With the bye week officially in the rearview mirror, the Giants are back in the building to begin the second half of the season.
The Giants surprised many around the NFL world by going 6-2 under first-year head coach Brian Daboll. With nine games remaining, the Giants will play four of their next five at MetLife Stadium.
The first game of the second half is against the Houston Texans (1-6-1). This weekend's contest is the second of three consecutive games against the NFC East for Lovie Smith and his struggling Texans team. They welcomed the Philadelphia Eagles to Houston last Thursday, and despite the game being tied at halftime, the Eagles eventually pulled away for a 29-17 win. The Texans will return to Houston next week to take on the Washington Commanders.
Here are five storylines to follow in the Week 10 matchup.
1. Starting second half strong
Coming out of the bye week, the Giants have nine games remaining on the schedule. They have an opportunity to begin the second half of the season on a strong note with back-to-back games at MetLife Stadium against struggling teams. The Giants will take on the Houston Texans and Detroit Lions over the next two weeks, with the two teams entering Week 10 with a combined record of 3-12-1.
"Important game. At home. Going to have to play well," Daboll told the media Tuesday. "Came off a bye. Feel like we're rested. The guys have had a lot of good energy here these last couple of days, and we need to go out there and have a good week like we do every week."
The last time we saw them take the field, the Giants fell to the Seahawks, 27-13, in Seattle. It was only their second loss of the season. The week after their first loss of the year, the Giants were able to rebound to beat the Chicago Bears, 20-12. Brian Daboll's squad is 3-1 playing in front of the home crowd.
View rare photos of the all-time history between the New York Giants and Houston Texans.
2. Establishing the run
Saquon Barkley has been nothing short of outstanding this season. Heading into Week 10, Barkley ranks third in the NFL in both rushing yards (779) and total yards from scrimmage (968). His 97.4 rushing yards per game would easily top his previous career-high of 81.7, set in his Offensive Rookie of the Year campaign in 2018. His 4.8 yards per carry would also be his highest rushing average since his rookie season. Barkley's 28 receptions are the most on the team, while his 189 receiving yards ranks third.
One of the most impressive parts about Barkley's season has been his ability to stay on the field. During the Week 5 matchup against the Packers in London, the fifth-year back briefly left the game due to a shoulder injury. However, he returned in the fourth quarter and ended up scoring the game-winning touchdown. Outside of that game, Barkley has played at least 80 percent of the team's offensive snaps every week. Even in the game briefly departed, he still played 69 percent of the snaps. Barkley entered the season with a clean bill of health and it's shown in his performance.
Barkley is now faced with perhaps his most appetizing matchup of the year. The Texans rank last in the league in rushing yards allowed at 180.6 yards per game. Their 12 rushing scores allowed is tied for 28th, while their 5.5 yards per carry average ranks 30th. Houston has allowed 135+ yards on the ground in seven of their eight games, including two games in which they allowed over 280 rushing yards. Despite Houston's struggles, Daboll knows there is talent along the Texans' front seven.
"They have some good veteran players on the defense in particular," said Daboll. "(Defensive lineman) Jerry Hughes is a guy that I'm familiar with at Buffalo, and he's playing at a high, high level right now, which I'm not surprised with. (Defensive lineman) Mario Addison is back there; (linebacker Christian) Kirksey (is back there.) They've got a lot of players. They're competitive, and we're going to need to be at our best."
3. Generating pressure in the pass rush
The Giants did a good job of generating pressure against the Seahawks in Week 8. The team registered three sacks of Geno Smith and racked up 10 quarterback hits. Defensive lineman Leonard Williams had his best game of the season as he led the team with an impressive five quarterback hits and picked up one of the sacks. He also finished tied for the team-lead in total tackles with eight.
Williams will be leaned upon in the pass rush in Week 10, along with fellow defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence. The fourth-year DL is in the midst of his strongest overall season since entering the NFL in 2019. Lawrence already has four sacks, 11 quarterback hits and one forced fumble, all of which matches his previous career-high marks which came across 16 games. Lawrence has been the team's most effective pass rusher, as his four sacks are more than twice as many as anyone else while his 26 total pressures are nine more than Kayvon Thibodeaux, who ranks second on the unit with 17. Lawrence has been doing this while playing some of the highest snap totals of his young career.
The Texans have given up 19 sacks on the season, which is tied for 13th in the league. However, the numbers are a bit skewed. In three of their eight games, Texans QB Davis Mills was sacked just once apiece. But in the other five games, he was taken down at least three times. Houston has allowed six total sacks in the last two games, losses to the Eagles and Titans.
4. Slowing down Dameon Pierce
Without a doubt, the brightest spot of the Texans' 2022 season has been the play of running back Dameon Pierce. The rookie won the starting job out of training camp and has started every game. Pierce has carried the ball 148 times for 678 yards, good for an average of 4.6 yards per carry, and three touchdowns. He has also played a solid role in the passing game as his 20 receptions are the third-most on the team, totaling 98 yards and an additional receiving touchdown.
It was Pierce's performance last week that kept the Texans in the game against the Philadelphia Eagles. The rookie toted the ball a season-high 27 times for 139 yards (5.2 avg.). But his stats were even more impressive than the box score indicates. Of his 139 yards, 102 came after contact. He was able to break nine tackles against the Eagles' staunch defense, which brought his season total up to 50, the third-most in the NFL.
This weekend's matchup will be the second consecutive game in which the Giants face off against a top rookie running back. The unit did a good job of slowing down Seahawks RB Kenneth Walker in Week 8, holding him to just 51 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. His scoring run went for 16 yards, and if you were to remove that one run from his final stats, Walker's average yards per carry would have finished at 2.1.
5. Injury updates; McKinney sidelined
The Giants come out of the bye week relatively healthy. Unfortunately, the team returned to the building to some bad news, as it was revealed that starting safety Xavier McKinney suffered a hand injury during the time off. McKinney was placed on the reserve/non-football injury list Monday and will now miss at least the next four games.
"I think we're all disappointed in what happened," Daboll said about McKinney's injury. "He'll do everything he can do to get back. I feel bad for him. I feel bad for us. It's an unfortunate thing that happened."
Outside of McKinney, the rest of the injury news was pretty positive. The Giants announced Tuesday morning that Shane Lemieux was designated to return, and the offensive lineman participated in Tuesday's practice. Lemieux has been out since suffering a toe injury during training camp.
"The first thing we're going to do is see him out there on the field and give him a few reps on the look team and see how he responds to that and start with that," the head coach said about Lemieux's return.
Additionally, wide receiver Kenny Golladay (knee), outside linebacker Oshane Ximines (quad) and cornerback Cor'Dale Flott (calf) participated in Tuesday's practice. While Daboll would not go so far as to guarantee anyone's return, he shared that all three players "should be ready to go" this weekend. The only players on the active roster who did not partake in Tuesday's practice were tight end Daniel Bellinger (eye) and right tackle Evan Neal (knee).
Daboll also announced that defensive lineman Nick Williams, who suffered a biceps injury in Seattle, is done for the year after being placed on injured reserve, while cornerback Aaron Robinson (knee) is "doubtful" to return this season.
Re-live the season with the best photos from the Giants' 2022 playoff campaign.