, and the only one on a losing streak is Philadelphia, which leads the pack because of a Week 3 tie. After beginning as more of a stroll, the NFC East race is now a six-week sprint.

Lance Medow: When you look at the Giants from top to bottom after the first 10 games of the season, I think the most pressing question has to do more with the offense than the defense as they get set for the final six games. Although the run game has made significant strides with five straight 100+ yard games and the Giants rank tied for ninth in the NFL at 4.5 yards per carry, the passing game is one facet to watch. Daniel Jones has thrown for just eight touchdowns against nine interceptions and New York is 28th in the league in passing yards per game (196). Those stats will have to improve as the Giants look to finish strong down the stretch.

The other trend connected to the offense is ball security. The Giants had no turnovers in either of their last two games (Washington and Philadelphia) before the bye. These games represent the only times they've played clean football this season and they had at least two mishaps five times.

When the Giants have won the turnover battle, they're 2-1 and when they've tied or lost the battle, they're 1-6. Keep in mind, four of their six final opponents have at least 12 takeaways on the season - Seattle, Cleveland and Baltimore each rank in the Top 11 in that category. How well the Giants take care of the football will determine how the season finishes.

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