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Cover 3: Questions for Giants after the bye week

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With the team returning to the field this week, the Giants.com crew picks one takeaway from the first half of the season and one pressing question post-bye week.

John Schmeelk: My biggest takeaway before the bye is that the Giants embraced the bend-but-don't-break defense, which has been extremely effective the last couple of weeks. They have played mostly zone on early downs and kept everything in front of them. On third downs and in the red zone, they have slipped in more man-to-man and have done a good job of forcing incomplete passes.

The team is allowing opponents to complete some short passes and run the ball for four to five yards a pop. This strategy can work if the Giants can force turnovers and make teams pay for running so many plays to move the ball down the field. It can also work if the Giants keep having the defensive success they've had in the red zone. In the Giants' last three games, opponents have converted three of 13 trips into touchdowns. The question is whether or not that success is sustainable.

As for the Giants after the bye, this offense could do a bit more once they have all their skill position players back and have Andrew Thomas back at left tackle. They have played their offense close to the vest the last few weeks because of injuries. Their defense has allowed them to stick to that strategy and win two out of three. Their returning players should allow them to take some more shots on early downs, use more traditional five- and seven-step drops and take more shots down the field.

From Daniel Jones' one-handed catch on a trick play to Xavier McKinney's pick-six to the OT thriller in New Orleans, re-live the best moments from the first half of the season in this must-see photo gallery.

Dan Salomone: It is said tongue in cheek that Week 1 has become a must-win game for the Giants – even though three of their four Super Bowl championship seasons began with opening losses (only 1990 began with a win) – but it speaks to a larger issue for the team in recent years. Since their last postseason appearance in the 2016 Wild Card Round, the Giants are 3-14 in September and 4-16 in October. The numbers improve in the second half as they are 7-9 in November and 7-13 in December/January, but the holes have just been too deep.

The 2021 Giants will now try to climb out of theirs.

Playing strong defense is a good launching point. The Giants held their opponents to an average of 13 points in their three games before the break, and they went 2-1 after a 1-5 start in which they gave up 29.5 points per game. That leads to the biggest question for the home stretch: Can the defense hold the line until the offense gets healthy? It starts Monday night against the Buccaneers, who are coming off just their fourth double-digit loss in 29 games with Tom Brady.

Lance Medow: With nine games in the books, the Giants have experienced their fair share of ups and downs, which has contributed to a 3-6 record. The biggest takeaway from the first half of the season has been the lack of complementary football. We've seen games where the offense has delivered, but the defense has struggled and vice-versa. In Week 2 at Washington, the offense scored a season-high 29 points but the defense surrendered 30. In Week 3, the defense held the Falcons to 17 points but the offense only produced 14 and in Week 8, the defense once again kept the Chiefs in check, holding them to 20 points but the offense only managed 17. The Raiders' game was really the best example of when both facets complemented one another as the offense was able to move the chains and the defense collected takeaways and even scored a touchdown. Yet it still wasn't easy as it came down to a last second Quincy Roche strip-sack to seal it.

That brings me to the biggest question mark heading into the second half. Will the Giants be able to consistently score more points? In the first nine games of the season, New York has scored 20 points or less five times and, no surprise, they lost all five of those games. They're averaging just below 20 points per contest, which puts them 24th in the NFL - that number has to improve if the team wants to showcase more consistency on the offensive side of the ball. Improved red zone efficiency and more explosive plays are two areas that can help that cause considering the Giants are last in the NFL in red zone touchdown rate at just 44%. Keep in mind, regardless of opponents' records, of their remaining eight games, five will showcase teams that rank in the top half of the league in scoring average. Patrick Graham's group has been solid over the last three games but you can't expect that unit to hold the opposition to 17 points or less every week. How the offense performs in the final eight games will go a long way in determining the team's outlook.

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