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Old 11-04-2006   #1
Wolf
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Default HPF:Week 8 preview:Road under Construction

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When the Texans have the ball…
Who needs Reggie Bush when you have Wali Lundy? Over the last two games, Lundy has 37 carries for 209 yards, 1 TD and a 5.6 per carry average. His 116-yard outburst last week against the Titans and their 32nd ranked run defense was the first by a Texans running back this season. This week, Lundy will face a Giants defense that is banged up, but will still pose a greater challenge than Tennessee. They rank 12th in the NFL against the run (96.9/game) and have allowed only one 100-yard rusher all season. His performance this week will be a more accurate gauge in regards to his improvement.

Most people watching the game will have a sharp eye on how David Carr responds in his first appearance since his first benching in the Gary Kubiak era. His first priority must be to protect the football or he will quickly find himself hanging out on the sideline with a clipboard.

The Giants have 20 sacks on the season, but 17 have come during their current four game winning streak. There is little doubt that they are licking their chops in anticipation of facing an inconsistent Texans offensive line. If the line can hold their own in the trenches, the passing game should have the opportunity to exploit the Giants secondary. They are 20th in the NFL against the pass, and both starting CB’s are listed on this week’s injury report.

When the Giants have the ball…
Tiki Barber’s 957 all-purpose yards represent 37% of the Giants entire offense. He ranks first in the NFL in rushing with 715 yards and averages a strong 4.6 yards per carry. He is also a threat as a receiver out of the backfield, compiling 242 yards on 29 receptions. Despite these gaudy numbers, Tiki is in the midst of a touchdown drought that has reached a career high seven games. The four rushing touchdowns scored by the Giants this season have gone to short yardage specialist Brandon Jacobs, who averages 7+ carries per game.

The Texans hope to have better luck with the younger Manning QB this week who, like his older sibling, has quite an arsenal at his disposal. Plaxico Burress stands at 6’6” and leads the team in receptions (31), receiving yards (510) and touchdowns (5). He also has 10 receptions of 20+ yards and has moved the chains on 21 of his 31 receptions. On the other side of the field is 11-year NY Giants veteran Amani Toomer who has contributed 30 receptions for 344 yards and three scores. While he is no longer the 1,000 yard receiver he once was, he is a solid #2 option for Manning and keeps the pressure off of Burress. Not to be forgotten is their ever volatile tight end Jeremy Shockey, who chips in with 23 catches, 240 yards and 3 touchdown receptions. He has caught all 3 of his TD’s during their recent four game winning streak.
Match-Ups to Watch

Wiegert & Salaam vs. Strahan & Umenyiora
Strahan is in his 14th NFL season and has 132.5 career sacks. Umenyiora is in his fourth year and coming off a 14.5 sack performance in 2005 that landed him in Hawaii last February. Wiegert and Salaam played like women last week against a Titans defense that ranked near the bottom of every statistical category. Tennessee whipped the two of them for 3.5 sacks and they committed five penalties combined (four false starts for Salaam). Both were a significant factor in the demise of David Carr last week, and will likely be under the same scrutiny as their starting QB in New York.

Gary Kubiak vs. David Carr
The honeymoon between these two is officially over. By benching Carr last week, Kubiak put his QB on notice that if he fails to protect the ball and make good decisions, he will be riding the bench Drew Bledsoe-style. Carr is now in his fifth season and the caliber of play he put forth against the Titans will not be tolerated. If he wants to remain the starter in Houston, he will have to prove himself in a hostile environment, and New York is a perfect place for such a test. He failed Kubiak’s challenge last week; the big question is can he turn the Titans embarrassment into a breakthrough performance in the Big Apple.

Dunta Robinson vs. Plaxico Burress
Dunta better borrow some elevator shoes this week, because he is going to need the extra couple of inches. At 5’10” tall, Robinson is giving Burress an 8” height advantage, and there is little doubt that the Giants will look to exploit the discrepancy. Eli Manning has feasted on defensive backs that are dwarfs when compared to his number one receiver. Over half of Manning’s completions of 20+ yards have been to #17, and the “jump ball” is one of their signature plays.
Three Keys to Victory
1. Stop the miscues
Heading into last week’s match-up with the Titans, Kubiak stressed to his team the need to play a clean game to come out victorious. Well, he must have told them in Spanish because it certainly didn’t translate for many of his players. The Texans committed turnovers and penalties in droves. It was another instance of failing to play an intelligent 60 minutes of football as the visiting team. While a win may be too much to expect this week, a competitive four quarters of football would be a step in the right direction.

2. Create opportunities on defense
Richard Smith’s defense has shown a tremendous amount of improvement over the last few weeks. After surrendering an average of 417 yards in their first five games, they have given up a total of 426 yards in their last two. Despite this impressive turnaround, the Texans “D” has failed in one particular game changing category: forcing turnovers. They are tied with Washington for the fewest takeaways in the NFL with 5 and last in interceptions with one. The Texans turnover margin now stands at -9, which is tied with the Raiders and 49ers for worst in the league. While the offense has to be counted on to take care of the football, at the same time, the defense is expected to create additional scoring opportunities for their team.

3. Don’t let Tiki loose
Tiki Barber is a dream for coaches and fantasy football enthusiasts. While he has yet to score a touchdown in 2006, he racks up yardage in droves. He is well on his way to his fifth consecutive 1,000-yard season, and was only 140 yards shy of reaching 2,000 rushing yards last season. This season, he has reached the 100-yard plateau five times and has caught no fewer than 3 receptions in any game. His true impact is best illustrated by the Giants record of 26-3 since 2002 when he carries the ball for at least 100 yards.
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Old 11-04-2006   #2
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Default Re: HPF:Week 8 preview:Road under Construction

Thanks for the article, Wolf. Interesting read.
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