NFL Preview - NY Giants (3-9) at Tennessee (2-10)
By Shawn Clarke, Contributing NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) - It will be an exercise in futility when the New York Giants and Tennessee Titans go at it Sunday at LP Field.
The Giants have lost seven in a row to fall to 3-9 and the Titans are riding a six-game slide that has dropped them to 2-10.
New York suffered through an eight-game slide from Nov. 7 - Dec. 26, 2004. It was head coach Tom Coughlin's first season in the Big Apple and the Giants went 6-10 that year. This could be Coughlin's last season in New York.
Coughlin was obviously disappointed in last weekend's 25-24 loss in Jacksonville, as the Jaguars rallied from a 21-0 deficit to stun the visiting Giants, who had only three points in the second half.
"Very disappointing, discouraging," Coughlin said. "We came down here feeling like we could win ... and nothing happened on game day."
The Giants lost all three fumbles and quarterback Eli Manning passed for 247 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. Manning fumbled late in the game when he was sacked by Jaguars defensive end Chris Clemons.
Jacksonville scored twice on fumble returns.
Manning didn't throw an interception for the first time since Nov. 3 versus Indianapolis and had been picked off seven times in the previous three games. He's focused on Tennessee and getting the Giants back on track for the first time since Oct. 5 versus Atlanta.
Coughlin got his message across to Manning and the team.
"He wants us to worry about Tennessee, getting a win, be able to enjoy, be happy about we are doing, and be able to celebrate as a team together, and celebrate a victory," Manning said. "That is what we are going to do, we are going to focus on this week and take it one week at a time, and compete our tails off, and work hard, and that is all we can do, that is all we can control."
The Giants have lost four in a row on the road and are 1-5 as the visitor. They need to clean up their act in the second half, having scored just 13 points over the last two quarters in the previous four games. The Jaguars had a 22-3 scoring advantage in the second half on Sunday.
"I don't have a reason, I don't have an explanation," Manning said. "We have to be better, we have to be better in the second half of all these games. That is where games are won. It is usually going to come down to that third and fourth quarter, who plays football. That is where the situations of the game come. We are not making the plays; we are making mistakes, we are not making enough plays in that situation to win the games."
New York has lost the last three games in which it led at the half. The 3-9 record is the worst after 12 games since 1995, when the G-men had an identical mark.
The Titans haven't won since Oct. 12 versus Jacksonville and will play two straight and three of their last four games in the Music City. They are only 1-4 at LP Field this season.
Tennessee has given up 40 or more points (88 total) in each of the last two games and 20-plus points in the last five. In Sunday's 45-21 demolition at the hands of the Houston Texans, the Titans allowed 457 total yards and Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick passed for 358 yards and six touchdowns.
Houston had a 24-0 lead in the first half.
Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins scorched Tennessee for 238 yards receiving and two scores on nine catches. Tennessee's defense has been abysmal all season and is 18th in passing yards allowed (243.8), 30th in total yards (385.2) and last in rushing yards allowed (141.5) and points (28.2).
Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt discussed what the players could do to improve over the last few weeks of the season, especially the younger players.
"It's an important part of the process," Whisenhunt said. "Getting a chance to see them in games, if you just look at the quarterback, for example, we've got to see him before this game against three pretty good defenses in the league, three pretty good, established defenses. You get a good assessment of him on where he is and how he's going to handle that. We're getting to look at a lot of different guys in situations. Some of it because you want to look at young players, some of it because it's an injury situation. It does give them an opportunity to show what they can do."
Titans rookie QB Zach Mettenberger left Sunday's game in the third quarter with a shoulder injury and suffered a Grade 1 AC sprain. Mettenberger, who passed for 184 yards with a touchdown and an interception, said he thinks he will be able to come back versus the Giants, while Whisenhunt will make the decision later in the week.
According to Mettenberger, he's "definitely playing this week" and is experiencing some soreness.
"It's only been three days since I injured it, so obviously there's soreness still," he said. "I can't go out there and 100 percent rip a ball right now, but I'm sure by the end of the week I'll be fine."
Jake Locker, who was replaced by Mettenberger as the starter last month, completed 6-of-12 passes for 91 yards with a TD and two interceptions.
The Titans and Giants have split the first 10 meetings between the teams, and Tennessee has prevailed in each of the past five, including a 29-10 victory on Sept. 26, 2010. Manning threw for 386 yards on 34-of-48 passing with no touchdowns and two interceptions.
New York took the first five games in this series from 1973-1994.
Mettenberger and Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. were teammates at LSU. Beckham was just named Offensive Rookie of the Month.
"Without a doubt, he is the best athlete I have ever been around personally," Mettenberger said of Beckham. "Not just football, but basketball, baseball, soccer, he can do it all... I have seen him do it all. I am very proud of him and the work he has put in, and the success he is having on the field."
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Manning has thrown for five touchdowns and no interceptions in his last three games against AFC opponents. Protection has been an issue for Manning, who was sacked four times against the Jaguars. The Giants have allowed 21 sacks during the seven-game slide after giving up only seven in the first five games.
Perhaps that will change with the pending return of right tackle Justin Pugh. He has missed the last two games with a quadriceps injury.
The Giants made some moves this week and placed offensive linemen Geoff Schwartz and Adam Snyder, defensive linemen Mathias Kiwanuka and Robert Ayers, and linebacker Terrell Manning on injured reserve.
Coughlin commented on New York's laundry list of injuries.
"The message is keep fighting; that's what the message has been all along...The other message is opportunity."
Giants running back Rashad Jennings posted 91 yards and two TDs on 26 rushes last week, while rookie Andre Williams leads all first-year NFC players with five rushing touchdowns. Jennings and Williams should see enough action against Tennessee's shoddy run defense, the worst in the NFL.
Jennings is bothered by an ankle issue that is not deemed serious.
The Giants have struggled against the rush this season, allowing 140.6 yards per game. Titans rookie Bishop Sankey leads the team with only 474 yards and posted 42 on 10 carries last week. Sankey has yet to hit the 100-yard mark in a game this season.
New York will have to watch for Kendall Wright, who had 132 yards and a touchdown on seven catches against Houston. Titans tight end Delanie Walker ranks second among AFC tight ends in receiving yards (673) and has 44 catches for four touchdowns. Walker has good speed for his big frame.
Tennessee is rated near the bottom in most offensive categories, but should be able to move the football on a Giants stop unit ranked 19th against the pass, 25th in points allowed and 29th in total yards allowed.
Titans tackles Taylor Lewan (ankle) and Michael Oher (toe) have been limited this week and neither played against the Texans. They're day-to-day.
Defense will be at a minimum between the Giants and Titans, while a sense of urgency is expected to be through the roof.
New York hasn't been able to find success in the second half of games recently and no lead is safe. The Giants, though, are a much better team than the Titans and will fight their way to a road win Sunday.
It doesn't matter who's at quarterback for the Titans because they have more problems than making calls at the line of scrimmage.
Sports Network predicted outcome: Giants 27, Titans 24
12/07 09:32:57 ET