Somebody will break into the win column on Sunday, as the New York Giants and Houston Texans each try to avoid an 0-3 start.
If NFL history tells us an 0-2 start makes a playoff berth unlikely, an 0-3 start would be a proverbial death knell to any postseason hopes. That’s what the New York Giants and Houston Texans will be trying to avoid in Week 3.
Through two games, the Giants’ win-now proposition with Eli Manning under center is not working. He has completed just over 69 percent of his passes, but the Giants are averaging 14 points per game (tied for 29th in the league) and they’re 28th in total offense (289.5 yards per game) through two weeks.
Running back Saquon Barkley has been essentially as advertised, with 45 touches through two games (second-most in the league) and over 100 total yards in each of his first two NFL games. But take away a 68-yard touchdown run against the Jaguars in Week 1 and he’s averaging a dismal 2.4 yards per carry as the Giants’ offensive line remains sub-par. Wide receiver Odell Beckham also looks to be back to full form, with a 29.6 percent target share thus far. But if Manning doesn’t have time to find him or anyone else downfield, consistency for Beckham and the Giants’ passing game will be an ongoing issue.
The Texans have also had some major issues along the offensive line over two games. But Deshaun Watson looked a little better in Week 2 against Tennessee, topping 300 yards through the air as Will Fuller (eight catches for 113 yards and a touchdown) re-joined DeAndre Hopkins (six catches for 110 yards and a touchdown) after missing Week 1.
Pass rush has also been a problem for the Giants and Texans. The Giants have a league-low one sack through two games, due in big part to Olivier Vernon (ankle) having yet to play, while the Texans are only marginally better with three sacks thus far. Last week against the Titans, they only sacked Blaine Gabbert (starting in place of Marcus Mariota) once and they only hit him twice.
Houston does have one particular bright spot, with the NFL’s No. 1 ranked rushing attach entering Week 3 (157.5 yards per game). That’s obviously helped a little by Watson’s 42 yards on the ground per game, and his overall threat as a runner. But Lamar Miller has look revitalized so far, averaging 4.9 yards per carry.
Two vulnerable offensive lines will make pressuring the quarterback a tipping point for Sunday’s game. The immobile Manning is a sitting duck when protection breaks down, as evidenced by six sacks of him by the Cowboys in Week 2. Watson can use his mobility to escape, even though he notably struggles against pressure.
In a unique schedule twist, and one that can only happen for them when the NFC East plays the AFC South in cross-conference matchups, the Giants are playing a second straight game in Texas this week. The results were bad in Dallas in Week 2, and there’s not much hope for better in Houston for Week 3. The NRG Stadium scoreboard is unlikely to be lit up on Sunday, but home field should provide some advantage for the Texans.