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Giants vs. Ravens gameday preview

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie of the New York Giants

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie of the New York Giants looks on during the fourth quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on Sept. 11, 2016 in Arlington, Texas. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Tom Pennington

Giants eager for a win

The Giants are 2-3 and on a three-game losing streak. They have tumbled from first place to last in the NFC East. Is Sunday’s game against the Ravens a “must-win” for the Giants?

Depends who you ask.

“It’s a must win as far as getting back on the winning side,” cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie said. “Just winning and getting that atmosphere of winning around here. This is a home game. You have this week and next week then you go into the bye, and you want to hit your bye running. It’s definitely a must win.”

Would the wide receiver from Louisiana care to offer a rebuttal?

“I don’t think it’s a must win,” Odell Beckham Jr. said. “I think the only must-win games are the games you play in the division. All of them matter but those count more. If anything is a must-win, it’s the division games.”

In reality, the only time a team has a “must-win” game is when it is staving off elimination. So perhaps the most realistic answer came from Ben McAdoo when he was asked about the stakes of Sunday’s decision.

“Every week is a must-win,” the coach said. “That’s what you’re working for every week. You go out on the field, you put in your preparation, you practice, you coach. You try to win every game.”

Passing problems

Why has one of the most basic defensive schemes in football so befuddled the Giants’ passing attack?

Said offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan this week: It’s not the Cover-2, it’s us.

“It’s probably more so some of the things we’re not doing” than the coverage, Sullivan said. “If a team has more of a two high configuration, you’re going to see more six man boxes which from a number of standpoints ought to give us a little bit of an advantage (running the ball).”

Only it hasn’t. Part of that could be that the Giants play with three wide receivers virtually the entire game, they don’t have a fullback, and they have yet to find a good blocking tight end (rookie Jerell Adams has potential). The team is therefore asking five offensive linemen to block six defenders. That seems a little unfair.

“It’s what we’ve got to do,” second-year tackle Bobby Hart said.

Wouldn’t it be easier to run with more blockers?

“Hey, I’ll let you be the judge of that,” Hart said.

The Giants have been seeing a heavy dose of the Cover-2, with two deep safeties keeping a lid on the explosive receivers, since the second half of the Washington game. It coincides with the drop in production from the receivers.

“There is definitely stuff that beats it,” Eli Manning said. “We had stuff that should have beaten it (Sunday against the Packers), but we didn’t execute well enough. So it’s not that it stopped us, it’s just a matter of holding the ball a little longer because it takes away a lot of your slants and it takes away some of your quick game.

“We just have to understand that teams are going to play us certain ways,” Manning continued. “Again, we had answers for it. That’s not the problem. It’s just still a matter of execution.”

Sad sacks

The Giants have the fewest sacks in the NFL. And the fewest worries about it.

While the entire team has had just four quarterback takedowns and supposedly premiere pass-rushers Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon have just one each, defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo shrugged at the lagging statistics.

“Sacks are great, they’re effective, they make a huge difference,” he said. “It is not the telltale, in my opinion. It’s not one of the statistics that we use that has a great correlation between points allowed and points not scored. To us, we take the most important that correlate most to points allowed.”

Those statistics include opposing quarterback rating, first- and second-down rushing yardage, and limiting explosive plays.

“Sacks is not one of them,” Spagnuolo said.

The Giants are on pace to have only 13 sacks this season, which would be about half of last year’s 25 (which wound up being the lowest team total for the franchise in a 16-game season).

They can take some comfort in knowing that in three career games against the Ravens while he was playing for the Dolphins, Vernon has 4.5 career sacks and 8 quarterback hits.

“Would we like to have more? Yes,” Spagnuolo said. “Would we like to have more pressure on the quarterback? Yes. But I do think that there are moments in there where we are hitting and getting pressure on the quarterback that don’t show up on a stat sheet.”

“We just have to rush the passer,” Vernon said. “Rush the passer and play better defense.”

Ravens’ sick call

The Ravens could be without their top wide receiver (Steve Smith), starting left tackle (Ronnie Stanley), starting right guard (Marshal Yanda), two of their top linebackers (C.J. Mosley and Elvis Dumervil) and their biggest special teams threat (Devin Hester) on Sunday. All except Dumervil is listed as doubtful for the game against the Giants; Dumervil has been ruled out.

“We’ll just see who can play on Sunday and we’ll play with the guys who are ready to go,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “The guys who are healthy enough to play will play. That’s how it always is, really.”

While it may seem to be an advantage for the Giants, in the last three weeks they have been unable to dominate backups. They played a Packers team without its two starting cornerbacks, faced a pair of backup tackles in Minnesota, and saw Washington lose two of their key players in the secondary due to injury during their game. The Giants lost all three of those contests.

Magic Number: 51.0

Eli Manning’s passer rating in three career games against the Ravens. It’s a number that is dragged down by the 0.0 rating he had against them as a rookie, but in those three games he has never completed more than 14 passes and never thrown for more than 153 yards. The Giants are 1-2 in those games.

The Ravens are the only team with a better postseason winning percentage than the Giants since the 1970 merger:

PostseasonSuper Bowls

Pct. Team W-LWon

.652Ravens15-82

.645Giants20-11 4

.61249ers30-195

.609Patriots28-184

.607Steelers34-225

*

10: Blocked kicks by the Ravens since the start of the 2014 season, the most by any NFL team. They have two this season: Lawrence Guy blocked a PAT at Cleveland and Brent Urban blocked a FGA in Jacksonville. A breakdown:

FG blocks 5

PAT blocks3

Punt blocks2

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