<![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 Mon, 28 Jul 2014 00:42:55 -0400 Mon, 28 Jul 2014 00:42:55 -0400 NBC Owned Television Stations <![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]]>
<![CDATA[Giants-Redskins Preview: They're All Must-Win Games For Big Blue Now ]]> Fri, 29 Nov 2013 14:22:13 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Redskins-Giants-RG3-Justin-Tuck.jpg

The Giants’ NFC East hopes were dimmed a little more Thursday.

The Cowboys (7-5) are now 2.5 games ahead of the Giants (4-7) after a 31-24 victory . Oakland on Thanksgiving. Dallas swept the season series with New York, giving the Cowboys the head-to-head tiebreaker.

No matter what, the Giants needed to win Sunday night’s game at Washington, which begins at 8:30 p.m. and will air on NBC 4 New York.

Now, the urgency is even stronger.

Here is our preview of Sunday night’s Giants-Redskins game:

Reasons why the Giants can win Sunday

Washington’s offense isn’t as formidable as a season ago. Entering week 13, Washington was scoring about four fewer points per game. Also, Washington is allowing about six more points per game than in 2012. That’s a recipe for a 3-8 record.

Washington’s pass defense is vulnerable. On average, opponents are gaining about 8.1 yards per passing attempt against Washington, the league’s worst mark this season. To have any shot at the playoffs, New York's passing game needs a productive December. Here’s a favorable matchup for Eli Manning and a talented receiving corps.

Washington’s special teams are a weakness.
Much like the Giants, the Redskins have had execution issues in the kicking game. At the very least, the Giants should be able to play Washington to a draw in this area, and it’s quite possible Big Blue could earn the overall edge.

The Giants’ run defense is much better than it was a season ago. In 2012, Washington rolled for a combined 455 yards rushing in two matchups against Big Blue, with tailback Alfred Morris (244 yards) and quarterback Robert Griffin III (161) doing the bulk of the damage. However, the Giants are stronger against the run this season. Opponents have gained just a combined 457 yards and racked up 3.6 yards per carry in the last six games against Perry Fewell’s defense. 

Washington looked overmatched in Monday night’s 27-6 loss to San Francisco. The Redskins gained just 190 yards and managed just two field goals against a tough 49ers squad. Under significant pressure, Griffin managed just 118 passing yards and was sacked six times. The loss was Washington’s third in a row and its seventh of at least seven points this season.

Reasons why the Giants could run into trouble against Washington

Washington may have bottomed out. The Redskins were embarrassed by the 49ers on Monday night. Now, Washington plays a division rival, again in front of a national audience. Given the circumstances, an improved performance from Washington wouldn’t be a huge surprise. 

Washington’s offense still has plenty of playmaking ability. Griffin, Morris and wideout Pierre Garcon all must be respected, and all can give the Giants’ defense trouble on Sunday night.

The Giants’ passing game has been a disappointment. Who’s to say the Giants’ pass offense will prove much better than Washington’s pass defense? Quarterback Eli Manning has played poorly this season and is on pace to have his lowest QB rating since his rookie year.

While the Giants have shown recent improvement, they are still a 4-7 team. The Giants’ victories have come against the Vikings, Eagles, Packers and Raiders, none of whom played particularly well against Big Blue. If Washington plays something close to its best game, New York is going to be in for a battle.

The Giants haven’t had much success on the road in 2013. The Giants are just 1-4 away from MetLife Stadium. Three of their final five games are on the road.

Prediction

The matchups suggest the Giants are capable of winning Sunday. However, the Giants come off a tough loss to Dallas, one that really hurt their playoff chances. If they quickly regroup and defeat Washington on Sunday night, they will merit much credit for their resilience. However, they could be due for a little bit of a regression after a draining, damaging defeat.

Predicted score: Redskins 27, Giants 20  
 

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<![CDATA[Jets D Must Take Advantage of Distracted Dolphins]]> Fri, 29 Nov 2013 13:45:49 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Jets-Dolphins-Geno-Tannehill.jpg

The atmosphere surrounding the Jets has been described as a circus the past few years.

Whether its bizarre stories involving Rex Ryan and his wife, the Tim Tebow hoopla or on-field mishaps, like Mark Sanchez's "butt fumble" From bizarre off-field stories involving Rex Ryan's tattoos and the hoopla surrounding Tim Tebow to on field mishaps, like Mark Sanchez’s “butt fumble,” the team has been in the headlines far too often for all the wrong reasons.

But none of New York's tabloid fodder has compared to the media firestorm over bullying allegations involving Miami Dolphins teammates Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin.

Whatever your personal feelings on the saga may be, there’s no doubt it has created an incredibly unwanted off-field distraction for Miami.

The story brings with it on-field implications as Incognito will miss Sunday’s game against the Jets serving the final game of his suspension, while Martin will probably never wear a Dolphins uniform again.

For once, the Jets can look across the field and see a team dealing with more distractions than they are, and they need to take advantage of it. They can’t afford another loss within their division and within the conference, especially against a team they're competing with for the final playoff spot.

Miami’s offensive line wasn’t all that great when it was at full strength, but it's a glaring weakness without Incognito and Martin. The Dolphins are a pass-heavy team, so the Jets will certainly have their opportunities to knock quarterback Ryan Tannehill down. He has been sacked more times than any other quarterback in the NFL by a fairly wide margin.

Putting extra pressure on New York's front seven is a middling secondary. The Jets are likely to be without cornerback Antonio Cromartie, out with a hip injury. And while he's certainly had his issues this season, the bench hasn’t exactly stepped up when called upon.

Given Cromartie’s absence and the team’s struggles on offense, Gang Green desperately needs for their defensive line to be active up front and set the tone for the game.

The last time Geno Smith took the field at MetLife Stadium, emotions rode high as the rookie led an upset over the New Orleans Saints. But that was way back on Nov. 3, and Smith and the rest of the offense have been horrendous since.

The bye week after the Saints game was a chance for Smith to work out some of the kinks in his repertoire, but he somehow came back looking his worst.

In the two games since, Smith has thrown five interceptions and no touchdowns, completing just 17 of 45 passes.

Running backs Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell haven’t gotten nearly enough touches the past two weeks. The Dolphins have been known to put pressure on the quarterback, but they aren’t very good at stopping the run.

The Jets can ease some of the pressure off of Smith by giving the ball to to the running backs all day long. If the Jets want to run a few gimmick plays and use specialist Josh Cribbs in the wildcat, that’s fine too, as long as it’s working and the team is picking up yardage.

But a strong running game still won’t let Smith completely off the hook. He needs to start completing more passes down the field and keeping opposing defenses honest. If Smith can’t hurt teams with his arm, it allows them to play up on the line and wait for the run.

In order for Smith to make that happen, the receivers have to play better themselves.

Dropped passes and disappearing acts have plagued the group. Santonio Holmes could also be a bit banged up for Sunday’s game, but what else is new? Stephen Hill has been invisible and the tight ends need to get more involved.

Having lost two games in a row, there’s an increasing sense of urgency for Gang Green to play well at home this weekend. The term “must-win” gets thrown around quite a bit, but this is as close as it gets for a week 13 matchup. As the calendar turns over into December, the elimination games are officially underway for the Jets.

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<![CDATA[Can Giants Give Fantasy Owners A Boost Down The Stretch?]]> Wed, 27 Nov 2013 21:05:31 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/giants+fantasy+picks.jpg

As the playoffs near in many fantasy football leagues, here is our take on the fantasy value of some of the Giants’ most notable players entering December:  

Giants schedule: at Washington (Sunday), at San Diego (Dec. 8), vs. Seattle (Dec. 15), at Detroit (Dec. 22), vs. Washington (Dec. 29).

QUARTERBACK

Eli Manning gets a slew of favorable matchups down the stretch. The Redskins are 26th vs. the pass, and the Giants face Washington twice in December. Also, the Giants draw the Chargers (31st in yards per net pass allowed) in Week 14 and the Lions (28th in passing yards allowed) in Week 16, which is championship time for so many leagues.

Manning (2,760 yards, 14 TD passes, 17 interceptions) is available in 33 percent of Yahoo! fantasy leagues. In the event he’s been dropped, he’s not the worst pickup. He's not a quality starter, but he could be played in the right circumstances.

WIDE RECEIVERS
 


Victor Cruz (60 catches, 851 yards, four TDs) remains the best starting option of the Giants’ wideouts. He’s getting about nine passes thrown his way per game, most on the team. As noted, the Giants’ passing game largely gets the best of it from a matchup standpoint down the stretch, with the notable exception of Seattle in Week 15. Cruz is playable in all formats.

Hakeem Nicks (42 catches, 620 yards, no TDs) can’t be started with any confidence in two-WR formats. He’s had a disappointing season, and now he’s battling an abdominal injury. The problem is, he can’t be released, either — he’s too talented.

Rueben Randle (32 catches, 524 yards, six TDs) is about on par with Nicks. He gets fewer passes thrown his way than Nicks, but he’s far more of a scoring threat.

Randle and Nicks are best utilized in three-WR formats. They have just enough upside to be interesting.


RUNNING BACKS

Since returning to the lineup three games ago, Andre Brown has carried 69 times for 308 yards and a touchdown. As long as he’s healthy, Brown is startable in all of the Giants’ remaining games, even against Seattle, which is stronger vs. the run than the pass. In fact, the Lions (Week 16) have the toughest run defense of all of the Giants’ remaining opponents. In short, Brown is just getting too much work not to strongly considering starting on a weekly basis.

Brown, per Yahoo!, is available in 20 percent of leagues. Hey, all it takes is a few keystrokes to search.

Brandon Jacobs, who is available in 91 percent of Yahoo! leagues, can be added as a backup for teams heavily dependent upon Brown. However, Jacobs missed practice on Wednesday with a knee inury.

TIGHT END

Brandon Myers is getting about four passes thrown his way per game. Myers (28 receptions, 336 yards, two TDs) is available in about three-quarters of Yahoo! leagues and could be a decent-enough fill-in down the stretch, given the Giants' machups.

PLACEKICKER

Josh Brown's value could be highest in Week 14 (at San Diego) and Week 16 (at Detroit). In the latter game, he’s kicking indoors. In the former, he could be kicking in favorable weather conditions for a December game. Browns is owned in 22 percent of Yahoo! leagues.

DEFENSE  / SPECIAL TEAMS

The Giants are 12th in yards allowed and have forced 19 takeaways. However, they don’t have any slam-dunk matchups down the stretch. All four of the Giants’ remaining opponents have skilled offenses. Moreover, the Giants have some injury worries in the secondary.  

Finally, the Giants do not have much punch in the return game.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Giants Should Have Healthy Respect for RGIII]]> Wed, 27 Nov 2013 07:35:40 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/AP772751806896_2.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 Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III.

Judged by the high standard he set last year as a rookie, Robert Griffin III has had a disappointing 2013 season. His completion percentage has fallen almost six percentage points, and he is rushing for almost two yards less per carry.

Perhaps some struggles were to be expected in Griffin’s first season back after tearing an ACL in January. Perhaps he has regressed as a passer. Opinions abound on the matter, especially after Griffin completed 17 of 27 passes for a mere 127 yards and was sacked four times in Washington’s 27-6 loss to San Francisco on Monday.

After the game, 49ers outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks told Comcast SportsNet Washington that Griffin isn’t at full strength.

“Everybody can see it,” said Brooks, who went on to say Griffin shouldn’t be playing and was showing fortitude by taking the field.

Even if Griffin isn’t in top form, his numbers and skill set still suggest he could be a tough matchup for the Giants’ defense on Sunday.

Entering week 13, Griffin is on pace to exceed 4,100 yards passing and 500 yards rushing. He has compiled a higher completion percentage, thrown for more yards and committed fewer turnovers than the Giants’ Eli Manning.

Griffin's QB rating has topped 100 three times this season, most recently in the Nov. 7 loss at Minnesota, when he completed 24 of 37 passes for 281 yards with three touchdowns. Granted, the Vikings’ pass defense isn’t exactly strong — Minnesota has allowed 28 TD passes in 11 games.

Still, three games before facing the Redskins, the Vikings played the Giants — and held Eli Manning to 200 yards and one touchdown. What’s more, the Vikings’ pass defense limited the Packers’ Scott Tolzien to 7 of 17 passing for 98 yards Sunday before he was relieved by Matt Flynn.

Griffin has a playmaking go-to receiver in Pierre Garcon, who has hauled in 75 passes for 920 yards and three touchdowns. The Giants should make stopping Garcon a top priority, as Washington does not have an especially deep group of targets to complement him.

If the Giants can limit Garcon and put pressure on Griffin, they can limit Washington’s big-play potential in the passing game. The 49ers sacked the former Heisman winner four times on Monday night, and Washington did not have a passing play longer than 18 yards.

A very good San Francisco defense made the Washington offense look very ordinary on Monday night. Griffin will have the better of a week to make the necessary adjustments. The same goes for Washington coach Mike Shanahan and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. Better protecting Griffin is a must. A diet of quicker-hitting passes designed to blunt pass-rush pressure might be in order.

Washington surely will make some tweaks, and likely some productive ones. The offense wasn’t as hopeless as it looked Monday.  The Giants, who have a lot of experience on defense, will not take Washington likely. 
 
All things considered, the Giants are better off facing Griffin now than in 2012. Griffin will be sharper in 2014 in his second season off of surgery. But Griffin still moves relatively well, and he has the arm strength needed to test New York's secondary down the field. Big Blue shouldn't underestimate Griffin, who is less than a year removed from being the toast of the league.


Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Giants Playoff Picture: Desperate Times For Big Blue ]]> Tue, 26 Nov 2013 07:30:53 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/212*120/451798893.jpg

For those who want the Giants’ playoff chances boiled down to one sentence, let’s put it this way: with one more loss, we’ll be just about at the point where the focus turns to free agency and the 2014 NFL Draft.

After the 24-21 loss to the Cowboys on Sunday, the Giants are short on time, and any slack they had is just about gone.

Here’s a closer look at the Giants’ NFC East and wild-card hopes entering December:

NFC East Standings

1.    Cowboys (6-5) — No. 4 seed in NFC

2.    Eagles (6-5) — No. 8 seed in NFC

3.    GIANTS (4-7) — No. 12 seed in NFC

4.    Redskins (3-8) — No. 14 seed in NFC

New York’s remaining games: at Washington (Dec. 1), at San Diego (Dec. 8), vs. Seattle (Dec. 15), at Detroit (Dec. 22), vs. Washington (Dec. 29).

Outlook: The Giants’ division hopes aren’t completely dashed, but they now need a lot to go their way in the final weeks. They need to play very well down the stretch — no worse than four wins in five games, we would guess — and they will also need the Cowboys and Eagles to have tough Decembers.

The Cowboys have the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Giants, which makes matters even worse for New York. If the Cowboys and Giants finished tied for first at 9-7, Dallas would win the division on account of the season sweep of Big Blue.

The Giants would also end up on the wrong end of a tiebreaker if they finished the season deadlocked with the Eagles and Cowboys, where the first tiebreaker is the head-to-head record in games pitting those clubs.

Dallas also already clinched this tiebreaker. The Cowboys have two wins against the Giants and one win against the Eagles. At worst, they can finish 3-1.

The Eagles, meanwhile, split with the Giants. Philadelphia visits Dallas in the season finale, giving the Eagles a chance to even the score with the Cowboys. But they will be no better than a combined 2-2 against the Cowboys and Giants — still better than New York's 1-3 mark.

NFC Wild-Card standings

5.    Panthers (8-3)

6.    49ers (7-4)

Other contenders

7.    Cardinals (7-4)

8.    Eagles (6-5)

9.    Bears (6-5)

10.    Packers (5-5-1)

11.    Rams (5-6)

12.    GIANTS (4-7)


13.    Buccaneers (3-8)

14.    Redskins (3-8)

15.    Vikings (2-8-1)

16.    Falcons (2-9)

Outlook: The Giants are hanging by a thread in the wild-card race. Even winning out might not be enough for a bid. Their loss Sunday to the Cowboys knocked them to 12th in the NFC standings. 

Note that the Eagles are ahead of the Bears in the NFC pecking order on account of a better NFC record (5-2 vs. 3-5). Sunday’s Arizona-Philadelphia game could have major wild-card ramifications.

Even if the Giants fade from contention, they could play spoiler in the playoff chase. The Chargers are in the thick of the battle for the No. 6 seed in the AFC and visit MetLife Stadium Dec. 8. The following week, the Giants host the Seahawks, who are vying for the NFC's top seed. Finally, the Giants’ Dec. 22 game at Detroit could affect the NFC North and wild-card races.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Big Blue Looks to Even the Score With Dallas]]> Fri, 22 Nov 2013 10:35:47 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/186*120/450258155.jpg

After Sunday’s game against the Cowboys, the 4-6 Giants play three of their next four games on the road. December begins with a game at Washington (Dec. 1). Then comes a trip to San Diego (Dec. 8). Two weeks later, the Giants are back on the road to face Detroit (Dec. 22).

The lone home game in this four-game sequence is against NFC-leading Seattle, which has lost just once in 11 games.

In short, the Giants need to win Sunday’s game against Dallas (5-5) for many reasons, and the tough upcoming schedule is one of them.

Here’s our preview of Cowboys-Giants:



Reasons why the Giants can win Sunday against the Cowboys

The Giants should be able to move the ball well against a struggling Dallas defense. The Cowboys are allowing 439.8 yards per game, most in the NFL. The Cowboys are last in passing yards allowed and third-from-last in rushing yards surrendered.

The Giants’ passing offense could be a huge edge for Big Blue. Quarterback Eli Manning threw for 450 yards in the first meeting with Dallas in September. 

The Giants’ defense is in strong form — and it held up pretty well against Dallas in the first matchup. The Giants limited the Cowboys to just 4.5 yards per play in Week One. If anything, the Giants’ defense has improved since, with the addition of middle linebacker Jon Beason paying major dividends.

The Giants’ running game is stronger than it was in Week One.
Mistakes by and lack of production from the Giants’ running backs in Week One played a major role in Dallas’ 36-31 win. The return of Andre Brown gives the position a steady hand. 

Reasons why the Giants could run into trouble against Dallas 

The Cowboys had the bye week to regroup after a humbling loss to New Orleans. Oh, did the Cowboys ever need a week off after surrendering 625 yards, 49 points and an NFL-record 40 first downs to the Saints in Week 10. Their banged-up defense also needed the rest. Star defensive end DeMarcus Ware (thigh) is expected back in the lineup Sunday.

The Cowboys’ overall form is deceptively good. Four of the Cowboys’ five losses are teams who would be playoff entrants if the postseason started today: Kansas City, Denver, Detroit and New Orleans. The Cowboys played the Chiefs and Lions to within a point and lost by just three to the Broncos.

The Cowboys have the more productive offense. The Cowboys have scored eight more offensive TDs (27-19) than the Giants.

The Cowboys have the less error-prone quarterback. The Cowboys’ Tony Romo has turned it over just seven times in 10 games. The Giants’ Eli Manning, meanwhile, has 19 turnovers in 10 starts.

Prediction

The Cowboys could be primed for a strong effort after some time off. However, their defensive deficiencies — already apparent in the first meeting between these teams — are a major problem not solved after one week away.

The Cowboys’ offense will be able to counterpunch enough to make this interesting, and the Giants cannot afford another mistake-filled performance. However, the feeling here is Big Blue won’t give this one away this time.


Predicted score: Giants 31, Cowboys 27



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Giants Must Exploit Favorable Matchup Against Cowboys' Defense]]> Fri, 22 Nov 2013 10:30:41 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/187*120/450258081.jpg

One of the most fascinating storylines of Sunday’s Cowboys-Giants rematch at MetLife Stadium centers on the Giants’ offense and the Cowboys’ defense. Both have had a rough go of it at times this season, which makes this a matchup both clubs have to think they can win.

In the first meeting between the clubs in September, the Giants’ passing game took apart the Cowboys’ pass defense, with Eli Manning throwing for 450 yards and four touchdowns. Overall, the Giants completed six passes of 20 yards or more.

However, that wasn’t enough to secure victory for the Giants, not with Big Blue committing six turnovers, half of which were Manning interceptions, in a 36-31 loss to the Cowboys.

The Giants, who racked 478 total yards in Week One, have not reached 400 yards in a game since. What’s more, the Giants have not scored more than 27 points in any subsequent games.

On the other hand, the Cowboys’ defense has continued to struggle. Dallas has surrendered more than 600 yards in two of its last three games. Overall, the Cowboys have given 500 yards or more four times since Week One.

The Cowboys have dealt with defensive injuries all season. Key middle linebacker Sean Lee (hamstring) will miss Sunday’s game against the Giants. However, defensive end DeMarcus Ware (thigh) and cornerback Morris Claiborne (hamstring) were able to practice on a limited basis on Wednesday. Ware’s presence is especially important to a Dallas pass rush that has delivered little in the way results in the last three games, notching just four sacks.

It will be interesting to see how the Cowboys try to combat the Giants’ passing game. They had problems with all three of the Giants’ top wideouts in Week One, with Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks and Rueben Randle all exceeding 100 yards.

Cruz, who hauled three TD catches in the first meeting with Dallas, could merit special attention from the Cowboys’ defense. This could be especially true if Nicks is limited or out with a groin injury that kept him out of practice on Wednesday.

Randle, who leads the Giants in TD catches (six), could be one of the keys to the game. He has the speed and athleticism to give the Cowboys’ secondary fits. The Giants should give him a few downfield shots on Sunday.

Manning comes into Sunday’s game off one of his better performances of the season. He completed 25-of-35 passes for 279 yards with one touchdown and one interception in the Week 11 victory against Green Bay.

Manning has been panned for his turnovers this season, and it’s obvious he needs to take care of the ball. That said, he still must connect on field-stretching plays when they present themselves.

And a handful of them probably will become available to make on Sunday, given how the Cowboys’ defense has played.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Giants Must Be On Guard Against Cowboys' Running Game]]> Wed, 20 Nov 2013 17:02:52 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/198*120/182520187.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 Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray. 

The Giants’ run defense has been solid all season, but it has taken it up a notch during the club’s four-game winning streak.

In the last four games, the Giants have allowed just 60 rushing yards per contest and 3.1 yards per carry. They have not surrendered a rush of longer than 18 yards in this span.

The Giants’ run defense is a strength, not a weakness.

So why even talk about it?

Here’s why: the Cowboys’ ground game can be a real strength for Dallas’ offense. The Cowboys are far more apt to pass than run — Dallas has rushed 20 times or more in just 4-of-10 games — but they can be a productive running team at times.

With the Cowboys coming off a bye week, the hunch here — and it’s just a hunch — is that Dallas tries to get the ground game a little more involved on Sunday when it faces New York in a pivotal NFC East matchup at MetLife Stadium.

DeMarco Murray (111 carries, 548 yards, four touchdowns) is the Cowboys’ featured back. He racked up 86 yards on 20 carries in the Cowboys’ 36-31 victory against the Giants in the opening week of the regular season.

Murray (6-0, 219) has good size, athleticism and vision. On a 12-yard fourth-quarter rush against the Cowboys in Week One, he started left, cut back right, leaped through a crease between right guard Mackenzy Bernadeau and right tackle Doug Free and streaked upfield for a first down.

Murray has the might to run in-between the tackles and the speed to be dangerous on the edges. The Cowboys will utilize him in the passing game, too; he’s caught 31 passes for 189 yards in eight games.

With two weeks of rest entering Sunday’s game, Murray should be fresh to face the Giants, and he could be one of the game’s X-factors. In three NFL seasons, Murray has shown quite a bit of potential, and he’s produced, too. For his career, he’s averaged 4.8 yards per attempt — a healthy rate for a back with 436 regular-season carries.

This much is certain: the Giants will be challenged by the Cowboys’ strong passing game. Quarterback Tony Romo averages 37 passes per contest, and he has capable receivers all over the field, with wideout Dez Bryant and tight end Jason Witten the primary targets.

Less certain is how often the Cowboys will turn to the run game. That said, Murray is capable of making the most of even limited opportunities. 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Giants' Playoff Picture: Rematch With Dallas Looms Large]]> Tue, 19 Nov 2013 15:00:53 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/199*120/450258629.jpg

The Giants keep winning, which means they continue to stay in the NFC playoff picture.

That means we get to keep playing the "what-if" game about their postseason chances.

Here is NFC New York's analysis of how the Giants stack up in the NFC East and in the wild-card race: 

NFC East Standings

1.    Eagles (6-5) — No. 4 seed in NFC
2.    Cowboys (5-5) — No. 9 seed in NFC
3.    GIANTS (4-6) — No. 11 seed in NFC
4.    Redskins (3-7) — No. 13 seed in NFC

Giants’ remaining games: vs. Dallas (Sunday), at Washington (Dec. 1), at San Diego (Dec. 8)**, vs. Seattle (Dec. 15), at Detroit (Dec. 22), vs. Washington (Dec. 29).
 
** — non-conference game

Outlook: With a victory Sunday against the Cowboys, the Giants can move to within a game of first place in the NFC East. However, they would not move ahead of Dallas in the division pecking order, as the Cowboys (3-1) would still have the better division record (2-2).

However, a Giants loss would create big problems for Big Blue. Not only would Dallas pull two games ahead of New York, but the Cowboys would earn the season sweep of the Giants, giving them the head-to-head tiebreaker.

The East-leading Eagles, who are on bye, have healthy NFC (5-2) and division (3-2) records. Their final division game is Dec. 29 at Dallas, which defeated Philadelphia in the first meeting between the clubs.

The Redskins play their next three games at home, which gives them a chance to be spoilers, if nothing else. They are a feeble 1-6 in NFC games.

NFC Wild-Card standings

Wild-card teams
5.    Panthers (7-3)
6.    49ers (6-4)
Other contenders
7. Cardinals (6-4)
8. Bears (6-4)
9. Cowboys (5-5)
10. Packers (5-5)
11. GIANTS (4-6)
12. Rams (4-6)
13. Redskins (3-7)
14. Buccaneers (2-8)
15. Falcons (2-8)
16. Vikings (2-8)

Outlook: The Giants moved up one spot in the NFC wild-card rankings after defeating Green Bay. Moreover, they now have the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Packers. The Giants could move as high as 10th in the conference with a win vs. the Giants and a Packers loss to the Vikings on Sunday. The lowest they could fall is 12th, which would occur with a loss to Dallas and a Rams win vs. the Bears.

Needless to say, the Giants need to be going forward, not backward, at this time of year.

The Panthers (7-3) hold the NFC’s top wild-card spot. They are 6-2 in conference games, which is helpful for tie-breaking purposes. The Panthers still have two games against the NFC South-leading Saints.

The 49ers’ four losses have been to Seattle (NFC’s No. 1 seed), Indianapolis (AFC’s No. 2 seed), Carolina (NFC’s No. 5 seed) and New Orleans (NFC’s No. 2 seed). Nevertheless, those losses have reduced some of the margin for error for the 2012 NFC champions. The 49ers (6-4) face an important game Monday night at Washington. Here’s an NFC game the 49ers are favored to win and should win. A misstep could be costly.

The Cardinals (6-4) host the AFC South-leading Colts Sunday. Four of Arizona’s final six games are against clubs with winning records (Indianapolis, Philadelphia, Seattle, San Francisco). The 6-4 Bears, meanwhile, play just one winning team (Philadelphia) in the last six weeks.

If the Packers (5-5) can regain top form, they could push Chicago and Detroit in the NFC North and could add to the competition at the front of the wild-card race. They have a winnable game Sunday vs. Minnesota, then play at Detroit on Thanksgiving. Backup quarterback Scott Tolzien has played well-enough for Green Bay to compete, but turnovers have been a problem. 

The Cowboys (5-5) have a big chance to strengthen their wild-card position in the next four weeks. Three of their next four games are against the Giants, Bears and Packers — wild-card contenders all.
 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Giants Look the Part of Contenders in Win Against Packers ]]> Mon, 18 Nov 2013 13:10:41 -0400 > at MetLife Stadium on November 17, 2013 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.]]> > at MetLife Stadium on November 17, 2013 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.]]> http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/221*120/450303179.jpg

With the Eagles beating Washington on Sunday, the Giants didn't edge any closer toward first place in the NFC East. By the numbers, the Giants technically held their position with their 27-13 victory against Green Bay.

At 4-6, the Giants are 1.5 games behind the first-place Eagles. Also, though the Giants gained a half-game on idle Dallas, they are still a game behind the second-place Cowboys.

Still, let's set aside the math for a minute and trust our eyes. The Giants very much looked like potential NFC East champions on Sunday.

Once again, the Giants’ defense did its part in victory. Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul made the game’s biggest play early in the fourth quarter, leaping to intercept a quick pass from Packers quarterback Scott Tolzien and returning it 24 yards for a touchdown. The score extended the Giants’ lead to 27-13 with 10:49 left, dampening the Packers’ comeback hopes.

While Tolzien threw for 339 yards, the Giants intercepted him three times, which led to 10 New York points. Also, the Giants did well to shut down Green Bay’s running game, which racked up just 55 yards.

In victory, the Giants also got a huge lift from their special teams. The Giants’ first touchdown, a 26-yard Eli Manning-to-Rueben Randle pass play, was set up in part by Randle’s 32-yard punt return into Green Bay territory.

Then, in the third quarter, the Giants’ punt-coverage team stopped a Packers fake punt short of a first down. At the time, the Packers trailed just 13-6. A first down would have allowed the Packers to keep the ball in Giants territory. Instead, the Giants got the stop, and the offense capitalized, putting together a 10-play, 63-yard drive ending in Brandon Jacobs’ one-yard TD run to give Big Blue a 20-6 lead.

The Giants’ offense, for its part, played one of its best games of the season. Manning was sharp, completing 25-of-35 passes for 279 yards with one TD. He was intercepted once, but that was the Giants’ lone turnover of the contest.

Overall, Manning’s play was a strength. When that happens, the Giants are going to be formidable, given how their defense has played. And when the kicking game does its part . . . well, now we’ve got something going here.

On Sunday, the Giants looked like a team that could play in January. Manning was on-target. Receivers Randle, Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks combined to catch 15-of-19 passes thrown their way for 197 yards. All three receivers had at least one catch of 26 yards or more. The ground game was solid, too, racking up 78 yards on 24 carries.

The Giants’ victory was their fourth in a row. And let’s be frank: some of those wins weren’t exactly artful. But Sunday’s victory? Now this was something that caught the eye. This was a skillful team win. At a time of year when some clubs are fading out of contention, the Giants appear to be getting stronger — and just in time, with the rival Cowboys coming to MetLife Stadium on Sunday in a game with significant NFC East ramifications.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Giants-Packers Preview: Giants Must Keep Raising Their Game]]> Fri, 15 Nov 2013 08:10:45 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Giants-Packers-Preview.jpg

Before we preview Sunday’s Packers-Giants matchup, let’s take a moment to ponder a most amazing and possible scenario: a four-way tie atop the NFC East by the end of next week.

Here’s how it would happen:

  • The Giants (3-6) defeat Green Bay Sunday and the Dallas Cowboys (5-5) next week.
  • The Redskins (3-6) beat the Philadelphia Eagles (5-5) this Sunday, then upset the San Francisco 49ers on Nov. 25.

If these four results all fall this way, the Giants, Cowboys, Redskins and Eagles will all have 5-6 records with five weeks left to play.

Wow. That’s something else, isn’t it?

Anyway, here’s our analysis of Giants-Packers:

Reasons why the Giants can win Sunday

The Packers are starting third-string quarterback Scott Tolzien.
While Tolzien played fairly well in his NFL regular-season debut a week ago, he is untested, and untested quarterbacks tend to make mistakes.

The Giants’ defense should hold up well against a very good Packers rushing attack. While the Packers may want to lean on their ground game to take pressure off of Tolzien, the Giants are tough on opposing rushing offenses. The Giants are allowing just 3.7 yards per carry.

The Giants’ pass rush has perked up. The Giants have recorded four sacks in each of the last two games. By contrast, they had just six total sacks in the first seven contests of 2013. Pass-rush pressure can rattle even experienced quarterbacks, so if the Giants can get Tolzien's jersey dirty they could be tough to beat. 

The Packers’ defense has taken a step backwards in the last two games. Green Bay has allowed more than 400 yards and three offensive touchdowns in each of the last two contests. New York has scored a combined 110 points in the previous three meetings with the Packers.

The Giants have won the last two meetings with Green Bay — and those were stronger Packers clubs. Those teams had a healthy Aaron Rodgers at quarterback.

Reasons why the Giants could run into trouble against the Packers

The Packers aren’t hopeless with Tolzien at quarterback. The third-year pro from Wisconsin showed some NFL-caliber ability in last week’s loss to Philadelphia. If the Giants’ defense regresses after three exceptional games in a row, Tolzien can make enough plays to lead the Packers to the upset. The Packers have a strong group of receivers even with Randall Cobb and Jermichael Finley out and wideouts Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Jarrett Boykin all playmaking threats.

The Giants are still too error-prone. New York managed to beat the Raiders last Sunday despite committing three turnovers that turned into 17 Oakland points.

Though the Packers have lost two straight games, they are a skilled, deep, well-coached squad. If they return to their earlier-season form, they will give the Giants all they can handle.  

The Giants’ offense isn’t playing especially well.
New York has only exceeded 300 yards once in their three-game winning streak, and they have scored just four offensive touchdowns in those three victories.  

With a third-string quarterback in the lineup, the Packers pull out all of the stops on Sunday. The Giants’ special teams need to be wary. An onside kick, a fake punt or a fake field goal wouldn’t be a surprise.

Prediction

This looks too easy. The Giants are in their best form of the season, while the Packers are at their worst. If the Giants continue to improve and the Packers continue to slide, Big Blue could win its fourth straight.

However, this looks like a potentially tough matchup for the Giants. The Packers have plenty of skill-position talent around Tolzien, and their defense could bounce back against a shaky Giants offense.

But the Packers have more upside than the Giants. In what figures a close game,
Green Bay is more capable of making the one or two plays that could tilt the game in its favor. The Packers are also probably less apt to make the big mistake.

Predicted score: Packers 20, Giants 17

 

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<![CDATA[Giants Must Stress Packers' Shaky Pass Defense]]> Thu, 14 Nov 2013 14:25:44 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/212*120/187587359.jpg

In some ways, the Giants’ offense is a favorable matchup for the Packers' defense.

Giants quarterback Eli Manning has been prone to big mistakes this season, throwing 16 interceptions in nine starts after just 15 in 2013. At present, Manning is on pace to throw 28 interceptions. Manning’s completion percentage has slipped, too, falling from 59.9 percent a season ago to 55.6 percent.

However, even with the Giants’ passing game somewhat off-form, it will test the Packers’ secondary downfield. And the Giants must test the Green Bay pass defense after the Packers allowed three TD passes of more than 30 yards in a 27-13 loss to the Eagles on Sunday.

According to NFL statistics, Manning’s average pass length is 9.81 yards, third-longest in the league. Only the Eagles’ Michael Vick (10.61) and the 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick (9.84) have higher averages. That said, Manning has attempted 188 more passes than Vick and 109 more passes than Kaepernick. Also, through nine games, the Giants have 33 completions of 20 yards or more. This puts them on pace for about 58 completions of 20-plus yards, compared to 50 a season ago.

Manning’s three primary targets — Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks and Rueben Randle — all have field-stretching ability. The Giants should put that to good use on Sunday. It’s on the Giants’ offensive line to give Manning the time he needs, and it’s on Manning to give his receivers a chance to make a play on the ball.

Then, it’s on the receivers to make a play, just like the Eagles’ Riley Cooper did Sunday on an underthrown Nick Foles pass deep in Green Bay territory. Cooper adjusted to the ball, cutting in front of Packers safety M.D. Jennings. The result was a 45-yard touchdown.

The Giants can make these sorts of plays, too. The Packers, who are starting third-string quarterback Scott Tolzien on Sunday, probably don’t have that same sort of punch.

“We’ve always been a throw-the-ball-down-the-field team,” Giants head coach Tom Coughlin said Wednesday when asked about the club’s passing game. That’s true in 2013, too; the numbers bear it out.The Giants are who they are. At 3-6, and with the Packers’ pass defense giving up some big plays of late, it’s time for Big Blue to stick to its blueprint. The Giants need to let Manning drop back, scan the field and take some shots. There is risk in this strategy, but there’s also risk in just dinking-and-dunking, too. When big-play chances present themselves, the Giants have to take them.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Giants Need to Force Untested Packers QB To Beat Them]]> Wed, 13 Nov 2013 04:05:48 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Packers-Scott-Tolzien.jpg

The Packers will start their third different quarterback in a 13-day span when they face the Giants Sunday at MetLife Stadium.

First, Green Bay lost franchise passer Aaron Rodgers to a broken collarbone in a loss to Chicago on Nov. 4. Then, Rodgers’ replacement, Seneca Wallace, suffered a season-ending groin injury in Sunday’s loss to Philadelphia, giving way to third-year pro Scott Tolzien, who had never before played in an NFL regular-season game.

Now, it’s Tolzien’s turn to start, and he draws a Giants defense that’s played lights-out
of late.

In theory, the Giants’ defense should have the edge Sunday against the Packers’ hobbled offense. Still, Giants safety Antrel Rolle told reporters Monday that New York couldn’t afford to take Green Bay lightly.

“We’re 3-6. We’re in no way, shape or form to underestimate anyone,” Rolle says. “We know exactly who we have ahead of us. I think they have something that they haven’t had there in a long time, which is a run game, and we’re looking forward to playing those guys.”

The Packers’ ground game should help Tolzien’s transition to the starting lineup. Rookie Eddie Lacy (158 carries, 669 yards, four touchdowns) is the focal point of the rushing attack, which is gaining an average of 143.1 yards per game and 4.8 yards per carry.

It will be interesting to see how the Giants defend the Packers on early downs. It would not be surprising if they crowded the line at times and tried to make Tolzien beat them.

And he might be capable of doing it. 
In relief of Wallace on Sunday, Tolzien played well, completing 24 of 39 passes for 280 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.

With a full week of practice with the first-team offense, Tolzien could improve in his first start. Packers coach Mike McCarthy will also have had a week to tailor the gameplan to his young quarterback’s skill set. The Packers did well to put Tolzien in optimal situations against the Eagles; there were plenty of short, high-percentage passes. Expect more of the same on Sunday.

The 6-foot-3, 208-pound Tolzien has a quick, whiplike release. He has the arm strength to make field-stretching throws down the middle and on the edges as long as he’s on time with the passes.
Generally speaking, he threw with accuracy and touch against the Eagles. He also showed good mobility on rollouts and had a 19-yard run up the sideline when his receiving options were covered. 

Tolzien has an above-average receiving corps at his disposal, with wideouts Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Jarrett Boykin the top three targets. Tolzien threw one-third of his passes to Boykin, who hauled in eight receptions for 112 yards.

While the Packers’ passing game still has some punch with Tolzien in the lineup, let’s make no mistake: there will be plays for the Giants’ defense to make on Sunday. Tolzien is inexperienced, and the Giants could have a chance to force a turnover or two.

The Eagles picked off Tolzien twice on Sunday. The first came in the second quarter, when cornerback Brandon Boykin intercepted Tolzien in the endzone. Tolzien had Nelson open, but the pass was too flat, short and inside, and Boykin took it back 76 yards. Then, in the third quarter, Eagles inside linebacker DeMeco Ryans caught a deflected Tolzien pass, setting up a Philadelphia field goal. On that interception, Tolzien threw into coverage.

Tolzien also had multiple passes knocked down at the line. The Giants’ defensive linemen will need to get their hands up if the Packers are going to use quick passes.

The Giants need to force Tolzien into high-pressure situations — the third-and-longs where the crowd is loud and the defense knows the pass is coming. If Tolzien beats the Giants making a series of big plays in those spots, the Packers deserve to win — and Big Blue's playoff hopes deserve to take a hit.



Photo Credit: AP]]>