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Seahawks-Giants preview: Seattle returns from their bye seeking a third straight win

New York Giants v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks return from their bye week and head to the site of their greatest triumph, taking on the 1-5 New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on Sunday. The paltry Giants are coming off of their first win, a primetime victory in Denver against the Broncos. It was a game that represented an identity shift for New York’s offense, and they’ll now get the opportunity to build upon it against the 3-2 Seahawks.

Crucially, Seattle will be aiming to win their third game in a row before returning home for a two-game home-stand. The Giants’ progress last Sunday was encouraging, but they are still an offense devoid of talent, and their 1-5 record is a fair representation of their season thus far. To the debrief:

This season, New York has looked like…

A team falling apart at the seams. The Giants overachieved last season following an offseason of spending and a herculean effort by their defense, but this season has wasted no time jolting them back to reality. The same defense that finished second in DVOA in 2016 now sits 22nd after week six, ranking a spot lower than their offense.

Despite deserving credit for handing off play-calling duties, Ben McAdoo has finally been exposed as a clueless head coach. His grip on the team loosened this summer when Odell Beckham’s preferential treatment seemingly increased, and it only got worse after he excused Beckham for continued celebration penalties but found the courage to criticize Manning for turnovers.

Just like the defense in 2016, there was potential for New York’s offense to bail McAdoo out in 2017 if a couple different things broke right. None of them did. Manning isn’t having anywhere close to a bounce back season. Back-to-back seasons (in 2014 and ‘15) of 4400 yards and 30+ touchdowns with just 14 interceptions seem like a distant dream once presented in a vanilla offensive scheme. What was supposed to be a diverse arsenal of weapons has fallen apart; Beckham and Brandon Marshall are both on injured reserve, leaving middle-of-the-field weapons Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram to carry the load.

In this game, Seattle needs to…

Stop the Giants’ running game. New York’s offense against Denver resembled a professional football team for just the second time this season, and it was thanks to the play of Orleans Darkwa and Wayne Gallman. Darkwa has already set career highs in both carries and yards (42/239) this season, and is coming off the best game of his career. He led all running backs with 48 DYAR in week six, running for 117 yards against the best defense in the league.

The two-headed backfield of Darkwa and Gallman will present the Seahawks’ defense with two very different runners. Darkwa is going to stay inside the design of the offense on 98-percent of his carries, and should see the majority of the snaps. Gallman on the other hand, is an explosive run waiting to happen and will look to bounce runs to the outside at every opportunity. Slowing them down will set Seattle up with a chance to close the game out in emphatic fashion.

The Giants’ offensive line struggles are just as well documented as the Seahawks’, changing the line combination up even more than Seattle has in recent years. The unit as a whole are coming off the game of their lives in Denver, but shouldn’t be expected to be even average over the rest of 2017. If the Seahawks can contain New York’s run game and force Manning to drop back in the fourth quarter, Seattle can tee off on the quarterback and finish off their third straight win.

A critical factor for the Giants will be…

Their defense going blow-for-blow with the Seahawks’ defense. If New York can get a 2016-effort from the defensive side of the ball, they could hold Seattle to two touchdowns and give themselves a shot. But anything else is hard to imagine.

When the Giants lost Beckham for the season, they lost their only game-changing talent. Without the chance of Beckham-magic, New York is going to have a helluva time staying in the game, and an even harder time getting back into it if they go down early. Without the talent to put the ball in the paint, they’re going to need to lean on the defense. Again.

A critical factor for the Seahawks will be…

Putting third down struggles behind them. Heading into their bye, Seattle had given up the second-most first downs on third-and-ten in the entire league. Eli Manning has the ninth-best passer rating on third down in the league, with a rating of 99.7 -- ten points higher than his passer rating for the season.

The Giants, like the Rams in week five, will be testing the middle of the field all game long. Shepard works almost exclusively from the slot and will likely draw Justin Coleman with Jeremy Lane set to miss another game. And Engram, New York’s walking mismatch, will line up in-line, in the slot or even in the backfield. The Giants will work tirelessly to get a matchup they like with him.

Players who have stood out for New York…

Evan Engram has been exactly the next-generation football player he was expected to be. In four starts, he’s caught 24 passes for 282 yards and two touchdowns. His first two career touchdowns do a good job representing his versatility; the first came with him lined up at fullback; the second came with him lined up in the slot inside the five-yard line. The Giants can, and will, deploy him all over the formation.

Jason Pierre-Paul was unblockable last week against the Broncos, finishing with three sacks and a forced fumble. Defensive linemen have feasted against Seattle’s offensive line this season, and JPP will surely be the latest.

Quick Hits…

  • The Giants’ depleted receiving core only caught two balls last Sunday, but that number should rise with Shepard returning to action.
  • Offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan took over play-calling duties last week, in an effort by McAdoo to take a step back and worry about the entire 53. The run/pass ratio in his first game as play-caller: 32 runs to just 19 passes.
  • Ethan Pocic is going to get the first snaps at left guard against New York, and will be going up against a whole lot of human. Defensive tackles Damon Harrison and Dalvin Tomlinson were outstanding last week and make up one of the most stout interiors against the run.

And a prediction…

Despite last week’s victory, the Giants are a team in disarray. They’re missing their most valuable player and are shaping a new identity on offense. Coming off a bye week, the Seahawks are going to roll through The Meadowlands. Plus, good things happen at MetLife Stadium. Seattle wins 34-16.