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How Giants attack Kansas City depends on which players will be available

Saquon Barkley #26 of the Giants celebrates his

Saquon Barkley #26 of the Giants celebrates his touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Atlanta Falcons at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Sep. 26, 2021. Credit: Jim McIsaac

As fragile and vulnerable as this 3-4 opponent may seem, Kansas City is still averaging 26.9 points per game this season. And that’s after they were held to 3 last week against the Titans. The Giants? They’ve scored 27 or more points just twice so far, and in one of those games they needed overtime to eclipse it.

So while the defense will have to worry about slowing down Patrick Mahomes and his crew of game-wreckers, the offense has to figure out how it wants to play against a team that has shown an ability to put up points at a stunning pace.

"There’s different ways you can look at it," Joe Judge said on Wednesday. "There’s that element of do you try to play four-corners basketball and just keep the ball out of their hands? Do you try to go out there and do everything you can to roll the dice, take shots and just try to match points for points?"

Which will the Giants do on Monday in Kansas City?

Depends on who they have available. And they’re still trying to figure that out.

Saquon Barkley, Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney and Sterling Shepard – the Four Hurt Men of the Giants’ Apocalypse – were all back on the field for Wednesday’s light practice after each missing at least the most previous game due to injury. Judge said that the team will have a much better idea on who will be ready to play this week after Thursday’s practice, which will be longer and more physically demanding.

Until then, there are two offensive game plans for the Giants. If they are without their playmakers, they’ll likely tilt more toward keepaway. If they get their stars back, it may mean they’re ready for a shootout.

"You have to have enough flexibility in your game plan as you put it together early in the week," Judge said. "As we get closer to the game, we can lean one way or another without really changing it so much that players feel like it’s too much."

The good news for the Giants is that if they do put their foot on the gas pedal and decide to try to match Kansas City touchdown for touchdown, the returning-from-injury guys are experienced enough and have worked with Daniel Jones enough that they don’t necessarily have to practice it throughout the week as much as, say, Dante Pettis and John Ross and Collin Johnson might.

"We have a lot of stuff for those guys if some of those guys can get back, stuff we’ve done in the past, stuff we’ve repped, and just things that are a part of our offense," Jones said. "It’s about moving guys around and putting guys in different positions based on who’s available."

Judge was careful to note that the Giants’ offensive philososphy in this game – in any game, really – can change at any time.

"Sometimes you get in the flow and the game goes completely different than what you planned all week," he said. "There are some games we’ve gotten into where we say, ‘Hey, look, we’re going to play pure ball control and really just go ahead and move this thing methodically and try to keep their offense off the field.’ You get into the game and start moving fast and you say, ‘Hey, you know what? We’re pushing the envelope. Let’s go.’ There’s other games you think, ‘Let’s go warp speed,’ and you get into the game and you say, ‘You know what? Let’s settle it on down. Their defense is reacting to our tempo. Let’s just make sure we get in the best offensive play and make sure we execute the best way possible.’ Sometimes, the flow of the game really dictates a lot of that."

The biggest factor in how the Giants play on Monday, though, will almost certainly be who they have available to play.

"I think you’ve got to find what best suits who you are as a team," Judge said. "We’ve got to look internally in terms of what we think we are as a team and what our strengths are and play to that."

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