Streaking Giants Face Another Road Test Against Seahawks
SEATTLE (AP) — Forgive Brian Daboll if he’s essentially walking around with ear plugs and blinders on, doing his best during the week to try to avoid the avalanche of attention being placed on the New York Giants.
Even if that focus is a good thing in this case.
“I can only speak of the games. The games have been great,” the Giants head coach said. “I get in my car and drive home and drive here. I don’t really do anything else.”
The Giants (6-1) are among the hottest teams in the NFL, riding a four-game winning streak into Sunday’s matchup against the equally surprising Seattle Seahawks. The Giants streak is tied for the second-longest active streak in the league, while Seattle (4-3) has won its last two to move into first place in the NFC West.
Both Seattle and New York were expected to be among the dregs of the NFC this season — the Giants because of a new coaching staff taking over a franchise that won just four games in 2021; the Seahawks because they traded a franchise quarterback with no obvious replacement at the position.
But something happened on the way to those preconceived notions.
New York has found an uncanny way to win a bunch of close games thanks to smart decisions by quarterback Daniel Jones and a dynamic season to date from running back Saquon Barkley. And Seattle discovered it already had its quarterback replacement in Geno Smith, who is among the best in the league through seven games.
The game is the only matchup this week featuring both teams having winning records. If that statement had been made before the season, some good money could have been made betting on the unlikelihood of that being the case.
“It’s been an interesting year. I think there a lot of surprises around the league as far as the play and the way the ball bounces and wins and losses,” Seattle tight end Will Dissly said. “We kind of know who we are, and we are excited.”
The Giants and Seahawks are among the two best teams in the NFL at running the ball. For New York, it has been a lot of Barkley leading the way.
He leads the NFL in yards from scrimmage and is second in yards rushing through seven weeks. But they’ve had the added element of Jones running the ball, including a career-high 107 yards last week against Jacksonville, and Seattle has struggled at times stopping running quarterbacks this season. The Giants rank second in the league in rushing.
On the other side, there’s been no falloff with rookie Kenneth Walker III stepping in after Rashaad Penny was lost for the season due to injury. Walker rushed for 167 yards and two touchdowns last week against the Chargers and is averaging more than 6 yards per carry the past two weeks.
For the second straight week, Smith will be facing one of his former teams. Smith was with the Giants for one season in 2017 and most notably was thrust into a starting role in place of Eli Manning that ended his streak of consecutive starts. Smith threw for 212 yards and a touchdown in a 24-17 loss to the Raiders in what was his only start between the end of the 2014 season and early in the 2021 season.
“Being able to be in the same room with Eli Manning and learning from him, and learning with him, and competing with him was awesome just to be a part of,” Smith said.
The Giants are expected to have significant changes on their offensive line with right tackle Evan Neal and left guard Ben Bredeson both suffering knee injuries last week against Jacksonville. Neither is expected to play against the Seahawks, especially with New York’s bye coming next week.
The Giants could end up getting a boost if Nick Gates is ready to play. Gates was added to the active roster this week after missing most of last season following a major injury fracturing both bones in his lower left leg. Gates underwent seven surgeries to repair the injury.
Gates started all 16 games in 2020 for New York and has worked primarily at guard and center.
The Giants are the first team since 2000 and the third ever to have six wins in their first seven games and have all of their games decided by eight points or less.
Minnesota in 2000 and New Orleans in 1988 are the other two. Minnesota won its division, while New Orleans ended up missing the playoffs despite finishing 10-6
It’s hard for any team to come close to matching the amount of travel the Seahawks face in a season.
But the Giants are, at least for the first half of this season. The Giants already visited London for their victory over Green Bay and now on back-to-back weeks will go from last week’s game in Jacksonville to this week in Seattle.
The Giants are expected to travel about 20,000 miles this season. But even that seems minor compared to the Seahawks, who will hit nearly 30,000 by the end of the year, including next month’s trip to Munich.
NEW YORK GIANTS (6-1) at SEATTLE (4-3)
Sunday, 4:25 p.m. EDT, FOX
AGAINST THE SPREAD: Giants 6-1; Seahawks 4-3.
SERIES RECORD: Giants lead 10-9.
LAST MEETING: Giants beat Seahawks 17-12, Dec. 6, 2020, in Seattle.
LAST WEEK: Giants beat Jaguars 23-17; Seahawks beat Chargers 37-23.
GIANTS OFFENSE: OVERALL (19), RUSH (2), PASS (30), SCORING (18).
GIANTS DEFENSE: OVERALL (19), RUSH (28), PASS (15), SCORING (6).
SEAHAWKS OFFENSE: OVERALL (12), RUSH (10), PASS (16), SCORING (5).
SEAHAWKS DEFENSE: OVERALL (29), RUSH (29T), PASS (23), SCORING (28T).
TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL: Giants plus-3; Seahawks plus-2.
GIANTS PLAYER TO WATCH: QB Daniel Jones hasn’t posted eye-catching numbers this season during New York’s 6-1 start. But he’s made plays when opportunities have been presented and most notably avoided critical mistakes. Jones already has two true road wins this season, not including a win over Green Bay in London in what technically was a road game. He had five career road wins as a starter entering the season and a win in Seattle might top that list.
SEAHAWKS PLAYER TO WATCH: Rookie RB Kenneth Walker III rumbled for a career-best 167 yards — originally 168 before a stat correction by the league — and two touchdowns last week against the Chargers, including a 74-yard TD in the fourth quarter. He’s averaging 6.04 yards per carry over the past two games and now faces a Giants defense that has allowed 353 yards rushing combined over the past two weeks.
KEY MATCHUP: The Seahawks believe the past two weeks have been a turning point defensively, and specifically stopping the run. They held Arizona to 144 yards rushing, although 100 of that came from QB Kyler Murray. Last week, they limited the Chargers to 53 yards on the ground. But this week is a true test between Saquon Barkley and what Daniel Jones has provided with his legs. The Giants have topped 230 yards rushing three times already this season after accomplishing that just twice between 2012-21.
KEY INJURIES: TE Daniel Bellinger (eye), LG Ben Bredeson (knee) and RT Evan Neal (knee) are all expected to be out with injuries suffered last week against Jacksonville. WR Kenny Golladay (knee) is not expected to play, especially with the Giants bye coming next week. ... Seattle may be without WR DK Metcalf because of a knee injury suffered last week against the Chargers. Offensive linemen Phil Haynes (concussion) and Gabe Jackson (hip/knee) should both be back. Special teams standout Nick Bellore suffered a concussion last week and must be cleared. WR Penny Hart (hamstring) is out.
SERIES NOTES: The Seahawks had won four straight in the series — all convincingly — before the matchup two seasons ago in Seattle. Playing without fans in the stadium, Colt McCoy led the Giants to a surprising 17-12 victory as 11-point underdogs. Since making the switch to the NFC, Seattle holds a 6-5 advantage over the Giants.
STATS AND STUFF: The Giants are 6-1 for the first time since 2008. They have not won five straight games since the 2016 season. ... The Giants are the first team since 2000 and the third ever to have six wins in their first seven games and all of their games have been decided by eight points or less. Minnesota (2000) and New Orleans (1988) are the others. ... Jones was the NFC offensive player of the week after being the first Giants QB to throw for 200 yards and run for 100 yards in a game last week vs. Jacksonville. ... RB Saquon Barkley leads NFL in total yards (906) and is second in yards rushing (726). ... S Julian Love and S Xavier McKinney combined for 12 total tackles, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery last week vs. Jacksonville. McKinney had his first career forced fumble and Love recovered. ... DE Leonard Williams had 2½ sacks in the previous matchup against the Seahawks. ... Seattle is playing its only home game in a five-week span. Its next two games are away from Seattle followed by a bye week. Seattle’s next home game is Nov. 27. ... Seahawks coach Pete Carroll is one win away from tying Bud Grant for 18th on the wins list with 168. ... Seahawks QB Geno Smith continues to lead the NFL in completion rate (73.5%) and is third in passer rating (107.7). ... Walker’s 167 yards and two TDs last week was just the fifth time since 2014 a rookie has rushed for at least 165 yards and two scores in a game and the first since Jonathan Taylor in Week 17 of the 2020 season. ... Pass rusher Uchenna Nwosu leads the league with 31 QB pressures. ... CB Tariq Woolen is tied for the league lead with four interceptions. He had a streak of four straight games with a pick snapped last week. ... CB Coby Bryant leads the league with four forced fumbles. ... S Ryan Neal had a career-high four passes defensed and his third career interception last week.
FANTASY TIP: Not only is Barkley second in the league in yards rushing, he also leads the Giants with 25 receptions. Austin Ekeler had 12 catches last week against the Seahawks. Even if he’s held in check running the ball, Barkley should have a productive day against Seattle.