Are the Giants ready for tough road ahead?

Sam Spiegelman

The Giants overcame some of their demons yesterday with a win over Cleveland. But despite Cleveland being a more competitive team in 2012, was the win enough to proclaim the G-Men are back on track?

The highlights include Eli Manning’s three touchdown passes, despite the absence of top receiver Hakeem Nicks and Ramses Barden. Victor Cruz shined, and Reuben Randle and Domenik Hixon proved to be worthy replacements.

Ahmad Bradshaw enjoyed a career afternoon with a 200-yard effort. And filling in for the concussed Andre Brown, David Wilson scored his first NFL touchdown.

The defense contributed its fair share, too. It picked off rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden twice and overall forced three turnovers.

The G-Men moved to 3-2 and now own a share of the NFC East division lead. But as they brace for the most difficult stretch of their 2012 schedule, is the team good enough to survive?

Over the next five weeks, the Giants travel to San Francisco, host Washington, have a rematch with Dallas and face off with the Steelers and Bengals before the Week 11 bye.

To contend with powerful rushing attacks like San Fran and Washington, the Giants cannot allow 375 yards per game, like they did vs. Cleveland. And if they want to win games — like they beat the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game last winter — they need to pressure the quarterback. The Giants were unable to generate a single sack on Weeden Sunday.

Bradshaw may have had a career day, but he did so vs. a less-than-mediocre Browns D that entered Sunday’s action allowing upwards of 120 yards per game. The 49ers have allowed three points in the last two games — they won’t allow a 200-yard rusher.

Let’s look it at this way — the Giants can run the ball. Whether they maintain that balanced approach has yet to be seen. It’ll be important to try it out v. San Francisco, and it’ll likely fair better against the Redskins and Cowboys who are not as stellar in their rush defense.

And there’s the health factor.

Prior to the game v. Cleveland, Hakeem Nicks (foot, knee) jogged around the field. Could he be preparing for a Week 6 return?

Though Randle and Hixon  have filled in well for Nicks, their ceiling is not as high as the perennial All Pro. Nicks, in tandem with Cruz and the others, makes the G-Men much more formidable for opposing secondaries.

So here it is. Defensive pressure, balanced offense and health — all likely determinants v. San Fran in Week 6 and against the rough stretch of opponents over the next 5 weeks.

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