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GIANTS GET SLIGHT EDGE IN TEST OF TOP DEFENSES

The series

Tied 2-2. Bills have won last two, both at Rich Stadium, a 41-17 rout of demoralized Giants in 1978 and 6-3 overtime triumph in game between replacement teams in 1987. Buffalo won '87 game on Todd Schlopy 27-yardfield goal in overtime. The Bills have never faced the Giants in a regular season game at Giants Stadium. Last road meeting against New York was a 20-6 loss in 1970.

Bills on offense

Giants are No. 1 in NFL defense so it goes without saying that this will be the toughest test yet for Bills' balanced offense. When they've had to, the Bills have protected Jim Kelly well, but they haven't faced Lawrence Taylor yet. Most of New York pass rush comes from LT, RE Leonard Marshall and Carl Banks, the LB on other side who returned to full-time duty in last week's victory over Minnesota. Other defensive linemen try to control line of scrimmage and allow Marshall, Taylor and Banks to go to work. . . . Taylor, who often has freedom to move himself around, might be found anywhere along the defensive front, depending on formation. . . . It will be tough moving on the ground against defense that is ranked in tie for fourth in NFL. . . . In his last three games, Kelly, the NFL's top-rated passer, has completed 60 of 92 for 819 yards, 7 TDs and 2 interceptions. . . . Bills' offense has started in high gear lately. They scored touchdown on first possession the last four games and six of the last seven. The exception was the Phoenix game when Kelly was sacked and lost a fumble on game's first drive. . . . Andre Reed has caught 20 passes for 244 yards and 3 TDs last three games.

Giants on offense

New York moves by Parcells Post. Giants went back to heavy dependence on ground game and ball control tactics against Vikings with return of best run blocker LT Jumbo Elliott. Matchup between Elliott and Bills' DRE Bruce Smith will be interesting. . . . Giants don't do a lot of fancy things and run nearly 53 percent of the time. They have turned the ball over only 13 times, 5 interceptions and 8 lost fumbles. . . . Bills can expect to see a lot of RB Ottis Anderson, who does most of heavy duty work (200 carries for 695 yards) but Giants will spot rookie Rodney Hampton and Lewis Tillman in run situations. Fullback Maurice Carthon is used primarily as blocker. He's run only 19 times and caught 13 passes. They bring in RB Dave Meggett on passing downs. Meggett leads team with 31 receptions for 339 yards. No. 2 receiver is tight end Mark Bavaro. Hampton is third with 24 catches. . . . Leading wide receiver is little Stephen Baker with 20 catches for 21.7 average and 4 TDs. Mark Ingram, the other starter is averaging a healthy 19.6 on 18 catches. . . . Giants opened Minnesota game with two-tight end formation with Bavaro and Howard Cross. . . . Phil Simms usually gets good protection. He's been sacked only 19 times.

Bills update

Rookie J.D. Williams will get his third start of season at left cornerback because of Kirby Jackson's hamstring injury. He's gotten most of the action anyway the last six games. Clifford Hicks, who joined the team only 10 days ago, will be nickel back. . . . Bills coverage teams had rough day against Colts, allowing 22.4 average on five kickoff returns and letting Indy's Clarence Verdin get away for 15.3 average on three punt returns. Buffalo slipped into tie for second in kickoff coverage with 16.4 season average. . . . Bruce Smith needs four sacks to break NFL record of 22 by Mark Gastineau of the Jets in 1986.

Giants update

New York is 7-0 at home and has won last nine regular season games going back to 24-17 loss to Eagles last December. Of course, Giants dropped overtime playoff game to Los Angeles Rams, 19-13, Jan. 7. . . . Besides being team's leading receiver, Meggett has a 68-yard punt return for a TD, a 51-yard run from scrimmage for team's longest of season, and last week he returned a kickoff 58 yards. Through 13 games Meggett has accounted for 1,347 yards of all-purpose production. . . . No players were listed on Giants' injury report, but OT Eric Moore was inactive for Vikings game because of ankle injury. Moore, normally the starting RG, had moved out to LT in Elliott's absence with Bob Kratch taking over at RG. . . . Team's leading tackler is LB Pepper Johnson with 66, including 31 primary hits. Safety Greg Jackson is next with 65, Then comes LT with 50. Besides LT, Giants get emotional lift from play of ILB Steve DeOssie, who shares job with Gary Reasons. . . . Ex-Dolphin Reyna Thompson is Giants' version of Steve Tasker. He is team's leading tackler on kick coverage. He did start four games as defensive back but most of his 34 tackles have come on special teams. . . . Punter Sean Landeta is second in NFL to Rohn Stark of Colts with 43.6 average. His net average is 37.1 with 20 punts inside the 20.

Outlook

Even though next week's Miami game is more important, Bills want to prove they can stand up to NFC's best. Giants have division title wrapped up but want to earn first-round bye and keep hopes alive for home-field advantage throughout conference playoffs. . . . Nothing will come easy this week. Key will be whether Bills can keep taking the ball away from Giants. They will move the ball, but will they score? PREDICTION: Giants, 14-13.

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