The League

Doug Farrar
Writer

Doug Farrar

A FootballOutsiders.com staff writer

Both Could Lose

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Both the Giants and Titans are dealing with the absence of primary and secondary playmakers. In New York's case, the loss of Plaxico Burress allows opposing defenses to play straight coverage as opposed to rolling everything to his side. That none of his replacements are what you'd call number-one receivers has left Eli Manning in a bit of a poke. When Brandon Jacobs started having knee issues and missed the Dallas game, we saw what happened when a good defense not only didn't have to focus on Plax, but could avoid the bruising Jacobs up the middle. Now, the Cowboys could play their linebackers where they wanted and focus on the pass rush.

The Titans are led by their defense, and it was bad news when it was announced that defensive tackle (and MVP candidate) Albert Haynesworth would miss at least the rest of the regular season with a sprained MCL. On top of that, end Kyle Vanden Bosch is out for the regular season with a groin injury. While Vanden Bosch is a fine player, it's the loss of Haynesworth that really impacts this team. Because he's unblockable one-on-one, Haynesworth takes two or even three blockers on every play, which allows other Tennessee defenders to zoom into the backfield unobstructed. This is what great players do, whether on offense or defense -- they force opponents to alter their gameplans and create disadvantageous situations.

Here's where it gets interesting. This Sunday, the Giants and Titans both play the teams that want to knock them off of their current top seeds. The Panthers, who might be the NFL's hottest team right now, travel to the Meadowlands to see how their physical style matches up. If the Panthers win out, they have home field through the playoffs. The Titans, meanwhile, welcome the Steelers and their murderous defense to LP Field.

It could not be a worse time to have these injuries in play, but that's what the stretch run is about, to a great degree -- who can survive the war of attrition at the end. Both the Giants and Titans have coaches in Tom Coughlin and Jeff Fisher who have shown the ability to adjust to bad circumstances, but there are only so many Band-Aids in a box. Don't be surprised if the one-seeds have changed in both conferences by Sunday night.

By Doug Farrar  |  December 16, 2008; 10:01 AM ET  | Category:  New York Giants , Tennessee Titans Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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