<![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 Fri, 19 Dec 2014 20:48:26 -0500 Fri, 19 Dec 2014 20:48:26 -0500 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[3 Reasons to Watch Giants-Rams]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 13:33:55 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/4594822461.jpg

 

Pop quiz, hotshot. Among NFC teams, which longtime franchise has the best winning percentage against the Giants? If you answered the Rams (25-14 all-time versus New York), then you also probably just visited pro-footballreference.com.

Were you as shocked to discover this as I was? No? Liar.

The Rams, really. I know they’ve had some terrific teams over the years -- making the playoffs eight straight years from 1973-1980, six times between 1983 and 1989 and five times between 1999 and 2004 -- but the franchise still maintains an aura of stink for me. And that’s largely because -- outside of those cluster playoff runs -- the team has been largely terrible.

Has any franchise ever had a bigger disparity between its highs and lows? When the Rams are good, they remain good for years at a time. When they get on a run of losing -- for example like now; they haven’t made the playoffs since 2004 -- they get into a groove, too.

Would you believe the Rams actually have a winning record all-time? Well, they do, 533-531-2. If they lose their last two games this season, they’ll be exactly .500 all-time, which seems fitting for this proud/embarrassing franchise.

The Giants have actually won the last five games in this matchup, which means at one time they actually had a 9-25 record against the Rams. Bizarre? You betcha.

Can the Giants keep the winning streak going? Here are some other compelling reasons to watch this game:

Great rookies

This game features the runaway winner of the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year (Odell Beckham Jr.) and a contender for the Defensive Rookie of the Year, Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who has eight sacks on the year, including one sack each in the last five games.

The only thing Eli Manning likes more than looking for Beckham (league high 62 targets in the last five weeks) is taking sacks. Look for the announcers to say Beckham or Donald’s name on 44 consecutive Giants offensive plays.

Great coaches

Don’t you ever watch games simply because the teams are led by accomplished coaches at the height of their powers? Coaches like Jeff Fisher and Tom Coughlin? OK, I tried.

Fantasy football

Want to hear me talk about my fantasy football team? How kind of you, please pull up a chair.

I’m playing in my fantasy football championship this week. The guy I’m playing against has Beckham on his team, which shouldn’t come as a surprise because I read somewhere that Beckham is on more championship-participating teams than any other player in fantasy.

What might strike you as odd is that my opponent has the Rams’ defense while I am currently fielding the Giants’ defense. I say currently because, well, I have watched this Giants team all year -- all through the seven-game losing streak, the horrific Manning interceptions, the Larry Donnell fumbles -- and it occurs to me that pinning my hopes on the Giants’ defense is like playing William Tell, except in this instance I’m putting an apple on my head and asking someone to shoot it off with a heat-seeking missile.

The Giants’ defense has been stout of late, accumulating 22 sacks in the last three weeks. But the Rams’ defense has not allowed a touchdown in three weeks, and could become the first squad since the 2000 Steelers to not allow a touchdown in four straight games.

If the Rams’ defense dominates the Giants (which is distinctly possible), the Giants’ defense is going to be in bad situations all game. Decisions, decisions.

My other option is playing the Broncos versus the Bengals on Monday Night Football. So what do you think … hey, where did you go?



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Giants Should Play Jets, Pats Every Year]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 13:53:29 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/459081054.jpg

The unpredictability of the NFL is one of its greatest charms, the any given Sunday maxim a central cause of the multi-billion dollar gambling industry that has helped make professional football the most popular sport among four-legged mammals, domesticated or otherwise.

But undergirding this most unpredictable of sports is the most predictable of plans, the NFL schedule. We may not know if the Giants can beat the spread in either of their final two games, but we already know who 14 of the Giants’ 16 opponents will be in 2015, because the NFL uses a staid formula with no room for leeway.

The Giants are playing the Jets, Patriots and Bills in 2015? Roger Goodell and his minions are scheduling savants! They know how to foster rivalries! Yeah, no. The commissioner and his team have no say about who plays who from year to year, which is probably good, because they’d probably have the Seahawks and 49ers play against each other in London each week.

But in proper hands (read: mine) the NFL schedule can be improved, with an emphasis on fostering regional and historical rivalries, while neglecting the perceived need to have, say, the Dolphins play the Cardinals every few years.

Believe it or not, Cardinals fans don’t care if the Dolphins ever come to town, and this is what the NFL fumbles in its construction of the NFL schedule.

As it stands, the NFL uses a very simple formula for determining a team’s schedule.

Per NFL communications:

Under the formula, every team plays 16 games as follows:

• Home and away against its three division opponents (6 games).
• The four teams from another division within its conference on a rotating three-year cycle (4 games).
• The four teams from a division in the other conference on a rotating four-year cycle (4 games).
• Two intraconference games based on the prior year’s standings (2 games). These games match a first-place team against the first-place teams in the two same-conference divisions the team is not scheduled to play that season. The second-place, third-place, and fourth-place teams in a conference are matched in the same way each year.

Because of this formula, the Giants (who are locked into a third-place finish in the NFC East) already know who 7/8ths of their 2015 will be. As the consistently great Ed Valentine points out at Big Blue View on SB Nation, the Giants’ opponents are:

Home: Dallas, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Carolina, New England, New York Jets, and NFC West third-place team (“As of now, the third-place team in the NFC West is the San Francisco 49ers, who are 7-7. Sunday's opponent, the St. Louis Rams, are 6-8 and could sneak into that spot over the final two games,” Valentine writes.)
Away: Dallas, Philadelphia, Washington, New Orleans, Tampa Bay. Buffalo, Miami, and NFC North third-place team (“The third-place team in the NFC North is the 6-8 Minnesota Vikings. The 5-9 Chicago Bears have a shot at that spot, but they seem to have imploded.)

Is it great that the Giants get to host the Patriots and the Jets? Sure, but this should happen every other year, with the Patriots and Jets hosting the Giants in the alternating years. That’s right, a yearly contest at MetLife Stadium between the Giants and the Jets. How awesome would that be? How many fights would break out in the stands? Probably no more than go down whenever the Eagles, Cowboys Washington come to town. Well, the Eagles and Cowboys, anyway; Washington fans don’t like to travel these days.

It’s safe and predictable for the NFL to say this year’s standings should affect next year’s schedule, but it’s also lazy and idiotic. The last-place team in the AFC North this year is currently Cleveland, who are 7-7 and could finish 9-7. The last-place team in the AFC South is Jacksonville, which has two wins and could finish with, um, two wins.

Some fans complain that the NFC North will send a team with a losing record to the playoffs this year, while more worthy teams (please let it be the Eagles) get left out. But if it’s supposedly unfair to allow a sub.-500 team such as the Saints to reach the playoffs, how is it fair to automatically equate a seven-win team such as the Browns with a two-win team such as the Jaguars?

Listen, there’s no perfect formula for designing the NFL schedule, but the currently boring formula should be scrapped in lieu of a new “formula” that includes:

• A nod to regional or historic rivalries. Pittsburgh and Dallas? These two teams have played in three Super Bowls and need to play more often. You don’t think Steeler fans can hate Dallas fans as much as other fan bases? You are mistaken. Other teams that need to play more often: the Dolphins and the Jaguars, the Chiefs and the Rams, and the Texans and the Cowboys. The 49ers and Raiders don’t need to play more often; jails in California are already overpopulated, so there’s no need to put these two fan bases in a confined bowl. Like ever.

• The formula should also include never playing another game in London. Seriously, just stop. How about Iceland, though? The naturally occurring hot springs would be very therapeutic to players’ aches and pains. Plus it’s a shorter flight from New York and would actually allow the NFL to play a game on a real frozen tundra.

• Pulling team names out of a hat to determine matchups. You think the NFL Draft is entertaining theater? Imagine a scene at Radio City Music Hall, with the commissioner pulling the Eagles’ name out of a hat, followed by him pulling out...the Rams! And you think the booing was loud when Donovan McNabb got drafted.

Now, will such changes to the NFC schedule ever be implemented? Probably not.

Instead we get the lukewarm excitement associated with the NFL’s schedule release in the spring. We already know which teams play which, because the crusty old schedule formula determined that at the end of the previous season.

“But we get to learn WHEN the Giants play the Patriots!”

Come on, NFL. We can do better than that.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Hero, Nero, Zero for Giants-Washington]]> Mon, 15 Dec 2014 11:22:42 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/redskins+giants1.jpg

After losing seven games in a row, the Giants have now proven in back-to-back weeks that they are better than a two-win team, the Titans, and a three-win team, Washington. If the Giants had been able to play sub-.500 teams all year, they might have been able to go somewhere. Unfortunately they don’t play in the NFC South, where a 5-9 record will have you fighting for first place.

There was plenty of heroics, insanity and ineptitude in the team’s 24-13 victory over Washington on Sunday, but we can only designate one Hero, Nero and Zero.
Heroes: Giants’ defensive line.
OK, we lied, you can actually pluralize the word “hero.” Who knew?
When the Giants were making the playoffs and winning Super Bowls a few years ago, the team had an amazing ability to put the quarterback on his back. Michael Strahan, Justin Tuck, Usi Umenyiora, Mathias Kiwanuka and Jason Pierre-Paul were avowed quarterback sackers, and this had a magical trickle-down effect – fewer successful plays by the opposition led to more successful plays by the Giants. It was like voodoo.
In recent years, as the Giants have grown wary of the postseason and all it entails, sacks have dropped off precipitously. Well, until the last three weeks anyway, as New York has rattled off 22 quarterback sacks, including seven on Sunday.
Does Odell Beckham Jr. accumulate 12 catches for 143 yards and three touchdowns if the Giants’ defense can’t get off the field on third down? Maybe. Did Beckham deserve to be named “hero” for this game? Probably. Was I getting tired of writing about how great he is? No. I just chose to address his antics under “zero” this week. (Don’t read ahead!)
Nero: Santana Moss.
Football is a laughably imprecise sport. Where the ball is spotted on running plays? Yeah, the refs are basically winging it. Roughing the passer? You can make a great play in sacking the quarterback, but as evidenced by Jason Worilds’ sack of Matt Ryan in yesterday’s Steelers-Falcons game, you can’t make too good of a play. In short, the refs are making it up as they go along, which was further evidenced when they said Robert Griffin III did not score a touchdown as time ran out in the first half.
Was Griffin bobbling the ball as he dove across the goal line? I guess. Was it so obvious that the refs called it a fumble initially? No. Was it such a huge shift of the ball that they should have overturned it on replay? No way.
Listen, anyone with two eyes knows that Tom Brady fumbled when Charles Woodson hit him in the 2001 playoffs, in the so-called Tuck Rule game. I don’t care what the rule books says (or said at the time, anyway, since the rule has since been eliminated). That was a fumble.
Yesterday’s play by Griffin? Not a fumble. But that’s what the refs ultimately ruled, and that’s what sent Redskins’ wide receiver Santana Moss into apoplexy. He cursed at the refs, got thrown out of the game, and the Redskins got slapped with 30 yards in penalties, which allowed the Giants to kick off from Washington’s 35-yard line in the second half. This gave them the perfect opportunity to pull an onside kick, which was successful.
In other news, Santana Moss is still in the league. Who knew?
Zero: Giants rookies with 1,000 yards receiving.
Certain teams are better than others at drafting and developing particular positions. For instance, the Steelers with linebackers, the Colts with quarterbacks, and the Raiders with punters.
Other teams have a comedic inability to draft and develop particular positions. For instance, Washington with linebackers, the Browns with quarterbacks, and the Jets with everything.
It came as something of a shock to learn that the Giants have never had a rookie with more than 1,000 yards receiving. Until Sunday’s game, the rookie record was held by Jeremy Shockey with 894 yards. But with Odell Beckham’s latest stud outing, he now has 972 yards on the season and only needs 28 yards in the final two games to pass 1,000 on the year.
You can check my math, I’ll wait.
Really, is it a wonder that Giants fans are excited about Beckham Jr.? The team doesn’t exactly have a long track record of great wide receivers who don’t shoot themselves in the leg at a night club.
Besides, Plaxico Burress didn’t begin his career with the Giants. And the team’s all-time leading receiver, Amani Toomer, went to exactly zero Pro Bowls during his 13-year career.
The team’s second-leading receiver all time is Frank Gifford, who caught his last pass before the forward pass was even legal. (Probably.)
The third-leading receiver in franchise history? Tiki Barber, a running back. If you can remember the three receivers who round out the top six (Joe Morrison, Kyle Jones and Homer Jones), congratulations, you are old.



Photo Credit: (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)]]>
<![CDATA[Giants Vs. Washington: A Contrast in QB Situations]]> Fri, 12 Dec 2014 10:35:06 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/RG3-Eli-Manning-Giants.jpg

John Madden used to say, “If you have two quarterbacks, then you have none,” the sentiment being that you need to have a clear No. 1, not a quarterback controversy.

The Giants have a clear No. 1, Eli Manning. Washington has a quarterback carousel, with Colt McCoy, Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins all taking their turns this season. Giants’ fans may occasionally bemoan the services of Manning, but at least they don’t have to spread the disdain among his backups. Thanks to Manning’s NFL-high 175-game starting streak at quarterback, 175 percent of Giants fans can’t pick backup quarterback Ryan Nassib out of a police lineup.

Two years ago, Washington was seemingly flush at quarterback. RGIII won the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award, and Cousins filled in tremendously when Griffin went down with injury. Both seemed like legitimate franchise quarterbacks.

But then Mike Shanahan’s administration decided to rush RGIII back from injury, Griffin subsequently blew out his knee in the 2012 playoffs and hasn't been the same since, and Cousins revealed himself to be lackluster.

Now, less than two years after being named a better offensive rookie than Andrew Luck, RGIII is reportedly punting balls to himself at Washington practices and seemingly on the fast track to a padded room with no windows.

Such is the life of a quarterback who has Colt McCoy looking over his shoulder, I guess.

Manning, conversely, has had a vise grip on the starting job since late 2004. Sure, he’s led the NFL three times in interceptions over that time, but he’s also led the team to two Super Bowl wins.

Additionally, the Giants did him the huge favor of never bringing anyone in to challenge him. Maybe that’s stupid on the part of the Giants (especially since the team has now missed the playoffs for the fifth time in six years), but Manning has never been the sole thing holding this team back.

Say what you want about Manning, but as quarterbacks go, he’s as tough as they come. Since 2004, he’s been sacked 278 times, and yet he’s still got the longest active starting streak among NFL quarterbacks.

Maybe Giants fans wish he had taken a game or 10 off, but honestly, what QB situation would you rather have? The one in New York, where there is a clear No. 1 (albeit a low-end No. 1 these days), or the one in Washington, where there’s a collections of No. 2s?

Since Manning began his starting streak in November 2004, Washington has started these quarterbacks: Patrick Ramsey, Mark Brunell, Jason Campbell, Todd Collins, Donovan McNabb, Rex Grossman, John Beck, Robert Griffin III, Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy.

You can’t unsee that.

If the Giants do make the decision to part ways with Manning after this season, saving $17.5 million against the salary cap, then rest assured that teams like Washington will be lining up for his services.

Is Manning an elite quarterback? No. But he’s a clear No. 1, which is always better than having two No. 2’s.

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<![CDATA[Last Time for Some in Giants-Washington Rivalry]]> Thu, 11 Dec 2014 09:48:58 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/RG3-Tom-Coughlin-NYG-Wash.jpg

A lot has changed since the Giants faced Washington in Week 4. Washington and its fans have gone from loving quarterback Robert Griffin III to essentially washing their hands of him, the Giants went on a mid-season sabbatical that saw them lose seven games in a row, and both teams answered the question of whether they’d like to participate in the 2014 playoffs with a Bartleby-like “I’d prefer not to.”

Needless to say, this is the last time these two hated rivals will be facing off this year. For some of the game’s participants, it might be the last time they are involved in the rivalry, with the numerous question marks surrounding the futures of coaches, players and mascots on both sidelines.

So let’s use your old friend -- the NFL injury report -- to gauge whether this is last time certain figures will take the field for a Washington-NYG game.

Probable Last Game in this Rivalry: Robert Griffin III.

The last time a player fell from favor this quickly (Jamie Foxx in “Any Given Sunday”), Lawrence Taylor chain-sawed his car in half. Washington coach Jay Gruden has reportedly tired of Griffin’s act, lamenting the third-year player’s poor work habits and poor footwork, not to mention his willingness to throw teammates under the bus when the team loses.

Have other quarterbacks (namely, Peyton Manning) also tossed teammates towards the undercarriage of large vehicles? Yes. The difference is that Manning is a maniacal worker, whose knowledge of the game is more or less unparalleled in the game today.

Griffin, who won the Offensive Rookie of the Year two years ago, needs a change of scenery, and the Redskins -- who traded a king’s ransom to the Rams to move up and draft him in the 2012 draft -- will be lucky to get back 30 cents on the dollar in a trade.

Questionable Last Game in this Rivalry: Tom Coughlin.

Coughlin has one year remaining on his contract, and it seems unlikely the Giants will extend the league’s oldest coach with a new deal. Maybe they give him an added year, a way of a) saying thanks for the two Super Bowls, and b) here’s one last chance to make a run with a (hopefully) healthy team with talent on both sides of the ball.

Would Coughlin turn down a one-year extension? Not likely. No team is going to hire him to rebuild a franchise at his age. Well, maybe Washington, but Coughlin probably doesn’t have a death wish.

Doubtful Last Game in this Rivalry: Eli Manning.

Manning counts $17.5 million towards next year’s salary cap, so the Giants might cut him to clear space. Will they? It’s possible. But where would that leave them?At the doorstep of the Ryan Nassib Era?

I’m sure Nassib’s family loves him, but the rest of the NFL has no idea what he brings to the table, because Manning never misses a start and has played just well enough for sane fans to not call into Mike Francesa and pant heavily about giving Nassib a shot.

Manning will be back, and with luck he’ll have a full season from Odell Beckham Jr., Victor Cruz, Rashad Jennings and Larry Donnell’s hands.

Out Last Game in this Rivalry: Washington mascot.

Despite polls that say an overwhelming majority of NFL fans consider Washington's mascot to be racist and disparaging, team owner Dan Snyder has adamantly refused to change it. He, along with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, claim the franchise honors Native Americans with its name and logo.

If you needed any more proof that there’s no getting through to Snyder and Goodell, just remember that the team’s name begins with the word "red" and that the skin color of the Native American on the team's helmet is, uh, brown. It’d be like if the Red Sox wore the socks of the Cleveland Indians.

To quote Bill Murray in “Groundhog Day,” “Morons, your bus is leaving.”

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<![CDATA[Hero, Nero, Zero for Giants-Titans Game]]> Mon, 08 Dec 2014 12:38:06 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/460112660.jpg

Admit it, when Eli Manning threw the pick-six to shrink the Giants’ lead to 30-7 in Sunday’s game against the Titans, a part of you -- because you were obviously watching -- wondered if Eli and his cohorts had it in them to blow a 30-point lead.

Last week they coughed up a 21-0 lead to Jacksonville and handed (fumbled?) the Jaguars its biggest comeback in franchise history. Could the Giants extend their season of giving by presenting the Titans with the biggest comeback in that team’s history?

No, Eli didn’t quite have it in him this time, and the pick-six turned out to be a momentary blip (and a horrific reminder of his ever-present potential) and the Giants beat the Titans 36-7.

Following the game, our blue ribbon panel once again convened to hand out honors to those who performed heroically, insanely and with ineptitude.

Hero: Giants rookies

On Friday I predicted that Odell Beckham Jr. had a decent chance of breaking Flipper Anderson’s 25-year-old record of 336 receiving yards in this game, because Beckham is awesome, Eli has shown himself to have few qualms about throwing it up for grabs and hoping his receiver makes a big play, and the Titans were coming off a game in which they allowed 238 yards receiving to DeAndre Hopkins.

Beckham didn’t disappoint; at first, anyway.

He had six catches for 98 yards and a touchdown -- in the first quarter. I’m no math wizard, but that put him on pace for nearly 400 yards receiving, which would have easily shattered Anderson’s mark and made this game historic.

But nooooo, fellow rookie Andre Williams had to go and be all productive on the ground and stuff, running for 131 yards on 24 carries with a touchdown of his own.

A well-balanced offense is the ideal when a team is in playoff contention, but when they’re playing out the string, we want ball hogs and broken records. Wise up, Giants rookies.

Nero: Titans fans with bags on their heads.

Life is short and there are innumerable ways to spend your Sunday afternoon. You can go to the park; take to the highway to drive slow in the passing lanes; or maybe sit in a bookstore and read an entire book and then put back on the shelf without having to pay for it.

In short, there are plenty of relaxing, enjoyable ways to spend 50 percent of your weekend. But attending a football game and wearing a paper bag over your head? That's what some Titans fans did to register their disgust with the team's play. Seriously, just save on paper and just write an L on your forehead. Ya know, because it’s the team that’s a bunch of losers.

Zero: Sense out of Antrel Rolle and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

When you’ve gone more than two months without winning a football game, it’s understandable if you’re a little excited that the team’s fortunes have shifted (for the time being, anyway) and the team is finally winning.

After Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie scored on a pick-six -- a high-stepping touchdown that was negated after Giants’ defensive lineman Damontre Moore de-cleated Titans’ quarterback Zach Mettenberger -- Antrel Rolle celebrated by taking a “snapshot” of Rodgers-Cromartie, who mugged for the camera.

This team had lost an NFL-high seven games in a row, and was now winning a meaningless game against the Titans. But two veterans, who probably should know better, decided that was a good opportunity to make a Kodak moment.

Embarrassing.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Manning Should Give Beckham Shot to Break Record]]> Fri, 05 Dec 2014 15:51:21 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/AP747099438720.jpg

The 3-9 Giants face off against the 2-10 Titans on Sunday, a game that could end the current longest losing streak in the NFL -- Giants, with seven -- while simultaneously handing that honor to the Titans, who are tied with the Panthers for second-longest streak at six..

Giants! Titans! Something has to give in this battle of the largies!

Knowing how these two teams have played this season, the game will probably end in a scoreless tie.

If a team ties in a game, does that end its losing streak? Should it? I picked Cincinnati in my survivor pool earlier this year when the Bengals were playing the Panthers, and true to their Bungles nature, Cincinnati didn’t win or lose. They tied, which was as good as a loss in my survivor pool, where the prevailing edict is “win and advance.”

If you’ve made it this far in your own survivor pool, I hope you’re not forced by the remaining choices to pick either the Giants or the Titans this week. But if you are, you’ll at least have a good reason to watch the game. And really, do you need a good reason to watch NFL football? What else are you going to do, hang out with your friends or family? You just had a whole long week of that jazz over Thanksgiving, and you’ll have plenty more during the remainder of the holiday season.

You might as well sit back, watch football, and shop for presents on Amazon (because if you step foot inside a mall in December you deserve all the needless anxiety).

On the face of it, a Giants-Titans matchup is not that intriguing. But beyond the well-chronicled questions seeping from the carcass of the Giants’ 2014 season -- Will Tom Coughlin be fired? Will Eli Manning be brought back next season? Is recent parolee Ryan Leaf the answer at quarterback? There are plenty of reasons to be intrigued by this game.

The top reason? These are the two of the four worst defenses in the NFL, so we just might witness the shattering of some NFL records.

If you watched the Giants blow a 21-0 lead to the Jaguars last Sunday, you know that no New York lead is safe. And if you watched the Titans get trounced 45-21 by the Texans, then you know the Titans are so bad they made Ryan Fitzpatrick-to-DeAndre Hopkins look like Chad Pennington-to-Randy Moss.

Fitzpatrick had 358 yards passing and Hopkins had 238 yards receiving. Can Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. surpass those numbers? They might as well try.

But this game won’t be all about duck and chuck. Plenty of other players on both sides of the ball are auditioning for future roles, either with their current teams or with other organizations. Players like Giants’ defensive end Damontre Moore, who is going to have the opportunity to get extended playing time following the season-ending injuries to Mathias Kiwanuka and Robert Ayers.

Games like this might look meaningless, but they never are. Especially if you made the fantasy playoffs and have Beckham on your team.

In short: Chuck it, Eli. Chuck it like you’ve never chucked it before. If you can give David Tyree a lifetime’s worth of free meals in New York City, then you can give Beckham a shot at breaking former Ram Flipper Anderson’s 25-year-old record of 336 receiving yards.

It’s astounding in this era of record-breaking passing records, that Anderson’s mark -- set against the Saints -- still stands. Sure, some guys have approached the record (including Calvin Johnson, who had 329 yards against the Cowboys last season), but none have surpassed it.

What a treat it’d be to witness that on Sunday, when I could be out at a mall shopping for presents. 



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[The Giants: Then and Now]]> Thu, 04 Dec 2014 13:53:28 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/113014fumble.jpg

The 3-9 Giants have lost an NFL-high seven games in a row, with their last victory coming on Oct. 5 against Atlanta. A lot has happened in the interim, including two losses to the Cowboys and the largest comeback in Jaguars history, courtesy of the Giants last week.

The temptation is to say that nothing good has happened during the Giants’ current skid, but don’t be tempted by lies. Plenty of good things have happened; just most of them have happened to other teams.

To get a sense of how far we’ve come since Oct. 5 – as a people, as a nation, but most importantly as football fans – let’s play a little Then and Now.

Then: The Giants were 3-2 and fans were hopeful of a successful season.
Now: Fans are taking it out on their friends and family.

Then: Giants cornerback Prince Amukamara had lost his virginity and was having a career year.
Now: Amukamara is out for the season with an injury, presumably not caused by finding his virginity.

Then: Odell Beckham Jr. played his first career game against the Falcons and also caught his first NFL touchdown pass after missing the first month due to injury.
Now: Beckham hasn’t done anything memorable since.

Then: Derek Jeter had barely been retired a week.
Now: He runs a website where Tiger Woods defends his great sense of humor.

Then: Ray Rice was suspended indefinitely by the NFL.
Now: Desperate fantasy owners are adding him to their roster for the fantasy playoffs.

Then: The best headline I’d read in 2014 was “Pig in Australia Steals 18 Beers from Campers, Gets Drunk, Fights Cow.”
Now: Nothing has changed.

Then: Victor Cruz was the team’s No. 1 wide receiver.
Now: Cruz is among an NFL-high 20 Giants on injured reserve.

Then: No one was talking about Eli Manning’s 2015 cap hit.
Now: It’s frequently mentioned in the same sentence as Tom Coughlin’s 2015 job prospects.

Then: Florida State was undefeated (5-0) and No. 1 in the Associated Press poll.
Now: Florida State is undefeated (12-0) and No. 2 in the poll behind Alabama (11-1).

Then: Yankee fans were looking forward to the team re-loading during free agency.
Now: Yankee fans are looking forward to a team led by Alex Rodriguez.

Then: Jason Pierre-Paul was the Giants’ best pass rusher.
Now: The Giants’ best pass rusher (Robert Ayers) is on injured reserve.

Then: Many people were touting the new West Coast offense implemented by new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo.
Now: Hardly anyone is still talking about him as the successor to Tom Coughlin.

Then: The Giants were about to win their third world title in five years.
Now: When it comes to the New York Giants, we might as well be talking about baseball.

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<![CDATA[Giants Are The NFL's Worst Team]]> Tue, 02 Dec 2014 06:26:24 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/180*120/Giants-Cowboys010.jpg

So it’s official, the 2014 New York Giants are the worst team in football. Do they have the worst record? No, but they just lost to the team that was tied for the worst record, so that makes them the worst. And really, with an NFL-high seven game losing streak, the 3-9 Giants have a lot of material to support their case for the league’s worst team.

With four games remaining, New York is still in the running for the No. 1 draft pick. Who should they target in the draft? Here are some candidates.

1. A Tight End Who Doesn’t Fumble.

Larry Donnell was not drafted out of Grambling, which prompted some people to scratch their heads earlier this year when Donnell caught three touchdown passes against the Redskins. It looked like the start of great things for the second-year tight end. Little did we know but that was actually the start of the end for Donnell’s 2014 season.

He had a back-breaking fumble against the Cowboys, but yesterday’s cough-up against the Jaguars took it to another level, as the fumble was returned for a go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter.

2. A Quarterback Who Doesn’t Fumble.

Did you pick up the Jaguars’ defense in your fantasy league in advance of the game against the Giants? If so, you’re a genius (but also probably a moron). Who could have predicted Gus Bradley’s defense would score two defensive touchdown against the Giants? One came when Donnell coughed up the ball, another when Eli Manning fumbled into the end zone and Rashad Jennings decided it’d be wise to try to pick it up and run with it, a decision that cost the team five points.

3. A Coach Who Gets Through to His Players.

Can you draft a coach? Probably not. But if you could, it’d be worthwhile to get one who can convey to his players the importance of maintaining possession of the football. Larry Donnell needs to be treated to a private screening of “The Program” starring Mike Tomlin, in which head coach James Caan makes the freshman running back carry a football with him at all times while teammates make efforts to strip him of the ball, all in an attempt to cure him of his tendency to fumble.

4. A General Manager Who Signs Players Who Don’t Get Injured.

Jerry Reese put together a talented secondary this season, but Walter Thurmond and Prince Amukamara are out for the year with injuries, and the defense has suffered. Middle linebacker Jon Beason has also been injured most of the season, wide receiver Victor Cruz went down for the year with a knee injury, and starting running back Rashad Jennings missed a handful of games due to an injury, too.

Unfortunately for the Giants, it’s not possible to draft a general manager, infallible or otherwise.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Coughlin, Former Jags Coach, Returns to Jacksonville]]> Fri, 28 Nov 2014 12:14:33 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/4594822461.jpg

You probably won’t be able to read this article until they fix the Internet, which Odell Beckham Jr. broke last week when our nation flocked to social media to OMG en masse after his one-handed catch against the Cowboys on Sunday night.

That game was on national television, so Beckham had the perfect stage to impress a whole slew of people. This Sunday’s game against the Jaguars is going to be on television in the Jacksonville and New York City markets, whose potential audiences have roughly 73 better things to do than watch the 1-10 Jaguars host the 3-8 Giants in the Tom Coughlin Bowl.

Yup, the former Jaguars coach returns to the city where he got his first NFL head coaching job. None of the players he had are still with the Jaguars, a franchise which also has a different ownership group than it had during Coughlin’s tenure. In short, Coughlin might recognize a couple faces among the fans – like that one rabid Jaguar fan, or that other big Jacksonville rooter – but it’s unlikely he’s going to get a hero’s welcome. Which is too bad, because Coughlin is a direct tie to the team’s greatest seasons.

He led the team to the AFC Championship Game in its second year in 1996, helped end the NFL careers of both Dan Marino and Jimmy Johnson when the Jags trounced the Dolphins 62-7 in the 1999 playoffs, and led the Titans 14-10 at halftime at home in that year’s AFC Championship Game before the 14-2 Jaguars were outscored 23-0 in the second half. At home. In the AFC Championship Game.

Yeah, I doubt we’ll see many highlights of that game on the jumbotron, although it’s the biggest home game in Jaguars history. This home game? Just one more thing that stands between the Jaguars and the potential No. 1 pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.

Still, the Jags have plenty of things to be hopeful for in the long term. First-year quarterback Blake Bortles has the look of a franchise guy, the wideouts – led by rookies Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns – are promising, and fan expectations have nowhere to go but up.

If I’m a Jaguars fan (thankfully, just a hypothetical), I’m pretty excited about the future, at least in comparison with the present and the past.

For the Giants, this was the portion of the schedule they’d been looking forward to. With games against Jacksonville, Tennessee, Washington and St. Louis, the underbelly of the Giants’ 2014 season was supposed to provide the late-season surge that could carry them into the playoffs.

But the team enters this Jacksonville game on a six-game losing streak, the longest in the NFL after the Raiders beat the Chiefs to snap their streak. Any time you’ve lost more consecutive games than the Raiders, you’re in bad shape.

But if I’m a Giants fan, I’m pretty excited about the future, too. Beckham is a transcendent talent, the secondary is talented when healthy, and because of injuries a lot of second- and third-string players are getting valuable playing time, which will benefit the team down the line.

But if the past few weeks were must-wins for the Giants’ 2014 playoff hopes – now dashed, of course – this week’s game against the 1-10 Jaguars is a must-win for Tom Coughlin’s 2015 employment hopes.

The Giants are a patient franchise, not given to the knee-jerk reactions that straddle franchises like the Redskins and Raiders. But the Giants are looking at a fifth season in six without making the playoffs. And though they used that lone playoff season to win a Super Bowl, “The Feast-or-Famine Franchise” is not a particularly dignified nickname.

But that’s what they are; the handle fits.

If nothing else, the Giants like to fashion themselves as a dignified franchise. It can come off as condescending and off-putting, but it’s a real thing. And losing to the 1-10 Jaguars would be the height of indignity in the Tom Coughlin era.

So while the Tom Coughlin Bowl might not mean much to fans of either franchise, it might mean a whole lot to its namesake.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Giants and Jets on Track to Make History]]> Fri, 28 Nov 2014 12:13:26 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/giants+helmet.JPG

If you haven’t been following the 3-8 Giants and the 2-9 Jets closely this season, you might be excused for missing the teams’ combined bid for New York football history. If the season ended today (and man, wouldn’t that be a blessing to both fan bases), the five combined wins would be the lowest such total since the NFL expanded to a 16-game season in 1978.

Did you know you might be witnessing history? You’re welcome.

Since 1978, the lowest combined win total for the two teams came in 1996, when the 6-10 Giants and the 1-15 Jets splashed the back pages of New York newspapers with seven total wins. The next worst win total came the year before, when 5-11 Giants and the 3-13 Jets combined for eight victories, a total they also accomplished in 1980.

I’m not merely taking the opportunity to bash the two franchises during a down year (OK, way down). It should be noted that there have been years since 1978 when both teams were very good (and in one team’s case, even won a Super Bowl or four).

But more often than not the two teams have never been on both sides of the see-saw at the same time. They’ve both reached the playoffs in the same season just five teams since 1978, the last time in 2006.

Apparently spoiling the concessionaires who get to watch both teams at the Meadowlands has never been a going concern.

In the Giants’ five Super Bowl runs, the Jets were also in the playoffs just once, in 1986, when the Jets went 10-6, won their playoff opener against the Chiefs, and then lost to the Browns in overtime in the divisional round.

Was 1986 the best year for New York football? Probably. The combined win total (24) is the most in the 16-game era. The Giants won the Super Bowl, and the Jets started out 10-1; but they lost their last five games, and limped into the playoffs with a negative point differential, which is very Jets-like.

When the Jets had their best team in the 16-game era, the 12-4 team from 1998 that had a positive point differential of 150 points, the Giants had 8 wins. Even when the Jets are great, the Giants have traditionally been average, never awful.

The biggest disparity in wins (to the Jets favor) came in 2004 and 1983, when Jets won four more games than the Giants. Conversely, the G-Men had eight more wins than the Jets in 1989 and seven more wins in 1990.

Here are the combined win totals since 1978, with the dual playoff years in bold and some additional comments below.

2013 -15
2012 -15
2011- 17
2010 -21
2009 - 17
2008 - 21
2007 - 14
2006 - 18
2005 - 15
2004 - 16
2003 - 10
2002 - 19
2001 - 17
2000 - 21
1999 - 15
1998 - 20
1997 - 19
1996 - 7
1995 - 8
1994 - 15
1993 - 19
1992 - 10
1991 - 16
1990 - 19
1989 - 16
1988 - 18
1987 - 12
1986 - 24
1985 - 21

1984 - 16
1983 - 10
1982 - 10 *strike year
1981 - 19
1980 - 8
1979 - 14
1978 - 14

It’s notable that the teams won 10 games in the strike-shortened 1982 season, which only comes in tied for fourth in the most win-starved years in New York football history.

Also notable? The last time both teams had new head coaches was in 1997 (Bill Parcells and Jim Fassel), or the year after the teams combined for seven wins and the worst season in New York football history.

Does that portend pink slips for Tom Coughlin or Rex Ryan? For both?

Safe to say, if the combined win total doesn’t creep any higher than five, New York professional football will be getting its first complete head coaching overhaul in nearly 20 years.

]]>
<![CDATA[Beckham's One-Handed TD Catch Really the Greatest?]]> Mon, 24 Nov 2014 20:41:31 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/459482246.jpg

The football was hurtling past Odell Beckham Jr. when the Giants rookie squeezed it with his right hand, stopping its momentum before cupping it safely over his blue jersey.

He did this while stretching parallel to the turf. In the air.

And for good measure, he was interfered with by Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr, who tumbled helplessly out of bounds as Beckham's momentum carried him over the goal line for a 43-yard touchdown and a 14-3 Giants lead.

The play was reviewed because Beckham did things in midair that are simply not believable to the naked eye. The officials had to see it again.

We all did.

It was quite possibly the greatest catch ever seen on a football field, according Beckham’s Giants teammate Victor Cruz. And LeBron James. And well, for the rest of the Twitter world.

"I guess I gotta thank my mom for the long fingers," said Beckham, after what can only be described as a breakout performance. If he was on the radar of NFL fans heading into Sunday, then a 146-yard two-touchdown night puts him on the league’s map of superstars. He just became an overnight sensation.

But greatest is a pretty hefty label. Watching on Long Island, physics professor Chang Kee Jung didn’t think of it that way until Monday morning, when he started analyzing the catch in his office at Stony Brook University, where he teaches a sports physics class.

“It’s just ridiculous,” said Jung, noting that a football spirals through the air rotating at a speed somewhere between 400 and 500 rpm. 

“He was catching the ball in the body of the football.”

It’s that fact which Jung believes separates this catch from others, like David Tyree in the Super Bowl. Where most one-handed grabs are made by cupping the nose of the football, in this case, as Beckham reached back for the ball with his right hand, he could only get three fingers on the ball. Improbably, that was enough to stop the momentum of a ball travelling as fast as 50 mph.

“Everything has to be just right,” said Jung.

Beckham says Eli Manning’s throw was a perfect spiral in exactly the right spot. Of course, had he not been interfered with, it’s likely a catch in his chest and a routine 43-yard touchdown.

“He practices that one-handed snag,” said Manning, who pointed out the one flaw in the whole “Greatest Catch” theory.

The Giants didn’t win the game.

“I hope it’s not the greatest catch of all time,” said Beckham, echoing his quarterback’s frustration with losing to the Cowboys. “I hope I can make more.”

The feeling seems to be mutual.

 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Hero, Nero, Zero From Giants' Loss to Cowboys]]> Mon, 24 Nov 2014 11:38:29 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/4594822461.jpg

Hero: Odell Beckham Jr.

The Giants’ 2014 season is not going to end in Arizona on the first Sunday in February. With Sunday’s loss to the Cowboys, New York’s sixth straight loss, the 3-8 Giants can at best finish 8-8, which might have been good enough to win the division -- ya know, if the Giants played in the NFC South.

Are the Giants officially eliminated from postseason contention? No. But no fan in his or her right mind is clinging to the hopes of making the playoffs. And given the chorus of cheers that went up at MetLife Stadium Sunday night when the referees ruled the Giants had come up short on fourth down to essentially end the game, most Giants fans had already thrown in the towel and sold their tickets to Cowboys fans.

But at least the Giants have something to look forward to, and that’s watching Odell Beckham Jr. play for their team, hopefully for a long time.

By now you’ve likely seen the catch that Beckham made, which ranks roughly No. 1 in the history of the world. We saw the flags come in, and we saw Beckham hit the ground, but the camera angle was so far away that we couldn’t see what happened to the ball. Only when he stood up did I turn to my nephew and ask, “Did he just catch that?”

Replays and additional camera angles confirmed the sublime. It was unreal.

That’s why we watch sports, to see and experience a moment of transcendent play like that. Here’s to many more from Beckham in the coming years.

Nero: NFL rules

Every major sport has its shortcomings involving the rulebook. Baseball has the “neighborhood rule,” which allows middle infielders to be within shouting distance of second base on force plays and is designed to protect them from baser runners barreling down the baseline; basketball often allows its players to take more than two steps after picking up their dribble; soccer has no effective way to protect against flopping; and hockey still allows people to commit felonies that would get an average person sent to prison.

Football? It has numerous rules that defy common sense. For example, the rule that doesn’t allow referees to infer the obvious, as displayed last night when Giants running back Andre Williams obviously fumbled the ball near the goal line before he hit the ground. Because the play was not ruled a fumble on the field, referees needed incontrovertible evidence that Williams had fumbled in order to turn over the call.

Williams was tackled in a scrum and it wasn’t immediately clear that he had coughed it up before he was down, but anyone with a modicum of common sense could deduce that he had in fact fumbled. But the referees didn’t feel they were 100 percent certain, so they hid behind the safe, incorrect call. On the next play, Williams scored a touchdown and the Giants were ahead 21-10.

So yeah, the Giants lost by three points, but it should have been by more.

Zero: Giants’ pass rush on final Cowboys drive.

If you can’t get to a quarterback with the front four (and the Giants couldn’t, especially on the last drive), then it makes sense to send extra rushers. Instead Perry Fewell’s defense sat back and didn’t blitz on the deciding pass play, even though Tony Romo has broken bones in his back and is limited in his mobility.

Romo had seven-and-a-half seconds to throw on one play on the last drive, which should have been the clue that the Giants’ pass rush wasn’t getting it done. 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Much Has Changed Since Giants Last Faced Cowboys]]> Fri, 21 Nov 2014 14:54:38 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/458696810.jpg

A lot has changed since the Giants and Cowboys squared off in Week Seven, when Dallas won 31-21. We went to the polls and exercised our right to vote (or not), we watched as Philip Rivers went from an MVP candidate back to being a candidate for quarterback of the San Diego Chargers, and we saw far too many people dressed as Ray Rice for Halloween.

What else has changed between then and now? Let’s take a look:

Then: The Giants had a one-game losing streak.
Now: The Giants have a five-game losing streak.

Then: Cowboys backup running back Joseph Randle had just been arrested for shoplifting boxer briefs and cologne.
Now: Randle ostensibly smells nice and has proper support.

Then: The Cowboys were 5-1 after winning five games in a row and everyone in Dallas was making plans to attend the Super Bowl in February.
Now: The Cowboys are 7-3 after losing to Washington and Arizona, beating Jacksonville in London, and somehow making it through their bye week without anyone getting arrested.

Then: Half of the fans at AT&T were blinded in the second half because Cowboys owner Jerry Jones decided to leave the blinds up at his billion dollar storage shed as the sun set in the west.
Now: Those fans are probably still blind.

Then: DeMarco Murray was on pace to break the single-season record for most rushing yards and attempts.
Now: Murray is slacking and is only on pace for 1,973 yards rushing and 390 attempts, shy of the records set by Eric Dickerson (2,105) and the worn-out carcass of Larry Johnson (416).

Then: Murray became the first running back to surpass 100 yards rushing in the first seven games of a season, rolling over the Giants with 128 yards and one touchdown on 28 carries.
Now: Murray will probably roll over the Giants again, using this game alone to pass both Dickerson and Johnson for those all-time records.

Then: The Giants looked like a playoff team and no one was talking about firing Tom Coughlin.
Now: Nothing to see here, move along.

Then: The nation was in the midst of an Ebola panic, and in advance of the trip to Dallas
Giants doctors prepped the team about how to protect themselves against the virus.
Now: The nation has moved on and is panicking about immigration.

Then: Victor Cruz had just been lost for the season with a knee injury.
Now: Not a single one of his teammates has honored him by dancing the salsa after scoring a touchdown.

Then: Emerging star Larry Donnell was working with fans to come up with a proper nickname.
Now: Fans just hope he can catch a single meaningful pass again.

Then: Odell Beckham Jr. scored two touchdowns against the Cowboys.
Now: He’ll have to have similar success if the Giants are to have any shot in this game.

Then: The Giants’ defense couldn’t stop the Cowboys’ offense in the second half.
Now: The Giants' defense probably won't be able to stop the Cowboys' offense at all.

Then: Eli Manning was making fans forget about his propensity for throwing killer interceptions.
Now: The old Eli is back, baby!



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Reminder: Eli Manning Is a Future Hall of Famer]]> Thu, 20 Nov 2014 13:00:32 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/457509652.jpg

There are a lot of things I don’t know. Who is less likeable, Jameis Winston or Nick Saban? Why are Notre Dame fans who didn’t attend the school more obnoxious than fans who did?

I don’t know, these are all questions I am incapable of answering.

But there are other things I know for certain: I will never look at “The Cosby Show” the same way again; Thanksgiving is the greatest American holiday; and Eli Manning is a future Hall of Famer. It’s sometimes easy to forget that, especially after Manning lays an egg like he did with last Sunday’s five interception outing against the 49ers.

Manning, in short, was terrible. It’s not often a team can overcome four interceptions and be in a position to win the game, much less against a great defense like that of San Francisco. But the Giants had a shot after Manning connected with Odell Beckham Jr. on a beautiful sideline completion that put the Giants at the 4-yard line late in the fourth quarter, trailing 16-10.

Beckham’s circus catch seemed to give New York all the momentum they needed to overcome San Francisco and steal a game they had no business winning. But then Manning, who has won two Super Bowl MVPs on teams that were big underdogs, missed on three straight fade routes and then capped the game with his fifth completion to the other team.

Brutal. Backbreaking. Just the opposite of the signature plays he made in winning two Super Bowls.
Two -- that’s as many as John Elway, Dan Marino and Shane Falco combined. Am I saying he’s on the same level as Elway, Marino or Falco? No, no, maybe. But the fact remains that no one who has won two Super Bowl MVPs is not in the Hall of Fame.

Jim Plunkett? Two Super Bowl wins, one Super Bowl MVP, and not in the Hall of Fame (or currently en route).

Bob Griese? Two Super Bowl wins, no Super Bowl MVPs, career passer rating of 77.1, and a face model for a bust in Canton, Ohio.

Eli Manning >> Bob Griese.

This is a golden era for NFL quarterbacks. Thanks to relaxed rules that have opened up offenses, any quarterback with a working arm can now throw for more than 5,000 yards. This has skewed stats, but the fact remains that these quarterbacks are going to Canton when their careers are over: Rodgers, Brady, Peyton, Brees, Roethlisberger and Eli Manning.

Eli is never mentioned among the league’s elite QBs, which makes sense because he’s not elite. Are Big Ben and Eli the statistical equivalents of the other four mentioned? Of course not. But if their careers ended tomorrow, all six of them would be bound for Canton. Rodgers, Brady, Peyton and Brees because they’re elite passers who won titles; Eli and Big Ben because they’re winners.

That’s the standard for the NFL Hall of Fame. Need proof? Look at how many Steelers are enshrined, some of whom are there because they performed best on the biggest stage, but who otherwise had pedestrian career numbers. Cough * Lynn Swann.

So, yeah, Eli Manning, three-time NFL leader in interceptions and possessor of an 81.5 career passer rating, is a future Hall of Famer.

Does he deserve to be? Who said anything about “deserve”? He’ll make the Hall of Fame because he’s a Manning who won two Super Bowl MVPs in the nation’s largest media market.

No matter how you define “fame,” he has a "hall" of a lot of it.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Hero, Nero, Zero for Giants-49ers Game]]> Mon, 17 Nov 2014 16:46:34 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/459081054.jpg

Well, you can put a bow on the Giants’ 2014 season, because Big Blue’s 16-10 loss to San Francisco all but guaranteed that the team will miss the playoffs for the fifth time in six seasons.

You have to hand it to the Giants; when they stink, they don’t hold anything back. They’re like the Jets in that regard, except the Giants like to occasionally sprinkle in a Super Bowl win or two, unlike their stadium-sharers.

As usual, there were many candidates for Hero, Nero, Zero, but a blue ribbon panel of experts all agreed on the following honors.

Hero: Eli Manning.

When your quarterback throws for less than 200 yards, your starting running back runs for less than 100 yards, and your team gets caught with its pants down on a surprise onside kick  -- and yet you still win 16-10 on the road -- then you know someone had to step up big for your team.

For the 49ers, that player was Eli Manning, who threw five interceptions, or one fewer than he’d thrown to that point all season.

Sure, you could say that the 49ers’ defense was the game’s real hero, but you’d be wrong. The Giants’ offense moved the ball rather successfully through the air, with Manning tossing for 280 yards by spreading the ball around to Rueben Randle (seven catches, 112 yards), Odell Beckham Jr. (six catches for 93 yards) and 49ers linebacker Chris Borland (two interceptions).

From start to finish, Manning was the game’s Most Valuable Player.

Nero: Unknown media member.

I don’t envy beat reporters who have to attend press conferences and ask questions. Players and coaches rarely, if ever, say anything enlightening, and they are always on the lookout to make a media member look stupid.

The easiest way for them to make a media member look stupid is if a media member just happens to be stupid, as was the case with the chap during Sunday's postgame interview with Colin Kaepernick, who asked the 49ers quarterback (1:58 mark of this video) if he feels any empathy when he sees an opposing quarterback throw as many picks as Eli Manning did.

Kaepernick, as you’d expect, said, “Oh, yes, I sent him a bouquet of flowers and a note that read ‘Chin up, Eli.’ ”

Either that or Kaepernick answered the question with a humorless “no” and just glared at the reporter as if he were observing the dumbest mammal in the wild.

Zero: Red zone success for the 49ers.

Thanks to the heroics of Manning, the Giants’ effort on defense will be somewhat overlooked in Sunday's loss. But Big Blue’s defense was largely stout, especially deep in their own territory, holding San Francisco to 0 for 4 in the red zone.

Unfortunately the defense got gashed by a 48-yard touchdown reception by Michael Crabtree, who caught the ball on a slant and turned the Giants’ secondary into orange road cones. 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Let's Hate the Niners Together]]> Fri, 14 Nov 2014 12:49:36 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/178*120/kaepnjhrz.jpg

It’s a rare team that can engender a great deal of antipathy from opposing fans without the luxury of winning a single Super Bowl, but the Jim Harbaugh-era 49ers are that unicorn franchise: three straight NFC Championship Game appearances, one Super Bowl trip (a loss in the Har-bowl) and a legion of haters who love to see Jim Harbaugh lose his mind when things go against San Francisco.

Count me among the legion.

I’m indifferent to the fortunes of most NFL teams, but I enjoy watching the Niners lose. I have nothing against their fans -- like all fan bases, most of them probably pay their taxes and stay out of jail -- but the team itself is simply easy to root against.

Them losing means two things: I probably won’t have to see many instances of Colin Kaepernick kissing his biceps following a touchdown, which was totally badass when I was 12 and into professional wrestling; and I will probably have the opportunity to see many instances of Jim Harbaugh getting his khakis in a bunch.

That’s it, that’s all I’m going on.

Are there players and coaches on the 49ers who kiss babies and rescue baby seals? Probably. Have I read about them? No. Do I want to read about them? What, and interrupt my straight-forward narrative of why I root against the 49ers? No, thanks, I have enough nuance in my life.

The Niners are more inconsistent and unpredictable this season than the Giants. San Fran beat St. Louis on the road, 31-17, and then two games later lost at home to the Rams, 13-10, when Kaepernick fumbled at the goal line on a quarterback sneak that would have won the game for San Francisco. Harbaugh went ballistic, Kaepernick’s biceps went unkissed: It was a perfect ending. Ya know, as long as you weren’t a Niners fan.

Whether or not the Giants can win this week boils down to one question: Can they score more points than San Francisco?

To do that, the Giants will need to keep San Fran from approaching Seattle’s rushing total in last week’s 38-17 drubbing (350 yards). To put that into perspective, the Giants allowed the Seahawks to go down-back-down-back-down-back and half way back again. Hopefully the Seattle running backs were given the week off to rest their legs.

Rashad Jennings’ legs should be well rested after missing the last four games with a sprained knee. For the Giants to have any chance in this game, Jennings will have to have a solid outing. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 yards rushing, 100 yards receiving, and maybe a blocked punt or two.

In the absence of such numbers, the Giants would benefit from another good game from budding superstar wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who last week played so well that Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman exchanged jerseys with Beckham after the game, perhaps confusing Odell with his brother David, who played futbol, not football.

Let’s face it, the Giants’ season is on the line this week. Keep Harbaugh angry and keep Kaepernick’s lips away from his biceps. The rest will take care of itself. 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Maybe Giants Should Tank for the No. 1 Pick]]> Thu, 13 Nov 2014 11:31:28 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/455881046.jpg

If the Giants were interested in procuring the No. 1 draft pick in the 2015 NFL, they should have started their current four-game losing streak a few weeks earlier. As it stands, the G-men are one of five teams at 3-6, with five teams above them in the race for the No. 1 pick, including their MetLife Stadium bunkmates, the Jets.

Short of Oakland, Jacksonville and Tampa Bay collapsing down the stretch, the Giants have little chance of jockeying into the top slot, which is good, because there is no consensus No. 1 pick anyway.

Besides, what are the team’s chief needs? A franchise quarterback? They have one in Eli Manning. A premier wide receiver? They have one in budding superstar Odell Beckham Jr. A top-flight cornerback? They have one in former virgin Prince Amukamara.

Teams don’t draft wide receivers and cornerbacks with the No. 1 pick, anyway. Not if they want to keep Chris Berman’s comb over in place.

The last wide receiver taken No. 1 overall was Keyshawn Johnson in 1996 by the Jets, and he went on to become a great possession receiver, thus killing any opportunity for a wideout to ever be taken No. 1 again.

A cornerback has never been taken with the top pick, which is odd when you consider all the ink that’s expended on shutdown this and so-and-so island.

Right now the Giants’ needs are vast and diverse. Would a run-stopping defensive tackle help the league’s worst run defense? Sure. Would a quarterback-killing defensive lineman (who is not in his contract year and has only produced 3.5 sacks this season) help? What do you think, Jason Pierre-Paul?

No one player is going to help the Giants, so tanking on the rest of the season and landing the top pick in the 2015 draft doesn’t seem like a good organizational game plan. Consequently, the Giants are left to try and make hay from a 3-6 record.

Running back Rashad Jennings returns this week, which should be a nice jolt to a running game that was averaging 121 yards on the ground before Jennings sprained his knee, missed the last four games, and left us to watch Andre Williams average 2.75 yards per carry in his stead, which is less than he’d gain if defenders simply got out of the way and allowed the 5-foot-11 Williams to call “timber!” and fall forward.

Is Jennings single-handedly going to save the Giants’ season? Not unless he can also play defensive tackle, linebacker and cornerback, thus helping a defense that is now ranked last in the NFL.

Will he help re-establish some much-needed balance to the Giants’ offense? Yes.

Will successfully running the ball help keep the Giants’ defense fresh and angry-looking? Yes.

Will someone please explain how we can land a robot on a comet 4 billion miles away but we can’t figure out a better way to wash skyscraper windows?

OK, well, will the Giants’ pull off a miracle and make the playoffs this year?

Frankly, it wouldn’t take a miracle; it would merely take playing up to a modicum of their potential. 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Tom Coughlin May Not Make it to the End of His Contract]]> Mon, 10 Nov 2014 15:56:00 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/tom-coughlin-giants.jpg

Remember  when the Giants were 3-2? It was a more innocent time, fans were optimistic and the sky was the limit for the 2014 New York Football Giants. Flash forward five weeks and four games, with the Giants now 3-6 and on track to miss the playoffs for the fifth time in six years.

Has the head coach of a New York City sports team ever had a more up and down career than Tom Coughlin? When you miss the playoffs in five out of six seasons, the tendency is for you to get fired. But Coughlin has won two Super Bowls, so he has a lot of leeway.

Is it time for the Giants to get a new coach? Well, it’s certainly not encouraging when your star defensive end, Jason Pierre-Paul, says he’s not sure what halftime adjustments the team made against Seattle because he was in the bathroom.

The new game plan that Coughlin shared with players while Pierre-Paul was freshening up was, “OK, I think we have enough points for the day, so take it easy on offense in the second half.”

The troops listened, and the Giants were outscored 24-0 by Seattle in the second half.

Last week, several players including safety Antrel Rolle and Pierre-Paul said the team was playing without passion. That might be true, but they’re also playing without their starting running back (Rashad Jennings) and their No. 1 receiver (Victor Cruz), both of whom are out with injuries.

Jennings, who may play next week, can’t get back soon enough, which is not something I ever would have said about him in the past. But the Giants with Andre Williams (13 carries for 33 yards against Seattle) haven’t been able to muster any kind of ground game.

Meanwhile, the Seahawks dropped 350 yards rushing on New York, with Marshawn Lynch, Russell Wilson, Curt Warner and Shaun Alexander (I think) all getting into the action. That was the most yards rushing allowed by the Giants since 1978, Tom Coughlin’s first year as coach of the G-men.

OK, Coughlin’s tenure is actually somewhat shorter (11 years), but it sure seems like he’s been coach forever. Have the players stopped listening to him? Maybe. But the organization is unlikely to fire him, at least during the season. He has a contract that runs through next season, and offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo is widely rumored to be the heir apparent.

But that’s a long ways off, and the Giants still have seven games left in this season. Can they finish 10-6 and make the playoffs? Sure. Can they finish 9-7 and sneak in, too? Sure again. But before they reach the creampuff portion of the schedule – Jacksonville, Tennessee. Washington and St. Louis – they have two home games against San Francisco and Dallas.

If they allow either of those teams to run for 350 yards, Coughlin might not make it to the end of his contract.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Donnell Needs to Step Up Against Seahawks]]> Fri, 07 Nov 2014 10:23:19 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Giants-Washington-Donnell-925.jpg

The Giants are 3-5 and fighting Washington for last place in the NFC East. But with some slight twists in fortune, the G-Men could emerge from this week’s game against the Seahawks with some drastically improved prospects in the NFC East, where the division’s top two teams, Dallas and Philadelphia, are currently being quarterbacked by a castoff from the Browns (Brandon Weeden) and a butt fumble from the Jets (Mark Sanchez).

Say what you will about Eli Manning, but he has the longest current starting streak among NFL quarterbacks. Like Keith Richards, he can’t be killed by conventional weapons.

For the Giants to win in Seattle on Sunday, people on both teams are going to have to Step Up and Step Down. Here’s a sampling:

Step Up: Larry Donnell.

We give Donnell a lot of grief in these parts because we see the flame of talent burning deep in his core and we want to give it oxygen. After his 3-touchdown game against Washington in Week 4, when Larry looked like the second coming of Antonio Gates, some fans on Reddit decided that Donnell needed a nickname. The consensus was that he should be called “The Don,” apparently because Donnell is Italian and really enjoys “The Godfather.”

A lame nickname? You bet. Lamer still? Donnell went on Instagram and gave his blessing to the handle. No, no, no. A nickname needs to be given to you, without your consent or participation. It’s not something you try on like a hat, because if you do that your head is probably too big for the hat.

It’s time to step up, Larry, before the nickname fans now have for you, “The Fumbler,” sticks for good.

Step Down: The 12th man.

Know how you take the crowd out of a game? Embarrass their best, brashest player on the first play.

The Giants need to run a play-action pass that goes down the field at Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman right out of the gate, to staunch the effect of Seattle’s infamously raucous crowd. If Odell Beckham Jr. decides he’d like to use that moment to show the NFL his patented one-handed windmill catching style, well, all the better.

Step Up: Eli Manning.

The wide receivers -- especially Preston Parker and Rueben Randle -- shouldered a lot of the blame for the Giants’ inept performance against the Colts last Monday night, but Eli was short of spectacular. He overthrew receivers in several key spots, should have run for the first down on the team’s opening drive but instead disconnected with Randle after scrambling out of the pocket, and agreed to hand the ball off to Andre Williams on first down late in the third quarter with the team down by 27 points!

Seriously, I can’t get over that. Can you see Peyton Manning agreeing to run that play? We’re not talking about fooling the defense by running a draw play to a speedburner in an obvious passing situation. We’re talking about a handoff to Andre Williams, who is big and mean and runs the 40 in 40 seconds flat.

Ben McAdoo calls for that play? Fine. Tell him thanks, and then promptly audible the hell out of it.

Step Down: Marshawn Lynch.

There’s an outside chance that Seattle’s No. 1 wide receiver Doug Baldwin will not play in this game because he’s suffering from a groin injury. The Seahawks’ offense is largely built on establishing the run with Marshawn Lynch, but if Baldwin can’t play then the Giants can feel more comfortable with loading the box to quell “Beast Mode,” a nickname that is awesome, apt and bequeathed. (Take notes, “The Don.”)



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Giants Should Treat Beckham Jr. Like Megatron]]> Thu, 06 Nov 2014 10:58:51 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/457512460.jpg

When I was a sophomore in high school on the varsity basketball team, my team had a perfect record: we didn’t win a single game all year. When it came time to print the yearbook, we were the only team that didn’t have a win-loss record accompanying its photo spread.

At the time, that seemed like a glaring omission, but in retrospect I’m glad, because the only people who’ll remember the record of that team are the players and coaches who grinded through the season. That’s how it’s starting to look for the 2014 New York Giants, a listless group seemed fated to finish a perfectly mediocre 8-8, with wins over the also-rans of the league and no victories over contenders.

If they had Rashad Jennings back from injury, perhaps they could get back into this; but when your top two running backs are Andre Williams and Peyton Hillis, both of whom reach the second level of defenders in the amount of time it takes Tom Coughlin to get a red challenge flag out of his sock, then you’re going nowhere fast.

To date the Giants’ signature win this year was over Washington, when the G-men and Larry Donnell (remember him?) trounced Washington 45-14 to raise their record to 2-2. New York would win again the following week over Atlanta to go 3-2, but ever since the team has adeptly avoided victories: scoring zero points against the Eagles; fumbling repeatedly against the Cowboys (hey there, Donnell); taking Eli Manning to Disney World during the bye week, where the kid had a lot of fun; and getting embarrassed on Monday Night Football against the Colts.

Now the team has to travel cross-country to play the reigning Super Bowl champion Seahawks on the road. Are the Giants going to win? Of course they are, because this is the kind of yo-yo, maddening thing that all Tom Coughlin teams do.

Will they do it by passing to Rueben Randle and Preston Parker? Hell no, those two couldn’t catch colds in a place where colds get caught.

Will they do it by running the ball with Thunder (Andre Williams) and Thunderbox (Hillis)? Not a chance.

Will they do it by throwing the ball? They’ll have to.

Will they take a page from the Steelers’ playbook for Antonio Brown, and get the ball in space to Odell Beckham Jr.? Probably not, but it’s nice to dream.

It’s said that NFL teams script the first 10-15 offense plays of the game. If so, the Giants’ opening script should read like this:

Play 1: Pass to Odell Beckham Jr. Repeat till result is a touchdown, interception or Larry Donnell runs into him and causes a fumble.

People used to give Matthew Stafford grief for constantly throwing to Calvin Johnson, even if Megatron wasn’t open. Stafford’s reply (and I paraphrase): “If you had Calvin Johnson, why would you throw to anyone else?”

Is Odell Beckam Jr. as good as Calvin Johnson? No. But no one else on the Giants is nearly as good as Odell Beckham Jr. So just give him the damn ball – and not in garbage time like last week, when his stat line -- eight catches for 156 yards -- looked more impressive than it actually was.

Give it to him early, give it to him often, and please, give it to him on a play that posterizes Richard Sherman.

There might not be much hope left in this Giants’ season, but at least we can hope for that. 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Hero, Nero, Zero in Giants-Colts Game]]> Mon, 24 Nov 2014 11:32:59 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Williams+Giants+Colts+1103.jpg

 

It’s Election Day in the United States, which means I’m looking forward to defriending a lot of people on Facebook.

Granted, I could stomach discussions about politics, Ebola or string theory more than I could tolerate talk of the Giants-Colts game that infested my television set on Monday night.

The Giants got thrashed 40-24 and dropped to 3-5 on the season, dashing their hopes of winning 12 games. We all thought this was a 12-win team, didn’t we? Is there anyone out there who’d like to challenge that assessment? Perhaps someone with a red flag in their sock? No? Well then I guess it’ll stand, so on to the next play!

Welcome to Hero, Nero, Zero, where we recognize the accomplishments, insanity and ineptitude associated with the Giants-Colts game.

Hero: Chris Botti.

Prior to last night’s game, Botti played a spectacular rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner on the trumpet. Plenty of accomplished singers have belted out tremendous covers of the national anthem, but you’d be hard-pressed to find an instrument that can convey the majesty and solemnity of that tune better than a trumpet.

Just watch that clip, replete with cutaways to players and coaches. Eli Manning looks typically befuddled, Tom Coughlin looks typically respectful of the military pageantry. Andrew Luck looks annoyed by these artsy-fartsy types with their artsy-fartsy renditions. Reggie Wayne looks like he’s about to start sobbing, and Mark Bavaro looks 120 years old.

Nero: Giants’ playcalling.

When you fall behind big at home -- on the night when the organization welcomes back slews of former Giants to honor recent Hall of Fame inductee Michael Strahan – you can be forgiven for some questionable decisions. By questionable, I'd mean fake punts, statue of liberty plays, or a fumblerooski or two.

But trailing by 27 points with four minutes left in the third quarter, the Giants opened their “drive” by handing off to Andre Williams, who is built like a brick outhouse and runs just as fast.

Mounting a comeback does not start with a handoff to Williams; it starts by throwing the ball, in space, to Odell Beckham Jr., which finally seemed like a great idea once the game was completely out of hand.

End-arounds, bubble screens, slants, direct handoffs, whatever: The Giants’ best playmaker needs to touch the ball at least once per drive. He disappeared for long stretches in Monday’s game, a vacuum filled by numerous mentions of dropped balls by the likes of Preston Parker and Rueben Randle.

Zero: Luck for the Giants.

How many times did the Giants almost have a turnover in the game, be it a butt fumble that Ahmad Bradshaw snatched out of the air, an interception that was wrested away (Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie losing out to T.Y. Hilton in the end zone) or a muffed punt that the Giants couldn’t recover?

The Giants forced no turnovers in Monday night's game, which prevented them from adding further to Andre Williams’ stat line: 12 carries, 22 yards.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Refs Could Play Huge Factor in Giants, Colts Game]]> Mon, 03 Nov 2014 12:41:18 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/AP728777786767_4.jpg

Welcome to Week Nine of the NFL season, as the 3-4 Giants return to action following their mid-season siesta. If the Chargers, who had 10 days to prepare for the Dolphins, are any indication, the Giants are going to lose 37-0 to the Colts on Monday Night Football. But hey, more than 100 former Giants players are going to be at MetLife Stadium to honor Michael Strahan as he receives his Hall of Fame ring, so it won’t be a total loss.

If we’re going to be honest and factually correct -- the standard in this column -- we have to point out that the Giants have won their last six games following the bye week; they haven’t scored a touchdown on their opening drive in their last 18 games; and Monday night's officiating crew is the most penalty-happy in the NFL.

Which of these tantalizing factors will play the largest role in Monday’s game against the Colts? Let’s use our old friend the NFL injury report to decide.

Probable Factor of the Game: Carl Cheffers and his officiating crew.

I was at the Tuck Rule game in 2002 when Walt Coleman chiseled his face on the Mount Rushmore of NFL officiating calls, saying, “Upon further review, the quarterback’s hand was going forward because we hate the Raiders, first down New England on a bogus call.”

Do I paraphrase? Perhaps. But it’s nevertheless the case that Walt Coleman is the first name that comes to mind when I think of NFL referees, which is somewhat odd when you consider his crew ranks last in the league in number of penalties called per game (12.7).

Maybe that wasn’t always the case. Maybe Walt became gun shy after the Tuck Rule game. Maybe a braver soul would spend a considerable amount of time researching the behavioral patterns of NFL referees. Call me a coward, but I’m not going down that rabbit hole of hall monitors and public shaming.

Instead it’s enough for me to know and point out that the crew covering the game leads the league with 21.9 flags per game –- so nine more per game than Coleman’s crew.

There’s every possibility that this game will end on Wednesday morning.

Questionable factor of the game: Winning one for Michael Strahan.

MetLife Stadium is going to be raucous as Big Blue fans honor Strahan on his recent induction to Canton and also welcome back many former players. Will the pregame and halftime ceremonies juice up the crowd, and in turn inspire current Giants to play above their usual skill levels? God I hope so; that kind of unprovable/irrefutable storyline will make writing a game recap as easy as filling out Mad Libs.

Doubtful factor of the game: Hakeem Nicks.

Do the Colts and their No. 1 offense have weapons? Yes, they do. At quarterback, they have Andrew Luck. At running back, they have former Giant Ahmad Bradshaw and former good player Trent Richardson. At tight end, they have Dwayne Clark and Coby Fleener. At wideout, they have TY Hilton, Reggie Wayne and Donte Moncrief.

And down there among the options, ranked eight on the Colts with 168 receiving yards, is former Giant Hakeem Nicks. If Nicks plays a big factor in this game, it’s probably because he’s inspired by the ceremony for former teammate Michael Strahan.

Out factor of the game: Rashad Jennings.

The Giants are once again going to be without their injured starting running back, which means the team will have to rely on Andre Williams (3.1 yards per carry) to help control the clock. My math is a little shaky, but 3.1 YPC is probably gonna require four runs to make 10 yards and a first down. The Giants usually prefer to punt on fourth down, so Williams will only have three tries to make 10 yards. 3.1 x 3 = less than 10. Hmm.

Well, the Giants shouldn’t write this game off just yet. Failing their ability to keep up with the Colts, they can always hope for a lot of penalties on Indianapolis. Thanks to Carl Cheffers and Co., that’s a real possibility. 



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Giants Dress Up as Contenders for Halloween]]> Fri, 31 Oct 2014 09:10:54 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/160*120/4367b3233ecc4c25b78c071bb14e426e.jpg

Washington just beat the Cowboys with Colt McCoy at quarterback, the Steelers just dropped 51 points on the Colts, and the Giants hopefully observed these developments and concluded, “Hot damn, this NFL season is wide open!”

Eli Manning and the G-Men have won two Super Bowls since 2007, and in neither instance were they considered favorites as the postseason began.

In 2007, when the Giants ended the Patriots’ bid for an undefeated season, New York was 10-6 and entered the playoffs as the No. 5 seed.

In 2011, when the Giants ended the Patriots’ bid to wash 2007 out of their mouths, New York went 9-7 and entered the playoffs as the No. 4 seed after winning the NFC East.

This year, when ending the Patriots’ season would be a hilarious hat trick, the Giants have the opportunity to finish with a better record than either of their two recent Super Bowl-winning seasons. The biggest difference? The Giants are 3-4 entering Week 9 this year, whereas they were 6—2 at the same point in 2007 and 5-2 at the same point in 2011.

People like to remember the Giants as upstart, out-of-the-blue teams in those Super Bowl-winning years, but they really weren’t. They were just wildly inconsistent, and they chose the second-half of the season (though obviously not the playoffs) to be the Hyde to their Jekyll.

This year they’ll have to flip the script.

The 2014 Giants are a team that can beat the also-rans of the league (Houston, Washington, Atlanta) but can’t play complete games against the contenders (Detroit, Arizona, Philadelphia, Dallas).

So who do they start the second half of the season playing? Four straight contenders: Indianapolis, @Seattle, San Francisco, Dallas.

“Well, those are four definite losses,” said every NFL observer when the schedule was released.

Indeed when the team assessed the schedule upon its release, this stretch of games looked like “Murderers' Row,” General Manager Jerry Reese said this week.

Time has a way of changing things.

No, these four games aren’t a Punch-and--Judy stretch (which happens to be the secret exercise routine that makes Giants punter Steve Weatherford the fittest player in the NFL), but how differently do people feel about these four teams now than, say, a week ago?

The Colts just made Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers look like the 1999 Rams.

The Seahawks are a soap opera, trading their best home-run threat (Percy Harvin) because he apparently treated teammates like WWE props, and are now deflecting questions about a supposedly malcontent star RB (Marshawn Lynch) and a quarterback who is supposedly not black enough for some teammates (Russell Wilson).

Luckily for Pete Carroll, NFL titles cannot be vacated.

The Cowboys, meanwhile, just lost to Washington at home, with quarterback Tony Romo reinjuring his back and Jerry Jones oddly injecting himself in the sideline decision of whether Romo should be reinserted into the game.

And the 49ers, well, they are good, and will soon be getting back some key contributors, with Aldon Smith, NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis set to return. I can’t convince myself the Giants can beat them – either during the season or in the postseason.

Run away, Giants, don’t go near the Niners! Just hope and pray that the Packers or Saints can knock them off in January. There’s no shame in that. What, you think the Steelers reached three recent Super Bowls by beating New England? Hell no, they gave them a WIDE berth and never played them once in those playoffs.

But the Colts and their sieve-like defense? The Seahawks and their soap opera distractions? The Cowboys and their tendency to play like the Cowboys? All winnable games. (Say it with me! Drink the Kool-Aid!)

If the Giants can go 3-1 over the next month, they’ll be 6-5 with this remaining schedule: @Jacksonville, @Tennessee, Washington, @St. Louis, Philadelphia.

Even if they only go 2-2 (because fine, winning in Seattle is unlikely), they’ll be 5-6 heading into a five-game homestretch that includes four very winnable games and a season-ending matchup against a hated rival.

Is this all a best-case scenario? Of course it is, but it's Halloween and I’m dressing the Giants up as a potential contender, if only for today.
 



Photo Credit: Rob]]>
<![CDATA[Giants' "Best" List Going Into Bye]]> Thu, 23 Oct 2014 08:17:16 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/tlmd_eli_manning_st.jpg

Welcome to the Giants’ Best, guaranteed to be the best thing you’re reading right now.

Best record in the NFC East: Doesn’t belong to the Giants.

Best reason for that: They’ve won fewer games than the Cowboys and Eagles.

Best reason for hope: There are nine games left.

Best record the Giants can hope for: 12-4.

Best believe it’s possible: If they win all nine games, their record will definitely be 12-4.

Best opportunity to spend quality time with your family: With the Giants on bye this week.

Best thing about the bye week: The Giants can’t lose this week.

Best thing beyond that: Nothing.

Best team that plays home games at MetLife Stadium: Not the Jets.

Best surprise from the first half of the season: Larry Donnell.

Best believe I’m fudging the numbers: The first half isn’t technically over till the Giants play their next game on Nov. 3 against the Colts.

Best passer rating of Eli Manning’s career: This year (96.8).

Best thing about the Giants’ new West Coast offense: Fewer interceptions.

Best believe it comes at an expense: Fewer big plays.

Best explanation for Prince Amukamara’s breakout season: He’s finally getting some, according to safety Antrel Rolle.

Best Giants offense: When Rashad Jennings is opening up running lanes, spreading the defense, and Manning is driving the ball downfield.

Best get healthy soon: Jennings.

Best statistic about the Giants’ defense: It leads the NFL in interceptions.

Best word for Giants’ turnover differential: Zero.

Best place for Mathias Kiwanuka: Apparently it’s the witness protection program.

Best stop fumbling: Larry Donnell.

Best step up: Other wide receivers now that Victor Cruz is out for the season.

Best find someone else to sign for the rental car: Rueben Randle is still only 23 years old.

Best not sit idly by: The Giants need to make an impact trade before next Tuesday’s trade deadline.

Best positions to upgrade: All of them, if possible.

Best possible upgrade at quarterback: Peyton Manning.

Best lay off the drugs, son: Yeah, the Broncos probably won’t be trading their quarterback.

Best Super Bowl record among the Manning brothers: Eli, 2-0.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Hero, Nero, Zero in Giants-Cowboys Game]]> Mon, 20 Oct 2014 08:27:38 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/457509642.jpg

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

Hero: DeMarco Murray.

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

But no, we won’t go that route.

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

Nero: Jerry Jones.

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

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

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

Zero: Giants playing this week.

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

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

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

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



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Fact vs. Fiction, Giants-Cowboys]]> Fri, 17 Oct 2014 14:00:14 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/457124394.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Giants Should Honor Cruz With Salsa Celebration]]> Thu, 16 Oct 2014 13:36:58 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/455446194.jpg

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

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

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

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

“Look at me, look at me!”

No, thanks.

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

I thought that was hilarious.

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

*Gulp*

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

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

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



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Giants Lay Egg Against Eagles]]> Mon, 13 Oct 2014 12:08:48 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/AP583404611673.jpg

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

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

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

Hero: The Eagles’ offensive line.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zero: What went right for the Giants.

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

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

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



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Giants Winning "Most Mediocre" Award for 2014]]> Thu, 02 Oct 2014 11:46:45 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/tlmd_giants1png_bim.jpg

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

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

“Anything newsworthy happen this week?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Hero, Nero and Zero From Giants' Blowout Win]]> Fri, 26 Sep 2014 07:55:37 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Giants-Washington-Donnell-925.jpg

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

Hero: Ben McAdoo

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

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

Wikipedia hits the most salient points:

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

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

Nero: Jeter haters

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zero: Phil Simms

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

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

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

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



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[10 Bets for the Giants-Washington Game]]> Thu, 25 Sep 2014 09:02:14 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/AP991176388215_2.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Giants Capitalize on Texans' Loss of Courage]]> Mon, 22 Sep 2014 09:42:26 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/texans+giants.jpg

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

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

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

Trickery! Love it! Give that man some fortune!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Photo Credit: AP]]>