Barring a tie, one of them will see a troubling losing streak come to an end Sunday at LP Field.
Players on both teams are saying the right things about holding together, but their talent hasn't been sufficient in 2014. They will both be drafting high in the spring, and this game will have a big bearing on who goes first between them.
ESPN.com Titans reporter and Giants reporter Dan Graziano discuss the matchup.
Kuharsky: The Giants' pass rush is banged up. So is the Titans' offensive line. Do you expect New York to be able to put heat on Zach Mettenberger (or Jake Locker if Mettenberger's shoulder keeps him out)?
Graziano: I do, because the Giants showed Sunday they can get heat on a quarterback when they're up against a poor pass-protection team. They had only 19 sacks in their first 11 games but added seven in Jacksonville. The issues are personnel-related, as they're going to be without Robert Ayers (torn pectoral muscle) and possibly Mathias Kiwanuka (missed Sunday's game with a knee injury). But Jason Pierre-Paul is playing for a contract, and the young players (Damontre Moore and Kerry Wynn) who'd fill in at defensive end for Ayers/Kiwanuka have plenty of flaws but enough athleticism to generate pressure on the quarterback amid the penalties and other mistakes they'll inevitably make. The Giants have used linebackers and safeties to blitz more this year than in past years, too, so they will definitely be dialing up packages to put pressure on whoever's playing quarterback Sunday for Tennessee.
What's going on there at quarterback anyway? Has Mettenberger shown enough to change the Titans' perspective on what they need to do at quarterback this offseason, or will they be starting from scratch and looking at the guys at the top of the draft?
Kuharsky: He has made incremental but steady progress since he's taken over as the starter. He suffered a sprained throwing shoulder in Houston, but he's promising he'll play Sunday. And they need him to be on the field for these final four games to continue to build his resume. I don't know that they will make a pronouncement about him after the season, because they'll want the rest of the league to believe everything is in play for their high draft pick. But Mettenberger really fits what Ken Whisenhunt wants from a quarterback. He is a pure pocket guy who will stand in against the rush and deliver the ball with a big arm. He looks like an NFL quarterback to me, and I am not sure the top options in the draft fit Whisenhunt stylistically. I'm thinking they're going to feel they've found their guy.
Tom Coughlin told his players not to worry about his job and just to play. You think they can manage to do that, or does his fate hang over the team's head in a way that can't help but be a factor?
Graziano: I think they can do it. When you ask players in the Giants' locker room about Coughlin's job status, they're almost surprised to get the question. I haven't heard any grumbling, on or off the record, from players about Coughlin this year: Young players, old players, doesn't matter, they believe in the guy and will continue to play hard for him. The Giants' issues this year have a lot less to do with the messaging from the coaching staff than they do with a general talent deficiency on the roster. Coughlin's doing what he can with a banged-up team that wasn't that good or deep in the first place, and based on my conversations with the players, he really does have them focused on trying to finally win a game. They haven't won since Oct. 5, one week before the Titans' most recent win.
I saw you wrote this week that the Titans had fallen to last in the league in points allowed. What's the biggest problem they're having on defense?
Kuharsky: Oh, it's a bit of everything. In Houston, they didn't get pressure on Ryan Fitzpatrick. That meant meant he could sit back and find a rhythm and find himself five touchdown passes, and they gave up 45 points. The week before in Philadelphia, they gave up a 107-yard touchdown return on the opening kickoff, then allowed a 300-yard passing game to Mark Sanchez and a 100-yard rushing day to LeSean McCoy. Run defense is typically the heart of the problem. They're surrendering 141.5 ground yards a game, another number that's worst in the league. They miss gap fits, they miss tackles and they don't have the people in the new 3-4 front they need to slow down good backs.
Eli Manning has turned the ball over a lot, but the Titans have given up twice as many touchdown passes as they've taken away interceptions. Opposing quarterbacks have a 94.5 passer rating against them. Manning got sacked four times and lost two fumbles in Jacksonville. How does he typically follow up a game like that?
Graziano: Manning has faced significant amounts of pressure in pretty much every game of the Giants' seven-game losing streak. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, Manning has been sacked or put under duress on 31.4 percent of his dropbacks in the past five games (league average is 24.9). Some weeks, he weathers it better than others. Against the 49ers, he threw five interceptions. But he'd thrown only six all year in the nine games prior to that. The fumbles are a problem, and they've made it hard for the Giants to feel as good as they'd like to about him getting his interceptions under control. Basically, if Manning gets any kind of protection at all, he's able to run the new, rhythm-based offense effectively. But most weeks, he doesn't, and that means he's inconsistent. I imagine Eli will come up with decent numbers against that Titans' pass defense, but you can't rule out the possibility of an ill-timed, game-changing error of some sort. That has been the story of the Giants' season.
We talked about Coughlin earlier, but what's the state of the coaching situation in Tennessee? First year of Whisenhunt, first year in a new defensive system. Are they showing any progress?
Kuharsky: There really is little heading into Week 14 that suggests they've improved from the beginning of what has been a disastrous first season for Whisenhunt and his staff. Mettenberger is in line to start his sixth game and, as I mentioned, his growth curve is encouraging. Left tackle Taylor Lewan (who missed last week with a high ankle sprain) and inside linebacker Avery Williamson are two other rookies who've been good. They are able, at times, to generate pressure with blitzes. Otherwise, it seems Whisenhunt has been stubborn. The system has not been adjusted much to fit the personnel, which is certainly lacking. But Whisenhunt got a five-year contract, and team CEO and president Tommy Smith said in a couple recent interviews that there is no change coming at coach or with general manager Ruston Webster.