THE GAME: The Baltimore Ravens (3-2) at the Giants (2-3) at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, N.J. on Sunday, Oct. 16, 1 p.m. ET.
THE WEATHER: It's supposed to be so nice that I'm almost sad that the press box is indoors. The temperature is supposed to hover around 70 with plenty of sun, no rain and only the usual light Meadowlands winds.
WHAT IT MEANS: If you step back and look at the big picture, the back-to-back losses in Minnesota and Green Bay aren't a huge deal. Those are tough places to win under any circumstances. They just look worse in consecutive weeks, coming off a terrible loss to the Redskins. This, though, is a perfect spot for the Giants to get back on track, at home against a mediocre team with plenty of its own issues. We're still a long ways from must-win territory, but these are the types of games teams are supposed to win if they really want to be considered contenders.
PLAYER TO WATCH: WR Victor Cruz. The zero catches from Sunday night is alarming enough, but I can't really get over the two passes thrown his direction. The Giants did a decent job of trying to get the ball to Odell Beckham, Jr. (12 targets) and Sterling Shepard (seven), but the beauty of their passing attack is that they're supposed to be three-deep at receiver. No, Cruz wasn't open a ton, but he was open more than twice and they've got to get more creative about finding ways to get the ball in his hands. He's taking most of his snaps on the outside now. No, he's not the same player he was pre-injury, but he still looks pretty good and he might be able to do some damage out of the slot. If the Giants can get him going it's only going to make things easier on Shepard and on Beckham, who has been absolutely swarmed by defenses the last few weeks. So they should try to get the ball to Cruz early. And I think they will.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Giants LT Ereck Flowers against Ravens LB Terrell Suggs. First of all, Flowers was not good the last two games and he was particularly bad against the Packers. I know there are metrics out there that show he's having a good season overall, but I don't believe that's an accurate assessment -- and from what I can tell, neither do a lot of people around the Giants. Flowers looked improved early on, but he's taken a step back and is committing too many penalties. And speed rushers like the 6-3, 260-pound Suggs have been particularly problematic.
Flowers needs to find a way to keep Suggs out of Eli Manning's face because the pressure on the quarterback is a major reason why the offense has been so out of sync the last two weeks. Manning spent the Vikings game bailing out of players early because of it and rushing his throws against the Packers because of it. Flowers had a big hand in both those disasters. And especially if he's going to be cranky -- he shoved a reporter after the Packers game and wouldn't publicly apologize or even answer questions about the incident the next day -- he might want to start producing, too.
INJURY REPORT: The Giants continue to be shorthanded at safety with Nat Berhe (concussion) and Darian Thompson (foot) out and their beleaguered offensive line will again be without RT Marshall Newhouse (calf). They do have hope that CBs Eli Apple (groin) and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (groin) will play, but not a lot of hope. Apple is a bit of a longshot and DRC might be limited, which could mean more of Trevin Wade and Leon Hall and maybe even plenty of newcomer Coty Sensabaugh. Also questionable for Sunday are WR/KR Dwayne Harris (toe), RB Rashad Jennings (thumb), DE Jason Pierre-Paul (groin) and LB Devon Kennard (concussion). It sounds like Jennings will play, but he may need to share a little time with Orleans Darkwa. JPP insisted he will play, but the Giants might have to be careful with his snap count, too.
The Ravens might even be more banged up than the Giants. Their offense will very likely be missing WR Steve Smith (ankle), RT Ronnie Stanley (foot) and RG Marshal Yanda (shoulder), who are all doubtful. Their special teams will be missing return man Devin Hester (doubtful, thigh). And their defense will be without linebackers CJ Mosley (doubtful, hamstring) and Elvis Dumervil (out, foot). Dumervil has barely played this season, but he is still potentially an impact player. In fact every one of those players is a big loss for Baltimore. Making matters worse for them, RT Rick Wagner (thigh) is also hurting, but he's expected to play.
THE PICK: This won't be easy to believe, but the Giants really are a better team than they've showed the last three weeks. They made too many uncharacteristic mistakes three weeks ago against Washington, ran into a buzz saw in Minnesota, and Eli Manning just had a stinker of a game in Green Bay. Manning is better than that and the Giants are a more fundamentally sound team than they've showed, and I'm convinced they're due for a big rebound. Manning, in fact, usually bounces back well from games like that. It won't be easy against a tough Ravens defense, especially since his offensive line likely will continue having the same issues protecting him. But Ben McAdoo's offense -- and yes, his play-calling -- has been too good over the years to be held down for long. He is much more likely to stick with the running game this time, especially if it gets a boost from the return of Rashad Jennings. And he absolutely is going to find ways to set Beckham free.
I know it seems like teams have figured out how to cover Beckham, but that's really a little ridiculous given how talented he is. A breakout game is coming. It's only a matter of when. Will it be on Sunday? I don't think there's going to be an offensive explosion from the Giants. I think they'll just fine-tune things, make fewer mistakes, and do enough to win what should be a pretty good defensive battle. … Giants 17, Ravens 10.
MY RECORD: 3-2.