Few teams are in a better position to make a run to Super Bowl LI than the New York Giants. They enter Week 13 of the 2016 NFL season with the NFC’s second-best record, and the team is well on its way to making the playoffs.
Despite their success, New York has yet to prove that they are among the league’s top teams. They’ll get a chance to do just that on Sunday afternoon when they visit the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Pittsburgh has struggled on their way to a 6-5 record, and they aren’t in the postseason at the moment because the Baltimore Ravens hold the tiebreaker for first place in the AFC North. But the Steelers are viewed by oddsmakers as the superior team, making the Giants six-point underdogs on the road.
New York has taken advantage of a weak schedule on their way to an 8-3 record. Five of their last six wins have come against losing teams, defeating the likes of the Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Rams in close contests. Having gone undefeated since early October, the Giants could be in for a rude awakening when they visit one of the most dangerous teams in the AFC.
The Steelers stumbled when Ben Roethlisberger suffered a knee injury in the middle of the season, but they are looking more and more like the team that many thought could contend with the New England Patriots. After scoring 30 points in a close loss to the Dallas Cowboys, who have the NFL’s best record, Pittsburgh has won two straight games by at least two scores. New York’s recent victory over Cleveland was their first win by more than six points, and they needed a late pick-six to put the game away.
The Giants have narrowly avoided multiple upsets because of an improving defense. The unit is tied for fifth in points allowed, and they held top offenses like the Cowboys and New Orleans Saints to well below their scoring averages in the season’s first two weeks. No team has scored 30 points against New York in any game, something that Pittsburgh has done on four different occasions.
Roethlisberger and the Steelers present the Giants with a challenge they haven’t faced in nearly two months. No quarterback that has taken on New York in the last six games even ranks in the top 18 in passer rating. Antonio Brown leads all wide receivers with 82 receptions, and running back Le’Veon Bell has totaled 477 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns in the last three games.
Prior to their current winning streak, the Giants suffered consecutive losses to the Washington Redskins, Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers. All three of those teams have top-12 rated passers, and they combined to score more than 25 points per game against New York. Roethlisberger’s 99.5 rating is good for eighth in the league, and he’s thrown for six scores and no interceptions in his last three contests.
If Pittsburgh even comes close to reaching their potential on offense, New York could have a difficult time keeping pace. The Giants’ 27 points in Week 12 came against a Browns team that has the NFL’s No. 31 scoring defense, and New York still failed to reach 300 yards of total offense. Sunday’s over/under is 49.5, a total that has been reached just three times in the Giants’ 11 games.
A win for the Giants on Sunday would be evidence that they can compete with Dallas for the NFC East title, giving them a chance to get back to the Super Bowl for the third time in a decade. But New York might have some trouble down the stretch of the regular season now that they are facing stiffer competition.
Prediction: Pittsburgh over New York, 28-17