(Sports Network) – The New York Giants’ offense is at its best when the running game is operating at maximum efficiency, which wasn’t the case against the Redskins. The backfield duo of slasher Ahmad Bradshaw (44 rushing yards, 1 TD) and 264-pound beast Brandon Jacobs (29 rushing yards) managed just 73 yards on 19 carries in the opener, which combined with the on-and-off effectiveness of quarterback Eli Manning (268 passing yards, 1 INT), resulted in a poor 1-of-10 conversion rate on third downs. Manning did come up with a few big plays, with the physical Nicks on the receiving end of most of them in a seven-catch, 122-yard outburst, but also threw a costly interception that was returned for a Washington touchdown early in the second half that changed the momentum of the game. Turning the ball over was a problem for the veteran quarterback last year as well, with Manning picked off a league-high 25 times and losing five fumbles over the course of the season. If Nicks can’t play, big-play threat Mario Manningham (4 receptions, 49 yards) then takes over as the No. 1 receiver and return specialist Domenik Hixon (2 catches, 21 yards) would move into a starting role, and the Giants added a tested option in the slot with Thursday’s signing of veteran Brandon Stokley, owner of 338 career catches over a 12-year career with four teams.
St. Louis will be entering the Meadowlands with some serious concerns on the defensive end. The team was gashed for 236 rushing yards by Michael Vick and the Eagles’ collection of speed merchants, while Bartell’s injury and the possible unavailability of Brandon Fletcher (4 tackles) could leave career underachiever Justin King (7 tackles, 1 sack) and the aging Al Harris as the Rams’ top two cornerbacks on Monday. Fortunately, Spagnuolo does have a formidable pass rush to fall back on, as the combo of ends Chris Long (2 tackles, 1 sack) and James Hall accounted for 19 of the club’s solid total of 43 sacks (7th overall) in 2010 and the ex-Giants coordinator is highly skilled at devising creative ways to apply pressure. With New York expected to test the Rams on the ground, it’ll be up to middle linebacker James Laurinaitis (6 tackles) and St. Louis’ two new veteran outside additions, ex-Viking Ben Leber and former Packer Brady Poppinga, to perform better in their containment responsibilities than they did a week ago.