The New York Giants have been able to stay afloat while starting wide receivers Steve Smith and Hakeem Nicks have missed a few weeks. But now it looks like Smith (pectoral muscle) and Nicks (lower left leg) could both play against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday. Smith, who took a lot of reps in practice Wednesday, is almost certain to play. The Giants will be a little more cautious with Nicks following surgery on his leg.
Smith wasn't pleased with his progress last week, although he told me Sunday that he planned to play against the Vikings. But after Wednesday's practice, he had a brighter outlook. In fact, Smith told reporters Wednesday was "the best day of my life football-wise." It sounds like he and Nicks gained a deeper appreciation for the game when it was taken away from them for a few weeks.
You'll recall that Eli Manning invited Nicks to his family's passing academy this past offseason and the two of them developed a great chemistry in the first half of this season. Manning and offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride placed a huge emphasis on completing more deep balls this season, and they were on a pretty good pace before Smith and Nicks were injured. But over the past two weeks, Manning has only thrown four passes that traveled 20 yards or more, and only one of them was caught.
If both Smith and Nicks are on the field Sunday, Manning will have a much larger field to survey. When Mario Manningham is the only deep threat, he can be pretty easy to defend. With all three players on the field, the Giants have one of the most dangerous groups in the league.
"The coaches are going to implement [the deep ball] in the game plan now,” Smith said, "just because Hakeem’s coming back."
The good news is that it looks like the Giants and Eagles could be at full strength for that monster rematch in the Meadowlands on Dec. 19. But they both have to survive tough road tests first.