Thirty-three years after the Beatles invaded New York, the Giants will return the favor: They're in London this weekend for the NFL's first regular season game outside of North America. The event will bolster the league's international profile and draw a sellout crowd to Wembley Stadium — but the game itself figures to be pretty lopsided. The Giants are riding high with five straight wins while their opponent, the Miami Dolphins, is still winless.
GIANTS (5–2) vs. DOLPHINS (0–7)
At London, Sunday, 1 p.m. FOX
WHEN THE GIANTS HAVE THE BALL
The once stout Dolphins defense is in shambles. They've been ravaged by injuries, with both starting safeties out for the season and three other starters likely to miss Sunday's game. Among them is seven-time Pro Bowl linebacker Zach Thomas, who suffered a serious case of whiplash after a traffic accident last weekend.
But even before the injury bug hit, this unit had been struggling. They haven't been able to generate pressure on the quarterback, totaling just nine sacks in seven games. As a result, opposing teams have been able to put a ton of points on the board: The Dolphins have only held two of their seven opponents below 31 points.
Most troublesome for Miami is their 31st ranked-run defense, which is surrendering an average of 156 yards a game. That weakness will be the easy for the Giants to exploit. Since the return of Brandon Jacobs three weeks ago, the Giants have racked up at least 140 yards per game on the ground. The trio of Jacobs, Derrick Ward, and Reuben Droughns has helped the Giants' offense control the clock — including an advantage of nearly 20 minutes in time of possession against Atlanta.
Quarterback Eli Manning has been fairy steady. While he has had at least one interception in each game this season, he also has two touchdown passes in each of the last three games. He's also been sacked just seven times.
WHEN THE DOLPHINS HAVE THE BALL
Miami running back Ronnie Brown leads the league with 991 yards from scrimmage — but a torn ACL last week ended his season prematurely. While the Dolphins' running game had been one of the team's few bright spots, it now becomes another huge question mark. Head coach Cam Cameron will turn to veteran backup Jesse Chatman in the short term. Like Brown, he is a big, bruising back who can also catch the ball out of the backfield. Miami's other backs are younger and have never seen significant playing time. Given their sinking record, it might make sense to take a long look at rookie Lorenzo Booker, a third-round pick out of Florida State. He has explosive quickness and could inject some much-needed excitement into an otherwise horrible season for the Dolphins.
The Dolphins have also lost their two other offensive stars. Quarterback Trent Green is out for the season with a concussion that might force him to retire. Receiver Chris Chambers was sent to San Diego just before the trade deadline. Both losses could create opportunities for two more rookies to get some playing time. First-round pick Ted Ginn Jr. has just six receptions, but could move into a starting role this week. The calls for quarterback John Beck, a second-round pick, could also grow. For now, the starter is Cleo Lemon, who has not played well. He has been tentative in the pocket and makes poor decisions when pressured.
That has the Giants defenders licking their chops. They lead the league with 27 sacks and have allowed just four touchdowns over the last four games. The strong pass rush has taken some pressure off the secondary and allowed them to make more plays. The Giants have intercepted six passes in the last three games and forced three fumbles.
KEY TO THE GAME
The Giants have a lot of weapons on offense and the Dolphins don't appear to be capable of stopping any of them. And with Green, Chambers, and Brown out of the picture, the Dolphins are going to have trouble scoring points themselves. As long as the Giants stick to their ground game and don't turn the ball over six times, this game should be a cakewalk.
Lahman's Pick: Giants 34–10