Giants carry six-game win streak into Pittsburgh
There are few teams in the NFL as hot as the New York Giants.
The Giants (8-3) are riding a six-game winning streak and go on the road for their Week 13 matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The last loss for the Giants was Oct. 9 in Green Bay.
The Steelers (6-5) can take solace in the fact they get home cooking for this matchup with major playoff implications.
The Steelers are 3-2 at home and two of the Giants' three losses have happened away from New York. This statistic may look good on paper, but when dissected, the Steelers have lost their last two home games. They are 2-4 in their last six games and last won at home, ironically, on Oct. 9 against the New York Jets.
These are two teams that appear to be headed in distinctly different directions at the most critical time of the season.
"It's December football. this is where the real football begins," Giants coach Ben McAdoo said. "All our hard work to this point has set the table for December. It's an exciting time against a lot of playoff teams and playoff environments. The margin for error is small. This is where our identity needs to take over."
Both the Steelers and the Giants have flaws that need to get corrected if either wants to be playing in late January.
The Steelers have an explosive offense but are lacking on defense.
The Giants' defense, which made major upgrades the offseason, has been dominant. The offense has not been. That unit, led by quarterback Eli Manning, produced only 296 yards in an escape win overt Cleveland in Week 12. Manning threw for a season-low 194 yards.
"I don't think we took a step back (against Cleveland), but I definitely think we could have taken a bigger step forward. We got time -- a couple more games left. Now it's time to progress this week," wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. said of the offensive struggles.
To emphasize this lack of offense, Beckham Jr. has been held under 100 yards receiving in the last five games.
The Giants' offense will be facing a Steelers defense that has only allowed 16 points in the last two games. Granted, those games were against the Cody Kessler-led Browns and the Scott Tolzien-led Colts. Before those wins, the much=maligned defense had given up 113 points during the team's four-game losing streak.
The defense will need to play like they have the last two weeks and hope the Giants' offense continues to struggle.
The Steelers' offense is their strength and the play of the Giants' defense is how they win games. If those two units play to a stalemate, the winner of the New York offense against the Pittsburgh defense will heavily sway the winner of the game.
"Guys are definitely trying to make plays. Trying to be around the ball a lot more. Trying to be more physical and force the people to do what we want them to do," Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier said of the defense's improvement the past two weeks.
One way for that defense to tilt the game in their favor is to force the Giants to run the football.
Neither starter Rashad Jennings or rookie backup Paul Perkins has been able to light a spark in the rushing attack. Jennings is 30th in the NFL in rushing with only 395 yards.
Only the Minnesota Vikings have a worse run game than the Giants in the NFL. The Giants average 79.5 yards rushing per game and do not have a run for more than 40-plus yards this season.
The matchup to watch during this game for football purists will be the Ben Roethlisberger-led Steelers offense going against defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul and the Giants.
The Steelers average 263.9 yards through the air and have scored 24 passing touchdowns. Pittsburgh has the eighth-best passing attack in the NFL. The Pittsburgh offensive line has done a solid job of protecting the quarterback, only allowing 14 sacks.
Pierre-Paul has been a man among boys the last two games. He has produced 5.5 sacks, four tackles for a loss, six quarterback hits, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery for a touchdown.
Giants safety Landon Collins is tied for second in the NFL with five interceptions. These two playmakers have helped hold opponents to 19.4 points per game. That is tied for fifth in the NFL.
The Giants' defensive unit has only allowed 10 touchdowns, yet they have 10 interceptions and 25 sacks.