<![CDATA[NBC New York - Giants]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcnewyork.com/feature/giants http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/4NY_Horizontal.jpg NBC New York http://www.nbcnewyork.com en-us Wed, 22 Oct 2014 10:10:21 -0400 Wed, 22 Oct 2014 10:10:21 -0400 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Hero, Nero, Zero in Giants-Cowboys Game]]> Mon, 20 Oct 2014 09:27:38 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/457509642.jpg

Welcome to Hero, Nero, Zero for Week 7 as we honor people for their accomplishments, insanity and ineptitude.

Hero: DeMarco Murray.

I’m tempted to hand this honor to Cowboys backup running back Joseph Randle, who was arrested for shoplifting underwear last week and then parlayed that into a sponsorship deal with an underwear company. What does this say about our country and the way that people’s minds work?

But no, we won’t go that route.

Murray just became the first running back to surpass 100 yards rushing in the first seven games of a season, and he rolled over the Giants with 128 yards and 1 touchdown on 28 carries. He deserves the Hero award, so here you go, DeMarco – but wait, who is that?!? OMG, Joseph Randle has stolen the award from Murray and is making a getaway!

Nero: Jerry Jones.

Whenever the Giants play the Cowboys, there’s no shortage of craziness. This week was no different, with Tony Romo saying Jason Witten is the greatest Cowboy of all time and Randle getting arrested for stealing underwear and cologne. Both those were game week distractions, not mid-game distractions, i.e., the sun pouring through the open shutters on the western end of AT&T Stadium as the sun set in the late afternoon, blinding players, fans, cameramen, concessionaires and basically anyone facing west.

Mind you, AT&T Stadium is technically an indoor stadium, but some genius (who also doubles as the Cowboys owner and general manager) signed off on an architectural plan that has the stadium oriented east-west. This wouldn’t be a problem if the stadium didn’t have windows that some genius (ibid) decided to leave open during Sunday's game.

As the announcers made clear, it was Jerry Jones’ call whether the windows were shuttered or not. He chose to leave them open, and while it didn’t lead directly to any blindness-induced turnovers on the field, fans paying several hundred dollars couldn’t have been happy to take in the Texas sunset in lieu of seeing the actual game.

Zero: Giants playing this week.

Yup, the Giants are on a bye next Sunday, so that means it’s time for the players and coaches to make some mid-season adjustments. One week after getting trounced by the Eagles, the Giants played much better against Dallas, but simply couldn’t find a way to stop the Cowboys’ offense late in the game. Here are some things players can work on during their bye week:

Odell Beckham Jr. and his touchdown dance: Beckham now has three touchdown receptions in his first three games, and has celebrated each time by apparently jumping into the driver’s seat of his parents’ car while they ran into the convenience store and then hopping back out before they caught him play-driving.

Larry Donnell and his penchant for fumbling the ball: Donnell led the Giants in receiving yesterday with seven catches for 90 yards, but he had two fumbles – including one with just over 11 minutes left in the game, with the Giants only trailing by seven points. Four plays later, Murray punched it in and the Cowboys were up 14. The Giants later closed it to 7, but they never again had the ball with an opportunity to tie the game.

Eli Manning and his penchant for not throwing interceptions: That was the third straight game in which Eli has not thrown an interception, two of them losses, and Giants fans are confused because they’re not sure who to blame. It was much easier when the team lost and Manning threw some godawful picks, but now he’s being smarter with the ball and demanding that fans be more sophisticated in their criticism. This will not stand!
 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Fact vs. Fiction, Giants-Cowboys]]> Fri, 17 Oct 2014 15:00:14 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/457124394.jpg

Welcome to Week 7 of the NFL season, as the Giants attempt to recover from a brutal 27-0 loss to the Eagles by traveling to Dallas to beat a 5-1 Cowboys team that just defeated Seattle on the road and is feeling very Cowboy-like about themselves.

Are the Giants really as bad as they seemed last week? Are the Cowboys really as good? Let’s separate fact from fiction in advance of this key NFC East matchup.

Fact: Dallas plays in the NFC East.
Fiction: Dallas is in the eastern section of the United States.

Fact: Most people expected the Cowboys to be awful this year.
Fiction: The Cowboys have played to expectations.

Fact: The Giants are a Jekyll & Hyde team.
Fiction: You can predict which version will show up this week.

Fact: Dallas running back DeMarco Murray is leading the league in rushing and is on pace to set a record for most rushing attempts.
Fiction: That bodes well for his long-term health.

Fact: The Giants’ medical staff prepped the team about how to protect themselves against the Ebola virus, which claimed the life of one man in Dallas and has infected at least two nurses.
Fiction: No Giants’ fans will be at the game carrying signs that joke about Ebola.

Fact: Cowboys backup running back Joseph Randle was arrested this week for shoplifting underwear and cologne.
Fiction: That’s normal for a guy who makes $495,000.

Fact: Two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning is going to the Hall of Fame someday.
Fiction: So is Tony Romo.

Fact: People still often refer to the Giants as the New York Football Giants.
Fiction: That has been remotely necessary since the baseball Giants left for San Francisco in 1957.

Fact: ESPN ranks Phil Simms as the No. 9 Giant ever, with Eli Manning No. 15.
Fiction: That makes sense.

Fact: The Giants and the Cowboys have only faced off in the playoffs one time (2007).
Fiction: That was when Tony Romo earned his only career playoff win.

Fact: Dallas owner Jerry Jones has also been the Cowboys general manager since 1994.
Fiction: He is going to see the light one of these days and fire himself as GM.

Fact: If you’re a Yankees fan and you’re not from the New York Tri-State area, then you’re probably a Cowboys fan, too.
Fiction: This doesn’t make you a frontrunner.

Fact: The Cowboys have won five games in a row.
Fiction: You would be surprised if they were one and done in the playoffs.

Fact: Dez Bryant set the ESPN Sport Science record by diving more than 20 feet horizontally onto an indoor mat as he caught a touchdown pass.
Fiction: I can dive 2 feet horizontally without ending up in the ER.

Fact: Cowboys fans have been coming out of the woodwork, especially after last week’s victory over the reigning Super Bowl champion Seahawks.
Fiction: Cowboys fans totally believe in this team.

Fact: Giants tight end Larry Donnell burst on the scene with three touchdowns against the Redskins a few weeks ago.
Fiction: Donnell has had more than one catch since.
 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Giants Should Honor Cruz With Salsa Celebration]]> Thu, 16 Oct 2014 14:36:58 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/455446194.jpg

The NFL, it’s often said, stands for the No Fun League, as it looks with a gimlet eye toward such threats to our children as group touchdown celebrations and using the football as a prop. Gone are the days when Washington's Fun Bunch jumped en masse for a high five to celebrate a touchdown (which is too bad) and gone are the days when a celebrating player gets down on his knees and performs mock CPR on a football (which is the kind of tasteless potentiality that exists when you give players carte blanche).

But ya know what’s not outlawed? Touchdown celebration dances like Victor Cruz’s salsa, which unfortunately we will not be seeing from No. 80 again this year following last week’s season-ending knee injury.

I have to admit, the first time I saw Cruz celebrate with his patented dance several years ago, I thought it was too cute by half. Not only did he look, well, a little non-masculine, but it immediately summoned the old saw “act like you’ve been there before.”

For years, I thought the gold standard for NFL touchdown celebrations was set by Barry Sanders, who would cross the goal line, flip the ball to the referee and then head for the sidelines. No pomp and circumstance, no CPR, no merengue (or whatever Barry dances to in the privacy of his own home). That isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy it when Butch Johnson dropped to his knees after a touchdown and gunned people down with his six-shooting fingers, or when the Fun Bunch jumped to slap hands. But then me-first prima donnas like Terrell Owens started carrying Sharpies in their socks, and the impromptu celebrations now seemed mostly canned and rehearsed.

“Look at me, look at me!”

No, thanks.

When Victor Cruz burst onto the scene in 2011, with 1,536 receiving yards and nine touchdowns, he started celebrating his scores by dancing the salsa. I was hardly the only one who wasn’t impressed. Not because of bad technique -- my dance sources tell me his form is nearly flawless -- but because the whole exercise struck me as obnoxious and self-serving. I didn’t know the back story, which I didn’t learn until 2012, when 49ers defensive back Carlos Rogers intercepted a pass intended for Cruz and celebrated by doing the salsa.

I thought that was hilarious.

Cruz did not share that sentiment, and I soon learned why: He danced the salsa after scoring touchdowns as a tribute to his late grandmother, who had taught him the dance and loved to see him perform it.

*Gulp*

Rogers changed his tune, saying he didn’t realize that Cruz did the dance as a show of respect for his grandmother. I had a change of heart, too. Something that struck me as obnoxious and non-masculine now struck me as respectful and non-masculine.

After Cruz’s recent injury, Giants teammates were shaken, disturbed by a fluke injury to a player who had been undrafted out of college and had earned the respect of his peers by persevering. This week, the idea was floated that several players would honor Cruz in this week’s game against the Cowboys by writing No. 80 on their sneakers. And if Odell Beckham Jr., Rueben Randle or Preston Parker manage to score a touchdown, the possibility exists that they’ll honor Cruz by dancing the salsa.

The only people who wouldn’t enjoy that are Cowboys fans and people with no souls.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Giants Lay Egg Against Eagles]]> Mon, 13 Oct 2014 13:08:48 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/AP583404611673.jpg

Week Six is now in the books, and after the 27-0 loss to Philadelphia Sunday night, the Giants are right back where they were at the start of the season. They look clueless on offense and defense (though they aren’t), their special teams is mediocre (which is true), and they just lost their number one wide receiver, Victor Cruz, to a season-ending knee injury (which is why you have backups).

Are the Giants doomed? Of course not. Sunday night was a perfect storm of poor coaching -- a shotgun pass attempt on third and one on the opening drive? With Andre Williams and Peyton Hillis available?; poor play – too many instances to list; great play by the opposition – LeSean McCoy ran for 149 yards on 22 carries; and bad luck – Cruz blowing out his knee while planting on a catch attempt in the end zone.

As with any Giants-Eagles game, there were plenty of highlights and lowlights (including some Eagles fans, naturally), so let’s unveil our recipients for Hero, Nero, Zero, as we recognize the accomplishments, insanity and ineptitude associated with Sunday’s game.

Hero: The Eagles’ offensive line.

Wait, you ask, aren’t there five players on the offensive line? And if that’s the case, shouldn’t it be “heroes,” plural? Yes, there are five players on a typical offensive line, but a line’s success is measured by cohesion. It’s a unit. You might pancake the defensive end standing opposite you, but if the play called for you to pull and block an outside linebacker, then you are not a hero. You are a failure.

The Eagles’ line, which has been beset by numerous injuries this season, had been largely to blame for the team’s offensive woes through the first five weeks. Last year’s NFL leading rusher, McCoy, was averaging fewer than 3 yards per carry coming into Sunday’s game.

But McCoy busted out in a big way versus the G-Men, averaging nearly 7 yards per carry. Does he deserve some credit for that? Yes. But the offensive line deserves more. Not only did they open up lanes for McCoy, they protected quarterback Nick Foles, allowing just one sack all night.

Nero: The Eagles fans who stole a man’s prosthetic leg.

Eagles fans have a reputation for being world-class louts, and it’s largely deserved. From cheering when Cowboys Hall of Famer Michael Irvin went down with a career-ending neck injury to beating up fellow Philly fan Bradley Cooper in “Silver Linings Playbook,” Eagles fans have an unparalleled track record of dumb, sociopathic behavior.

The latest instance involves three Eagles fans who reportedly stole the prosthetic leg of a Vietnam veteran before Sunday night’s game. According to NBC Philadelphia,

Sonny Forriest Jr., an Eagles fan and musician who performs for money outside games, was singing in the parking lot around 8:30 p.m.

Forriest Jr., who began using a motorized wheelchair after losing his leg, said he had taken off his prosthetic leg during his performance. He was packing up his car to get going when a group of people danced around him.

"There were some friends who were partying with the leg, then they put it back," Forriest Jr. said.

As he continued to sing, Forriest Jr. said he was then approached by a woman in her 20's who was wearing Eagles gear.

“She jumped in my lap,” Forriest Jr. said. “She gripped my leg and I didn’t even know it. I looked down and she took my leg! Then she disappeared! A young lady came up, snatched my leg off my chair and took off!”

A conductor later located the leg on a train and police arranged to return it to Forriest. Meanwhile, Eagles fans remain the worst.

Zero: What went right for the Giants.

After scoring more than 30 points in three straight games, New York was shut out by Philadelphia, a team that allowed 28 points last week to Austin Davis and the vaunted Rams’ offense.

Eli Manning did not throw any interceptions, which is great for his passer rating. He also threw zero touchdowns, which is not good for his passer rating. Poor play calls, crippling penalties, fumbles on potentially big plays (Daniel Fells) and season-ending injuries – this is either going to be the game that breaks the 2014 Giants or the one that prompts players to step up and play bigger roles.

The Giants travel to Dallas to face a Cowboys team that just beat the defending Super Bowl champions on the road in Seattle. New York will need to score more than zero points to have any chance to beat Dallas.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Giants Winning "Most Mediocre" Award for 2014]]> Thu, 02 Oct 2014 12:46:45 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/tlmd_giants1png_bim.jpg

Well, 25 percent of the NFL season is now in the books, which means it’s time for about 100 percent of the NFL media to hand out awards to the "Best," "Worst" and "Most Surprising" players, teams and coaches so far this year.

It’s basically the NFL’s version of the snub column written each July after the rosters for the Major League Baseball All-Star Game are announced.

“Anything newsworthy happen this week?”

“No, but an arbitrary percentage of games have been played, so let’s hand out some hardware.”

That seems to work for the columnists who are unduly influenced by the "Best," "Worst" and "Most Surprising" things in life. I prefer to focus on the "Most Mediocre" and the "Least Surprising," probably because I’ve been watching the New York Giants quite closely this season, and they have been rife with mediocrity and predictability.

Sure, the Giants rolled over Washington last week, one week after beating the Texans. But the team’s two-game winning streak -- their longest of the season – brings their record to 2-2 at the quarter-mark. That’s two up, two down, for a .500 winning percentage -- you can’t get more mediocre than that, I checked.
The Giants are the Most Mediocre team in the NFC East. They’re not in first place (the Eagles and Cowboys, 3-1) and they’re not in last (Washington, 1-3).

Big Blue is also the Most Mediocre team from New York. The 2-2 Bills are tied for first place in the AFC East, while the 1-3 Jets are alone in last.

Granted, the Giants are trending in the right direction, but so were the Steelers when they steamrolled the Panthers on the road on Sunday Night Football two weeks ago. Pittsburgh was back! They were 2-1 and had separated themselves from the morass of mediocrity straddling the NFL’s midsection!

A week later they lost at home to the Buccaneers, whose signal achievement to that point in the season was giving up 35 points in one half to the Falcons.

No, Pittsburgh was not back. They had merely bludgeoned an inferior team and gotten a lot of different players involved on offense. You could say that’s balance, or you could say that highlights the fact that the Panthers have holes everywhere. It’s like a create-your-own adventure book, which is what makes writing about the NFL so pleasurable.

Pittsburgh, like the Giants, is now 2-2. They are among 13 teams – or nearly half of the NFL – sitting at .500 with 25 percent of the season completed. The Steelers now travel to Jacksonville, where a win against Blake Bortles and Co. would push Pittsburgh to 3-2 and back into the conversation for best team from Pennsylvania.

The Giants, meanwhile, host the Falcons, a team that has lost nine of its last 10 road games. A win over Atlanta would prove the Giants are capable of doing what 90 percent of other teams have done before them.

The Giants beating the Falcons would win the Least Surprising award for this season, so far. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. We’ll get to that during our awards column marking the midway point of the season.

Cameron Martin writes about the Giants for NBCNewYork.com. Martin has written for The New York Times, ESPN.com, The Atlantic, CBS Sports and other publications.
 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Hero, Nero and Zero From Giants' Blowout Win]]> Fri, 26 Sep 2014 08:55:37 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Giants-Washington-Donnell-925.jpg

Welcome to Hero, Nero, Zero, where we highlight the triumphs, insanity and ineptitude associated with Thursday night’s Giants-Redskins game. Disagree with our badges? Drop us an email at cdavidmartin@yahoo.com

Hero: Ben McAdoo

I love Wikipedia. Not because it’s a trusted source, but because of the random factoids you’ll find interspersed in entries. During Thursday night's Giants game, when Eli Manning, Larry Donnell and Co. were defenestrating the entire Washington team, a discussion broke out in my living room about who was the MVP of the game.

With five touchdowns (four passing, one running) Manning seemed like a good candidate. So, too, was Donnell with his three touchdown catches. But after hearing all preseason about the Giants’ woes in implementing the new West Coast offense, a blowout win seemed like a good time to read up on new Giants offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo, architect of the new system.

Wikipedia hits the most salient points:

“Ben McAdoo is an American football coach, who is currently the offensive coordinator for the New York Giants. He was hired on January 14, 2014. Previously, he spent eight seasons with the Green Bay Packers as a Tight Ends Coach for six years and Quarterbacks Coach for two years, and previously worked under Green Bay Head Coach Mike McCarthy in 2004 with the New Orleans Saints and in 2005 with the San Francisco 49ers. He has also served as a coach at five colleges since 2001. McAdoo is of Scottish descent.”

So the next time you’re watching someone try to run the West Coast offense, remember what Mike Myers liked to say: “If it’s not Scottish, it’s crap.”

Nero: Jeter haters

As this is the social media age, you can’t simply watch a sporting event on television without also looking at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, Vine and numerous blogs. Well, you could, but then you’d miss out on the river of comments -- from the smart to the funny, from the weird to the "Yeah, you’re getting a visit from DCF, my friend" -- that flow along in real time as Kirk Cousins is throwing another interception or Eli Manning is finding Larry Donnell (but not Victor Cruz!) for another touchdown.

As I watched the game, one of my friends on Facebook wrote a helpful post to remind me that Derek Jeter was playing his last game at Yankee Stadium.

“Brett Gardner strikeout and then Jeter grounds into a double play, tearing his Achilles. Please god now.”

This merited an inquiry, so I asked, “Why? So that he misses the Yankees’ postseason?”

“No,” he responded. “So that all the Jeter worship stops.”

Needless to say (and unable to be printed) was his sane reaction when Jeter won the game with a walkoff single in the bottom of the 9th inning.

Zero: Phil Simms

Late in last night’s blowout loss to the Giants, Cousins had the temerity to keep hiking the ball and trying to score, the kind of cockeyed thinking that Phil Simms, a former quarterback, could not abide.

Right after Cousins threw his fourth interception with 11:45 left in the fourth quarter, Simms made a comment that made zero sense: “You’re not gonna win the game, so don’t make it worse by taking chances with the football.”

There was nearly 12 minutes left in the game, the Redskins were down by 24 points, and Phil Simms wanted them to stop trying because, gosh darn it, you’re embarrassing yourselves.

Cameron Martin writes about the Giants for NBCNewYork.com. Martin has written for The New York Times, ESPN.com, The Atlantic, CBS Sports and other publications.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[10 Bets for the Giants-Washington Game]]> Thu, 25 Sep 2014 10:02:14 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/AP991176388215_2.jpg

Well, the Giants are playing on Thursday Night Football this week, and we all know what that means: The Giants won’t be playing on Sunday, which means Giants fans will be susceptible to the imposition of honey-do lists and the possibility of spending an entire Sunday in the company of family members who’ve been successfully dodged through the season’s first three weeks.

We always hear how hard a short week is on teams playing on Thursday night – the players are still sore, the coaches don’t have adequate time to prepare for opponents – but scant mention is made of the sacrifices that fans have to make, too.

Instead of spending Monday in a veritable coma after powering through the pregame show, the game itself, the postgame show and any number of unforeseen developments – “We’re out of beer!” – Friday now becomes the day better spent in bed. After going through the full fan cycle twice in five days, the mental, emotional and gastrointestinal toll is not to be dismissed.

Giants fans are going to be worthless on Friday, so the least the team can do is treat them to a victory over Washington. Road teams have proven to be at a decided disadvantage in Thursday night games, so it should come as no surprise that the Giants are giving 3.5 points to Washington, a team that could easily be 3-0 if their special teams had played better in their two losses.

The Giants, meanwhile, could be 2-1 if their special teams hadn’t allowed a 71-yard punt return touchdown to Ted Ginn Jr. and then fumbled the ensuing kickoff in the loss to the Cardinals. Woulda, coulda, shoulda, the special teams for New York and Washington have both been mediocre, which makes predicting this game difficult.

If I were a betting man, I wouldn’t bet the line or the over-under. But I would bet that all of the following things are going to happen during the game at FedEx Field:

1. A majority of casual fans who tune in will think, “This game can’t possibly be worse than last Thursday’s Falcons-Bucs game.”
2. Phil Simms, who is going to be calling the game on CBS with Jim Nantz, is going to do a really bad job of hiding the fact that he’s openly rooting for the Giants.
3. Eli Manning is going to do something exasperating to Giants fans, some of whom will curse at the television and call for Giants coach Tom Coughlin to put in Manning’s backup, even though most Giants fans don’t know who the backup is. And with good reason: the Giants don’t have a backup quarterback because Manning, who has the longest active starting streak among NFL quarterbacks, is like Bill Murray in “What About Bob?” -- “Gone? You think he’s gone? That’s the whole point, he’s never gone!”
4. Robert Griffin III will be compared to Wally Pipp.
5. Producers will show a picture of the Washington Monument, a symbol of our nation’s freedom, followed soon after by Simms or Nantz saying the team's name is the most racist in professional sports.
6. We’ll be treated to a clip of Lawrence Taylor breaking Joe Theismann’s leg.
7. DeSean Jackson will do something that offends somebody.
8. It will be mentioned that Washington has lost seven straight NFC East games, most likely by a giddy Phil Simms.
9. Bill Simmons will drop by the booth on the first leg of his three-week vacation from ESPN.
10. Many Giants fans will question the wisdom of staying up late to watch the end of the game. Many of those same fans will express their disdain for Thursday night games, most likely right after their spouses or significant others ask them what they want to do on Sunday

Cameron Martin writes about the Giants for NBCNewYork.com. Martin has written for The New York Times, ESPN.com, The Atlantic, CBS Sports and other publications.  



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Giants Capitalize on Texans' Loss of Courage]]> Mon, 22 Sep 2014 10:42:26 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/texans+giants.jpg

Football coaches are a conservative lot by nature, so it’s always refreshing when one of them does something bold, unpredictable and potentially risky to their long-term employment. Fortune should favor the bold, which is why I generally approve when an ole ball coach goes for it on fourth down.

I had a college roommate who was exasperating to play in Madden football, because he would always go for it on fourth down, regardless of the yardage needed to convert, his field position and the score of the game. That’s not bold, that’s moronic, and it might not surprise you to learn he was a Raiders fan who later became a lawyer.

No, when I say that fortune favors the bold, I’m talking about the onions displayed by the Texans in the first quarter of Sunday’s game against the Giants, when on fourth down and one at their own 39 head coach Bill O’Brien called for punter Shane Lechler to throw a short pass.

Trickery! Love it! Give that man some fortune!

It was a scoreless game and the then 2-0 Texans were playing like a team that expected plays like that to go their way. Houston hadn’t allowed a sack or thrown an interception in its first two games, when it became the first team since the Dolphins (1994-1995) to win its first two games in five straight seasons, which will hopefully be honored in Houston by a banner or at least some limited edition commemorative T-shirts.

The Texans had dominated in its victories against Washington and Oakland, led by new quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, a smart, likable fellow who graduated from Harvard and did enough in his career that the Titans and Bills asked him to play elsewhere. Honestly, if the Titans and the Bills don’t want you, that’s no black mark on your resume. After all, if the Titans and Bills could accurately judge talent, they wouldn’t be the Titans and the Bills.

Still, instead of having Fitzpatrick line up under center and go for it on fourth and one, his coach called for Lechler, a former high school quarterback, to throw to running back Alfred Blue on a trick play. It wasn’t desperation, it was confidence, as anyone who had watched the Giants play through two-plus games had to be confident that a punter could work magic against their special teams.
Lechler completed the pass to Blue in the right flat, the Texans converted the first down, and I would have bet good money at that point that the Texans were going to win.

Contrast that with the moment later in the game, when the Giants were ahead 20-10 on the Texans and Fitzpatrick tried to run for a first down. Initially the refs gave him a generous spot, but Tom Coughlin challenged it. I didn’t think that was a particularly bold move by Coughlin, because one had to figure that the Texans were going to go for it on fourth down anyway.

Well, the refs took a look at the spot, ruled Fitzpatrick had indeed come up short, and then O’Brien decided that his team was incapable of getting one yard when they desperately needed it. So he called on Lechler to punt, perhaps hoping that his defense – which to that point had made Rashad Jennings look like Terrell Davis, circa 1998 – would somehow make a stop.

Not necessary, because fortune intervened and punished O’Brien for not going for it. The man who had gone for it on fourth down in the first quarter – on a trick play from almost the exact same field position – was now punting in the fourth quarter down by 10. Lechler’s punt was blocked, the Giants had the ball at the Texans’ 29, and three plays later Eli Manning threw a touchdown to Daniel Fells to make it 27-10.

Closing line: Shane Lechler, 1-1 for 10 yards. But all most people will remember is the blocked punt.

Cameron Martin writes about the Giants for NBCNewYork.com. Martin has written for The New York Times, ESPN.com, The Atlantic, CBS Sports and other publications.
 



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Giants Sticking With Coughlin After 7-9 Season]]> Mon, 30 Dec 2013 16:01:08 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/tom-coughlin-giants.jpg

Tom Coughlin is returning as Giants coach despite Big Blue missing the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons.

Giants co-owner John Mara told the 67-year-old Coughlin on Monday morning that he wants him to return for an 11th season with the team that he led to Super Bowl titles in 2008 and 2012.

There are some issues that have to be finalized later this week when Mara and Coughlin sit down with co-owner Steve Tisch and general manager Jerry Reese. There is an evaluation process to run through after a 7-9 season that began with six straight losses.

Changes in the coaching staff, particularly on offense, will be discussed. Coughlin also might get a contract extension so he does not enter next season as a lame-duck coach.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Jernigan Makes Case for Bigger Role]]> Mon, 30 Dec 2013 10:25:37 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/189*120/459735157+MONDAY.jpg

The Giants’ 2013 season is in the books after a 20-6 win against Washington on Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium.

When football returns to MetLife on Feb., the NFC champion will meet the AFC champion in Super Bowl XLVIII, and it’s quite possible the game could pit a pair of teams who played the Giants this season.

The Giants faced all four NFC division winners in 2013 (Seattle, Carolina, Philadelphia, Green Bay). Moreover, the Giants played three AFC playoff teams: wild cards Kansas City and San Diego and No. 1 overall seed Denver.

With the playoffs set to begin and the Giants exiting stage left, here are five thoughts on the first day of the offseason: 

1. Jerrel Jernigan has earned a bigger role in the offense next season.
The third-year pro from Troy showed promise in extended playing time in the final games of 2013. He was the Giants’ best offensive player in Sunday’s win, scoring on a 24-yard reception and a 49-yard run. Jernigan seems to work well with quarterback Eli Manning; that alone should boost Jernigan’s stock entering 2014.

2. Ryan Nassib’s development from Year One to Year Two is no small matter.
In his most extensive playing time of the 2013 regular season, Curtis Painter struggled in relief of the injured Manning, completing just 2-of-8 passes for 11 yards with one interception. Painter will be an unrestricted free agent in the offseason; if he’s re-signed, it should be as the third quarterback. Ideally, Nassib, a second-year pro from Syracuse, is ready to be the top backup in 2014. It's time.

3. The Giants have an interesting decision to make on Justin Tuck.
The ninth-year defensive end finished 2013 on a tear, recording 9.5 sacks in the final six games, including two against Washington on Sunday. From a production standpoint, re-signing Tuck is a no-brainer. However, he will be 31 in March, and he will not be cheap to bring back. What’s more, the Giants may have to budget even more money to re-sign Jason Pierre-Paul, whose contract is up after the 2014 season. 

4. If the Giants’ defensive improvement is sustainable, they can be competitive in 2014.
The Giants clearly had the NFC East’s best defense in 2013. In their last 10 games, the Giants allowed just 16 offensive touchdowns. In that span, the Giants won seven games and lost just three. The addition of middle linebacker Jon Beason helped, and Tuck’s resurgence gave the group a nice late-season boost. If Pierre-Paul returns to health, the Giants’ defense could be even more formidable next season.

5. The Giants’ players and coaches deserve credit for the rally from the 0-6 start
. On balance, this was a disappointing season for the Giants, and there’s a good deal of work to be done to return to playoff form. Nevertheless, the Giants’ diligence and fortitude is to be respected. After a humbling shutout loss to Seattle, the Giants responded with competitive and winning performances against Detroit and Washington. The Giants' 7-9 record is nothing to be proud of, but the process of getting those seven wins should be satisfying for the organization. The Giants keep grinding until the very end of a lost season.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Redskins-Giants Preview: Changes ComIng for NFC East]]> Fri, 27 Dec 2013 12:45:27 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/199*120/458917125.jpg

Thirteen NFL games to be played on Sunday, the final day of the regular season, could have an effect on the playoff picture.

On Sunday, the Redskins and Giants will meet in one of the three games without any postseason ramifications. Here is a game that just affects the draft order.

And here are two teams that will need to make good use of the draft this spring. Both rosters need work. However, the Redskins’ first-round pick — currently the No. 2 overall selection — will go to the Rams to complete the trade for Robert Griffin III.

It just hurts thinking about it.

After a disastrous campaign, a big offseason of changes could be coming in Washington. Head coach Mike Shanahan’s future seems tenuous. With a head-coaching switch comes staff changes and scheme changes. This, in turn, usually leads to roster changes. The team Washington fields Sunday could be quite different next season, though it does seem likely, however, that Griffin will be back in the starting lineup after being benched for precautionary reasons in the final three games.

The Giants will undergo some renovations, too. Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, defensive end Justin Tuck, cornerback Terrell Thomas, defensive tackle Linval Joseph, running back Andre Brown and guard David Diehl are among the Giants’ players with expiring contracts.

For a game pitting two clubs without playoff hopes, it is not a contest lacking in some interesting storylines. Redskins inside linebacker London Fletcher, a productive and reliable starter for parts of three decades, will be playing in his 256th and likely final regular-season game. There’s also the matter of whether Shanahan, who’s coached two Super Bowl winners, will ever have a chance to lead a team ever again after this season’s debacle. This could be it for him.

The season finale also offers an opportunity for younger players to play well one more time before clubs begin to plot their strategies for next season. For Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins, this is the final of his three starts in place of Griffin — a golden opportunity for him to advance his career.

On the other sideline, there’s Giants third-year wide receiver Jerrel Jernigan, who has played well in the last two games in place of the injured Victor Cruz. In the last two weeks, Jernigan has materially bolstered his NFL resume. He seems likely to have a role in the Giants’ passing game in 2014, and he’s enhanced his market value in advance of free agency in 2015.

The Giants seem likely to win their season finale. They are at home, and Washington is at the end of a just horrible season. However, the outcome of Sunday’s Redskins-Giants game isn’t especially important.

The events that lead to the outcome, though, are really important for these two teams. The 2013 season is just about over. Now, it’s time to start figuring out who’s going to be part of the plan for 2014.

Prediction: Giants 24, Redskins 13



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Despite Tough Season, Eli Is Still Elite]]> Thu, 26 Dec 2013 17:10:36 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/189*120/183444874.jpg

Giants quarterback Eli Manning has had a tough season, one of the worst of his career, and though that is regrettable for team and player, it is not a bad place for both to be, all things considered.

Manning has a track record, which is earned, not given, and it is a good track record on balance. There is no need to do the accounting here; we know who Eli Manning is, what he’s done, what he is, what he isn’t. In the NFL, that is an accomplishment in and of itself. So many players show flashes of promise only to fade quickly from the stage, replaced by someone else young, cheap and talented. 

On Sunday, Eli Manning will make his 151st consecutive regular-season start for the Giants. No current quarterback has played more games in a row. To put it in baseball terms: he’s never turned down a chance to take the ball.

As the No. 1 overall pick in the ’04 draft, Manning was always going to be given some early-career starts whether he earned them or not. What he did thereafter was going to be on his shoulders. If he were going to make a career in the league, he would need to earn the right to lead a team beyond the training-wheel stage of his professional life.

Well, Manning got there long ago, and at 32, he’s a proven starter. Were he to suddenly hit the free-agent market, he would have another job in a week’s time, maybe less. We can scoff and point to his unsightly 2013 interception tally (26) and his occasional struggles against pass-rush pressure, but more than a few teams would be happy to take Eli Manning, warts and all, for he’s a plug-and-play proven 16-game starter.

Quarterback instability can drive teams crazy. Look at the Vikings. They have started three different quarterbacks this season — Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel and Josh Freeman. In the final month, they turned to the 31-year-old Cassel, who has played the best of the group. But is he a long-term solution for Minnesota, or will the franchise again have to draft a quarterback early in the 2014 draft?

For almost 10 full seasons, the Giants really haven’t had to do much thinking at quarterback. Eli Manning has been there, ready to play, and he has been the best option. That will be the case this Sunday, and that would figure to be the case in 2014, unless the Giants decided to make a change at the position.

With change comes uncertainty. And that’s something the Giants haven’t had at quarterback. We can say a lot of things about Eli Manning, but we could never say he wasn’t reliable. He’s made the Giants’ lives simple in ways other teams can only envy, even in a 2013 season below his standards. He doesn’t deserve a trophy for this, but maybe it earns him a little extra patience.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Giants Have Reason to Be Proud]]> Mon, 23 Dec 2013 14:58:52 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/200*120/458918351.jpg

The offseason will be filled with discussion of what the Giants are lacking, what they need. And in about a week’s time, there will be plenty of time to ponder that in great length — months and months of time.

Today, though, it’s time to give the Giants their due for what they are, a team that was skilled enough, tough enough and prepared enough to knock off a talented Lions club in Detroit on Sunday.

“We certainly demonstrated resiliency,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said after Sunday’s 23-20 overtime victory at Ford Field. “We demonstrated mental toughness.”

All things considered, this was the Giants’ best win of the season.

With a victory against the Giants, the Lions would have drawn even once again with the Bears in the NFC North and would have been able to win their division with a victory at Minnesota next week. The Lions had every reason to dig deep and pull away from the Giants down the stretch.

Indeed, that seemed likely to happen. The Giants, who held a 13-3 halftime lead, were overpowered by the Lions for much of the second half, with Detroit scoring 17 unanswered points to take a 20-13 lead.

Then, the Lions made a mistake that snowballed on them. With around five minutes left and Detroit facing a 3rd-and-7 at its 22-yard-line, quarterback Matthew Stafford’s pass was a little wide of tight end Joseph Fauria. The ball deflected off of Fauria’s hands and into the hands of Giants safety Will Hill, who sprinted away for a 38-yard touchdown to tie the game with 4:57 left.

Still, the Lions had their chances to rally. The Giants gave them two free possessions late in the game with an Eli Manning interception in the final two minutes of regulation and an Andre Brown fumble on the first drive in overtime. However, the Lions couldn’t capitalize against a Giants defense that had a strong day, limiting Detroit to 279 yards on 65 plays. After Hill’s pick, the Lions earned just one first down in their final four drives.

While the Lions were unable to finish, the Giants closed the deal with boldness and intelligence. Facing a 4th-and-7 from the Detroit 42 in overtime, the Giants elected to go for it, and Manning hit Jerrel Jernigan for 15 yards. On the play, Manning stepped up in the pocket under pressure and fired a low strike to Jernigan.

Then, in a brilliant play, the Giants hurried to the line and snapped the ball before the play could be reviewed to see whether Jernigan had completed the catch. Manning hurriedly handed off to tight end Bear Pascoe, who gained two yards. 

“Fourth down, you can’t risk it,” Manning said after the game, according to the club. “You kind of get a play run quickly and the fastest thing is to get a right call and it was something that we practiced.”

Three plays later, the Giants’ quick thinking paid off, as kicker Josh Brown connected on a 45-yard field goal to win the game.

Out of playoff contention, and one week removed from a shutout loss to Seattle, the Giants bounced back on Sunday.

“Good character, tough kids," Coughlin said afterward. "Taken a lot of shots this year, quite frankly have earned the criticism. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. But we’ve been able to stay focused, and we’ve been able to touch on some real deep values that get overlooked when people are telling you you got nothing to play for. You got everything in the world to play for. I think the way they played tonight was a good demonstration of that.”

The Giants should feel proud today, for their pride and preparation was evident on Sunday. This win was testament to their professionalism.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[If Lions Are Dazed, Giants Could Capitalize ]]> Fri, 20 Dec 2013 15:25:31 -0400 > at Ford Field on December 16, 2013 in Detroit, Michigan.]]> > at Ford Field on December 16, 2013 in Detroit, Michigan.]]> http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/230*120/457328199.jpg

Could the Giants do the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers a big favor on Sunday by defeating the Detroit Lions?

On the one hand, as we noted Monday, the Lions are the big (and logical) favorites, so the Bears and Packers shouldn’t be counting on Big Blue to do any dirty work for them.

And all things considered, the Lions couldn’t have a much better matchup on Sunday. Think of all the circumstances in Detroit’s favor. The Giants struggle with pass-rush pressure, and the Lions have a strong defensive line. The Lions desperately need the win, while the Giants aren’t playing for anything. The Lions are at home, while the Giants must make one last road trip in a disappointing season.

Finally, the Giants’ offense was awful in Sunday’s 23-0 loss to Seattle. If the Lions can build an early lead, the Giants will be significantly compromised.

However, the Lions come off a damaging and draining 18-16 loss to Baltimore on Monday night, one that knocked them out of first place in the NFC North. Now, the Lions (7-7) are behind both the Bears (8-6) and Packers (7-6-1). If the Bears win out, they will the win the NFC North with a 10-6 record. If the Packers win their last two games, they will win the division, as they face the Bears in Chicago in Week 17. 

The Lions, for their part, can win the North with two wins and one loss apiece by Chicago and Green Bay. However, if the Bears and Packers both win on Sunday, the Lions are out of the postseason.

How Detroit responds on Sunday against New York is anyone’s guess, and though that’s a cliché, it fits well in this case. The Lions are 1-4 in their last five games, and they have surrendered fourth-quarter leads in all four of those defeats. Suddenly, the Lions are in real danger of those missed opportunities defining their season.

Even if the Lions can bounce back from Monday’s disappointment, the Giants could still be competitive. The Lions’ pass defense is one of their weaknesses, and the Giants’ willingness to test secondaries down the field has never been in question. The Lions are allowing 252.9 passing yards per game, and they have surrendered 14 receptions of 40 yards or more.

Though the Giants are out of postseason contention, motivation shouldn’t be an issue, what with numerous Giants players facing uncertain futures beyond this season. A good effort seems likely. Still, if the Lions play their best game, any discussion of intangibles is probably rendered immaterial.

Detroit is scoring about eight points more per game than New York. In short, the Lions have a little bit of a cushion in Sunday’s game. They may not play their best to win. However, their cushion in the NFC North is gone, and we don’t know whether that will take a toll on them.

We also can’t be completely certain that the Giants’ passing game — yes, the Giants’ passing
game — won’t make a big play or two on Sunday.

In a vacuum, the Lions are better than the Giants, but in reality, and in front of a home crowd that knows that Detroit is on the ropes, the Lions don’t quite look like a sure thing.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Giants 2014 NFL Draft Needs: Holes on Both Fronts]]> Thu, 19 Dec 2013 07:55:39 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/210*120/454437503.jpg

If the Giants are to contend for a playoff spot in 2014, they must improve a roster that features some building blocks but plenty of holes.

With the offseason a little more than a week away, here’s an assessment of the Giants’ top 10 positions to prioritize in the 2014 NFL Draft.

1. Defensive end: The Giants have continually invested in their defensive line with great success, and they should stay with that blueprint. Justin Tuck will be an unrestricted free agent, and Jason Pierre-Paul’s contract is up after the 2014 season.

2. Cornerback: The Giants could use a little more youth at the position. Corey Webster enters the final year of his contract and was limited to four games this season because of injury. Also, Prince Amukamara's deal is up after 2014.

3. Offensive tackle: The Giants’ offensive line is a major concern, and the club could stand to add at every position. Tackle is the most valuable line position. If the Giants were to draft a tackle, they could always move rookie Justin Pugh to guard.

4. Running back: Andre Brown can test free agency. David Wilson struggled in his second season, then landed on injured reserve with a neck injury. The Giants didn’t have enough options on the ground until Brown returned from a broken leg in November. By then, it was too late.

5. Defensive tackle: Age is a real concern at this position. Also, Linval Joseph, who’s started 44 games in three seasons, will be a free agent. Joseph, who will be 26 next season, fits the profile a player who could draw interest from other clubs — he’s experienced, but he’s still young enough to be counted upon for several more seasons.

6. Offensive guard: Left guard Kevin Boothe will be a free agent, and right guard Chris Snee is slated to make close to $7 million in 2014. The Giants haven't selected a guard in round one since taking Luke Petitgout in 1999.

7. Wide receiver: If Hakeem Nicks departs in free agency, this position could move up the list. Even if Nicks returns, adding another wideout at some point would make sense. Teams like Denver and Green Bay are proof that clubs need all of the skilled pass catchers they can get.

8. Center: Starter David Baas missed most of the season with neck and knee injuries. Baas will be 33 next September, and he’s slated to make $4.75 million next season. 

9. Linebacker: The Giants typically do not prioritize this position. The in-season addition of Jon Beason worked out very well for Big Blue and reduced some of the need at linebacker.

10. Tight end: Brandon Myers, the top receiving threat at the position, will be an unrestricted free agent. With so many other needs, though, it’s hard to see tight end being a real draft priority.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Shutout Another Reminder of Giants' Work Ahead]]> Mon, 16 Dec 2013 13:25:35 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/221*120/456888181.jpg

What is there to say about the Giants’ shutout loss to the Seahawks? The Giants were overmatched on offense, and that was that.

The Seahawks’ defense dominated the game in a 23-0 rout Sunday. Eli Manning was under consistent pressure from the Seahawks’ front four, and he was intercepted five times by the NFL’s best secondary. To attribute the five picks just to the Giants’ quarterback would be to ignore the special skill of the Seahawks’ defensive backs, who blanketed the Giants’ receivers. Also, one of Manning’s picks came on a Hail Mary pass at the end of the half, so that’s hardly a sin.

Give Manning time in the pocket and he can be a winning quarterback. However, he’s just not that mobile inside or outside of the pocket. Manning is being panned for Sunday’s performance, and he should be, but this was just a bad matchup for him, given where the Giants are from a personnel standpoint on offense. The Giants couldn’t protect their pocket-passing quarterback, and they paid the price, wasting a good performance by their defense in the process. This was a perfect storm for a flurry of interceptions — strong defense, struggling offense, a franchise passer off his game.

It was a cut-and-dry loss for Big Blue. The Seahawks will be tough in the NFC playoffs. The Giants didn’t have a prayer of beating Seattle playing as poorly as they did on offense. If Big Blue is going to contend with clubs of this quality, significant roster improvement is necessary.

With two games left in the regular season, a clear, chilling pattern has developed with the Giants. 

When they have faced good teams, they haven’t fared well. 

The better the opponent, the worse it has been. Six of their nine losses have been by 15 points or more, and three of those defeats have come to clubs already in the postseason: Denver (41-23), Kansas City (31-7) and Seattle (23-0).

The Giants also have lopsided losses to Carolina (38-0), Philadelphia (36-21) and San Diego (37-14). Of those opponents, the Panthers are surely playoff-caliber, and the Eagles and Chargers have playoff-quality offenses. The same goes for the Cowboys, who beat the Giants twice; and the Bears, who beat Big Blue back in October.

Now let’s consider the Giants’ five victories. In all five of their wins, they faced a team led by a quarterback who would later be benched for some reason, whether for injury or performance. Yes, it’s true. The Vikings (Josh Freeman), Eagles (Michael Vick), Raiders (Terrelle Pryor), Packers (Scott Tolzien) and Redskins (Robert Griffin III) all made quarterback changes either when playing the Giants or not long thereafter.

There is no mystery about the Giants. They are who they are. There are no upset wins, no bad losses. The Giants are a cut above the NFL’s worst and a couple cuts below the league’s power elite.
Sunday was just the latest reminder of the work ahead, the tough decisions to come. The Giants’ starting quarterback has thrown 25 interceptions in 14 2013 starts, and he’s completing his 10th NFL campaign. These are the conditions for one big organizational stomachache.

The Giants have two games left. They are significant underdogs at the Lions next Sunday, which makes complete sense, for the Giants have not beaten anyone close to their caliber. In the season finale, the Giants host Washington, and it’s a game they can win, for Washington is in worse shape than they are.

With 14 games in the books, we all know these Giants all too well. The playoff dreams are gone. The discomfort is here. This is what it’s like to not be good enough.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Game Photos: Giants-Seahawks]]> Mon, 16 Dec 2013 03:55:38 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/AP879350895355.jpg Images from the game Sunday between the Giants and the Seattle Seahawks.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Seahawks-Giants Preview]]> Fri, 13 Dec 2013 07:45:50 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Giants-Seahawks-Preview.jpg

The 2013 Giants are playing a role many NFL teams have played before them and many teams will play for seasons to come.

Every year, teams like the Giants have their playoff hopes dashed before season’s end. Then, all that’s left to play for is personal and collective pride. They're elements that drive teams at all times, but elements that are a team's only fuel when the promise of postseason glory is gone.

Very often, these clubs are vulnerable against playoff-bound teams — the strongest of the strong with ample stores of motivation. This is the position New York finds itself in entering Sunday’s game against the 11-2 Seattle Seahawks at MetLife Stadium: proud, but compromised.

It’s realistic to believe the Giants will be motivated to show better than they did a week ago in San Diego, when were thumped 34-17. The prospect of playing the NFC’s best team also could spark the Giants. Recall that Big Blue trailed Denver by just one point late in the third quarter in September.

Then, the Giants fell apart, losing 41-23.

The Seahawks, like the Broncos, have that kind of knockout punch. The NFC favorites do not lack in ways in which they demoralize the opposition.

Second-year quarterback Russell Wilson is already a star. Like Ben Roethlisberger, he’s exceptional when plays break down. Marshawn Lynch breaks tackles like few other tailbacks.

The Seahawks’ defense is also dominant. Seattle generates strong pass-rush pressure (35 sacks) and forces about two turnovers per game. The Seahawks also have one of the game’s very best secondaries featuring cornerback Richard Sherman and free safety Earl Thomas, both elite players.

To beat the Seahawks, the Giants will have to execute at a high level for four quarters. That doesn’t seem likely. Miscues have hurt Big Blue all season. Is that really going to stop now against this opponent?

New York’s best shot Sunday is to build a margin for error to shield them from a Seahawks flurry. Take this to the bank: Seattle is a powerhouse, and it will play its role accordingly Sunday. Wilson will throw a frozen rope 30 yards on the run like it’s nothing, Thomas will bait Eli Manning into a poor throw or the kicking game will make a big play. The Seahawks have a depth chart full of players who can make a difference in their favor in a high-pressure road game like this. 

It probably won’t be easy for the Seahawks on Sunday, but it’s likely too hard for the Giants to pull the upset. Seattle can probably make a big mistake or two and still find a way to secure a win, while a textbook performance might not even be enough for Big Blue.

Prediction: Seahawks 27, Giants 17.

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<![CDATA[Giants Wise to Focus on the Present]]> Fri, 13 Dec 2013 14:13:04 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/191*120/454437623.jpg

On Wednesday, Giants coach Tom Coughlin indicated the club wasn’t inclined to make any major changes to how it will approach the final three games of 2013 even with the club out of playoff contention.

In short, the Giants’ depth chart doesn’t figure to change much.

“We’re going to try to play as best we can and win with our roster, the roster that we have,” Coughlin told reporters on Wednesday. “If the opportunity is there, then so be it, but that’s not going to be the No. 1 thought on our minds.  Our roster is our roster.  We’ve been playing a lot of people.

“ . . . Our No. 1 objective: we have a three-game schedule, we want to play as best as we possibly can over the course of these x-amount of weeks. People have established themselves in their positions, rightfully so, fairly so, and I’m not commenting on the degree of where we are with regard to that, I’m just saying those people who are playing have earned the right to play.”


Coughlin is right. The Giants shouldn’t change their approach in these final three games, for they must continue to evaluate the core players who have led them through the first 13 games.

This is particularly true on offense. The Giants’ offensive starters need all the work they can get in the final three weeks. The more plays the Giants can put on tape to be studied in the offseason, the better. Another three games of quarterback Eli Manning working with his receivers in high-pressure game action is a positive for all involved from the Giants’ perspective. After all, Manning has been intercepted 20 times this season.

The defense should stick with the status quo, too. The defense has been the Giants’ rock. The starters should have a chance to finish out the season on a positive note.

Frankly, it’s a shame the season is ending in three weeks for Big Blue. Sixteen games might not be enough to get a read on a team capable of losing its first six games, then winning five of their next seven contests.

In the time that's left in 2013, the Giants will continue to learn about the players already on hand. That evaluation process never stops. Players rise and fall in a team's estimation every day. The Giants need ample data to make the proper personnel decisions in the offseason, for this is clearly a roster that needs some work.

The offseason will be here soon enough, and there will be more than enough draft and free agency discussion to fill the winter and even a good chunk of the spring. For now, though, the Giants’ product on the field remains worth watching, for it’s very much a work-in-progress.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Seahawks Trying to Go Where Giants Have Already Been ]]> Wed, 11 Dec 2013 13:30:30 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/210*120/138762454.jpg

The visiting Seahawks are big favorites against the host Giants on Sunday, and it’s a reflection of where the teams are in the NFL pecking order. The Seahawks are in the driver’s seat for the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs, while the Giants’ postseason hopes are finished. The Seahawks are a powerhouse, and the Giants are yesterday’s news.

The Seahawks will be a popular pick to plow through the NFC and end up right back at MetLife Stadium in seven weeks from Sunday in Super Bowl XLVIII. It’s quite possible the Seahawks won’t have to leave home in the conference playoffs, and that could be a big edge for Seattle as it tries to reach its second Super Bowl in franchise history. The Seahawks are unbeaten at home in 2013, with their average margin of victory 18.7 points at CenturyLink Field.

It’s all right there for the Seahawks. Assuming they don’t fall apart in the final three weeks, they will win the NFC West, and they will have a high playoff seed. If the Seahawks gain home-field advantage in the NFC, they will have earned it, and they will likely use it to their advantage. Any team that draws the Seahawks on their turf will be a decided underdog. It’s the stuff of Super Bowl dreams, the blueprint teams want to use.

No one will be surprised if the Seahawks win it all. They have a deep, talented roster. Their quarterback, Russell Wilson, is excellent. They can play just about any style at a high level. Giants fans that haven’t seen much of Seattle this season will like what they see.

The Seahawks should beat Big Blue on Sunday. The Seahawks are better, and they probably will be better next season, too. The Seahawks are rising, and the Giants are  . . . declining? Stagnating? Rebuilding? Retooling? Opinions may vary, but the Giants sure aren’t going forward.

Nevertheless, the Giants still have enough talent to give the Seahawks a game on Sunday. There will be some moments, perhaps even sustained stretches, where Seattle is in a fight. The Seahawks may be the NFC’s Super Bowl favorites, but before they get to January, they have three December games to grind through.

And on Sunday, the Seahawks will face a team with some core players who have won two Super Bowls.

These Giants played one playoff home game — one — in those title runs in 2007 and 2011. Home-field advantage is preferable to the alternative and to be cherished, but it is no golden ticket to the Super Bowl, for in some years, a tough team like the Giants shows up, and it worries not about crowd and the cold and whatnot. 

Maybe it is all beginning for the Seahawks, and maybe it is all ending for the Giants. Well, it’s all the more reason to take in Sunday’s matchup. These Seahawks are not to be messed with, but these Giants, though in transition, are to be respected, for there was a time not that long ago when they might have been the only ones who could have gone into Seattle and shrugged. The next time you watch a Seahawks home game and the fans are trying to set world records for noise and someone remarks that no one can beat Seattle at home  . . . well, you might know of a team that would have stood in there and had a chance to pull off the upset. And you won't have to go far back in your memory bank to remember.
 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Prospect of Super Bowl Snow Isn't a Chilling One ]]> Tue, 10 Dec 2013 14:05:36 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/209*120/454298029.jpg

On the night before Super Bowl XL in Detroit, it snowed. It snowed earlier that week, too.

That was the first Super Bowl I covered, and I remember it being cold that week. Of course I do — it was Michigan in winter.

Here’s something I else I remember about Super Bowl XL: they played it indoors at Detroit’s Ford Field, and the Steelers and Seahawks combined for 31 points.

Two years later, I covered Super Bowl XLII in Arizona. I recall this: As I walked to an early-morning press conference at one of the team hotels a few days before the game, someone had built a fire outside. Yes, it’s cold in Arizona in winter, too.

That Super Bowl was played indoors as well. You probably remember that game. In a huge upset, the Giants knocked off the undefeated Patriots 17-14 in Glendale.

The Patriots weren’t supposed to lose to the Giants. Five weeks earlier, they had scored 38 on Big
Blue at the old Giants Stadium on the last Saturday in December. Now, the Patriots had a second shot at the Giants in a climate-controlled environment after two weeks to rest and prepare. Fireworks seemed likely.

Instead, the Patriots’ offense sputtered.

Sometimes, Super Bowls play out like you expect. Other times, they don’t. Either way, it’s a special experience. There is nothing like the NFL’s title game. It is one game to crown a champion of one of the world’s most popular sports. It is scrutinized to excess, but what else is to be expected?

This year, we have another Super Bowl storyline upon which to hyper-focus: the prospect of bad weather for the big game at the outdoor MetLife Stadium on Feb. 2.

On the one hand, recent history tells it probably will be cold on Super Bowl Sunday in East Rutherford, N.J., and there’s a reasonable chance of precipitation.

From 1989-2013, the average temperature on Feb. 2 in nearby Teterboro has been about 33 degrees, with the average wind speed 7.5 miles per hour, according to Weatherunderground.com data. Snow was reported on six of these days, with any sort of precipitation reported 11 times in this span.

On the other hand . . . well, would snow be a bad thing? It’s an eye-of-the-beholder — and the cold ears of the spectators — thing. Some might say that Sunday’s wild and high-scoring games in Philadelphia, Baltimore and Pittsburgh reminded us of the joys of football in the snow. What would be so bad about a Super Bowl on a snow-covered field? Imagine the images on high-definition television.

Anyways, those worried about a wintery Super Bowl shouldn’t fret only about snow; wind would be the bigger concern. Snow can be plowed on Super Bowl Sunday, and surely, the NFL will do everything it can to ensure swift removal of the wet stuff. (Though, as we saw Sunday in Philadelphia, there can be limits to this approach, depending upon the strength of the storm.)

Nevertheless, there is no escaping the bite of the wind. A Super Bowl in which the game was compromised in any way by the wind wouldn’t sit well with some.  

Still, more likely than not, the weather probably won't have a material impact on the game, for weather just doesn’t affect the outcome of many contests. And should it snow, we just won’t know how the teams will handle the conditions until play finally begins after two weeks of intense coverage. But I can tell you this: a Super Bowl indoors does not guarantee a high-scoring Super Bowl.

Your feet do stay pretty warm, however.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Giants' Offseason Focus Must Be on Bolstering Offense]]> Mon, 09 Dec 2013 13:55:36 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/215*120/454437471.jpg

With the Giants’ postseason hopes dashed after Sunday’s 37-14 loss in San Diego, it’s time to look ahead to an offseason filled with big decisions for Big Blue. 

The Giants will play out the string, and they will probably play hard. After all, this is a team that rallied from a 0-6 start to draw within one game of the NFC East lead just before Thanksgiving.

A spirited performance against NFC West-leading Seattle or NFC North pace-setter Detroit in the next two weeks wouldn’t be a surprise. The Seahawks and Lions need to be on guard, and they likely will be. They may say all the right things about the Giants being proud, about the Giants being just two years removed from a Super Bowl title.

But anyone who looks at the statistics and looks at the tape knows the Giants have their limitations. Their offense lacks the might it once had, and it has much to do with a passing game that’s been off kilter all season.

Quarterback Eli Manning merits some of the blame. He’s thrown at least one pick in 12-of-13 games, including two against the Chargers. Manning ranks toward the bottom of the NFL in completion percentage and QB rating. He simply has not played well enough.

However, the Giants’ receiving corps hasn’t had a banner year, either. Wideout Victor Cruz has been the best of the group, and he figures to be the Giants’ go-to target in 2014.

The question is, will Rueben Randle or Hakeem Nicks be starting opposite of him? Nicks will be a free agent at season’s end, and he will be just 26 years old at the beginning of next season. Though in range of 1,000 yards receiving, Nicks has hardly been a force this season. Nor has been Randle, who’s talented but inconsistent and has room yet to grow.

No matter how the Giants proceed from a personnel standpoint, this much is certain: the passing game must be sharper next season. There have been too many instances when something went wrong and the result was a Manning interception. The Giants need to make cutting down on mistakes a major offseason focus.

The work doesn’t stop there. The Giants’ offensive line play has also left something to be desired in 2013. Manning has been sacked 33 times in 13 starts. Clearly, the Giants will have to get better upfront. The Giants may also have some work to do at running back with Andre Brown an unrestricted free agent and David Wilson coming off a neck injury.

Manning, who will be 33 next season, is signed through 2016. He’s still young enough as starting quarterbacks go, and he’s built up some credit after many winning moments for the franchise. He may have another blue-chip season or two left. Now, the Giants have to ponder how they can help him succeed.

Changes must be made after a season like this, when the Giants’ defense did its part but the offense never could break through. Whether this means personnel and/or schematic changes remains to be seen. But this much is certain: the Giants can’t stand pat, for they can’t stand for what happened this season. 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Chargers Game Another Must-Win for Big Blue]]> Fri, 06 Dec 2013 18:25:38 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/219*120/Antrel+Rolle.jpg

The Giants haven’t defeated the Chargers since Sept. 27, 1998. If that makes you feel old, it’s not going to help when we mention the Giants’ starting quarterback was Danny Kanell, and the Chargers’ starter was Ryan Leaf.

The Giants started fast, scoring the game’s first 21 points in a 34-16 victory. Kanell was serviceable, throwing for 208 yards and a touchdown.

Leaf? In his second-ever regular-season home start, the Giants intercepted him four times, with safety Percy Ellsworth hauling in a pair of picks. After Ellsworth took back the second interception for a touchdown, the Chargers pulled Leaf in favor of Craig Whelihan.

In the end, Leaf’s San Diego career didn’t go as hoped. However, the Chargers eventually did find a long-term answer at quarterback.

His name his Philip Rivers. And banking on him to throw four interceptions in San Diego’s latest meeting with the Giants probably isn’t wise.

Here is our preview of Sunday’s Giants-Chargers matchup:

Reasons why the Giants can win Sunday

The Giants should be able to establish the run and the pass against San Diego. The Chargers’ defense struggles in multiple areas. If the Giants’ offense executes, it could have one of its better games of the season Sunday.

Eli Manning passed with precision in Sunday’s win at Washington. Manning’s accuracy has been lacking at times this season, but he was on-point last Sunday, completing a season-high 78.6 percent of this throws. When Manning is throwing strikes, this can be a dangerous offense, given the Giants’ willingness to stretch the field in the passing game.

The Giants’ defense is capable to standing toe-to-toe with the Chargers’ potent offense. The Giants have allowed two offensive TDs or less in seven consecutive games. The defense’s sustained run of strong play has helped Big Blue back to respectability.

The Giants have cut down on the turnovers. New York has committed just one turnover in each of the last three games. For a team that had committed 28 turnovers in its first nine games, a turnover per contest is progress.

The Chargers’ recent form is somewhat shaky. Losses in 4-of-5 games have left San Diego (5-7) a game behind in the AFC wildcard race. In that same span, the Giants are 3-1.

Reasons why the Giants could run into trouble at San Diego

As 5-7 teams go, the Chargers are fairly formidable. Five of San Diego’s seven defeats are by seven points or less.

While Manning has largely struggled, Rivers has played a Pro Bowl level this season.
Rivers, who’s closing in on 4,000 yards passing, has completed 70 percent of his throws. Given how the quarterbacks have performed this season, the Chargers could have a clear edge at this position on Sunday.

The Chargers have a deep, talented pass catching corps. Five Chargers have more than 30 catches, with tight end Antonio Gates, running back Danny Woodhead and wideout Keenan Allen the top three pass catchers. Second-year tight end Ladarius Green (22.1 yards per catch) has had a bigger role recently, too. Can the Giants match up with all of these targets?

The Giants have had their problems against the AFC West this season. The Broncos and Chiefs handled the Giants without much trouble, and the Raiders played Big Blue to within four points in November. Also, note that the Chargers have beaten three teams (Dallas, Philadelphia, Kansas City) that have handed the Giants four of their seven losses.

The Giants started slow before rallying to beat Washington on Sunday. Big Blue can’t spot San Diego 14 points like it did Washington. The Chargers are a significantly better team than the Redskins.  

Prediction

This looks like a coin flip. The Chargers have the advantage on offense, while the Giants are superior on defense. In the end, we see Big Blue holding up just enough defensively and keeping their playoff hopes alive. The Giants’ comeback win at Washington last week was a reminder of their resilience, and they don’t look ready to exit stage left just yet.

Predicted score: Giants 24, Chargers 23. 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Giants Can't Let Chargers' Woodhead Keep Moving the Chains]]> Wed, 04 Dec 2013 04:25:42 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/196*120/Danny+Woodhead.jpg

Once a week throughout the 2013 season, we will focus upon on a player or matchup that could prove troublesome for the Giants in their upcoming game. This week’s spotlight is on Chargers running back Danny Woodhead.

There was a time in Super Bowl XLVI when the Giants looked to be in trouble, and then-Patriots running back Danny Woodhead had a little something to do it.

Woodhead scored the Patriots’ first touchdown of Super Bowl XLVI, which gave New England a 10-9 halftime lead back in February 2012. On the final four plays of the drive, Woodhead touched the ball each time, rushing once and catching three passes, including the four-yard score to put New England ahead. The Patriots’ offense had hit its groove, and it would score another touchdown on its first drive of the third quarter to take a 17-9 lead.

In the end, the Giants would eventually win Super Bowl XLVI, and Woodhead, after one more season with the Patriots, would join San Diego in free agency before the 2013 season.

In San Diego, Woodhead (5-8, 200) has been a bigger part of the offense than he was in New England. Through 12 games, Woodhead, 28, has a combined 138 touches (77 carries, 61 receptions), with seven touchdowns (five receiving, two rushing). He has had multiple catches in every game, and he’s had between five and nine carries in all but one contest.

Overall, Woodhead had gained 770 total yards this season, and he’s gaining about 5.6 yards per touch. 43 of his touches have ended in first downs.

Woodhead (161 catches) has a nice feel for the passing game. He has quick feet and sure hands. He runs good routes, and he’ll adjust routes as needed, as he showed during his second-quarter touchdown catch at Kansas City in week 12. On the play, Woodhead was covered initially, but he kept moving, and quarterback Phillip Rivers found him for the score.

Woodhead has been reliable target for Rivers, who’s thrown 71 passes thrown his way. Woodhead has caught all but 10 of those throws — a completion rate of about 86 percent.

Typically, Woodhead is on the receiving end of a short Rivers pass, and it’s up to the running back to work his magic thereafter. Woodhead is catching the ball just 1.74 yards past the line of scrimmage, but he's averaging 5.79 yards after catch.

As a tailback, Woodhead can pick up some quick yardage if there’s a crease. He’s not a big-play threat as a rusher — he’s gaining just 3.7 yards per carry, and he hasn’t had a rush of longer than 19 yards since 2010.  Still, he can get the Chargers a handful of valuable yards here or there.

Look for Woodhead to be a rusher or receiver about 10-12 times against the Giants on Sunday in San Diego. The more the Giants can limit his chances to those where he’s getting the ball in cluttered areas of the field, the better.

Woodhead is a space player. He won’t overpower NFL defenders, but he can run away from a whole lot of them, and he will take the yardage available to him. The Giants can’t make it easy for him. Their tackling will be key — Woodhead will get his catches; it’s what he does after those receptions that merits watching Sunday.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Giants Playoff Picture: Big Blue Fights On ]]> Wed, 04 Dec 2013 16:48:25 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/189*120/452972559.jpg

Since starting 0-6, the Giants have gone 5-1. At the moment, all paths to the playoffs — both via the division title and a wild-card spot — are open to them.

By this time next week, both roads may be closed off. The wild-card route is just about impassable already. A loss at San Diego on Sunday could end all postseason hopes.

However, if we were still pondering the Giants’ playoff chances next week, would you really be surprised? While their execution has sometimes been lacking, their resilience has impressed.

After all, they’re still in the playoff picture.

Here’s a closer look at where the Giants stand in both the NFC East and NFC wild-card races entering the final four weeks of the regular season: 

NFC East Standings
1. Cowboys (7-5) — No. 4 seed in NFC
2. Eagles (7-5) — No. 7 seed in NFC
3. GIANTS (5-7) — No. 11 seed in NFC
4. Redskins (3-9) — No. 16 seed in NFC (eliminated from playoff contention)

New York’s remaining games: at San Diego (Dec. 8), vs. Seattle (Dec. 15), at Detroit (Dec. 22), vs. Washington (Dec. 29).

Outlook: Even if the Cowboys and Eagles win this week, the Giants can stay alive in the NFC East race with a victory Sunday at San Diego.

However, the Giants would be eliminated from division-title contention with a loss to the Chargers and a Cowboys win at Chicago on Monday night.

In that scenario, the Giants could finish no better than 8-8, and the Cowboys would finish no worse than 8-8.

If the Giants and Cowboys alone finish tied for the division title at season’s end, Dallas will win on account of its two-game sweep of New York.

Also, as we noted last week, the Giants would lose a three-way tiebreaker to the Eagles and Cowboys on account of their 1-3 combined record against Dallas and Philadelphia.

If the Cowboys, Giants and Eagles all tie, Dallas wins the division, as it would be no worse than a combined 3-1 against Philadelphia and New York. Philadelphia can finish no better than a combined 2-2 against Dallas and New York.

If the Eagles and Giants alone tie for the NFC East title, the club’s division records will be the first tiebreaker in play, as the teams split a pair of games. The Eagles are currently 3-2 in the NFC East, with the Giants 2-3 in division games.

In short, the best the Giants can do is 3-3 in the NFC East. They will have to beat Washington in the division finale to get there. They would also need the Eagles to lose at Dallas in Week 17. However, they would need the Eagles to finish ahead of the Cowboys. Again, the Giants will lose any season-ending tie with Dallas. 

The longer the Giants stay in the playoff race, the more we can explore what exactly needs to happen for them to win the NFC East. Winning out would be a nice start. 

NFC Wild-Card standings

5. Panthers (9-3)
6. 49ers (8-4)
Other contenders
7. Eagles (7-5)
8. Cardinals (7-5)
9. Bears (6-6)
10. Packers (5-6-1)
11. GIANTS (5-7)
12. Rams (5-7)

Outlook: The Giants are on the outer rings of wild-card contention. We know this much: a loss Sunday to San Diego and a San Francisco win vs. Seattle would eliminate Big Blue from the wild-card race. Also, any two wins by San Francisco in its next four games would do the trick, too.

The Giants would lose head-to-head ties with the Panthers, Bears  . . . and yes, the Cowboys. 
 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[With Season on Line, Giants Find Their Best Just in Time ]]> Mon, 02 Dec 2013 12:05:42 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/206*120/452972523.jpg

For another week, we can stare holes through the playoff scenarios trying to figure out how the Giants can thread the needle and surge just ahead of Dallas and Philadelphia at the wire in the NFC East race.

The Giants held their tenuous position in the division-title battle with a 24-17 victory at Washington on Sunday. With the win, they remain two games behind the Cowboys and Eagles, who are both 7-5 after their own victories this week.

However, with another week passing without gaining any ground, the Giants are in worse shape than they were a week ago. Still, they are still hanging around, and their escape at Washington was noteworthy in its grit and skill. In overcoming a 14-0 first-half deficit, the Giants got strong play from two stalwarts — defensive end Justin Tuck and quarterback Eli Manning.

A free agent at season’s end, the 30-year-old Tuck was dominant, sacking Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III four times, all in the second half. Tuck, whose legacy will be favorably defined by his excellent play in two Giants Super Bowl victories, reached back and found his highest level of performance on Sunday night.

Similarly, Manning was sharp, completing 22-of-28 passes for 235 yards. He wasn’t perfect — he was picked off once, and he was sacked three times — but like Tuck, the 32-year-old Manning showed flashes of his best play.

After surrendering the game’s first two TDs, the Giants were clearly superior to Washington, whose defense was first stressed by Big Blue’s ground game and then had problems with New York’s passing game. The Giants' defense deserves a lot of credit; it dug in after the slow start. Middle linebacker Jon Beason, who continues to thrive with the Giants, recorded a game-high 17 tackles, 13 in the first half. 

Also, the Redskins’ offense couldn’t sustain its early form, mustering just a second-half field goal after the Manning interception. Overall, the Giants allowed just 96 yards on 30 plays in the final two quarters.

Slowly but surely, Washington began to come undone, particularly in the passing game. As the numbers suggest, Griffin (24-of-32 passing, 202 yards, one TD, no interceptions) played well on balance, but he did not fare well in the face of the pass rush. That said, he didn’t much help from his receiving corps. Drops were a problem, with top target Pierre Garcon’s inability to hold onto the ball on the final drive especially glaring. 

In defeat, Washington looked like a club that may struggle to win another game. That would be good news for the Giants, who host Washington in the regular-season finale.

We’ll soon know whether the Week 17 meeting between Washington and New York will have any playoff ramifications. The Giants have to continue taking care of their own business, with next Sunday’s matchup at San Diego the next hurdle. The Giants also need the Cowboys and Eagles to start losing. Both teams have potentially challenging matchups next week, with Dallas visiting desperate Chicago and Philadelphia hosting NFC North-leading Detroit.

On Sunday night, the Giants looked like they could be competitive in a wild-card game. When a team passes well and rushes the opposing passer, a team can dream a little bit about better days. The Giants can tell you all about it.

They have the jewelry to prove it.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>