3) Intangibles (injuries)
While the injury intangibles are not necessarily adjustments made to strategy by the coaches, they are no less important if not more critical to the outcome. For the Patriot’s, Rob Gronkowski’s high ankle sprain is reported to be healing well and he has practiced as of late, yet physical limitations will undoubtedly be noticeable and reduce his effectiveness. High ankle sprains are very damaging to the effectiveness of a receiver, especially with only two weeks of recovery time. Typically this injury takes anywhere from approximately two to six weeks to heal. The hurried time frame allowed to naturally repair itself greatly increases the chances of re-aggravation. The Giants will do all they can to make life especially difficult and painful for Rob in his attempt to be a huge advantage stretching defenses with a size mismatch, as is his norm.
In regards to the Giants, the injury factor is not so much related to injured players being out or hobbled for this matchup as it is for key players now becoming available the second time around. Both Ahmad Bradshaw and Hakeem Nicks sat out the November faceoff. These players are both key starters and often the first option in the running and passing game respectively. Bradshaw’s return injects a boost into the effectiveness of the
running attack for the Giants, will help keep both he and Brandon Jacobs freshly alternating during the game, and also provide a more potent receiving option out of the backfield. Look for the Giants to exceed the 29 running attempts of the first contest and rely more on moving the ball on the ground to control the clock and keep New England’s offense on the sideline.
Nicks’ addition to the New York receiving core simply cannot be overstated. Adding another dangerous target alongside Cruz, Manningham, and Ballard for Eli to stretch the often shaky Patriots secondary will provide big dividends for the Giants’ offensive attack and increase the total of big plays during the rematch.
Although dissecting a recent previous matchup is by no means a foolproof indicator of the outcome of the rematch, the deficiencies taken advantage of in the first contest and adjustments made to prevent a repeat of these exploits can be an effective way to predict tweaks to a team’s approach and strategy. While the Patriots left more points on the board and surrendered more through turnovers, the Giants allowed a significant amount of big plays to puncture their territory. New England will play it a little more cautious the second time around and manage the game with less risk.
The Giants will also slow the pace down some by running the ball more frequently, and on defense keeping the receivers in front of coverage surrendering more receptions yet less big gains. The deciding advantage today will be Bradshaw and Nicks returning to the Giants’ offense and spreading out the inconsistent and vulnerable New England defense. With the addition of these key starters back to the lineup for New York, there will be one too many dangerous weapons for the Patriots to subdue. In another close, hard fought, highly contested battle….
New York Giants 26, New England Patriots 23
Article by: Brad Austin, [email protected], The Landry Hat