Two weeks ago NY Giants starting quarterback Eli Manning required 13 stitches to close a gash to his head in the Giants’ first preseason game against the NY Jets. Manning sat out last week’s 24-17 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, but is planning on starting this Saturday night when the Giants come to town to play the Ravens. If this were a regular season game I would have been chomping at the bit to have a quarterback like Manning not playing in the game, however I was happy when I heard that Manning was going to play. While the Ravens have a ferocious defense, let’s keep in mind that Eli Manning’s a Super Bowl champion and a darned good quarterback. I’d rather see the Ravens play against one of the best to see how they stack up during preseason rather than draw Jim Sorgi or Rhett Bomar (the Giants’ third stringer, who played the entire game last week against Pittsburgh).
There’s definitely a rhyme and reason to the preseason, even given the fact that many fans like to complain about the watered-down, vanilla games. Week three has traditionally always been the game where the starting team gets to play most of the game (generally into the third quarter, if not three full quarters). Come the fourth quarter, we’ll probably see second and third stringers rotated in and out of the game in rapid motion so as to give everyone a fair amount of playing time. Come next week against the Atlanta Falcons, we’ll see the starters for perhaps one drive of the game on each side of the ball, and the rest of the game will be given to second through fourth and fifth stringers who are trying to earn a spot on the team. However, week three of the preseason has always been the “money game” so to speak because it’s as close to a regular season game as you’re going to get. Training camps broke last week, so now all teams are actually going through the normal motions of a week in terms of getting ready for a game. Again, there’s a rhyme and reason to each game in the preseason in my opinion; while some people like to say that all it means is that the starters play more, there’s also more than meets-the-eye. To this point, Joe Flacco’s seen action in the first and second quarter of games. It’s always interesting to see how your starting QB comes out and essentially warms up again to play after halftime. Furthermore, we’ll also see John Harbaugh having to make in-game adjustments at halftime, as the Giants’ starting team will also presumably be coming back out as well, led by Eli Manning.
Many of the above-mentioned ideas flow into my reasoning for being excited to see Manning play this week. I can’t say that I would have blamed the Giants for resting Manning for the remainder of the preseason, however everyone needs to get their work in at this time of year. However had the Ravens starting defense played against a second or third string quarterback for three quarters on Saturday night, first off I think we probably would see a blood bath. However it would also give the Ravens and the fans a false sense of security or superiority. The fact is that the Ravens probably have a top three defense in the NFL; anyone who doubts that fact doesn’t know football or perhaps even sports in general. However you could probably take the worst NFL defense in the league and put them against a high powered high school team and the NFL guys would run over them. If you see your team play against competition that’s so much more inferior to you, you don’t get a fair look at what you have.
One weaker link in the defense has been the secondary, and Manning’s a quarterback that’ll put that to the test. Obviously there’s a chance that the Ravens might give up a big play or two, as they did at Washington last week. (Although in that case the defense seemed to tighten within the red zone.) And if that happens, the defensive coaches will then have a better idea of how to scheme and protect against that kind of thing moving forward. If you’re not into preseason football, then I would say at the very least you might still want to check out this week’s games since they’re the crème de la crème of the preseason so to speak. The intensity of the Ravens/Giants game (along with other games around the league this week) will still not compare with what we’ll see on September 12-13th, however my attitude is that bad or weak football is still football.