The Giants, considered by many a paper tiger at 8-3, will find out exactly what they are made of this Sunday afternoon in Pittsburgh when they face the 6-5 Steelers. The game is the first of five games in the stretch of the schedule which pits them against some of the league’s most competitive teams.
The Steelers are surging again after following a 4-1 start with a four-game losing streak. They’ve won two straight by convincing scores and are pointing towards the postseason. Now, they host the Giants, winners of six in a row, in a game both teams needs to win in order stay competitive in their respective playoff runs.
The Steelers are in second place in the AFC North behind the 6-5 Baltimore Ravens, who they lost to a few weeks back. They face the Ravens again in Week 16. The Steelers are currently on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoffs, ranked 9th at the moment tied with Buffalo and one game behind Denver and Miami.
The Giants have been sitting all alone in the top wild card spot for a few weeks now. They are a game and a half ahead of Washington and two games in front of Tampa Bay. As for the NFC East, they are two and a half games behind the 11-1 Cowboys, who just cannot be beaten for some reason. The Giants will face them next week.
This game is one in which the Giants cannot fall prey to lethargy and ineffectiveness. They have been skating by during their six-game winning streak, winning close games against incomplete and injury-riddled clubs. They could be headed for trouble here against the Steelers.
The Giants are still only averaging 21 points per game. That won’t beat many teams in this league unless your defense plays lights out week after week. The Giants’ defense hasn’t exactly been doing that, but they have been making huge plays when needed, sealing games that probably were too close for many fans’ likings.
The Steelers have maybe the best 1-2-3 offensive punch in the NFL in QB Ben Roethlisberger, RB Le’Veon Bell and WR Antonio Brown. Big Ben has been heating up with six passing TDs and no INTs with a114.7 rating over the past three games. Bell Has 477 scrimmage yards (159 per game) and four TDs (3 rush, 1 receiving) in the last three games. He leads the NFL averaging 142 scrimmage yards per game. Brown had three receiving TDs last week and has five TD catches in past four games. He leads the NFL with 82 catches is tied for the league lead with 10 TD catches.
Their defense has been almost as good of late. After losing a 35-30 shootout against Dallas three weeks ago, they’ve allowed just nine and seven points in their next two games against the Browns and Colts. They have a +4 turnover ratio on the season.
The Giants are still having issues running the football and it’s late in the season in Western Pennsylvania, where the Steelers are especially tough, winning their last five at home in the month of December. The Giants will have to pass the ball to win, and they haven’t been doing that as well as they should be, to be frank. QB Eli Manning has been off the mark on most of his deep shots this season, which has been troubling.
The Giants’ defense will have to stand tall again in this game for them to have a chance. They also will probably have to get some help from their special teams in the form of an Odell Beckham, Jr. punt return or a turnover from the cover teams. Don’t look for anything extraordinary from PK Robbie Gould, who has missed several chances this year, including PATs. His kickoffs have been short most of the time as well.
The Steelers are 6.5 favorites in this game because of many of the nuggets mentioned above. The Giants are not seen as legitimate contenders by the general public but they can change that beginning this week with a strong showing in Pittsburgh.
Prediction: Steelers 26, Giants 20…Don’t get your hopes up…Bell and Brown are getting 53% of the offensive touches and that’s bad news for the Giants or whoever they face. The Giants have been giving up big plays on defense, which they can’t afford to do here. They will make this game close but just won’t quite get there.