Hakeem Nicks’ Absence Means a Giants Win vs. Panthers?
Hakeem Nicks was a late scratch Wednesday from Thursday’s game against the Panthers in Charlotte. Nicks suffered a broken bone in his foot in the off-season for which he had surgery, but the injury has resurfaced, sidelining the star wideout on a short week. He is one of the most undervalued wide receivers in the NFL mainly because of his quiet demeanor and the fact that he plays across from one of America’s most celebrated new stars, Victor Cruz, who has become famously known for his salsa dance he performs after every touchdown.
Despite his lack of recognition, he quietly puts up star caliber numbers. Not many know that he racked up a robust 2,244 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2010 and ’11. He’s quite possibly the most important player to the Giants offense not playing quarterback. In addition to his prime skills as a receiver, it’s his presence that opens up passes underneath for the aforementioned Cruz to pick up crucial first downs and he makes teams have to dedicate an “over-the-top” safety to account for his vertical game that makes extra holes in the rushing attack for the Giants running backs.
Without Hakeem Nicks, the Giants would not have won last year’s Super Bowl or even made it through the playoffs. His remarkable postseason was most noted by a 165 receiving yard, two touchdown performance that included a hail-mary touchdown pass he caught before halftime versus the Packers that put the Giants up 20-10 on their way to a 37-20 victory.
Hakeem Nicks is as responsible for his team’s success as anyone on the Giants outside of Eli Manning, yet despite that fact, statistical evidence shows that the Giants chances of winning tonight’s game against the Carolina Panthers has improved with the announcement yesterday that Nicks would not be making the flight to Charlotte and thus missing the game. If he’s such an important part of the Giants offense, how can that be, you might ask.
The answer is, I’m not sure. I’m not sure how it’s possible, but the Giants’ record with and without him on the field suggests they are better off without him playing. Since Hakeem Nicks was drafted in 2009, the Giants have played 50 games. Of those 50 games, Hakeem Nicks has been healthy and played in 44 of those games. The Giants record in those games that Nicks was present; 22-22. An even .500 winning percentage which we all know equates to an 8-8 season. In the games the Giants have played without Nicks healthy and suited up they’re a perfect 6-0.
I can’t remember any example of removing one of the top 3 players from an NFL team’s roster for any period of time and that team winning every game without that player. Is it just a wacky coincidence? Perhaps. Could there be something about his absence that gives the Giants an advantage? Probably not. No one can suggest the Giants are better without Hakeem Nicks in their lineup, yet, their record more than suggests it.
Sometimes the NFL has so much parity it haphazardly generates these kinds of odd statistics, but though haphazard, they can’t be ignored as trends. Do I think the Giants will extend their record without Hakeem Nicks to a still perfect 7-0 after tonight? I don’t. The difference between this game and others that Nicks has missed is there is no presence Nicks can bring that will correct the Giants’ alarming issues in their secondary. It will be Cam Newton and the Carolina passing game that will ultimately sink the Giants at Bank of America Stadium. I expect Andre Brown to fill in admirably for the injured Ahmad Bradshaw in Brown’s first NFL start and I don’t expect Domenik Hixon’s absence to be much of a factor, but receiver Steve Smith and up-and-coming star receiver, Brandon LaFell should have a field day against a battered and inexperienced Giants secondary tonight.
If the Giants can pull this one-off without Nicks in the lineup and improve that record without Nicks to 7-0, despite being on the road with their injuries and the sad state of affairs they call their secondary, there really must be something about Nicks’ absence leading to wins. I just still won’t know what that something is.