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Giants vs. Bills: What to Watch For

It’s pretty remarkable that a win today could put the Giants (1-2) in a tie for first place atop the NFC East, but that’s the state of this division right now. Big Blue faces the Bills (2-1) today for New York’s first road matchup since Week 1. Here’s what to watch for as the Giants look to even up their record.

Running Back Roulette

Despite having one of the more highly touted defenses in football, the Bills are allowing 4.3 yards per attempt on the ground. Not a terrible number by any means, but through three games, teams have been able to run on them.

Rashad Jennings remains the Giants’ starter for now, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Andre Williams take over sooner rather than later. Jennings opened the season fairly strong, averaging 4.0 YPC against Dallas, but has really struggled since, averaging just 2.2 yards since. Williams wasn’t great against Washington last week, averaging just over two YPC, but he still out-carried Jennings 14-11.

It’ll be interesting to see the carry distribution against Buffalo, but I imagine the Giants will give both opportunities and stick with the hot hand. At the very least, I would expect Williams to get the call in goal-line situations. For what it’s worth, the Bills have only allowed one rushing touchdown this year.

Receiver Roulette

The Giants fully expected to have WR Victor Cruz back today, but his calf injury flared up at practice during the week, and his return will have to wait. With Cruz still out and Preston Parker released, the Giants lack a true slot receiver on the roster. Odell Beckham saw a lot of snaps in the slot last week, and should again this week.

Beckham is always a good bet for a big game, but especially so against the Bills. The Buffalo secondary has a tendency to allow opposing top receivers to put up big numbers. Last week, Rishard Matthews tallied 113 yards and two touchdowns on six catches, and the week prior Julian Edelman caught 11 passes for 97 yards and two scores.

It would be in the Giants’ best interest to feed Beckham the ball, and establish a secondary weapon, most likely in the form of Rueben Randle, who went off last week (7-116-1). The duo could be enough to keep the chains moving against a tough Bills defense.

Taylor Gang

Bills QB Tyrod Taylor has been one of the most interesting players to watch in his first season as a full-time starter. Through three games, he has thrown seven touchdowns and three interceptions, averaging 9.2 YPA, and completing a phenomenal 74.4% of his passes. He has also rushed for 96 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries.

Against the Giants, the Bills offense will be extremely dependent on the dual-threat quarterback, as top offensive weapons RB LeSean McCoy and WR Sammy Watkins will both be inactive.

After three games, the Giants have allowed an average of 335 passing yards per game, a number made even scarier when one realizes Kirk Cousins passed for 316 last week. The matchup of Taylor vs. the Giants secondary is one I’ll be keeping a close eye on today. Even though he’s without Watkins, Taylor still has Percy Harvin, Robert Woods and TE Charles Clay to get the ball too.

Injury Report

As expected, the Giants will be without DE Robert Ayers (hamstring), meaning the Giants will likely start George Selvie and Kerry Wynn at DE, with Cullen Jenkins and Johnathan Hankins manning the inside, as DT Markus Kuhn (knee) is also out.

TE Daniel Fells (foot), who was originally listed as questionable, did not make the trip to Buffalo. With TE Jerome Cunningham (knee) also out, Will Tye was promoted from the practice squad to back up starter Larry Donnell. DT Kenrick Ellis was released in a corresponding move.

There is good news, however. CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has been cleared of his concussion after missing the Washington game, and will start today. Also, LT Ereck Flowers (ankle) was questionable, but is active. Whether or not he will start is unclear. If he’s fully healthy, the Giants could really use him against a strong Bills d-line.

The Verdict

I think this will actually be a close game, despite the teams’ opposite records. I think Eli Manning has a big day, so long as Randle can build off his strong performance from last week. The Giants’ rushing attack needs to come alive, and I think Williams could make that happen today. Taylor could give the Giants’ defense fits. I see this being a back-and-forth affair. With first-place (somehow) within reach, the Giants step up and get a win on the road.

Giants 34, Bills 31

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