Tom Coughlin Might Want to Slip the Schedulers a Couple of Bucks Next Year

Giants have to avoid slipping into sleepwalking mode

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    The Giants have looked overwhelmingly good over the last two weeks, firing on most cylinders offensively and defensively as they swamped the Buccaneers and Chiefs. That's good, because anything less than than the blowout wins that they got would have been unacceptable given the team the Giants think they are and the teams we know the Buccaneers and Chiefs are this season.

    That's even more true next Sunday when the Raiders come to the Meadowlands. Oakland may actually be worse than the previous two opponents, which means that the Giants will have to remain on guard for the kind of flat performance that led to a loss in Cleveland last season. That's problematic, but more problematic is that the Giants have perilously little knowledge about how they'll fare against actual NFL teams when all is said and done.

    They'll find out in two weeks when they travel to the Superdome for a game against the Saints, who will be well-rested coming off of their bye. The fourth quarter on Sunday raised a little worry that the team may simply be tired of exerting themselves against terrible football teams, as the Chiefs scored a couple of touchdowns before the Giants resumed taking the game seriously. They obviously can't do that when the caliber of competition improves, which is why it's worth figuring out if there's a way to make the Raiders game more of a test.

    That's why it might not be a bad idea for the Giants to treat this week's game as a semi-bye for Eli Manning. Manning limped off the field with a bruised heel after the final Giants touchdown on Sunday, and they certainly can't afford to lose him for any significant amount of time. If Manning is 100 percent, he should play but anything less than that should make a seat on the bench a serious possibility. Resting him against the Raiders would serve to keep the rest of the team sharp, because they'll need to do a little bit more to pick up the slack.

    Even better, it would shift the offensive focus to the still troubling Brandon Jacobs. His numbers look fine, as they did against Tampa, but he again failed the eye test when it came to his running style. Hesitant approaches to the line don't work for any back, but they're deadly for one who relies on being the human equivalent of a locomotive. Use the Raiders game as a referendum on Jacobs going forward. Since they are secure in the knowledge that Ahmad Bradshaw is a capable option, the Giants need to figure out what Jacobs's role will be against teams that actually enter games with hopes of winning. If there's something wrong with him, the Giants need to know it now and not when they need a yard-and-a-half in Philadelphia or Denver in November.

    The NFL schedulers gave Tom Coughlin and his team three straight weeks of lemons, but those are a couple of ways that they can turn them into lemonade.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com.