2008 NFL Update: Giants/Titans Seemingly on Collision Course

Giants/Titans Seemingly On Collision Course
By David A. Lane

In a season where not so perfect teams are the norm, the defending champion New York Giants (8-1) in the NFC and the Tennessee Titans (9-0) in the AFC seem to be separated from the rest of the pack by miles. After watching the two it would be hard to deny that each are the class of their respective conferences and seem likely to be participants at the Super Bowl game in what would be a monumental clash. Although there is a lot of football left to play, just what makes these teams so formidable and if the game were to be held tomorrow, who would win?

It is no secret of course that both teams have very good defenses- always an important key to success in the NFL. In a sense, they are both very much alike in this area because in yards allowed per game the Giants are ranked third in the league at 264.8 and the Titans fifth at 284.6. Ranked 7th (NY 87.7 yards per game) and 8th (TN 90.1 ypg) respectively against the rush, the Giants have fared a bit better against the pass by yielding an average of 177.1 yards (2nd in league) versus the Titans 194.4 (11th in league). The Giants D has sacked the quarterback 30 times thus far (2nd), six more times than has Coach Jeff Fisher’s squad (7th with 24), however his Titans lead the league in defensive points allowed averaging only 13 per contest while the Giants give up 17.8 (7th).

Basically, on defense this comparison is a wash because both teams can stop the run, pressure the quarterback, and defend the pass well enough for their offenses to control the game. When it comes to takeaways, both teams excel at interceptions- the Giants (4th) with 12 and the Titans (2nd) 14- but are pedestrian at fumble recoveries (Giants 25th with 3, Titans 15th with 5). In total net turnovers, NY is +6, good for 5th in the league, while TN is leading the league with +10. Obviously, these teams are almost reflections of each other showing that consistent defense and a little luck in the turnover categories add up to success in this league.

When it comes to similarities between the two, they continue to spill over on offense because both are prolific at rushing the ball. The Giants lead the league by averaging 168.9 per effort while the Titans aren’t far behind ranked 6th with 134.3. Both teams also are very good at protecting their quarterback’s, the NY Giants having allowed just 11 sacks good for 5th while Tennessee leads the league allowing only five. The parallels continue with points scored as each thrives in that department as well, NY (1st) at 29.1 points per game and TN (10th) with 24.4.

It is mainly in the area of passing, yards per game, and time of possession where the teams finally do begin to vary from each other. The G-men are 16th in passing yards (205.8) and fourth overall in total offensive yards (374.7) against the Titans 27th (178.8) making them a mere 22nd ranked (313.2) overall. Lastly, NY is second in the league in offensive time of possession (34:06) while TN is only ranked 13th (30:45), an important difference between them.

Not having the ability to effectively pass the ball might not be quite as important against some lesser opponents however against the best it will most definitely stand out like a sore thumb. The Giants having both a rushing and passing attack would most likely keep the Titans defense off balance all day long, neutralizing enough of its pass rush for quarterback Eli Manning to take advantage of its secondary. Tennessee’s offense wouldn’t be able to put together long sustained drives against the defending champs therefore also not being able to control the clock against them. Wearing down the Titans defense would most certainly be the game plan of Coach Tom Coughlin who has the team and the talent to do so.

Certainly, key turnovers could be the deciding factor in any competition with participants as evenly matched as these- the reason why they play the game on the field and not on paper. In this season of parity, these two have been about as close enough to perfect as any of the other ones combined. Regardless, in what would likely be the most over-hyped (possibly for good reason) Super Bowl game ever these teams would give us one seriously hard fought battle- one in which the Giants would prevail by a score of 34-24- and some very nice memories of the 2008 season.