As the 2008 NFL season continues its journey down the path to Tampa, two teams have stood above and beyond their competitors.
Fueled by smash-mouth football and the unlikely emergence of Kerry Collins, the Tennessee Titans have raced out to an impressive 9-0 start. The New York Giants apparently aren’t content with resting on the laurels of last year’s improbable Super Bowl victory, as indicated by their 8-1 record.
Both squads have lived up to their nicknames by stepping up as NFL Goliaths in 2008.
Who has the edge so far? Let’s allow the tale of the tape to decide.
QB: Eli, meet your predecessor
Kerry Collins and Eli Manning are the past and present of the New York Giants’ QB position. In relief of Vince Young, Collins has stepped up as a leader of the undefeated Titans. After living in the shadow of another Manning, Eli is carving his own niche as he continues his development into one of the league’s better signal-callers.
Kerry’s been great, but Eli is finally coming into his own.
RB: The battle of the nicknames
Despite constantly facing 8-man defensive fronts, Chris Johnson and LenDale White have smash and dashed their way to success in 2008. Meanwhile, in Gotham City, Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw have each averaged over five yards per carry.
The Giants have the league’s #1 rushing attack (168.9 yards per game), so I’ll give them a slight edge over the Titans at RB.
FB: Sarge vs. Hedgecock
Ahmard Hall is one of the NFL’s best kept secrets at FB. The former Marine is a blocking beast and is also a receiving threat out of the backfield. According to John Madden, NY’s Madison Hedgecock is the best blocking FB in the NFL.
I like Hall’s versatility and Hedgecock’s ability to pave the way for his running backs.
WR: A Giant mismatch
The Giants have a true #1 WR (Plaxico) and other guys who are stepping up (Toomer, Smith, Hixon).
As for the Titans, Brandon Jones is playing well but the starters (The Justins) have been inconsistent to say the least.
There’s no debating this one.
TE: Bo vs. The Boss
Bo Scaife has emerged from former Pro Bowler Alge Crumpler’s shadow to lead the team in receptions (42).
Kevin Boss may not have Jeremy Shockey’s ability, but he is a lot less of a headache. Boss has quickly become a fan-favorite in NY with his solid play.
Kevin may be “The Boss”, but Bo knows he has the edge in this matchup.
OL: The best of both worlds
Paving the way for the league’s #1 rushing attack, the Giants offensive line has excelled at run-blocking this year. The Titans’ offensive line has been equally dominant in pass-protection, as evidenced by starting QB Kerry Collins only being sacked 4 times in 9 games.
DL: Trench warfare
Albert Haynesworth leads the way for a Titan defensive line that is equally adept at rushing the passer and stopping the run. Despite losing perhaps its top two performers from 2007 (Osi and Strahan), led by Justin Tuck, the Giants continue to be strong in the defensive trenches.
On the interior, as good as Fred Robbins has played for the Giants this year, he’s no Albert Haynesworth. I’ll give the edge to the Giants on the exterior though, with Tuck and Kiwanuka getting the nod over Jevon and KVB.
LB: No contest
The Titan linebacking group is led by steady veterans Keith Bulluck and David Thornton. Starting MLB Stephen Tulloch tends to overpursue at times, but his speed has been an asset to the Titan defense as of late.
For the Giants, Antonio Pierce is a great student of the game and is a leader on their defense. At outside linebacker, Chase Blackburn is playing better and his stop of Brian Westbrook on a crucial 4th and 1 sealed a Giant victory over the Eagles last week.
DB: It’s all about playmaking
Finny, Nick Harper, Griff and Hope have accounted for all of Tennessee’s interceptions (14). Finnegan is emerging as a Pro Bowl caliber corner and Griff isn’t far behind at safety.
The Giants are currently #2 in the NFL against the pass, but the lives of their corners are made much easier by the presence of their great pass rush. At safety, Kenny Phillips is making strides and may be one of the league’s best safeties in a couple of years.
K: Rob Bironas is great, but John Carney has made 21/22 FG’s while hitting on all of his extra points.
Verdict: Slight edge to NY
P: Craig Hentrich and Jeff Feagles are veteran punters who do a great job of pinning the opposition inside the 20’s.
Returns: Chris Carr has been a pleasant surprise at KR for the Titans. NY’s Domenik Hixon is one of the league’s better punt returners.
Verdict: KR- Titans, PR- NY
The Titans and the Giants are two strong teams with a lot of talented players on both sides of the football.
Who is the better team? The Titans are undefeated, but the G-Men are the defending champs. I’d say it’s a toss-up for now. Maybe we will find out for sure in a couple of months.
Now, it’s your turn. Titans or Giants?