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Dottino: Giants, Titans Both Fighting For Winning Homestretch

By Paul Dottino
» More Columns

There may only be two things you can say with any certainty about the Giants - they are badly beaten up, and they continue to stick together under coach Tom Coughlin.

Indeed, they go into Tennessee having lost seven in a row to drop to 3-9, and following another week of sending players to the injured reserve list, which has grown to 20 for the season. Players are being elevated all over the depth chart in an attempt to find enough production to stop the slide.

The Titans (2-10) understand the Giants' situation better than most. They have lost six straight games and badly want to end their season with a winning homestretch, too.

Here are three key matchups to watch:

1. Giants RBs Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams vs. Titans LOLB Derrick Morgan. The Titans and their 3-4 scheme rank last in the NFL in rushing defense (141.5 yards per game) and have allowed an average of 4.2 yards per attempt. However, teams are running for a league-low 2.5 yards per rush when taking the ball behind right tackle - that would be directly at Morgan, a fifth-year pro who has a 6-3, 261-pound frame. Jennings (sprained ankle) didn't practice this week until going through limited drills on Friday and likely will be a gametime decision. Williams, who returned to a reserve role behind Jennings for the past three weeks, says he's learned plenty during his rookie season - specifically how to mentally prepare for a heavier load - and is better equipped to start than earlier in the season. The Titans were gashed for an NFL season-high 204 rushing yards on 33 carries by Steelers RB LeVeon Bell last month.

2. Giants offensive line vs. Titans pressure package. Tennessee ranks ninth in the NFL with 31 sacks. Amazingly, they've gotten sacks from 13 players, which means they aren't afraid to send anybody after the quarterback. LDT Jurrel Casey leads the team with a modest five sacks. The Giants' often-injured line is expected to have RT Justin Pugh back in the starting lineup after he missed two games with a quad injury. The Titans have nothing to lose and likely will take a page from the Jaguars' playbook, when they got very aggressive in the second half agianst and dropped Giants QB Eli Manning four times during last week's improbable comeback.

3. Giants safeties vs. Titans TE Delanie Walker. Walker (44 catches for 673 yards and 4 TDs) has put up two 100-yard games and ranks second among NFL tight ends by averaging 15.3 yards per reception. The Giants likely will put one of their safeties - Stevie Brown, Nat Berhe or Quintin Demps - on Walker, who is the Titans' second-leading target and runs deeper vertical routes downfield even more than he did when he was with the 49ers.

PREDICTION: Giants 27, Titans 13
PREDICTION RECORD vs. the spread: 9-3

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