NFL Preview - NY Giants (0-5) at Chicago (3-2)|
By John McMullen, NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) - Super Bowl dreams have turned into October nightmares
for the winless New York Giants.
In fact the scariest thing this Halloween season has been the play of Eli
Manning and his teammates.
A Giants team which actually placed a Super Bowl countdown clock in their own
locker room and fancied themselves as a legitimate title contender is now at
0-5 a scant five weeks into the season as they prepare to take on the Chicago
Bears on Thursday night.
Hindsight now says the Giants' dream of playing in another Big Game in their
own backyard was nothing more than a fairytale, derailed by a perfect storm of
injury and ineptitude that has engulfed "Big Blue" and head coach Tom
By the end of the Giants' latest collapse, an ugly 36-21 setback to lightly
regarded NFC East division rival Philadelphia last Sunday at MetLife Stadium,
even the North Jersey faithful recognized just how bad things had gotten,
serenading its former heroes off the turf with a healthy chorus of boos.
"There are only two ways to finish out this season," said veteran defensive
lineman Justin Tuck. "Figuring out some kind of way to right this ship and get
some positive momentum going here. Or you can sulk and feel sorry for yourself
and have the worst season ever in Giants history."
New York is 0-5 for the first time since the strike-shortened 1987 season
after committing four turnovers that were converted into 17 Eagles' points.
The Giants now have a league-high 20 giveaways through five games, including
12 Manning interceptions after the struggling quarterback was picked off
three times in the fourth quarter against Philly.
"Offensively, we just have to take care of the ball better. It's as simple as
that," said wide receiver Victor Cruz. "We make plays when we have the ball in
our hands and we are pitching and catching, moving the ball up the field. When
we turn the ball over, that's when things go awry."
The injury-riddled Giants also saw another key player go down against the
Eagles when running back David Wilson exited in the first quarter with a neck
injury. Wilson has already been ruled out for the Bears.
Manning did accumulate 334 yards against Philly despite completing just 24-
of-52 attempts and he hit Rueben Randle for a pair of touchdowns in the second
half. Hakeem Nicks racked up 142 yards on nine catches in the setback, while
Randle put up 96 yards on six grabs.
The Bears, meanwhile, are also scuffling a bit, dropping two straight games
after a 3-0 start.
The latest setback came in the Second City on Sunday when Garrett Hartley
booted four field goals and Drew Brees threw for 288 yards and two touchdowns
as the New Orleans Saints remained perfect with a 26-18 decision over Chicago.
Alshon Jeffery led the way with a franchise-record 218 yards and a touchdown
on 10 catches for the Bears. Jay Cutler finished 24-of-33 for 358 yards and
had another scoring pass to Brandon Marshall, while Matt Forte totaled 55
yards on 12 carries in defeat.
"Against a team like that, the way they played offensively and ate up the
clock it's hard to rebound if you miss three or four plays in the game,"
This will be the 49th regular season meeting between the Giants and Bears with
Chicago holding a 27-19-2 advantage. The Giants have won two straight in the
series, however, and their last four at Soldier Field.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
This is already the Giants' worst start in a non-strike-shortened season since
1979 when Joe Pisarcik kicked off that campaign at quarterback for Ray Perkins
until the coach pulled the plug and went to rookie Phil Simms, a move that
eventually jump-started the franchise and returned it to relevancy.
Barring a hiccup here and there, New York has remained competitive ever since,
punctuated by its four Super Bowl championships after the 1986, 1990, 2007 and
Another Super Bowl berth is a non-starter now. Since the NFL changed to the
current playoff format in 1990, no team has started 0-5 and made it to the
postseason. So, perhaps the Giants' new goal should be avoiding the franchise-
worst 0-9 start of the 1976 team.
"I'm always going to come out here fighting," safety Antrel Rolle said. "I
don't care if we are 0-15. We just need to pick it up. We need to pick it up.
Get our head out of our (behind) and pick it up. That's the reality of it. We
are losing games around here and that's not Giants football we are playing."
"For us, we're not even thinking about the playoffs now," linebacker Spencer
Paysinger added. "Right now we are 0-5 and looking for our first win,
hopefully coming on Thursday."
Things have gotten so bleak that Coughlin, the two-time Super Bowl winning
coach, finally pointed the finger of blame at his two-time big game
"I honestly believe that he's trying so hard to get us a win, he's almost put
too much on himself," Coughlin said. "He keeps it all pretty much inside. I'm
not making excuses. There were a couple of those plays that were terrible."
As mentioned Manning threw three interceptions in the fourth quarter versus
the Eagles and he is now on pace to give it away 38 times, an almost laughably
inefficient performance considering all the changes to the game in recent
years that have favored the offense, particularly the passing game.
An NFL signal caller hasn't tossed 30-or-more interceptions in a season since
1988, when Vinny Testaverde had 35 for the Buccaneers. Again, though, that was
an era when defenses were actually allowed to do some things without seeing
yellow -- or last week, pink -- littering the field.
To be fair to Manning his offensive line has been awful for most of the
season and the running game non-existent. The two-time Super Bowl MVP has
completed just 53.7 percent of his passes and been sacked 15 times while New
York averages an NFL-low 56.8 rushing yards per game.
"We're throwing the ball a lot and we're obviously low on running backs right
now," Manning said. "I thought we left some plays out there, some balls down
the field. I missed a couple -- a couple that were very close to being made.
We just have to keep finding ways to make those plays. You don't get a whole
lot of second chances in this league."
Even with the obvious deficiencies, second chances shouldn't be needed with
weapons on the outside like Cruz, Nicks and the emerging Randle. In fact, it's
hard to buy into the narrative that Manning is trying to lead the Little
Sisters of the Poor.
"I know I can play better," Manning understated. "Sometimes, things are going
to go wrong, but you've got to make the best decision. Throw it away, take a
sack. I know I can't keep turning the ball over."
The football gods are more than a little ironic, however, and Manning's next
test will be in Chicago after a short week of preparation against the NFL's
most opportunistic defense.
The Bears "D" has 10 interception-return touchdowns since the start of the
2012 season -- the most in the NFL -- and has scored three defensive
touchdowns so this season. Chicago failed to take it away against New Orleans
for the first time in 11 games but is still third in the NFL with 14
"We have to stay positive," Manning said. "We have a short week and we play on
Thursday night, so we've just got to keep working and I've got to start
playing better football and making better throws, and putting our team in a
better situation to win some games."
The Bears offense is hardly dynamic but Cutler is completing a career-best
65.7 percent of his passes so far this season and the Giants are allowing a
league-worst 36.4 points per contest, surrendering at least 31 in all five
games to match the NFL record set by the 1954 Chicago Cardinals
The Bears should get back on track here and the G-Men are likely to set a new
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Bears 31, Giants 23
10/09 11:30:50 ET