We usually don’t address fantasy football in this space, but we'll start with a little fantasy advice:
Don’t give up on Hakeem Nicks just yet.
There’s no need for any public service announcement on starting Victor Cruz against Philadelphia on Sunday. You will be playing him, because you want to win. Cruz is in the midst of a wonderful season, clearing 100 yards receiving in three of the first four games this season. In Sunday’s 31-7 defeat at Kansas City, Cruz scored the Giants’ only touchdown and gained 164 of the team's 298 yards on offense.
“He’s playing as well as we’ve seen him play,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said.
But Nicks' numbers and play this season don’t exactly inspire a lot of confidence. Nicks caught only three of nine passes thrown his way against Kansas City and gained just 33 yards. He couldn't catch the only ball tossed his way in the previous week's shutout loss at Carolina, either.
With those numbers, fantasy-football enthusiasts with a wealth of other wide-receiver options might end up benching Nicks by week five.
But the receiver's play isn't just a problem for fantasy owners. New York has a more dynamic offense when Nicks and Cruz are both productive.
Sticking with Nicks could pay off this week. Opponents have lit up the Eagles’ pass defense in 2013, completing 70.2 percent of their passes and racking up 1,300 yards and nine touchdowns.
Several pass catchers have done big damage against Philadelphia. The Broncos’ Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker each caught a pair of touchdowns against the porous Eagles secondary in a 52-0 rout Sunday. The previous week, the Chiefs’ Donnie Avery caught all seven passes thrown his way for 141 yards. In week two, the Chargers’ Malcom Floyd and Antonio Gates each exceeded 100 receiving yards and Eddie Royal caught three touchdown passes as he racked up 90 yards.
Now, a good matchup does not necessarily equate to production. Two weeks ago, the Giants’ passing game looked to have a huge edge against the Panthers’ pass defense. Instead, Carolina's pass rush dominated the game. The Eagles, who have notched 10 sacks in four games, could give a hurting Giants offensive line some trouble.
However, if quarterback Eli Manning is reasonably well-protected from the Philadelphia pass rush, he should see receivers running open. The defensive numbers say the Eagles can be had in the passing game.
Now, it’s a matter of doing it. And look, we just don’t know with this Giants club. After all, the Giants have scored seven points in the last eight quarters.
But don’t be surprised if the Giants’ passing game shows a little life this week. And if ever there was a time for Nicks to have a bounce-back game, it would be against the Eagles.