New York Giants fans are free to dream about moving to 8-3 after this week’s matchup against the woeful Chicago Bears and next week’s game against the winless Cleveland Browns.
The players and coaches, however, don’t have that luxury.
The Giants can’t afford to take it easy on the 2-7 Bears on Sunday at MetLife Stadium despite a four-game win streak and ownership of the third-best record in the NFC. Chicago’s two victories came against the Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings, both 5-4 and firmly in the playoff hunt.
If these three players take advantage of the weaker matchup, the Big Blue should be fine.
Odell Beckham Jr.
In fairness, this may be true of most matchups for the Giants. The star wideout is ahead of even quarterback Eli Manning as the team’s top game-changer.
As much as the Bears have struggled this season, their defensive backfield isn’t so bad. While top cornerback Tracy Porter is nothing special, safeties Adrian Amos and Harold Jones-Quartey are talented and could prevent big plays by helping over the top.
Getting Beckham involved on short routes early could open up big plays later.
Speaking of the two-time Super Bowl winner, he’ll need to do more than target his top receiver. Not that he’s ever had a problem doing so.
It’s no secret Manning is happy to spread the ball around. He’s also prone to picks, evidenced by his status as No. 2 among active quarterbacks in interceptions. He’s also one of six QBs with double-digit INTs this season.
At least Chicago’s defense hasn’t been very opportunistic, ranking in the bottom third of the NFL with just five picks this season. Manning probably can afford to take more chances than usual, but he can’t get too wild.
The top-paid player among the Giants’ three biggest offseason acquisitions is starting to come alive. The pass rusher, who tallied just one sack during the first seven games, has brought down opposing quarterbacks in each of the last two weeks.
Vernon ranks seventh in QB hurries (18), according to sportingcharts.com. Clearly, he has found success at pressuring passers, but the impact of a loss of yards goes a long way.
Bears quarterback Jay Cutler has been sacked 298 times in his career. If Vernon’s the man who gets him for the 300th time, the Giants are doing something right Sunday.