<![CDATA[NBC New York - Giants]]>Copyright 2016http://www.nbcnewyork.com/feature/giants http://media.nbcnewyork.com/designimages/4NY_Horizontal.jpg NBC New York http://www.nbcnewyork.comen-usMon, 26 Sep 2016 15:20:33 -0400Mon, 26 Sep 2016 15:20:33 -0400NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Giants Drop Seesaw Game to Washington]]> Mon, 26 Sep 2016 10:36:35 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Redskins+Giants+0925.jpg

The Giants suffered a bitter 29-27 defeat to Washington on Sunday, undone by ghastly turnovers and bonehead penalties at the worst possible times. It was a seesaw game with five second-half lead changes, and there were a lot of ups and downs for both teams.

On One Hand: Eli Manning threw for more than 350 yards for the second straight week.
On the Other Hand: He threw as many touchdown passes (1) as he did interceptions in the end zone.

On One Hand: Shane Vereen stepped in for the injured Rashad Jennings and totaled 66 yards on 11 carries with one touchdown.
On the Other Hand: He fumbled for the second straight week.

On One Hand: Vereen’s failure to protect the ball opened the door for Orleans Darkwa, who had 10 carries for 53 yards and a touchdown.
On the Other Hand: Giants coaches will probably overlook the fact that Vereen and Darkwa combined for 118 yards on 21 carries and two touchdowns and go back to running Rashad Jennings into the back of linemen’s butts.

On One Hand: Defensive end Olivier Vernon had his first sack as a Giant.
On the Other Hand: His penalty for smacking Kirk Cousins in the back of the head on third down allowed Washington’s game-winning drive to continue.

On One Hand: The Giants were ahead 21-9 in the second quarter, with a blowout seemingly imminent.
On the Other Hand: One second after learning that the Giants hadn’t allowed a single play of more than 30 yards all season, they allowed two such consecutive passes to DeSean Jackson – covering 80 yards and a touchdown.

On One Hand: The Giants are now minus-6 in the turnover department.
On the Other Hand: It’s pretty amazing they’re 2-1 with such a bad differential.

On One Hand: Kirk Cousins cost Washington 3 points and maybe 7 points by holding the ball too long and taking a sack at the end of the first half, when Washington still had one timeout left.
On the Other Hand: He didn’t commit any turnovers and Eli Manning was the one who threw two fourth quarter interceptions.

On One Hand: Neither team played particularly well on special teams.
On the Other Hand: Only the Giants allowed the opposing team’s punter to throw a long pass down the sideline to convert on fourth down.

On One Hand: Washington played it conservative by running the ball on third down late in the game, with the Giants stopping them and forcing a punt.
On the Other Hand: You sensed Manning and the Giants weren’t going to pull it out.

On One Hand: Odell Beckham had seven receptions for 121 yards, including one stiff arm of Josh Norman.
On the Other Hand: On the team’s final possession, he committed an obvious pick on Norman and earned a penalty that negated a pass to Sterling Shepard and backed the Giants up. Oh, and he looked like he was about to cry after Manning’s first fourth quarter pick, when Beckham vented by throwing his helmet into the kicker’s practice net.

On One Hand: The Giants’ version of Cerberus (Beckham, Sterling Shepard and Victor Cruz) all had more than 70 yards receiving and once again proved that defenses have to pick their poison in stopping the Giants’ three-headed receiving corps.
On the Other Hand: The team only had one passing TD and managed just two field goals in the second half.

On One Hand: The Giants played a third straight game decided by less than a field goal.
On the Other Hand: This is the first one they’ve lost.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Giants vs. Washington: A Look to the Future]]> Fri, 23 Sep 2016 09:52:31 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Odell-Beckham-Jr-Josh-Norman-Dustup-1221.jpg

The Giants face each NFC East opponent twice per season, and it’s always interesting to see how fortunes have changed for the respective teams in between their two head-to-head matchups. But instead of looking back to how things have changed between Then and Now for the Giants and Washington (since, ya know, they haven’t played each other this year), let’s try something new and look ahead – to how things will change between this Sunday’s game and the teams’ next matchup in the regular-season finale on Jan. 1.

Now: It’s 2016.
Then: It’ll be 2017.

Now: New York is 2-0 and Washington is 0-2.
Then: The Giants will be playing for home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, and Washington will be playing.

Now: Washington coach Jay Gruden is calling out quarterback Kirk Cousins and saying he needs to play better.
Then: Cousins will once again be among the league’s best quarterbacks and Washington will plan to reward him by slapping the franchise tag on him again and make him sing for his dinner for the second straight season in 2017.

Now: Odell Beckham Jr. has zero touchdowns.
Then:
He’ll have more than a dozen, helped by the three he’s going to post on Washington cornerback Josh Norman this week.

Now: Rashad Jennings is the Giants’ starting running back.
Then: The Giants’ offensive brain trust will still be driving fans nuts by consistently running him on first down.

Now: I spend an ungodly amount of time reading the SI Vault.
Then: Nothing will change.

Now: The Giants have a turnover ratio of -4.
Then: They’ll be really dangerous when luck helps that ratio to balance out.

Now: Cowboys fans are quietly thinking they still have a shot at winning the NFC East because they hung with the Giants in Week 1 and beat Washington last week.
Then: Cowboys fans will be talking about how good the Yankees are going to be in 2017.

Now: Sterling Shepard is an early favorite for Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Then: He’ll be a late favorite to win it.

Now: High-priced free agent acquisition Olivier Vernon has no sacks.
Then: He and Snacks Harrison will still be quietly winning in the trenches and setting the tone for the entire defense.

Now: Washington is 25th in the NFL in rushing.
Then: Matt Jones will have about 25 fumbles.

Now: Ben McAdoo seems to be wound a bit too tight.
Then: He’ll maybe stop acting like a cliché football coach.

Now: I’m enjoying all things pumpkin spice.
Then: I’ll be enjoying all things gingerbread.

Now: Washington safety DeAngelo Hall sniped at former teammate and current Giants linebacker Keenan Robinson for criticizing his old team, with Hall saying he didn’t even know Robinson was on a roster this year.
Then: Robinson’s comment that his old team had a toxic locker room will still describe Washington.

Now: Wide receiver DeSean Jackson and tight end Jordan Reed give Washington a potent downfield passing game.
Then: Reed will hopefully be leading my fantasy team to a championship and Jackson will probably be injured.

Now: Jay Gruden is Washington’s head coach.
Then: He’ll have thrown most of the Potomac basin area under the bus.

Now: We live in a republic led by President Barack Obama.
Then: Let’s enjoy the present, shall we?



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Giants Almost Game Plan Their Way Out of 16-13 Victory]]> Mon, 19 Sep 2016 16:04:58 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/171*120/GettyImages-602999270.jpg

A win is a win is a win, but man did the Giants go out of their way to secure the 16-13 victory in their home opener against the Saints.

 

One year after Eli Manning (6) and Drew Brees (7) combined for an NFL record 13 touchdown passes as New Orleans beat New York 52-48 in the Crescent City, the two teams largely played a game of field position –- and largely because the Giants seemed to think they were playing the reincarnation of the Bears’ 46 defense. It took until late in the second half for the Giants’ offensive architects to realize running the ball on just about every freaking first down was akin to starting a drive at second and 10. 

I said in previewing this game that New York would be making a mistake if they tried to control the clock by running the ball heavily with Rashad Jennings. Did they listen? No, they have a restraining order against me and I’m not allowed to contact the team in any capacity (which is a long story). But if you had a fantasy roster of Eli Manning, Odell Beckham Jr., Victor Cruz, Sterling Shepard and, uh, Rashad Jennings, where are you putting your money? If you want to win (or do better than barely escape with a 16-13 victory at home), you’re not trying to play keep away with freaking Jennings. 

Sigh. 

Anyway, let’s hand out some hardware for Hero, Nero, Zero, even though I’m tempted to make this a Nero, Nero, Nero affair with all the honors going to the Giants’ offensive coaches. 

Hero: Victor Cruz. 

Late in the fourth quarter, with the score tied 13-13, the Giants finally tired of running to darkness and threw a long pass down the near sideline to Odell Beckham Jr. The ball landed right in his Hamburger Helper mitts –- and he dropped it. It was one of the few deep throws attempted all day by Eli Manning, who probably had the quietest 300-yard passing game in NFL history (368 yards, 0 touchdowns, 0 interceptions). 

If you have a future Hall of Fame quarterback and this particulate triumvirate of receivers, how are you not taking shots down field on the regular? Most likely Beckham, Shepard or Cruz is going to come down with the pass or at the very least break it up, which is exactly what happened on the play directly after Beckham’s drop. Manning threw long for Cruz and the salsa king of Chicago (is he from the Windy City? Well he should be) went up, tangled with the Saints’ d-back and game down with the ball on New Orleans’ doorstep. 

After killing the clock to assure Drew Brees wouldn’t have time for a game-winning drive, the Giants lined up for the game-winning 23-yard kick from Josh Brown. I’m glad it was only a chip shot for Brown and not something that he deserved praise for afterwards. This game was hard enough to stomach without having to see Brown (who missed Week 1 after being suspended for a domestic violence incident with his ex-wife) feted as a hero. 

Nero: The Giants’ offensive masterminds. 

After the game, Manning and the Giants were saying all the right things, attributing the low-scoring game to the Saints’ defensive game plan. Apparently that game plan involved hoping the Giants would barely take ANY shots down the field. 

In the first half, Jennings had this gaudy stat line: 11 carries for 24 yards, with a long of 7. Manning, meanwhile, was 15 of 18. But by all means, keep running the ball. 

Playing keep away makes sense if you’re a team with a sieve-like defense. The 2015 Giants were that team. The 2016 team are not. New cornerback Janoris Jenkins had a terrific game, breaking up several passes and picking up the ball and returning it for a touchdown after Johnathan Hankins blocked a New Orleans field goal attempt. The Saints were working hard for everything, with fleet-footed star receiver Brandin Cooks (68 yards) and Mark Ingram (9 carries for 30 yards) and Tim Hightower (3 carries for 9 yards) all held in check. 

Meanwhile, the Giants had three wide receivers with more than 86 yards receiving (including Shepard with a game-high 117 yards on 8 catches) – and they won by three points as time expired. 

But if you had Jennings on your fantasy team – final line: 13 carries for 27 yards – you must have been stoked. 

Zero: Offensive touchdowns by the Giants. 

Throw. The. Damn. Ball. Down. The. Field.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Giants Should Ignore Time of Possession vs. Saints]]> Fri, 16 Sep 2016 10:21:09 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/nfl-por-nbc-universo-getty-images-01.jpg

You might not have noticed, but the NFL tweaked the constitution of its injury report. No longer are dinged up players classified as probable, questionable, doubtful or out.

"Probable" has been dropped from the available pull-downs (probably because the league got sick of seeing Bill Belichick screw with people by putting Tom Brady on there for about 752 consecutive weeks), and so less-than-healthy players can now only be listed as questionable, doubtful or out. How will this affect one of my preview staples – probable, questionable, doubtful and out? It won’t. I’m still rolling with it, not least because the NFL injury report is arbitrary and the NFL is run by a confederacy of dunces. 

So let’s look at the Giants’ home opener against the Saints and try to predict the effect certain players or coaches will have on the game. 

Probable Player of the Game: Olivier Vernon. 

Last year the Saints beat the Giants 52-49, with Drew Brees (7) and Eli Manning (6) combining for an NFL record 13 touchdown passes. The Saints’ defensive coordinator at the time (Rob Ryan) is now up in Buffalo, teaching a new class of pupils how to avoid contact. The Giants’ defensive coordinator at the time (Steve Spagnuolo) is still in charge of the team’s defense, but now has several players – including Vernon, Snacks Harrison, Janoris Jenkins and Eli Apple – who weren’t lucky enough to participate in last year’s record-setting game in New Orleans. 

Vernon, the defensive end who came over as a free agent from Miami, had a commendable first game against Dallas. He didn’t register a sack, but he was consistently pushing the pocket and flushing out rookie quarterback Dak Prescott. Brees, for his part, is the oldest starting quarterback in the NFL (37) and won’t be easily flustered. He has one of the quickest releases in the league and throws most of his passes from his tip toes because he’s small, small, sm-all. 

New Orleans has one of the best offenses in the NFL and last week posted 34 points against Oakland (and still lost). The Giants obviously have the weapons to compete with the Saints in a track meet, but they’d probably like to avoid over-sweating. Vernon will go a long way toward determining the tenor of the game. 

Questionable Player of the Game: Rashad Jennings. 

I’m still not sold on Jennings. I understand he’s the NFL’s leading rusher since like Week 14 of last season and he has the most rushes of more than 10 yards during that stretch, but he seems to only rack up yards late in games – whether the team is winning or losing. 

This week, many Giants observers have been saying that the key to beating the Saints is keeping the ball out of the hands of Drew Brees. Toward that end, the Giants should presumably feature a whole lot of Jennings, who can run the ball and eat the clock. 

With all due respect, get the flock out of here. 

Run the ball with Jennings? As opposed to throwing the ball with Manning, Beckham, Shepard and Cruz? Against a Saints secondary that is banged up and featuring several guys who (maybe) watched last week’s Saints game while nursing a hurricane at Pat O’Brien’s? 

Yeah, no. 

I’m all for Jennings getting the rock late in the game if the Giants are ahead and the team wants to salt away the clock. That way he can pad his numbers like he always does. But time of possession is the most overrated common measuring stick in the NFL. Throw it early and often. 

Doubtful Player of the Game: Josh Brown. 

The Giants’ placekicker returns to action after a one-game suspension for a domestic violence incident. Or should I say, pattern of incidents? His ex-wife accused of him of hitting her on numerous occasions. The Giants said they performed due diligence and that Brown, a Pro Bowler last year, is still a good enough egg to kick for them. 

This game figures to be a high-scoring affair that will be dependent on touchdowns and not field goals, so it’s unlikely that Brown will feature prominently. Unless, ya know, it comes down to a game-winning field goal try. If Brown kicks the game-winner, seek out a fan wearing his jersey and ask where life went wrong. 

Out Player of the Game: Whoever kneels during the national anthem. 

This topic has been beaten to death, but has anyone run the numbers on how well players like Colin Kaepernick (backup who hasn’t seen the field) and Denver linebacker Brandon Marshall (fined for nearly decapitating Cam Newton) have performed after refusing to stand for the national anthem? ESPN’s Trent Dilfer has argued that it’s a selfish gesture that can undermine team unity. That’s debatable. We’ve only played one regular season game, so coaches aren’t yet sweating about their jobs (unless their last name is Ryan) and owners and fans aren’t restless about the product on the field. 

But the time is going to come when some player on a crappy team doesn’t stand for the anthem and the swell of public sentiment will swing soundly against them. Will one of those players be from the Giants? Not a chance. The team has been steadfast in collectively standing during the anthem. Will it be a player from the Saints? Well, you can bet it won’t be Drew Brees, who ridiculed Kaepernick for his gesture. 

Whoever kneels –- if anyone –- will be a man apart. Someone who will be on the outs with a lot of NFL fans. Unless, ya know, he plays well, and then all will be forgiven.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Giants Flip the 2015 Script to Beat Cowboys in Season Opener]]> Mon, 12 Sep 2016 10:02:24 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/usa-terrance-williams-cowboys.jpg

The Giants’ 2016 season opener against the Cowboys was setting up to be eerily reminiscent of the Giants’ 2015 season opener against the Cowboys, when Dallas capitalized on New York’s sloppy fourth quarter – including iffy play calling, clock mismanagement and ole defense – to deliver a groin punch loss to the G-men, a defeat that set the tone for their entire 2015 season. 

But then it didn’t happen. 

The Giants didn’t have any notable play calling gaffes, they didn’t mismanage the clock and their defense didn’t fold when desperate stops were needed. Instead, Dallas did all those things, as the Giants prevailed 20-19 in a game marked by several NFL premieres (Ben McAdoo as head coach; Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott as the rookie QB-RB tandem in Dallas; and Giants rookie wide out Sterling Shepard, who made a leaping 9-yard touchdown grab in the second quarter and – teamed with the returning Victor Cruz and some guy named Beckham Jr. – is going to give the Giants an explosive offense). 

It’s only one game, but there were a lot of heroics, insanity and ineptitude, so let’s hand out some laurels for Hero, Nero, Zero

Hero: Victor Cruz. 

Playing in his first regular-season game in nearly two years, Cruz caught the go-ahead touchdown from Eli Manning (19 of 28, 207 yards, three touchdowns and one pathetic interception) with 6:13 left in the game. 

Salsa time. 

Cruz had four catches for 34 yards, which in a vacuum doesn’t look like a particularly impressive outing. But with him in the slot and Beckham and Shepard on the outside, the Giants might have the best wide receiving corps in the NFL this season. 

Nero: Cowboys’ play calling. 

Dez Bryant is an absolute beast and can pretty much assure that any ball thrown in his vicinity is either going to be caught by him or fall incomplete. So why on the Cowboys’ final drive – when Dallas got the ball back with 1:05 left – did the last play call go to Terrance Williams in the middle of the field? 

Dallas needed to stop the clock, but Williams caught the ball and headed up field and the Cowboys were unable to set up and spike the ball to possibly set up a 62-yard game-winning field goal by Dan Bailey. Sure, Williams should have tried to get out of bounds, but if he had run right to the sidelines, the field goal attempt would have been even longer. Williams is a convenient scapegoat, but the real failure was in Dallas’ play calling. 

Zero: Touchdown and interceptions from Dak Prescott. 

Thrown into the starting role following the preseason injury to Tony Romo, the rookie from Mississippi State had a respectable NFL debut. He made a nice throw to Bryant in the end zone that was initially called a TD; the play was correctly overturned on review as the ball moved as Dez went to the ground. And Prescott committed zero turnovers and was not sacked once. 

He worked the middle of the field almost to exhaustion, with 17 of his 25 completions going to Jason Witten and Cole Beasley. Bryant, meanwhile, had one catch for 8 yards. 

For those who thought the Cowboys would transition seamlessly from the Romo era to the Prescott era, Sunday’s loss to the Giants was a reminder that Romo had/has the type of field-stretching ability that Prescott will need to exhibit to open up more running lanes for Elliott (20 carries for 51 yards). 

Dak to Dez has a nice ring to it, but we saw little of it on the field on Sunday.



Photo Credit: The Associated Press]]>
<![CDATA[Giants Have a Chance to Win the Super Bowl]]> Fri, 09 Sep 2016 09:36:43 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/180*120/usabenmcadoo.jpg

Are the new-look Giants going to win the Super Bowl in 2016? Well, they certainly have a shot, according to Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight.com, which says Big Blue has a 1 percent chance of winning the championship this year.

That’s right, 1 percent. A team that last season featured one of the league’s most explosive offenses is now even better with the additions at wide receiver of second-round draft pick Sterling Shepard and the previously injured Victor Cruz.

A defense that last year exhibited expert-level understanding of the rules of two-hand touch added three playmakers via free agency: defensive end Olivier Vernon (Dolphins), defensive tackle Snacks Harrison (previously of the wrong side of MetLife Stadium) and Janoris Jenkins (previously of a team that once played in St. Louis).

The 2015 Giants almost beat the Panthers and they gave the Patriots all they could handle. This is a team that is decidedly better than last year (and not because Tom Coughlin is gone) — and they only have a 1 percent chance of winning the Super Bowl? Does FiveThirtyEight take bets? If so, I’d like to put down a Benjamin that says the Giants are going to win it all.

One percent. Ya know who else has the same odds of winning the Super Bowl, according to Nate Silver’s site? These teams: Atlanta, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Baltimore.

With all due respect to Silver and the site that called all 50 states correctly in the 2012 presidential election, your numbers are whack. I’ve simulated the entire 2016 season at least 1.5 times in my mind, and there’s no way I can get halfway through it without falling off my chair and laughing at the thought that the Eagles have any chance — any year — of winning the Super Bowl.

It’s never gonna happen. And certainly not in a year when they’re starting a rookie quarterback.

My season prediction for the Giants: win the NFC East, win a first-round game, win a second-round game, win the NFC Championship over Seattle, lose to the Steelers in the Super Bowl.

But let’s not get completely ahead of ourselves. Let’s talk about Week One and eventually the Cowboys.

Week 1

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the NFL schedule is stupidly created. Instead of working to foster regional rivalries, the league tries to create some kind of inane sense of parity by having a rotating schedule that completely eliminates subjectivity. The league has no say in who plays who from year to year. They do, however, have a say in WHEN teams play each other. Given that, why on earth is there not a Rivalry Week in the NFL? A week when each team squares off against a division opponent? Say, this week — Week 1 — when the Giants face the Cowboys (awesome) while the Eagles face Cleveland (poo) and Washington faces the Steelers (awesome for Pittsburgh).

In addition to the Cowboys vs. the Giants, there are only three games this week featuring intra-divisional matchups: Tampa Bay at Atlanta; San Diego at Kansas City; and Los Angeles at San Francisco. How hard would it be to simply swap things around so that the remaining teams were also facing divisional opponents? What am I missing? We’re not talking about changing any team’s 2016 opponents. We’re simply changing the order so that every team faces a hated rival in Week 1.

Instead of Buffalo facing Baltimore and Cincinnati facing the Jets, the Bills would face the Jets and the Ravens would have the Bengals. Etc, etc.  

Sure, this would create weeks later in the season when there’d be a dearth of divisional matchups. But who cares? The saying is that divisional games count twice in the standings. Just think how much they’d count — to teams, fans and the league — if every team had a divisional game in Week 1.

OK, now onto the Dallas game.

Dallas is one of the most intriguing teams in the league this year. Usually a squad featuring a rookie quarterback (Dak Prescott) and a rookie running back (Ezekiel Elliott) would be doomed from the get-go. As a long-time observer of Dallas and its fans, I would have welcomed such a scenario. But the Cowboys are a unique bunch. They have arguably the best offensive line in football, an All-Pro level wide receiver in Dez Bryant and a future Hall of Famer in tight end Jason Witten. If Elliott exhibits the same kind of punishing runs he dropped on the likes of Kam Chancellor of the Seahawks during the preseason, and Prescott can limit his inevitable rookie errors, this team will be able to hang against the Giants’ defense.

I say “hang,” because the Cowboys are not winning this game.

During the preseason, the Giants’ first-team offense was held scoreless, which caused a lot of fans to overreact. Meanwhile, the first-team defense — the team’s chief weakness in 2015 — was stout in the preseason. Look for the G-men to focus on curbing Dallas’ run games by stacking the box with eight defenders, mixing up blitzes (including from safety Landon Collins) in an effort to fluster Prescott.   

On offense, the Giants will need to rely on game-breaking plays from the likes of Beckham, Cruz and Shepard, because general manager Jerry Reese thought it’d be a great idea to go into another season with Rashad Jennings as the starting running back. Dallas cut bait with its best defender — serial putz Greg Hardy — but playmaking linebacker Sean Lee is healthy (for now) and free safety Byron Jones has reportedly made huge strides in his second season.

Still, you can’t talk me into the Cowboys beating the Giants this week in Ben McAdoo's first game as head coach. Nevertheless, I give them a better chance of winning this game than FiveThirtyEight.com gives the Giants of winning the Super Bowl. In fact, I’d say the Cowboys have a 50 percent chance of winning this game: Either they will or they won’t.



Photo Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports]]>
<![CDATA[What to Look for (and not) as Giants Take on Patriots]]> Thu, 01 Sep 2016 10:18:56 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/usa-tombrady-patriots.jpg

With the fourth and final preseason game about to take place, we’ve now reached the Christmas Eve portion of our NFL schedule. I’m staring at the 17 weeks of presents wrapped beneath the tree and eager to start ripping them open.

First things first, we have to get through this final preseason warmup against the Patriots. What can we look for in this game? And what should we not expect to see? Let’s break it down.

Look for: Ryan Nassib to start the entire game.

Don’t look for: Giants fans to be encouraged by what they see.

Look for: the Patriots to give Tom Brady a few snaps under center, because it’s the Patriots and they like to do counterintuitive things.

Don’t look for: Brady in the rest of September; he has the month off.

Look for: commentators to mention Colin Kaepernick before or after the playing of the national anthem.

Don’t look for: any Giants or Patriots players to be sitting down like Kaepernick in an equally pointless exercise.

Look for: players on the roster bubble to be flying around like madmen and ballhawking incessantly in a last-ditch bid to make the 53-man roster.

Don’t look for: me to stop watching because the opening day starters aren’t getting much run; watching the marginal guys play for their NFL lives is great theater.

Look for: Orleans Darkwa to being playing in his last game as a Giant.

Don’t look for: me to be happy about it.

Look for: the slimmed down Andre Williams.

Don’t look for: him to average his usual 1 yard per carry in 2016.

Look for: some highlights from the Giants’ two Super Bowl wins over the Patriots.

Don’t look for: any Aaron Hernandez highlights.

Look for: the commentators to discuss the challenges facing new Giants head coach Ben McAdoo.

Don’t look for: them to make note of his 80s hairdo and 70s porn stache.

Look for: personal fouls, sloppy play and everything you associate with desperate guys doing anything they can to make an impression on coaches.

Don’t look for: injuries; please, no injuries.

Look for: Patriots coach Bill Belichick to be dressed like a homeless person.

Don’t look for: his cutoff sleeves.

Look for: commentators to discuss Deflategate.

Don’t look for: the world’s smallest violin, playing just for the Patriots.

Look for: this game to end and for our attention to turn toward Week One and the Cowboys.

Don’t look for: my excitement for the regular season to abate this week.



Photo Credit: The Associated Press]]>
<![CDATA[Giants Receiver Victor Cruz Plays for 1st Time Since 2014]]> Mon, 29 Aug 2016 07:53:08 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/victor+cruz+giants.jpg

Victor Cruz really didn't care about his statistics after the Giants played the Jets in their annual preseason game. 

The line for the 29-year-old wide receiver read: 32 plays, targeted on two passes, with one reception for 4 yards. 

It was unproductive, yet Cruz could not help but smile after the Giants' 21-20 win on Saturday night. 

Cruz had played in a game for the first time since the 2014 season, and that's all that mattered to the wideout who was one of the NFL's most feared receivers from 2011-13. The knee injury that ended the '14 season and a calf problem that sidelined him last year were things of the past. 

Even the crowd at MetLife Stadium was into his return, chanting "Cruzzzz." 

"It was unreal," Cruz said. "It kind of gave me goosebumps." 

Even though he felt rusty, Cruz was excited. 

"It felt good to put that jersey on again and go out there with my teammates, from the warmup, the pregame, and then during the game to be in the position to make a play and be out there running routes against an opponent, it felt good," Cruz said. 

Cruz's only catch came on a quick pass to the right from Eli Manning on the first play from scrimmage in the second half. 

"That ball felt like it was forever in the air before it got to my hands, but it was good to kind of catch that ball and get a little contact, get a little hit out of bounds, and hopefully I can build on that," Cruz said. "But it was definitely good to get one in." 

Cruz got a step on the secondary early in the second quarter, but Manning was under pressure and underthrew the receiver. 

"I had to come, turn back inside and kind of go after the ball," Cruz said. "Thought I had a shot until I saw (Marcus) Gilchrist come late, but I definitely had a step on the DB at the time. So I think if Eli was untouched I think we had a shot." 

The Jets treated Cruz with some respect. Cornerback Darrelle Revis lined up opposite him on several plays. 

"I think he looks fine," Revis said of Cruz. "I just think, especially with a major knee injury, your mind plays tricks on you because you're scared to make a certain cut because you got injured. The injury's always replaying back. I'm sure after he continues to strengthen it and keeps on getting stronger, he'll be back to the old Victor Cruz that we always used to see." 

The Giants (1-2) finish the preseason at home Thursday night against New England. It's a game that starters usually don't play much, if at all. 

Cruz, however, wants to play in what could be considered his final tuneup before the season opener at Dallas. 

"Do I need to play? I think it's just a matter of continuing to understand what we want to accomplish as a team and as a game plan and from a receiving corps," Cruz said. "I think I can go out there Sept. 11 and be OK." 

Giants coach Ben McAdoo said it would have been nice to get Cruz the ball earlier in the game, but he felt the receiver looked comfortable and confident.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Hero, Nero, Zero for Giants-Jets in MetLife Bowl]]> Mon, 29 Aug 2016 07:36:36 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/AP_451101506974.jpg

I’m pretty sure that watching preseason football is the penance we have to pay for enjoying the ensuing five months of meaningful football. And trying to ascribe meaning to what we witness in these preseason games is a Rorschach test.

Fans given to pessimism might look at the putrid display by the Giants’ starting offense – not once advancing into Jets territory – and predict regular-season doom (and start beating the bushes for new offensive linemen). And fans given to optimism might have noted that the Giants survived this game (which, by the way, they won 21-20) without the type of season-turning injuries that befell Tony Romo and the Cowboys on Thursday night. 

Me? I’m a pessoptimist, disturbed by the Giants’ laughably bad offensive effort, but encouraged by the team’s aggressive playmaking defense; in particular, the early work of new acquisitions Snacks Harrison and Olivier Vernon. 

The Giants’ offense will be fine. Why wouldn’t it be? They have the same system as last year, the same key players, plus the addition of Victor Cruz. So what if Eli Manning is tripping over the center’s feet, or underthrowing Cruz on a deep route? Who cares if guard Bobby Hart is committing penalties on third and one? This is the correctable stuff. What can't be corrected is a defense that gets no pass rush and folds in the fourth quarter week after week. Ya know, like last year’s defense. The one that didn’t feature Vernon, Harrison and new cornerbacks Eli Apple and Janoris Jenkins. 

This might have been a preseason game, but that doesn’t mean we can’t work out our own kinks with a favorite staple, Hero, Nero, Zero – in which we recognize the best, craziest and worst elements from the game. 

Hero: Um, Odell Beckham Jr.? 

Not gonna lie, there weren’t a lot of candidates for the Hero handle in this contest. Harrison had a nifty forced fumble when the Jets were deep in Giants territory (following a blocked punt). But the fumble, which Johnathan Hankins recovered, wasn’t exactly the game-decider -- not when there were so many subsequent exhibitions of incompetence on both sides. 

No, to hear some people tell it, the savviest play in this game was made by Beckham Jr. and his alligator arms. Beckham was running a deep slant and Manning led him a little too much toward the province of Jets safety Calvin Pryor. Instead of challenging for the ball, Beckham pulled up and the pass sailed into the arms of Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis for an interception. 

The decision prompted such headlines as this one in the Daily News: “Odell Beckham Jr. makes right call to bail on pass,” with Manning in the accompanying story saying, “It’s preseason, there’s no point in going in there and taking hits and throwing guys into big hits.” 

So Beckham is just out there to practice making plays in space? We’re supposed to conclude that as the play unfolded, he saw that he was being led into a big bit and he quickly processed, “Whoa, this is the preseason, I’m not sticking my nose in there”? We’re supposed to think he would react differently in the regular season? OK, I guess we’ll have to wait and see. 

Nero: General manager Jerry Reese. 

Reese deserves props for how well he upgraded the team’s defense via free agency and the draft, but subjecting us to another season of running back Rashad Jennings is going to drive me to drink (more). Jennings has a limited burst, rarely reaches the third level of the defense and is never a threat to hit a home run. 

The Giants’ solution? Spending a fifth-round draft pick on Paul Perkins, who has barely seen the field. Versus the Jets, Jennings ran six times for -1 yard. Granted, the Jets have a stout run defense, but the Giants are also going to be in obvious running situations during the season – or obvious to any team that has a decent running back. The Giants don’t, and that’s on Jerry Reese. 

Zero: Plays in Jets territory by the Giants’ starting offense. 

It’s great that new head coach Ben McAdoo wants to see what the offensive line can do, and thus the steady stream of running plays – including on third and long. But man, the offense was just pathetic. Everyone seemed out of rhythm and that’s a bit alarming since the starters almost certainly won’t be playing on Thursday in the final preseason game against the Patriots. I’m confident the offense will be fine – eventually. But a little success – any success! – from Manning, Beckham and Co. would have engendered a lot more confidence before the season opener against Dallas. Luckily for the Giants, their newly revamped defense will be facing a rookie quarterback (Dak Prescott) and rookie running back (Ezekiel Elliott). 

The Giants’ offense probably won’t need to be perfect for the team to beat the Cowboys. Still, it’d be nice if Beckham leaves his alligator arms at home for that game.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Time to Rename the MetLife Bowl to the Giants Bowl]]> Fri, 26 Aug 2016 11:18:17 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/usa-victor-cruz-giants.jpg

Well, well, well, it’s finally here, the annual preseason game between the Giants and the Jets, aka the lamest titled rivalry game in sports (the MetLife Bowl) with the lamest nickname (the Snoopy Bowl) and the lamest trophy.

Yup, the game is named after the stadium the two teams share; nicknamed after the mascot of the stadium sponsor; and the trophy is a knockoff of college football’s Heisman Trophy. Since this game is meaningless in the standings, we have time to digress toward an equally meaningless exercise, and that’s renaming this annual game, giving it a new nickname and creating a new trophy.

New name: The Giants Bowl.

Why: The old stadium was named for the Giants and they agreed to allow the Jets to share Giants Stadium after the Jets lost their security deposit at Shea Stadium (or something approximating that). Anyway, the Giants have won four Super Bowls (and two in the last decade) and the Jets haven’t even reached the Super Bowl since before the moon landing. The name of the bowl should reflect the stadium occupant who has won the Super Bowl the most recently. See, we’re not saying it should always be called the Giants Bowl; only that it should be that until the Jets win their next Super Bowl. No need to rebrand every year when you can do it every five decades.

New nickname: The Big Blue Bowl.

Why: Big Blue is the Giants nickname, and the nickname should be some reflection of the actual bowl name. If the Giants were named the Yankees, an appropriate nickname might be the Pinstripe Bowl. Feel free to steal that name. Similar to the official name of this rivalry game – the Giants Bowl – the nickname would depend on the team that has most recently been king of New York football. So, yeah, there’s always hope that sometime down the line we can refer to this as the Gang Green Bowl. Now how’s that for imagery?

New trophy: A big apple, preferably solid gold. No need to slap an old leather football helmet on it or to make it do the Heisman pose – since, ya know, this is professional football.

Now that we’ve settled that important matter, let’s move on to the game itself. This is each team’s third preseason game, commonly referred to as the “dress rehearsal game,” as it’s the preseason contest when starters are expected to see their most extensive action before being placed in bubble wrap for the fourth and final preseason game, only to be opened in time for Week One.

If you watched the first few minutes of the Cowboys’ third preseason game against the Seahawks on Thursday, you saw Tony Romo get knocked out on the third play, all but assuring the advent of the Dak Prescott era in Dallas. Cowboys fans, a delusional lot by nature, think Prescott is the second coming of Roger Staubach, so many of them are probably shrugging off the latest injury to Romo's cork-stuffed back. If something similar happened to the Giants and Eli Manning, the rush to buy Ryan Nassib jerseys would probably pale in comparison.

But let’s not talk about injuries. Let’s talk about, um, Victor Cruz.

The salsa king is returning to game action after nearly two years away. He blew out his patellar tendon against the Eagles in October 2014, then struggled all last season with a calf problem. Most recently he’s been battling a groin injury. Will he ever return to the Pro Bowl-level that made him a fan favorite? If he does, this offense is going to be ridiculously good – with Cruz in the slot joining Odell Beckham Jr., rookie wideout Sterling Shepard, running back Rashad Jennings and professional Swiss Army knife Shane Vereen.

These guys are presumably all going to get a lot of run against the Jets, who in turn will likely be unleashing their full-capacity defense for at least two quarters. If you combined the Giant offense and the Jet defense, you might have a squad capable of beating the NFL’s 75th anniversary team. Alas, the Jets still have Ryan Fitzpatrick under center.

Last year I extolled the virtues of Fitzmagic, the kind of gun-slinging quarterback who was perfectly suited to an offense with playmakers like Brandon Marshall and red zone studs like Eric Decker. And I was right – until I wasn’t.

Fitzpatrick threw three crippling interceptions in the team’s embarrassing Week 17 loss to the Bills and former Jets coach Rex Ryan, squelching the team’s playoff chances. Now he’s back, and a team that’s added Matt Forte at running back (and still has plenty of weapons on offense) is relying on the Harvard graduate to avoid spontaneous combustion when the chips are down.

The Jets might win this meaningless dress rehearsal against the Giants. But I feel safe in saying this annual rivalry game will be known as the Giants Bowl (at least to me) for the foreseeable future.



Photo Credit: The Associated Press]]>
<![CDATA[Giants Shouldn't Sleep on the Rex Ryan Bills]]> Wed, 24 Aug 2016 10:33:08 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/rex+return.jpg

I gotta admit, I like the Buffalo Bills, the Giants’ opponent for the second game of the 2016 preseason. I don’t root for them (thank heavens). But outside of the one team I actually root for (which isn’t the Giants), the Bills are among the select few franchises whose good fortune I welcome -- ya know, if that ever actually comes to pass.

Wishing well for the Bills requires no magnanimity, because this is a ghost ship franchise, the kind that can hold the current record for the longest postseason drought among the fourth North American major sports and yet not be considered a truly star-crossed and stupid outfit.

The Browns, Chargers and Lions? Yep, they’re star-crossed and stupid. But the Bills have somehow managed to miss the playoffs every single season since 1999 -- and yet they’ve never stunk enough to earn the No. 1 pick. That’s a savant-like commitment to mediocrity: never too high (duh), but never too low. No one associates them with such wasted No. 1 picks like Jamarcus Russell, Alex Smith, Sam Bradford, David Carr, Tim Couch or Courtney Brown, who were all taken in the top spot in drafts since 1999.

The Bills haven’t even been bad enough to earn the No. 2 pick at any time since 1999. So while some Colts fans were wondering if the team had made a mistake in drafting Andrew Luck with the top selection in 2012, and Washington fans were wondering if they’d lucked into Robert Griffith III with the second pick (hah), Bills fans had no such dilemma. The team grabbed cornerback Stephen Gilmore at the ho-hum No. 10 slot.

The highest the Bills have drafted since 1999 was No. 3 (defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, 2011) and No. 4 (tackle Mike Williams, 2002). Dareus has been good (when he hasn’t been nabbed for smoking Satan’s weed), and Williams was a bust. So Mike Williams, who was drafted 14 years ago, is still held up as the paragon of Buffalo draft busts. How can Bills fans be pissed at him? That’s like holding a grudge against the grammar school girlfriend that you dated for a week.

The Giants have no such baggage. The team has won one Super Bowl per decade since the 1980s (1986, 1990, 2007, 2011) and twice beaten a close regional rival (New England) in the Super Bowl. The Bills have reached four Super Bowls and lost all four -– starting with a loss to the Giants when Scott Norwood went wide right in 1990.

But the Bills nowadays have something the Giants don’t (Rex Ryan). And that means Buffalo’s defenders in this game are going to be vampires hunting Eli Manning like he’s got a dripping neck wound. Manning can vouch for Ryan’s counterintuitive approach to preseason football. When Ryan was coaching the Jets in 2010, his defense blitzed the future Hall of Famer relentlessly and left Manning with a three-inch ooozing gash on his forehead that required 12 stitches.

Rex Ryan + Eli Manning = WWE.

This is Manning’s first game action of 2016, because head coach Ben McAdoo thought it was prudent to spend the first preseason game seeing what Ryan Nassib was incapable of doing. Manning and the Giants would be wise to hit the ground running; otherwise, he might be hitting the ground face-first.

Buffalo is a franchise with nothing to lose and everything to gain –- even in the preseason, and especially with Ryan and his twin brother, Rob, leading the charge. Usually it’s impossible to predict what a meaningless preseason game like this would produce. But on one side you have a team with Super Bowl aspirations, and on the other side you have a franchise itching to break the streak for longest North American playoff drought –- led by the Ryan brothers.

Have I convinced you that it’s going to be a game worth watching? If not, you’re beyond help.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Giants Hope for a Safe, Sound and Sane Season ]]> Tue, 23 Aug 2016 09:38:44 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/TLMD-Ben-McAdoo-giants-st.jpg

Before embarking on any family journey, my father used to have a tradition of saying, "Let’s pray that we all have a safe, sound and sane trip,” the hope being that whatever the occasion -- vacations, college visits, a Georgetown basketball game -- we would all survive in one piece, make good decisions that wouldn’t get him arrested, and be mindful of keeping the crazy hidden from public view. 

It’s obvious no one with the Giants made a similar incantation before last season. Their journey was not safe (as evidenced by Jason Pierre-Paul’s missing fingers); sound (as evidebnced by the team’s numerous fourth-quarter meltdowns); or sane (as evidenced by their idiotic decision to fire former head coach Tom Coughlin). 

Will 2016 be much different? Well, it certainly can’t be more frustrating. Last year’s 6-10 team had an explosive offense, implosive defense and a penchant for inane late-game decision-making. They were a terrible tease. At one point in the season I actually predicted the Giants would be playing the Jets in the Super Bowl. I’m in a better place these days, please believe me. 

Because so much can happen between now and Week One, we’ll wait till later in the preseason to put forth a full team preview. In the meantime, preseason football! 

A lot of fans won’t be particularly interested in Friday night’s preseason opener between the Giants and the Miami Dolphins at MetLife Stadium. The game doesn’t count in the standings, the starters will probably only play about 15 snaps, and the players who will see the most action probably won’t be with the team come September. 

All reasonable reasons points — to casual fans, anyway. 

The preseason is also when hungry guys looking to make an impression are flying around the field like rabid animals (unsafe); head coaches such as Ben McAdoo are calling first down plays like, “Sterling Shepard, Hail Mary to the back pylon” (unsound); and certain fans actually gamble on the game’s outcome (insane). 

For the most part, the preseason is no time to be safe, sound or sane. It’s a time to let it rip, see what sticks and find out what’s going to work before you button things up for the regular season. 

Is it crazy to think this year’s team could be playing on the first Sunday in February? Again, we’ll dive deeper into the team’s fortunes later on, but the short answer is no, it’s not crazy. The offense is still stellar (and now hopefully adds a healthy Victor Cruz); the offensive line returns intact; and the defenseadded three studs in defensive end Olivier Vernon; defensive tackle Snacks Harrison (who will never be referred to as Damon in this space); and cornerback Janoris Jenkins. 

Can a team that typically builds through the draft win a Super Bowl by caulking its holes through free agency? I don’t know, did the Giants draft Plaxico Burress, who caught the game-winning touchdown in the team’s first victory over the Patriots in a Super Bowl? Did the Broncos draft Peyton Manning? Did the Packers draft Reggie White? 

Sure, teams like the Redskins, Eagles and Cowboys have failed repeatedly at trying to win through free agency. But that’s because their ownership groups don’t know the first thing about how to conduct a safe, sound and sane season. 

The Giants’ journey starts Friday. So say the incantation with me (and please, don’t gamble on this game).

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<![CDATA[Nassib a Stark Reminder of Life Without Eli]]> Tue, 23 Aug 2016 09:41:25 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-501383786.jpg

The Giants survived their first preseason game, losing to the Dolphins 27-10 while losing no one valuable in the process. Apparently that was the top priority for new head coach Ben McAdoo, who put Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. on ice in order to find out what backup Ryan Nassib is capable of doing against the Dolphins’ second string. 

Miami was minus Cameron Wake, Ndamukong Suh and Mario Williams, so how much can you take away from Nassib’s effort? 

A lot, actually. He was 7 for 15 with two interceptions and a lost fumble – against the backup defensive line of the Miami Dolphins. No bueno. 

The offense moved the ball well on its first series, a 74-yard touchdown drive highlighted by Sterling Shepard’s terrific 24-yard catch to set up first and goal at the 8-yard line. Beckham has been touting Shepard’s skills all preseason, and the second-round pick from Oklahoma did not disappoint. He flashed the talents that can put a very good 2015 offense over the top into a championship-contending offense in 2016. 

The defense, meanwhile, was trying to do its best impression of the Big Blue Wrecking Crew, shutting down the Dolphins’ offense with a three-and-out on its first three possessions. The newly revamped defensive line had some impressive push up front, in stark contrast to last year’s team that allowed opposing quarterbacks to bring their own Barca loungers onto the field. 

No one wants to listen to me when I say this is a Super Bowl-contender. I’m not a Giants homer; they’re not even my team. And that’s what allows me to watch them dispassionately. When they’re stupid, I acknowledge it. When they’re smart or savvy, I give them props. 

On the face of it, sitting Manning and Beckham is annoying. Fans haven’t been waiting eight months to see what Ryan Nassib can do. They want to see what a fully operational Death Star can do: they want Manning, Beckham, Jennings, Vereen and Shepard. Heck, they even want to see if Larry Donnell can make a catch without diving head first and fumbling. 

But McAdoo already knows what that unit is capable of doing. They’re capable of scoring with the Steelers of the league. Ya know, provided Manning and Beckham remain healthy. 

There’s no use getting into the weeds about the team’s opening preseason game. The offensive line looked good; the running lanes were there for Jennings and Vereen. The starting defense looked markedly better than last year’s team, which usually rolled over and asked you to scratch its belly. But the biggest takeaway is how screwed the Giants will be if future Hall of Famer Eli Manning ever goes down with an injury. 

Nassib is not terrible, but he’s not Kurt Warner in the event that Trent Green gets hurt, either. It’s fine for McAdoo to give him plenty of playing time, if only as a reminder of what is missing when Eli is not under center.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Much Has Changed Since Giants Last Faced Eagles]]> Sat, 02 Jan 2016 00:53:18 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/AP_451101506974.jpg

A lot has changed since the Giants and Eagles faced off Oct. 19. The Mets lost in the World Series, the Jets turned around their season, and the Giants and Eagles raced to see whose on-the-field play would get their coach fired first. In that regard, the Eagles come out winners.

Let’s examine what else is different between Then and Now for these two teams.

Then: The Eagles’ head coach was Chip Kelly.
Now: It’s not.

Then: The Giants were 3-2 and could very well have been undefeated if they hadn’t blown fourth-quarter leads to Dallas and Atlanta in their first two games.
Now: I am done making excuses for this terrible team.

Then: The Giants’ 27-7 loss to the Eagles was their largest margin of defeat on the season.
Now: Last week’s 49-17 drubbing at the hands of the Vikings holds the honor.

Then: The Giants and Eagles were fighting for first place in the NFC East.
Now: That team from Washington earned the honor of being the division’s sacrificial lamb in the playoffs.

Then: My prediction of a Giants-Jets Super Bowl was still viable.
Now: My prediction of the Giants watching the Jets in the Super Bowl is fresh off the grill.

Then: Tom Coughlin was the oldest coach in the league.
Now: He’s the oldest coach in the league for at least one more game.

Then: The Eagles wore all-black jerseys in a show of solidarity.
Now: The Eagles should wear all-black jerseys in memory of their 2015 season.

Then: The Eagles were the only NFC East team to never win a Super Bowl.
Now: They’re holding steady.

Then: The Giants had one of the most explosive offenses in the league.
Now: They proved against the Vikings they’re useless without Odell Beckham Jr.

Then: Damontre Moore had a disastrous roughing the passer penalty on a third-and-10 with the Giants ahead 7-0 against the Eagles.
Now: Moore is known as the guy who got cut for arguing with Cullen Jenkins about getting a free pair of headphones.

Then: The Giants’ running game was terrible.
Now: Andre Williams just ran for a half yard again.

Then: The Giants’ special teams – especially Dwayne Harris, Brad Wing and Josh Brown – were an important part of the team’s success.
Now: The team has no success.

Then: The team was anxiously awaiting the return of Jason Pierre-Paul from his devastating fireworks injury.
Now: Something has to give; he can’t come back next year and play with an oven mitt cast again.

Then: It was 2015.
Now: It’s not.

Then: The Giants’ season looked promising.
Now: It’s almost over.

Then: Tom Coughlin and general manager Jerry Reese seemed certain to return for the 2016 season.
Now: “Should old acquaintances be forget, and never brought to mind? Should old acquaintances be forget, and auld lang syne?”



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Giants Look Stuffed From Christmas in Loss to Vikings]]> Mon, 28 Dec 2015 13:21:19 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/AP820653380421_opt.jpg

Well, put a fork in the 2015 Giants, who embarrassed themselves with a 49-17 loss to the Vikings on Sunday night. In fact, put a knife in the G-men, too. And a spoon. And a soup ladle. And any other eating implements you have lying around your kitchen following this long, gut-busting Christmas weekend.

Heaven knows, I ate and drank enough to bring lethargy to a small army. And apparently the Giants were on a similar diet, as they galloped around the gridiron like so many confused animals that had been hit with tranquilizer darts.

The only thing sadder than watching the Giants get trampled under the wheels of the playoff bound Minnesota team would have been hearing a friend say on Facebook that he needed to have Eli Manning post big numbers to win the championship game of his fantasy football league.

Living in the northeast amid rabid, homer fans of all persuasions, there was a high likelihood that I might have encountered such a plea for Manning’s success on Facebook; approximately the same odds as seeing a friend re-post a “lottery ticket” that gave them a shot of winning $4.5 million from Mark Zuckerberg.

That, in a chestnut shell, was this Christmas weekend: Friends opting to announce themselves as dolts on Facebook -- on the non-chance of winning free millions -- instead of doing a little research that might have allowed them to retain the respect of their “friends.”

I have no proof, but I’m willing to bet a lot of Giants players reposted that Zuckerberg charade, too. They obviously didn’t spend the past few days devising a functional game plan against Minnesota.

This game really had it all from a failure standpoint, so let’s just go around the room and say a few words.

Eli Manning. At one point in the game, ESPN stats shared this nugget on Twitter: “Eli Manning is now 1-of-8 with three interceptions on passes more than 5 yards downfield.” That's a stat from a Pop Warner game.

Andre Williams. He ran the ball three times for 5 yards, and on one play tried to make a cutback move and was knocked down when an offensive lineman did a swim move and took out Williams with his arm. From now on, Williams should just take handoffs, yell “timber” and fall forward on every carry; he’d get just as far as he does now and not expend as much energy.

Odell Beckham Jr. Thanks to the Eagles' inability to beat Washington, your suspension had no bearing on the Giants’ inability to make the playoffs. Oh, and Julio Jones and the Falcons ended the perfect season for Josh Norman and the Panthers. So sounds like you had a nice, enjoyable day off.

J.T. Thomas III. Thomas got ejected in the fourth quarter of the game against the Vikings, an obvious makeup call for not throwing Beckham out of last week’s game. With the ejection, Thomas was unable to match his season average in missed tackles.

Jason Pierre-Paul. You need to lose the club by next season. Even a one-handed Lawrence Taylor wouldn't have succeeded in the NFL.

Tom Coughlin. I keep telling myself that most of this Giants’ Dumpster fire was not caused by Coughlin. But the team was absolutely flat against Minnesota, and that’s on him. I think he deserves to come back next year, but general manager Jerry Reese has to give him a better roster. Beckham’s absence in Sunday’s game underscored his importance, but it also highlighted how pathetic this Giants team is in so many phases of the game, particularly on defense. Speaking of which …

Steve Spagnuolo. Somebody has to lose their job following this season. If it’s not Coughlin or offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo, then it stands to reason it will be the architect of a defense that is on pace to set records for incompetence. Yes, the team has had a slew of injuries, but so have many other teams. It might not be fair, but it’s also not fair that some people are stupid enough to think Mark Zuckerberg might give them $4.5 million just for re-posting something on Facebook. These are the times we live in. 



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Do's and Dont's as the Giants Face the Vikings]]> Fri, 25 Dec 2015 15:46:01 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/460874702.jpg

The Giants visit the Vikings on Sunday night, but the complexion of their remaining season will be determined on Saturday night when the Eagles host Washington. If Washington (7-6, first place in the NFC East) loses, the 6-7 Giants remain alive in the division race. If Washington wins, New York will be eliminated from playoff contention. So the Giants find themselves in the soul-crushing position of rooting for the Eagles. Because New York has blown approximately 14 fourth quarter leads, they have no one to blame but themselves for their current quandary.

It’s odd to write a preview of a game -- Minnesota vs. New York -- that will be so impacted by a game happening a day before. If Washington wins and the Giants are eliminated, how will that affect New York’s mental, emotional and physical participation in their game against the Vikings?

It’s naive to think it will have no impact. We already know that Odell Beckham Jr. is not playing (as he was suspended for stupidity), but will other players sit out if the game becomes meaningless? Will players want to play hard in a bid to save Tom Coughlin’s job? Because it stands to reason that if the Giants miss the playoffs for the fourth year in a row, Coughlin will be fired. Perhaps that’s not fair, but this Giants team has been a colossal disappointment and many of its failures stem from late-game coaching decisions.

As the Giants and their fans prepare for these two must-win games, here are some important Do's and Don’ts.

Do: root with all your fiber for the Eagles to beat Washington.
Don’t: feel like you need to take a shower afterwards.

Do: remember that the Vikings need to win to clinch a playoff spot.
Don’t: forget that Minnesota’s last four losses have been to playoff-bound teams (Green Bay, Denver, Seattle and Arizona).

Do: look for Rueben Randle to step up in Beckham’s absence.
Don’t: expect the Giants to sign the free-agent-to-be in the offseason.

Do: expect Adrian Peterson to challenge his own NFL record for rushing yards in a game (296)
Don’t: drive yourself crazy counting the number of times Jason Pierre-Paul misses a tackle because of his oven mitt cast.

Do: be glad you’re watching the Minnesota game on television, as it’s supposed to 17 degrees at game time.
Don’t: be surprised if Bob Costas dedicates his halftime sermon to Beckham’s antics in last week’s game.

Do: hope that Rashad Jennings (107 yards against Carolina last week) will be an important part of the offense again this week.
Don’t: forget, this is a Ben McAdoo offense, so who knows what the Giants will do.

Do: welcome back safety Brandon Meriweather.
Don’t: worry, he’ll make his presence known with at least one penalty.

Do: you know that before last week’s four-touchdown game, Teddy Bridgewater had only nine touchdown passes and eight interceptions this season?
Don’t: assume he can’t light up the Giants; their pass defense is terrible. 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Takeaways From Odell Beckham Jr.'s Worst NFL Game]]> Mon, 21 Dec 2015 12:10:03 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Panthers-Giants-AP_410421973022.jpg

Suffice it to say that Sunday’s game against the Panthers was the worst outing in Odell Beckham Jr.’s short, meteoric career. Beckham was held without a reception in the first half for the first time in his career, and dropped a sure 52-yard touchdown pass after he got past the league’s top cornerback, Josh Norman.

Oh, and he embarrassed himself, his team, the league and Head and Shoulders users everywhere by losing his composure and repeatedly going after Norman to the tune of four penalties. Count ‘em, four. Against a wide receiver. In a game his team nearly won after being down 35-7.

How ridiculous were Beckham’s actions? Randy Moss -- who once squirted a water bottle at a referee -- said on Fox Sports 1 that he couldn’t defend Beckham’s actions.

If you’ve lost Randy Moss, well, you’re beyond the pale.

What’s unfortunate is that Beckham’s actions -- including a blind side helmet-to-helmet hit on Norman -- completely overshadowed a tremendous team effort by the Giants, who matched an NFL record by coming back from a 28-point deficit against the undefeated Panthers.

Beckham was responsible for almost all of the worst parts of Sunday’s loss, which dropped the Giants to 6-8 and one game behind Washington in the NFC East with two games to play. But let’s give just due to the best parts, too.

Best pass deflection with an oven mitt: Jason Pierre-Paul knocked down a key third down pass by Cam Newton late in the fourth quarter.

Best hands in the Giants’ defensive backfield: Don’t belong to Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who dropped a surefire pick-six.

Best rushing game of the season by Rashad Jennings: 107 yards on the ground.

Best to also note: Jennings fumbled once, and the Panthers converted that turnover into seven points.

Best receiving tight end in the NFL not named Gronkowski: Probably Greg Olsen, who had six catches for 79 yards and a touchdown against the Giants.

Best current football person named Ted Ginn: Ted Ginn Jr., who caught six passes for 85 yards and two touchdowns.

Best hands among people named Ted Ginn: Not Ted Ginn Jr., who leads the NFL with 10 dropped passes.

Best record in the NFL: Panthers (14-0).

Best believe the other teams took notice: Carolina almost choked away that game to the Giants.

Best candidate for NFL MVP: Cam Newton, who was 25 of 45 for 340 yards and five touchdowns against New York and also ran eight times for 100 yards.

Best word for that: Ridiculous.

Best draft a lot of defensive players, Jerry Reese: Once again the Giants’ D was a pushover late in the game and allowed Carolina to move into position for the game-winning field goal.

Best opportunity for the Giants to make the playoffs: Pretty much evaporated Sunday.

Best check that he’s awake: Was Tom Coughlin watching Sunday's game? If so, he might have taken a moment to speak to the shampoo spokesman who was killing his team with idiotic behavior.

Best check that he’s awake, too: Was Eli Manning watching the game? If so, he might have shown some leadership and told Beckham to cut the crap.

Best check the mail, Odell: You can expect a letter from the NFL explaining where you can mail your heavy fine.

Best believe I’m going to end it on that note: Because the league’s best young player killed his team by exhibiting the worst kind of behavior. 



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Giants Face the Fantasy and Reality of Undefeated Panthers]]> Fri, 18 Dec 2015 10:37:36 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-501240874.jpg

This Sunday the first place Giants host the undefeated Panthers, a team that seems to be underappreciated in reality because of its status in fantasy. Sure, most everyone has long appreciated Cam Newton for his dual threat potential, but he wasn’t drafted in my fantasy league until the ninth round -- as a backup to Aaron Rodgers. The rest of the Panthers’ skill position players were no one’s first choices at their respective positions.

I selected Jonathan Stewart with the ninth pick of the third round in a 12-team league: 33rd overall and the 17th running back off the board. The next Panthers player selected was Greg Olsen in the fifth round, followed by Ted Ginn Jr. in the 13th round, the same round as the Panthers defense.

If you’d told me I had to play a season with two Panther skill position players on my fantasy team, I would have prayed to the ghost of 2005 Steve Smith and stopped setting my league roster before the first bye weeks.

And if you’d told me that one of our league owners would be playing in the semifinals of my fantasy league this week -- thanks largely to Ted Ginn Jr. and Greg Olsen -- I would have told you it was a helluva week to stop sniffing glue.

And yet here we are in Week 15, with an undefeated Panthers team loaded with valuable fantasy contributors, both on offense and defense, and that aforementioned fantasy team riding high on the backs of Ginn and Olsen (and, ya know, Tom Brady and Adrian Peterson).

Here’s what to look for and what not to look for in this pivotal late-season game between Carolina and the 6-7 Giants, who are tied with Philadelphia and Washington atop the NFC East.

Look for: the Giants to get Odell Beckham Jr. involved early in his matchup against the NFL’s top cornerback, Josh Norman.

Don’t look for: Beckham to have a better game than he did last week against the Dolphins.

Look for: the TV announcers to mention that the Giants have a history of taking down undefeated teams.

Don’t look for: the producers to cut to a smiling Rodney Harrison.

Look for: the Giants to once again ride with their four-man rotation of running backs.

Don’t look for: Andre Williams to average more than 1-yard per carry.

 

Look for: Carolina to add to its NFL-leading 33 forced turnovers.

Don’t look for: Orleans Darkwa to cough up the ball, as he won’t get enough opportunities to do anything at all.

Look for: Eli Manning to look for tight end Will Tye over the middle.

Don’t look for: Panthers All-Pro linebacker Luke Kuechly (four interceptions) to let many of those passes succeed.

Look for: Manning to get the ball out quickly to avoid Carolina’s impressive, multifaceted pass rush, featuring Kawann Short (9 sacks), Thomas Davis (5.5) Kony Ealy (5) and Mario Addison (5).

Don’t look for: Giants offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo to offset the rush by calling for a lot of screens to Shane Vereen, as that would make too much sense.

Look for: Carolina to possibly add to its four pick sixes.

Don’t look for: Jason Pierre-Paul to catch a pick six.

Look for: the Panthers to lean on a backfield trio of Fozzy Whitaker, Mike Tolbert and Cameron Artis-Payne with Stewart out with an ankle injury.

Don’t look for: me to know which one of them would be the best fantasy start; I got knocked out of the playoffs last week because Giants kicker Josh Brown couldn’t get me 50 points on Monday night.

Look for: Newton to score a touchdown and perform some preening dance that will annoy a large segment of the viewing public

Don’t look for: a similar look of annoyance on the face of the child who receives a touchdown ball from Newton.

Look for: the Giants to miss about 1,234 tackles.

Don’t look for: linebacker Devon Kennard to contribute to those failures, as he’s out with an injury again.

Look for: Rueben Randle to step up again as the Giants’ second-best option after Beckham.

Don’t look for: the Giants to run the ball with the same late success as they did against the woeful Dolphins.

Look for: the Giants to build on the confidence garnered from keeping and maintaining the lead against Miami in the fourth quarter of last week’s game.

Don’t look for: Carolina to be undefeated after this week.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Giants Save Season, Exorcise 4th Quarter Demons in Beating Miami]]> Tue, 15 Dec 2015 12:08:01 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/GIANTSAP_958975782322.jpg

Monday night’s Giants game had almost everything we’ve come to expect from this team in 2015. A quick strike offense centered around the breathtaking plays of Odell Beckham Jr.? Check. The consistent ability of Andre Williams to run 1 yard right into the butt of an offensive lineman? Check. Big plays by the Giants defense that has helped the team to the third-best turnover differential in the league? Check. Ghastly tackling by Giants defenders at all three levels that turn potential tackles for losses into huge gains? Check.

Really, this game was like a yearbook for their whole season -- until the team got to graduation and went against script. Until then, this game was a microcosm of the 2015 Giants.

A questionable challenge call by Tom Coughlin? Check. A maddening unwillingness to commit to one running back among Rashad Jennings, Williams, Shane Vereen and Orleans Darkwa? Check. A persistent need to blitz to protect a woeful secondary? Check. A fourth-quarter lead that was coughed away by questionable clock management, stupid play calls and mental errors?

Uncheck!

After blowing an NFL-leading five fourth-quarter leads this season -- and along the way becoming pioneers in new, creative ways to lose a game late -- the Giants finally flipped the script and held on to a late lead against the Dolphins on the road, winning 31-24 to save their season and maintain pace with Philadelphia and Washington atop the NFC East.

For a team that had to exorcise a season’s worth of fourth-quarter demons, the now 6-7 Giants couldn’t have scripted a better confidence-building conclusion to Monday’s game.

Ahead by seven points with 5:50 left, the Giants’ defense took the field and everyone expected the Dolphins would look toward Jarvis Landry, who set the NFL record for most lost shoes during Monday’s game.

On first down, Ryan Tannehill did look Landry’s way, but the pass fell incomplete. A frustrated Landry pulled a page from the Giants’ 2015 yearbook when he became frustrated and tossed down Trevin Wade to earn a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty.

Two plays later, on 3-and-11, Tannehill escaped pressure and stepped up in the pocket and threw toward Landry over the top just as he escaped safety coverage. A team with better fortunes than the 2015 Miami Dolphins -- basically the AFC equivalent of the most mediocre team in the NFC, the Giants -- would have completed that play for a game-tying touchdown.

Instead the pass fell incomplete, forcing the Dolphins to punt with 4:52 remaining. The Giants’ offense would now have to do their part to close out the game. If you opened your window on this unseasonably warm night, you could hear the collective lament carrying on the breeze from the homes of fans across the New York tri-state area: “Here we go (bleeping) again.”

On first down, Manning threw an 8-yard out to Beckham who -- gah! -- stepped out of bounds to stop the clock, allowing the Dolphins to save their two timeouts. ESPN announcers Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden made no mention of this, which surprised no one. Like the 2015 Giants, they were filling their well-established roles.

On 2nd-and-2, Jennings ran for no gain. Sigh.

On 3rd-and-2 with 3:56 left, I would have sworn the Giants’ were going to call for quick slant, and that the Dolphins would pick it off and take it back to the house for a game-tying touchdown, because that’s what happens when you can’t trust your running game to get tough yards late.

Luckily for the Giants, Miami has the second-worst rush defense in the NFL. On 3rd-and-2, they handed off to Jennings who shocked the northeast by converting with a 3-yard run. In fact, the Giants turned to him on three of the next four plays -- but the game was still not put away.

On 3rd-and-3 at the Miami 48-yard line, with two minutes remaining and the Dolphins out of timeouts, the Giants saved their season. Knowing his defense can’t stop anyone, Tom Coughlin went for the kill shot. Instead of being conservative and running the ball, which would ostensibly take the clock down to almost one minute before punting to the Dolphins in the hopes of pinning them deep, Coughlin decided to play to win (“What a novel concept!) and called for a quick out to Beckham.

Eli Manning, who had as many touchdown passes as incompletions in a terrific game (27 of 31 for 337 yards), threw low and to the outside and Beckham went down and got it. First down. Game essentially over.

For a team that’s made headlines repeatedly for its fourth-quarter implosions, the first-place Giants won late -- in a fashion that will bring confidence to its offense, defense and coaching in the last three games.

The Giants are still alive in the NFC playoff picture, and they did it – finally! – by going off script. 



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Giants Need to Be 'Stellar' Down the Stretch]]> Mon, 14 Dec 2015 12:25:07 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Tom+Coughlin+black+stripe.JPG

We’ve now reached the final quarter of the NFL season, the last four games when many teams are riding the razor’s edge between playoff hopeful and planning for next year.

The Giants and Dolphins are both 5-7, but their postseason aspirations are wildly divergent. The Giants, by dint of playing in the woeful NFC East, can maintain pace with Washington and Philadelphia (both 6-7) for first place in the division by winning this game. The Dolphins, on the other hand, are five and a half games behind New England in the AFC East and only have a slim chance of grabbing a Wild Card spot.

Considering the remaining games on the Giants schedule (Panthers, Vikings, Eagles, all at home), this last road contest of the year is a must-win for New York. You can’t lose in December to a middling Dolphins team and retain any aspirations of playing meaningful football in January. Well, you could, but you’d have to be one of those preternaturally optimistic people who watched all of “Interstellar," waiting for it to stop wasting your time and really get good.

(Spoiler alert: It doesn’t. It’s 2.5 hours of beautiful cinematography, but Christopher Nolan should stick to spinning yarns about spinning tops. And he should drop an hour from the director’s cut.)

That’s sort of how I feel about this Giants season: It’s been beautiful to watch at times, but the team should really petition the NFL rules committee to see if games can be shortened to three quarters next year.

Big Blue has suffered five fourth-quarter collapses, thanks largely to the team’s woeful clock management. Maybe if Matthew McConaughey had given Tom Coughlin a wrist watch -- just as McConaughey gave one to his daughter in “Interstellar” -- Coughlin might have a better grasp of the passage of time and how it can affect things.

If Coughlin boned up on the theory of relativity and time travel, he might be able to affect some of the following things from the Past, Present and Future.

Past: Go back to last week’s game against the Jets and go for it on fourth-and-short instead of kicking a field goal to go up 10-0. Coughlin got eviscerated for not kicking a field goal with just under nine minutes left in the game, which would have put the Giants up by 13 and forced the Jets to score two touchdowns to win. But the mistake was not going for it both times, because this Giants defense can’t stop anyone, so the offense needs to be greedy at all times.

Present: Don’t let Ryan Tannehill beat you. The Giants are last in the NFL in passing defense, but Miami does not have a good passing offense. Regardless of how much people are trying to play up this game as a matchup between Odell Beckham Jr. and his former LSU teammate Jarvis Landry, Beckham is on a different level altogether. Landry is largely a slot guy, which means he’ll probably be matched up against the Giants’ safeties. (Gulp.) OK, coach, maybe you should throw some extra attention Landry’s way.

Future: If the Giants win, they’ll have some momentum going into next week’s game against the undefeated Panthers. For some reason, the Giants always do well against undefeated teams; it’s the defeated ones that usually give them fits.

Past: Maybe do a better job looking into former defensive end Damontre Moore, who was cut this week after getting into an argument with Cullen Jenkins because Jenkins reportedly took an extra pair of free headphones (courtesy of Beckham) and left Moore with none. Moore, who also reportedly got in a shouting match with Coughlin and general manager Jerry Reese in advance of getting pink slipped, was the player most likely to do something stupid on third and long (like rough the passer) to keep an opponent’s drive alive. Here’s hoping someone in his family gives him a nice pair of Beats for Christmas.

Present: The Giants have rushed for more than 100 yards just twice this year. For the love of all things holy, please hand the ball off to Orleans Darkwa, and somewhere in the neighborhood of 50-100 times. Just once, please, see what can happen when you feed the Darkwa. Will this possibly offend Rueben Randle, who doesn’t think his shaky hands have been involved enough on offense? Let’s hope so.

Future: Of the three teams vying for the NFC East, um, crown, the Giants have the easiest remaining schedule, if only because their last three games are at home. This is the Eagles' schedule: Cardinals, Washington, @Giants. And this is Washington’s: Bills, @Eagles, @Cowboys.

For the Giants to go 3-1 in their last four -- losing to Carolina -- they’re going to have to beat the Eagles in the last game. Possible? Certainly. Will the game be memorable and exasperating? These are the 2015 Giants, so what do you think?

Who knows, maybe there will be another Miracle in the Meadowlands. Ya know, like the Giants actually executing proper time management.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Giants Blow Another Fourth-Quarter Lead and Fall to Jets]]> Mon, 07 Dec 2015 10:49:24 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Eli-manning-giants-ny.jpg

I’m normally a half-glass-full kind of person who tries to focus on the possible good even when things are at their most bleak. But after watching the Giants blow their record-tying fifth fourth quarter lead in Sunday’s 23-20 overtime loss to the Jets, I’m not in a generous mood. I have never seen a halfway decent team come up with so many different ways to blow a game down the stretch. The Giants are losing savants, charting previously unexplored routes to fail city.

Every facet of the team – offense, defense, special teams and coaching – contributed vital incompetence in the loss to Gang Green, dropping the Giants to 5-7 and a half game behind Washington for least incompetent team in the NFC East.

Let’s discuss the failures of the respective areas of the team.

Special teams
Giants placekicker Josh Brown has been outstanding this season and is probably headed to the Pro Bowl in the NFC. Unfortunately the game ended when Brown hooked a potential game-tying 48-yard field goal in overtime, his first miss of the season. As first-time misses go, it’s not on par with Gary Anderson shanking a 38-yard field for the Vikings in the 1998 NFC Championship Game, which gave us a Super Bowl featuring Atlanta quarterback Chris Chandler. But Brown could have picked a better spot to miss his first kick. Like, say, with just under nine minutes left and the Giants ahead 20-10 and facing a fourth and 2 on the Jets goal line?

Coaching
People are giving Coughlin a lot of grief for going for it in that aforementioned situation, but his mistake in my eyes was not going for it in a similar spot earlier in the game when the Giants were ahead 7-0, instead opting for a 20-yard field goal. The Giants’ last-ranked defense has proven it can’t stop anyone, allowing Ryan Fitzpatrick to throw for 390 yards Sunday. Coughlin’s mistake was in waiting so late in the game to demonstrate his lack of confidence in his defense. On fourth and short near the opponent’s goal line, they should be going for it just about every time. And certainly when they had the opportunity to go up by 17 points halfway through the fourth quarter. Their best defense is their offense, so leave the offense on the field as much as possible.

Meanwhile, what was with that bird-brained challenge earlier in the game, all over 2 yards? The Jets already had the first down and the spot of the ball was relatively meaningless. It's instances like that --- more than going for it on fourth down and short -- that spur whispers about Coughlin's competence.

Offense
The Giants had four running backs -- Orleans Darkwa, Rashad Jennings, Shane Vereen and Andre Williams -- who carried more than four times but fewer than nine in Sunday's loss. How are any of them supposed to get into the flow of the game when you're swapping them out like relief pitchers on a team managed by Tony LaRussa? Darkwa is the guy. He is the most explosive back on the team and should be on the field at least on every first and second down, with Vereen in the mix on third down. Jennings and Williams have proven time and again that they're not the answer, so why keep running them out there?

Defense
This particular glass is empty, shattered and should be swept into a dustbin. This defense simply can't stop anyone when it matters most. Sure, they're opportunistic and occasionally make big plays. But countless underneath routes turn into big plays because of their lackluster tackling.

Overall
The Giants have now lost three games in a row. Whatever confidence they might have had in taking the Patriots the distance a few weeks ago has evaporated. Even if this team ekes past the rest of the NFC East, they're probably going to host Seattle in the NFC Wild Card game, and that's going to be ugly.

Big Black and Blue plays Miami next week on Monday Night Football, an opportunity for the nation to once again see the wildly flawed mediocrity that is the 2015 New York Giants, the NFL's losing savants. 

]]>
<![CDATA[Giants Face Jets in Possible Super Bowl Preview]]> Fri, 04 Dec 2015 12:48:15 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/eli+manning+flex.jpg

One month ago, I said the Giants were the most mediocre team in the NFL. The team was 4-4 overall, 2-2 in the NFC East, and had a point differential of plus–seven, which was the closest of any NFC team to net zero. They were last in the NFL in sacks, but tied for first in interceptions. They were leading the NFL in turnover margin, but only a fool would bet on them to win any particular game.

So what has changed with this team? Not much. I still think they’re the most mediocre team in the NFL, equally capable of going 12 rounds with the mighty Patriots or playing down to the level of that pathetic franchise in Washington. But their mediocrity is emblematic of the entire 2015 NFL season. We’re three-fourths of the way through the season, and if the playoffs started today the Texans, Chiefs, Colts, Vikings and Redskins would all be in the tournament.

Can you envision any of those teams winning the Super Bowl? Of course not, but that’s what happens when the two teams I picked for the Super Bowl -- the Giants and the Jets -- are inconsistent and unpredictable.

People thought I was huffing paint when I said the co-occupants of MetLife Stadium were my picks for the Super Bowl. But these two teams gave the Patriots the two biggest challenges all year prior to the Julian Edelman injury. The biggest reason why? They both have quarterbacks who are brave enough to attempt big plays, with the skill position players to make that audacity reap benefits. A healthy Patriots team is not going to be held in check on offense, so you need to match them on the scoreboard, hope for some turnovers, and see where the chips fall.

If Edelman or Rob Gronkowski happen to be injured, that also improves your chances.

Edelman and Gronkowski are both expected to be back for the playoffs. You think teams led by Brian Hoyer, Alex Smith, Matt Hasselbeck (or maybe the ghost of Andrew Luck), Teddy Bridgewater or Kirk Cousins have a snowball’s chance in Hades versus the Patriots in the playoffs? Hades no! It’s going to take a bang-or-bust cauldron of mediocrity like the Giants, Jets, Steelers or Broncos to take down a healthy Pats team. The Giants and Jets face off this Sunday, and I’m confident in saying that no outcome in this game would surprise me.

Jets 42, Giants 3? Sure, I could see Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing for six touchdowns (three each to Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker).

Giants 24, Jets 0? Sure, I could see Josh Brown kicking eight field goals as the Giants’ offense stalls in the red zone all afternoon.

Jets 0, Giants 0. If any two teams could find a way to end a game in a scoreless tie, it’d be these two squads.

Honestly, the unknown and the unpredictable are some of the most enjoyable aspects to the Tom Coughlin-Eli Manning era. These two guys have won two Super Bowls, are both heading to Canton when their careers are over, and are staring down the real possibility of missing the playoffs for the fourth year in a row.

The Giants are 5-6 and tied atop the NFC Least with that team from Washington. The Jets are 6-5 and right in the thick of the AFC wild card race with half of the conference. Which team needs to win this more? I’d say the Jets, as the Giants could probably go 6-10 and still win their pathetic division.

Will they go 6-10? Will they win the division? Who knows. The only thing I know is that my preseason Super Bowl prediction is still in play and that Sunday’s game could be a preview. Crazy? No more crazy than this NFL season has been.
 



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Giants Lose to Pats in Season's Best Game to Date]]> Mon, 16 Nov 2015 11:33:23 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/beckham8.jpg

If you’re a fan of great football, what more could you want from the Patriots’ 27-26 victory over the Giants? Sure, it would have been even better to see New York hold on to win (especially if you’re a Giants fan or, like, me a Patriots-hater).

But from an entertainment standpoint, this regular-season contest had it all, including numerous lead changes, devastating injuries, terrific plays, stupid plays, missed plays, over-officiating, under-officiating, overturned plays and -- this being a Giants game -- a fourth-quarter meltdown that hinged upon woeful clock management.

Because it was a close game that ended as time expired, everyone will tend to focus on the plays that happened from 2:01 on down, i.e., after Odell Beckham Jr.’s touchdown catch was overturned. If you do that, you’ll miss all the great back and forth in a game that seemed to be a mismatch on paper.

Endings are great and all, but an ending is only memorable if the lead-up allows it to be. Here’s what the lead-up included:

1. The Giants win the coin toss and elect to defer. Anyone who watches the Patriots knows this must have burned Belichick’s britches, as the Patriots coach loves to defer himself when he wins the toss. Why? Because usually it allows his team to have back-to-back possessions bridging halftime. The ever humorless Phil Simms said it was crazy to give the ball to Tom Brady first, with Simms providing his ever-nuanced opinion that if he were the opposing team he would never want to see Tom Brady on the field. Yes, Phil Simms is the kid who used to take his ball and go home.

2. The Patriots’ opening drive lasted more than eight minutes and involved several third-down conversions by New England. As soon as Brady found Scott Chandler for the touchdown to complete a seemingly perfect drive, I thought to myself, “That’s the kind of opening drive you’d see in a classic Super Bowl.”

3. Unlike the slow and methodical Patriots, whose best deep threat is a tight end, the Giants wasted no time tying up the score when Odell Beckham Jr. caught a ball behind Malcolm Butler and streaked past the bad-angling Pats safety Devin McCourty to tie the score 7-7. This, in a nutshell, is why the Patriots are susceptible to quick-strike teams like the Giants and the Steelers. New England’s best deep threat wide receiver is Brandon LaFell, who is only a deep threat when players like Jayron Housley try to intercept passes by putting their arms out like they’re bear-hugging a sequoia.

4. The importance of the loss of Julian Edelman can’t be overstated. The guy is an All-Pro gnat and Brady’s favorite safety valve, and it’s no coincidence that the Patriots’ offense sputtered after he went down near the end of the first quarter with a broken bone in his foot. Early reports indicate he might be back in time for the rematch between these two teams. See below.

5. People on social media were killing the Giants for their late-game clock management, but let’s also give them credit for consistently being aggressive on offense, including the fade route touchdown pass to Dwayne Harris (who dragged his second foot successfully) at the end of the first half to put the Giants up 17-10. Harris was once again right in the middle of the good, bad and ugly in this game, and has been a vital difference-maker as a free-agent pickup from the Cowboys.

6. Up 20-10 with 3:29 left in the third quarter, the Giants punted, with Brad Wing booming a ball all the way back to the Patriots’ 11-yard line -- where New England punt returner Danny Amendola either called for a fair catch that wasn’t recognized by officials or was using the age-old trick of waving his arm to keep himself from falling off an imaginary cliff. Harris, a special teams ace, too, seemed to think he had called for a fair catch, as he went past Amendola to try to down any ball that potentially hit the ground and rolled toward the Pats’ end zone. Instead Amendola ran it back and -- thanks to several de-cleating blocks by the Patriots’ return team – almost brought it to the house before he was tripped up by his own player. That trip could have been more memorable, but the Patriots ended up scoring a touchdown, so it’s largely an afterthought.

7. Up 23-17 at the beginning of the fourth quarter, the Giants’ pass rush -- yes, they actually have one now, thanks in large part to the return of Jason Pierre-Paul -- sacked Brady, forced a fumble and recovered the ball at the Patriots’ 30-yard line. The Giants are now already in field goal position for Josh Brown, who might have been the lone Giant to play an unblemished game. Instead the drive goes backward due in part to a sack of Manning and the Giants have to punt. That’s just brutal -- to have the ball and the potential to go ahead by two scores in the fourth quarter and come away with nothing.

8. Again, the Patriots’ downfield passing game basically involves throwing to Gronk along the seams, which everyone knows. Somehow that doesn’t keep Giants’ safety Craig Dahl from taking a bad angle and letting Gronkowski, who is more or less the size of Battery Park, slip past him for the go-ahead touchdown on the Patriots’ ensuing drive.

9. So, time check -- there’s 11:33 left in the game, a full nine and a half minutes before the Beckham play, and it’s a one-point game. Even if you got called away on an emergency, you’ve seen a great game already. Sure, you’d miss the end of the game – when Harris inexplicably caught a pass from Manning with just over two minutes to play and ran out of bounds to stop the clock. And you’d miss Beckham not securing the go-ahead touchdown pass that would have given the Giants a 29-24 lead and the opportunity to go for two and be up a touchdown. And you would have missed Housley not intercepting that pass to LaFell. And you would have missed Landon Collins not clinching the game when he dropped an easy interception on the first down of the last drive. And you would have missed the Patriots converting a fourth-and-10 play to keep the drive alive, when Brady found another gnat, Amendola, right near the first-down marker. And you would have missed Amendola later catching a ball between the hash marks and turning up field to get the Patriots in range for Stephen Gostkowski’s 54-yard game-winning field goal.

10. Yeah, you would have missed all that if you checked out after Gronk’s go-ahead touchdown with 11:33 left. But you still would have seen a great game. Unfortunately you wouldn’t have seen the entirety of the greatest regular-season game so far this season -- and maybe, just maybe, a preview of Super Bowl 50.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Giants Are Most Mediocre Team in NFL]]> Thu, 05 Nov 2015 11:26:02 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-455434102.jpg

With eight weeks of the NFL season now in the books, we’re approaching the midway point of the NFL season -- which, because of a 17-week season, basically falls in the middle of this week. If mile-marker 8.5 is similar to the equinox, you might be able to balance an egg or something of similar shape, like a football. Roger Goodell is planning to mark the occasion by balancing on his head.

Many football observers use the midway point of the season to make note of the teams and players who are playing exceptionally well or exceedingly bad. The winners! The losers! The overrated! The underrated! The players in the MVP discussion! The coaches most likely to get fired and become ESPN commentators!

But when you focus all your energy on the extreme poles of success and failure, you overlook the wide tundra of mediocrity -- the vast expanse of gray where legions of players, coaches and owners toil away in relative obscurity. In short, the domain of the 2015 New York Giants, the most mediocre team in the NFL.

At 4-4 overall and 2-2 in the NFC East, Big Blue is the embodiment of mediocre. They've scored 215 points and allowed 208 points, a plus-seven that is the closest of any NFC team to net zero.

They're dead last in the NFL in total defense, allowing 427.7 yards per game, but somehow they're also leading the NFL in turnover margin at +11. They're last in the NFL in sacks with nine, but tied for first in the NFL in interceptions (13).

Only a perfectly mediocre team could pull all that off.

Eli Manning is having a career year with 17 touchdown passes, only four interceptions and a passer rating of 99.9. But with a running game that's 27th in the NFL, the Giants have an overall offense that is only middle of the road, ranked 14th.

The G-Men are the most blatantly flawed good team in the NFL. Who else could score 49 points on the road behind a quarterback who threw six touchdowns and no interceptions -- and still lose?

So what does this week's game against the 3-4 Buccaneers and rookie quarterback Jameis Winston bring? It brings an opportunity for the Giants to prove that they can beat an almost equally mediocre team.

The Bucs, Saints and Giants all basically subscribe to the same defensive philosophy: "We hope our offense scores a lot."

Tampa Bay allows 28.4 points per game, which is 28th in the NFL. They're middle of the pack in sacks (ranked 16 with 17 QB take-downs) and they've got the second fewest INTs in the league (four). But they're tied for second in forced fumbles (12) and they lead the league in recoveries (nine).

Thanks to the renaissance of running back Doug Martin, the Bucs are fourth in the NFL in rushing. With wide receivers Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans, they also have the weapons to throw down the field against the Giants, which can be said of all 128 schools in the FBS, as well.

Winston has not thrown an interception in his last four contests, and his team has won two of its last three games. After pulling out a 23-20 victory on the road against Atlanta last week, the team is definitely feeling all warm and fuzzy inside, which is why it's imperative that the Giants once again have the services of four players who've been injured: Jason Pierre-Paul, Prince Amukamara, Jon Beason and Orleans Darkwa.

It's simple, really: Pierre-Paul can make a dreadful pass rush into something more respectable, i.e, mediocre.

Amukamara can make a dreadful pass defense into something more respectable, i.e., you know where I'm going with this.

Beason can make a linebacker corps into something more respectable, i.e.., there's a theme emerging here.

And Darkwa can make an offense that is too pass-reliant into something less predictable.

The Giants already have a lot of great parts in place. These four players can help make the league's most mediocre team into something more than middling.  



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Manning Nearly Flawless, But Giants Still Lose to Saints]]> Mon, 02 Nov 2015 11:14:47 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-495258434.jpg

The Saints’ 52-49 victory over the Giants on Sunday was the most predictable outcome in North American sports history. Anyone with a fully developed medulla oblongata knew that both teams feature high-scoring offenses and that both teams feature defense coordinators who like to flaunt red matador capes and shout “ole!”

Anyone who has watched this year’s Giants in the fourth quarter of close games also knew Big Blue would do something memorable to lose the game. They did not disappoint.

This record-setting game featured a lot of amazing plays, insanity and ineptitude, so let’s pay our respects to the Hero, Nero and Zero.

Hero: Eli Manning

What? You expected the honor to go to Drew Brees for his record-tying seven touchdown passes? Nyet.

Granted, Brees had a great game, what with 511 yards passing and those ridiculous TD pass totals. But he also threw one interception and also threw a hospital pass to Willie Snead that was basically an INT, but which was called a fumble when Snead was jacked by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Trumain McBride brought it back for a touchdown. Brees also had another TD pass that somehow floated in between double coverage near the goal line and should have been picked.

Manning, meanwhile, threw six touchdown passes himself, and was 30 of 41 for 350 yards — and no interceptions. If the Giants had some semblance of a defense — ya know, other than team dunce Damontre Moore running with his head down into the quarterback for 15-yard penalties — people would be talking about Eli as an MVP candidate. He’s having the best season of his career, and on Sunday converted two fourth downs for touchdowns.

It’s not his fault the team’s defense couldn’t cover a cracker with a tub full of cream cheese.

Nero: Tom Coughlin

We love Brad Wing, who has been a dynamite acquisition and has regularly pinned the opposition deep with his surgical punts. So it was astonishing to see him kick the ball in bounds at the end of yesterday’s game. Sure, the Giants missed two tackles right after Saints’ punt returner Willie Snead caught the ball, but why would you even give him the chance to run the ball back? Do the Giants not realize their long, distinguished history of end-of-game punting situations?

Coach Tom Coughlin said they were going for distance, and that you couldn’t predict the missed tackles or the questionable facemask penalty on Wing, who was himself being shoved in the face on the tackle. But that’s the whole point: so many things can go wrong on a punt return, especially on the road, that it seems imperative to sacrifice distance in order to kick the ball out of bounds.

Every Giants fan over the age of two months old knew that something was about to go wrong when Wing dropped back to punt with 20 second left in regulation.

Zero: Teams better than the Giants in NFC East

Despite the crushing loss to New Orleans, the 4-4 Giants remain alone in first place, one win better than both the Eagles and Washington (both 3-4), who were on bye this week.

The Giants did a lot of good things in the game against the Saints. New Orleans native Odell Beckham Jr. had three touchdown catches, and even honored Michael Jackson with one post-score celebratory dance.

Wing averaged 40.5 yards on punts and celebrated one great kick by mimicking a golfer who has landed a great chip shot.

And Coughlin admitted that his team closes games about as well as the Mets.

OK, fine, he didn’t cop to that, but he didn’t need to because everyone knows it. This Giants team is talented and exciting — and blatantly flawed. Perhaps the returns of Jason Pierre-Paul, Prince Amukamara and Jon Beason will help down the stretch. Until then, they need Manning to continue to play flawlessly just to have a chance.
 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Giants Will Hopefully Turn to Darkwa in New Orleans]]> Fri, 30 Oct 2015 10:03:15 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/AP_744485021078.jpg

A reasonable preview of Sunday’s game between the Giants and Saints will make quick work of describing the teams’ most basic similarities: they can both score on anyone, and anyone can score on them.

The Giants’ defense is ranked 29th, just ahead of the 30th-ranked Saints. The passing defenses of both teams are allowing more than 400 yards per game. In Eli Manning and Drew Brees, both teams have future Hall of Fame quarterbacks who can’t always rely on their running games. So if you’re a fantasy owner and you have a wide receiver on either of these teams -- be it Rueben Randle, Dwayne Harris, Phil McConkey, whomever -- you’d be wise to start them this week because common sense says this game in New Orleans is going to be a high-scoring contest.

Of course, common sense usually takes a back seat in most Giants games, as we saw last week when the Cowboys ran for 233 yards, dominated the time of possession, held Manning under 200 yards passing with no touchdown passes, and still lost to New York 27-20 -- thanks to the charity work of Dallas fill-in mannequin Matt Cassel (three interceptions), a pick six from Dominique Rodgers Cromartie and a 100-yard kickoff return touchdown by Dwayne Harris, which so enraged Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy that he slapped a clipboard out of the hands of special teams coach Rich Bisaccia.

Crazy? You betcha. The Saints don’t currently employ anyone as fated for prison as Hardy, but Sunday’s game should be nuts, if for no other reason than it’s taking place in New Orleans on the day after Halloween, i.e., All Saints Day.

The Saints’ offense leads the NFL with 32 plays of over 20 yards. Meanwhile, the Giants rank near the bottom of the league (28th) in so-call “big plays,” which is a run of more than 10 yards or a pass of more than 25 yards. Considering the Giants just realized last week that Orleans Darkwa is their best big-play running option, this low ranking shouldn’t be that surprising. If they can balance the big-play, over-the-top threat of Odell Beckham Jr. with the between the tackles potential of Darkwa, the Giants might have the kind of offense that could give fits to any defense – even that of their opponent in two weeks, New England.

Is that looking too far ahead? Of course. The landscape of the NFL shifts on tectonic plates every week, and this week’s darling can just as quickly be next week’s afterthought. But the Giants had success in all three phases of the game last week against Dallas. And sure, luck played a part, but luck counts, too. The Giants have been lucky for years to have a quarterback who never gets hurt. They’ve been lucky to have an ownership group that doesn’t panic when things look bleak. And they’ve been lucky that so many teams passed on Beckham in the 2014 draft.

They’ve also been unlucky. For instance, how many teams slap a franchise tag on a player and then have that guy blow off his thumb in a fireworks accident? The number has to be low.

Jason Pierre-Paul returned to the team this week and should be able to return to the field in a few weeks – about the same time as the first-place Giants are expecting to once again receive the services of cornerback Prince Amukamara and slot receiver Victor Cruz.

Just kidding, no one has any clue when Cruz is going to return. If the Giants are lucky, they’ll have all these guys back and healthy for the stretch run.

In the meantime, please hand the damn ball off to Orleans Darkwa this week. And no, not just because of his first name and the location of the game.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Giants Hold Off Cowboys Thanks to Outlier Plays]]> Mon, 26 Oct 2015 10:04:25 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/NYCowboys.jpg

The Giants’ 27-20 victory over Dallas underscored how futile it usually is to prognosticate about the NFL and the factors that will likely lead to victory versus defeat. Let’s just consider some of the things that -- when considered in a vacuum – would usually have contributed to a Giants loss.

  • The team surrendered 233 yards rushing and turned Darren McFadden (152 yards on 29 carries) into the running back whose fantasy starting percentage will jump the most between this week and next week, when he will invariably remind owners why he’s a former Raider.
  • The Giants allowed 460 total yards to an offense being led by a quarterback (Matt Cassel) who was unemployed a few weeks ago. Next week New York travels to New Orleans, where they will face Drew Brees and a Saints offense that we can safely assume will pass the 1,000-yard barrier in total offense against the Giants.
  • The Giants only had the ball for 21:56, their lowest time of possession in nearly three years.
  • It required a unique and amazing confluence of events for the Giants to win this game, and that’s exactly what we saw, including:
  • An Orleans Darkwa sighting. Darkwa, who led the Giants in rushing during the preseason (including the team's only run of more than 20 yards), had zero carries during the team’s first six games, hampering his ability to contribute much in the running game. Against Dallas, the man with the best name in the NFL had eight carries for 48 yards, including a 15-yard touchdown. If he’s not featured prominently against New Orleans next week, we can reasonably call for the defenestration of Giants’ offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo.
  • Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie had two interceptions, including a pick six. Why were the Cowboys ever throwing the ball when they were trampling the Giants’ run defense? Because coaches such as Cowboys' offensive coordinator Scott Linehan need to justify their existence, and they spent a lot of time drawing up those pretty pass plays, which look so good on a white board and less attractive when Matt Cassel is attempting to execute them. Let's go on a digression, shall we? Wouldn’t it be great if the NFL – maybe as a throwback week – went back to how the game was played in the 1970s and earlier, when quarterbacks were actual adults and had to take responsibility for the team’s offensive play calls and weren’t sitting there between plays with their hands over their ear holes waiting for the next directive to come in over the baby monitor? The over-management of NFL games is the direct result of a small handful of mavericks, geniuses and innovators like Bill Walsh, Sid Gilman and Dick LeBeau, whose whirlwind success created the impression that other teams could replicate their success by hiring the protégés of these coaches. There’s way too much technology and communications in today’s NFL. It won’t be long before players are whipping out their iPhones in between plays to see what brilliance the offensive coordinator has beamed to their devices. Meanwhile, how about that Mass Cassel and his three interceptions? He should have received the Giants’ game ball.
  • Dwayne Harris running back the game-clinching 100-yard touchdown against his former team. Harris, a special teams standout who the Giants signed from Dallas in free agency, has been a key contributor, in stepping up as a third receiver with the ongoing absence of Victor Cruz and the early-season release of drop-heavy Preston Parker. In addition to his kick return touchdown, he also had two catches for 43 yards. It's guys like this that make the difference for otherwise middling clubs.
  • The Giants ran for more than 100 yards. This is remarkable because they are the last team to pass the century mark in a game this season. It’s probably just a coincidence that this was the first time Orleans Darka played all season.
  • The Giants caused four turnovers, while Eli Manning -- who had a pretty pedestrian day (13 of 24 for 170 yards and no touchdowns) -- didn’t turn the ball over. New York now has a league-best plus nine turnover differential, which has played no small part in the team's fortunes.

So, yes, the Giants won and congratulations to Tom Coughlin on winning his 100th game as coach of the team, but absent the game-changing plays of DRC and Harris (and the fact Dallas was starting a quarterback who was sitting on his sofa on Sundays during September) this was not an all-around impressive victory.

The defense still gives up way too many yards, and unless Manning plays flawlessly, the team is always riding the razor’s edge. For now, though, the team is 4-3 and all alone atop the NFC East, which not many people would have predicted. Except, ya know, me, who predicted the Giants would face the Jets in the Super Bowl.

That prediction looks slightly better than all those people who picked the Colts this year.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Giants Play Like Ewoks After Impressive Opening Drive]]> Tue, 20 Oct 2015 11:34:49 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/larry+donnell+eagles.jpg

A highly anticipated trailer for the upcoming movie “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” aired on ESPN Monday night, a two-minute oasis book-ended by a Pop Warner contest between the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles.

If you’re like me, the Star Wars trailer left the impression that Luke Skywalker might be heading to the dark side in the upcoming movie, which is slated to be released around Christmas. And if you’re like me, the Giants-Eagles game left the impression that the Giants’ season was just frozen in carbonite and shipped to Jabba the Hutt.

In short, what in the wide world of sports was that? The Giants lost 27-7, but honestly it would have been closer to a 41-7 defeat if not for the antihero antics of Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford.

Ahead 7-0 after an opening-game drive that saw the Giants march down the field and cap it with a scoring strike to Odell Beckham Jr., New York looked terrific. Jon Gruden was marveling at the team’s diverse offensive weaponry and said the Giants would have one of the premier offenses in the league when Victor Cruz finally returns from injury.

And then, almost as if the Giants’ entire planet was mysteriously vaporized by some powerful weapon, poof.

Larry Donnell, who had not done something exasperating in several moons, allowed Eli Manning’s 11th pass of the night -- till then Manning had been 10 of 10 -- to get wrested out of his hands by Eagles linebacker DeMeco Ryans for an interception. And from then on, the Giants played like a bunch of ewoks, even as Bradford consistently gifted them opportunities to stay in the game with mind-numbing interceptions.

Yeah, the Eagles are now in first place in the NFC Least. Let’s look at how we got to this point in our lives, people.

In an interview with Donnell this week on giants.com, Carl Banks took Donnell to task. He said he was one of Donnell’s biggest fans, but that the tight end still does too many head-scratching things. Namely, somersaulting and diving over defenders, which leaves him prone to fumbles.

Donnell explained that last year he was rattled because of some low hits near his knees and that he was going airborne to avoid possible injuries. Provided that is true, I don’t think it was in the best interests of Donnell -- a tight end who makes his living over the middle and will thus be subject to low hits by smaller defensive backs for his entire career -- to admit something like that. That’s catnip to defenders, and when Ryans ripped the ball out of Donnell’s hands on a throw to the flat, all I could think about was that Donnell was so preoccupied with turning his head downfield to gauge the threat of an approaching d-back who might go low that he forgot his first priority: securing the ball.

I know Donnell pulled in the game-winning catch against the 49ers last week, but consider the circumstances -- he was at the back of the end zone and jumping backwards, and thus there was no perceived threat to his knees or legs, particularly from behind. It was like he was doing the Nestea plunge into the safe, welcoming waters of a heated swimming pool. That’s a big difference from catching the ball across the middle in traffic with middle linebackers swarming and defensive backs closing in.

The Giants’ loss was a team effort (more on that in a bit), but the team was clicking on all cylinders until that Ryans play. Could Manning have thrown a better ball? Yes, he could have led Donnell on the pass and not left it on his back hip --- and thus exposed to Ryans, who still had to make a great play. Maybe I’m reading into this one play too much, but I’m just going on Donnell’s history and his own recent comments.

Now, let’s not lay the entire blame on Donnell, because he was far from the only culprit. To wit:

Eli Manning. Coming into the game, Manning had the highest passer rating of his career (100.2) and had only thrown two interceptions. He matched that number with the Donnell throw and then the pick six to Eagles defensive back Nolan Carroll, when Manning hesitated and then threw way too late to the flat. Hesitation was the operative word for Manning all night. In the first series and a half, he was making quick passes that negated the Eagles’ pass rush. But in subsequent drives, he was holding the ball too long, which led to sacks and several laughably bad intentional groundings.

Brad Wing. Welp, the gild is off that lily. With a 26-yard punt and a 37-yard punt, Wing has proven that not all Australians are superheroes.

Tom Coughlin. On the third drive of the game, with the score 7-7, the Giants were subjected to a questionable spot on a third-down run by Rashad Jennings. Instead of challenging the spot, Coughlin called for another run from Jennings, who was stuffed on fourth down. That’s what the challenge flags are for, coach: Close calls in close games. You don’t get to carry them over to next week.

Damontre Moore. Is there anything more idiotic than a player who celebrates an individual play with some asinine dance when his team is getting blown out? With the Giants ahead 7-0, Moore had a crushing roughing the passer penalty on third and 10 that allowed an early Eagles drive to continue -- but that didn’t prevent him from peacocking on subsequent plays, even when the team was losing by several scores. After the game, Moore copped to having a “poor football IQ” in light of that early roughing the passer penalty. This is a professional football player who has presumably been playing the game since he was a kid. If he doesn’t know by now that you can’t bodyslam the quarterback to the ground well after the pass is away, then when is he going to learn? Maybe Moore should bone up on his rulebook and stop worrying about his dance choreography.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Fact vs. Fiction as Giants Face Hated Rival Eagles]]> Mon, 19 Oct 2015 10:36:51 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/192*120/ap-ryan-mathews-eagles.jpg

The New York Football Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles resume a rivalry Monday night that began in 1933, back when college football was the nation’s gridiron preference and Coughlin was in his first year as coach of Big Blue.

OK, so Coughlin hasn’t really been coach of the Giants since 1933 -- I double-checked -- but he has been around long enough to witness many memorable contests between his team and that squad of miscreants who ply their trade in the City of Brotherly Love.

What, you were expecting a preview replete with hand-holding and choral music? Forget it. Eagles fans in attendance at this Monday night game will be really worked up -- mostly because they don’t work and will have been drinking in the parking lot all day.

Fact? Debatable. But let’s focus on the Fact and Fiction associated with this game that are not debatable.

Fact: The Eagles are the only NFC East team to never win a Super Bowl.
Fiction: That can all change Monday night.

Fact: Philadelphia is going to be wearing all-black jerseys in the game and they have asked fans to wear the same color as they go for a “black out.”
Fiction: The all-black jerseys are something other than a lame merchandising cash grab and fans are more than sheeple for wearing black clothing.

Fact: Odell Beckham Jr. (hamstring) is a game-time decision.
Fiction: I’m totally taking the Giants and the 4.5 points in this game.

Fact: The Giants’ best acquisition for this season was arguably punter Brad Wing.
Fiction: His jersey is currently on back order at the NFL Shop.

Fact: The Giants have the seventh-best passing offense in the league with 282.4 yards passing per game.
Fiction: That average figures to drop against a porous Eagles pass defense (25th in the league; 279.6 ypg).

Fact: The Giants have the 26th-best rushing offense in the league with 91.2 yards per game.
Fiction: That average figures to improve against a respectable Eagles run defense (96.9 ypg).

Fact: The Giants will be playing without their top cornerback, Prince Amukamara, who is expected to miss two to four weeks with a torn pectoral muscle.
Fiction: The Eagles have no idea he’s not playing.

Fact: The Eagles have a three-headed monster at running back with Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles and DeMarco Murray.
Fiction: You’re in good shape if you need any of these guys to get you more than 10 points in fantasy football Monday night.

Fact: The Eagles’ leading receiver is Vanderbilt alum Jordan Matthews.
Fiction: I’m surprised more Vanderbilt alums don’t make good in the NFL.

Fact: With one victory, Tom Coughlin will have 100 wins as coach of the Giants.
Fiction: Chip Kelly will reach 40 wins with the Eagles before heading back to college or getting ridden out of Philadelphia on a rail.

Fact: The Giants (3-2) could very well be 5-0 if they didn’t implode in the fourth quarter of their first two games against Dallas and Atlanta.
Fiction: With his magical fourth-quarter play calling, Giants offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo is a shoo-in to be the next head coach of the team.

Fact: With the Cowboys crippled by injuries and Washington owned by Mr. Burns, the Giants and Eagles are the best teams in the NFC East right now.
Fiction: There is a worse division in football than the NFC East.

Fact: Philadelphia is riding a one-game win streak after blowing out New Orleans last week.
Fiction: The Saints are a good team.

Fact: The Giants have lost 11 of their last 14 to the Eagles.
Fiction: That has any bearing on this game

Fact: This game features reigning NFC Defensive Player of the Week (Eagles defensive end Fletcher Cox) and reigning NFC Offensive Player of the Week (Eli Manning).
Fiction: You can imagine a realistic scenario in which both of them repeat the honors this week.

Fact: The Eagles have allowed 18 pass plays of more than 20 yards.
Fiction: That's more than the Giants (18).

Fact: Giants have allowed only four sacks through the first five games, second-best coming in behind the Jets.
Fiction: The Eagles’ defense -- Fletcher Cox (four sacks), Connor Barwin (two sacks) – is no threat to sack Manning.

Fact: Philadelphia has the most fumble recoveries (seven) of any NFL team.
Fiction: Every Giants’ fan didn’t just think, “Oh (bleep), Larry Donnell is due for a fumble.” 

]]>
<![CDATA[Giants Look to Continue Winning Ways Against 49ers]]> Thu, 08 Oct 2015 16:38:47 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/eli+manning+flex.jpg

Sunday night’s game against the 49ers is a statement game for the Giants, the statement being, “Win and prove you can beat a once-great team that has been disemboweled in the last 12 months.”

Has any franchise ever endured a more precipitous drop than San Francisco? Just two years removed from appearing in its third straight NFC Championship Game, the team has been gutted by the departure of head coach Jim Harbaugh (who couldn’t make nice with the team’s brass), the sudden retirements of linebackers Chris Borland and Patrick Willis, the not-so-sudden retirement of defensive end Justin Smith, and the not-so-sudden criminal exploits of defensive end Aldon Smith, who was released after multiple DUI arrests and is now plying his trade across the Bay in Oakland.

The team also lost last year’s top rusher, Frank Gore, and veteran wide receiver Michael Crabtree, who also jumped to Oakland. But Eric Mangini is still here! He was promoted from tight ends coach to defensive coordinator. And Jim Tomsula is still here! He was promoted from the guy who never had to talk in public to the head coach who reportedly farts loudly at the podium.

If you encounter 49er fans, give them a wide berth, they’re expectedly shell-shocked, having experienced a decade’s worth of turnover in the space of one calendar year.

With so much change, it’s a tough time get a read on the Niners, who last November beat the Giants 16-10 when New York was in the midst of a seven-game losing streak. San Fran still has quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who will need to have a great game running the read option against the Giants for his team to stop its three-game losing streak.

The Giants have the No. 1 run defense in the NFL, which is helped greatly by the fact the team has the worst pass defense in the league. The 49ers, meanwhile, have the lowest-scoring offense in the NFL, which is helped greatly by the fact the team has the fewest amount of points per game.
Does anyone really think the Giants have the best run defense in the league? If they can contain Kaepernick and running back Carlos Hyde, that most likely means the Niners are finding success through the air with former Raven Torrey Smith and current septuagenarian Anquan Boldin.

This 49ers defense has already surrendered more than 40 points to two teams, Pittsburgh and Arizona. Sure, they looked a bit more stalwart in holding Aaron Rodgers and the Packers to 17 points in last week’s 17-3 loss. But the Giants’ offense is starting to hit on all cylinders, with contributions from POTO – Players Other Than Odell.

In last week’s 24-10 win over Buffalo, the team got honorable work from wide receivers Dwayne Harris and Rueben Randle, and the game-changing 51-yard catch and run TD by running back Rashad Jennings.

It’s tough to see the combination of factors that would give the 49ers a victory in this game. Could Eli Manning break from his early-season form (one interception) and put the team’s defense in bad position? Sure. Could punter Brad Wing, who leads the NFL in punts inside the 20, lose his golden touch? Sure. Could the Giants’ No. 1 rush defense get exposed as a fraud? Sure. Could Kaepernick regain the form that had him kissing his biceps after big plays? I sure as hell hope not, as that’s the lamest celebration move in the league and no one this side of a 10-year-old wrestling fan wants to see it.

The Giants are tied with Dallas and Washington atop the NFC East at 2-2. Dallas has to host the Patriots this week, so that’s a loss. And Washington is still owned by Dan Snyder, so who cares what they do, they’re gonna implode eventually.

With a victory, the Giants can start taking control of the division. Last week’s victory on the road against Buffalo was a pleasant surprise. Losing to a 49ers team that is on its heels would be a stunning step backwards.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Hero, Nero, Zero for Giants' Win Over Bills]]> Mon, 05 Oct 2015 10:57:54 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-491318356.jpg

Two weeks removed from a second fourth-quarter meltdown that left them 0-2 and staring into the abyss of a potentially lost season, the Giants have won two games in a row and now find themselves tied for first place in the NFC East.

One can draw direct parallels between the Giants’ 24-10 victory over Buffalo on Sunday and the team’s rise to the top of the division: the G-Men have been helped as much by their own efforts as they have by the shortcomings of their opponents and division rivals.

Buffalo was penalized 17 times for 135 yards and the team was playing without two of its top three playmakers, running back LeSean McCoy and wide receiver Sammy Watkins.

Yes, a win is a win is a win, and all that bottom line philosophy that Bill Parcells always spouted – “You are what your record says you are” -- but in the interest of offending those people who disdain nuance, let’s acknowledge that the Giants still exhibited their fair share of insanity and ineptitude in the victory over the Bills.

So in addition to handing out a participation trophy for Hero, let’s make sure we hand out a bright flaming fiddle to the game's Nero and a Ziploc bag full of hot air to the game's Zero. No need to bring three different gentlemen to the dais, as all three honors go to Eli Manning.

Hero: Eli Manning.

In advance of this game against Buffalo, which came in leading the league in rushing offense and rushing defense, it seemed incumbent upon the Giants to either stick to their normal game plan for victories -- Odell Beckham Jr. going for 150 yards and two touchdowns, with Manning protecting the ball and the defense producing turnovers -- or to go off-script and get other people involved.

Well, wouldn’t ya know it, the Giants broke from script -- ya know, except for more idiotic late-game play calling (more on that in a bit) -- and received contributions from a wide net of players, including special teams stalwart Dwayne Harris (who caught the game’s first touchdown) and linebacker Devon Kennard (who made a tremendous play intercepting a throw down the sideline).

Add in the game-sealing, 51-yard catch and run by running back Rashad Jennings, who broke several tackles and threw a one-arm shiver into Bills defensive back Baccari Rambo; the team's final touchdown catch by Rueben Randle; and the ongoing brilliance of punter Brad Wing, and you have a Giants victory that was undergirded by contributions from all three phases of the game.

Kudos to Manning on getting so many players involved on offense. Speaking of Eli …

Nero: Manning!

What in the wide world of sports is the matter with that boy? Leading 24-10 with 3:51 left in the fourth quarter, the Giants had third and eight from the Bills 8-yard line. Instead of simply running the ball and (most likely) bringing up a fourth down, which would have prompted the Giants to kick a field goal and go up by three scores, offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo called for quick slant pass.

The level of dumb runs deeps with that one. The Giants already earned a permanent spot in the Pantheon of Stupidity when they mismanaged the end of the opening-game loss to the Cowboys. Then they coughed up another double-digit lead to the Falcons in Week 2. And now, on the verge of going 2-2 -- with a victory on the road over a favored opponent -- the team calls for a pass play inside the 10-yard line with a 14-point lead and less than four minutes to play.

The football gods were not sleeping on this one and justifiably steered Manning’s pass into the hands of Stephon Gilmore of the Bills.

There wasn’t a Giants fans on earth who didn’t drop a string of poetic expletives after that demonstration of stupidity. The play call was McAdoo’s, but the ultimate decision and action both rested with Manning.

Zero: Number of interceptions Manning had this season until that boneheaded throw.

It’s a good thing the Giants play in the NFC East, where the divisional opponents are either banged up and delusional (Dallas); unwilling to take the training wheels off the reigning NFL Offensive Player of the Year (Philadelphia); or still owned by Daniel Snyder.

The Giants threw away their first two games against Dallas and Atlanta, and with consecutive victories over Washington and Buffalo, they should very well be 4-0. They have a generous upcoming schedule -- San Francisco; @ Philly; Dallas; @ New Orleans; @ Tampa Bay -- which could allow them to take control of the division.

They just need to stop exhibiting moronic tendencies late in the fourth quarter.  



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Giants Face Good Test in Rex Ryan and the Bills]]> Fri, 02 Oct 2015 11:41:12 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Rex-Ryan-NY-Bills.jpg

I love Bills head coach Rex Ryan. Even though I don't share his affinity for women's feet, I enjoy many facets of his personality. He's bombastic, opinionated, fun-loving and an occasional hardass. His press conferences are invariably entertaining and he doesn't scoff at reporters with the same unbridled disdain that occasionally bubbles up from Giants coach Tom Coughlin.

I also love Rex Ryan because he's never been the coach of my team, so he hasn't focused 99.999 percent of his attention on his defense and the remaining nanoseconds accumulating skill position players with observable skills.

The Jets had a Super Bowl-worthy defense for several years under Ryan, but the team was always supplying the fewest amount of offensive players to people's fantasy teams. Other than Thomas Jones, who had 1,402 yards rushing in Ryan's first year in New York (2009), the Jets' best skills position players were laughably bad. The leading passers were Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith, and the leading receivers were (look away!) Jericho Cotchery, Braylon Edwards, Dustin Keller, Jeremy Kerley and Eric Decker.

Know what they all had in common? (Ya know, other than terrible quarterbacks.) None of them had more than 1,000 yards receiving while with the Jets. The team hasn't had a 1,000-yard receiver since the pre-Ryan era, when Cotchery notched 1,130 in 2007.

In an era when NFL teams are setting passing, receiving and scoring records, the Jets remained blissfully in the dark ages. Is the Buffalo team that the Giants face this week any different? It sure seems to be, which is why a lot of people are giddy about the Bills, a team which already features a (sometimes) Super Bowl-worthy defense.

Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor is currently fifth in the NFL in quarterback rating, which would be remarkable if the season were more than three games old and the Bills had played those games against teams with honorable defenses. Indianapolis, New England, Miami are ranked 15th, 19th and 23rd in points allowed per game, respectively, meaning Taylor should do quite well against another mediocre defense -- the Giants, ranked 16th in points per game.

Last week's victory over Washington was a season-saver for the Giants, who at 1-2 are just one game behind Dallas (2-1) in the race toward mediocrity in the NFC East. The winner of this division could limp home with an 8-8 record, it wouldn't surprise me. So how devastating would a loss be in Buffalo?

Let's ask our man on the street, Joey from Meadowlands Park: "Any loss is very devastating, but especially a loss to another New York team."

And that reminds me, Buffalo is from New York, which I always forget because, well, Buffalo.

Without the services of the injured LeSean McCoy and Sammy Watkins, the Bills' offense will ostensibly have trouble matching its year-to-date average of 33 points per game. But they're facing a Giants defense that has only generated three sacks in three games, so Taylor should have plenty of time to find some of Buffalo's other offensive options, including Percy Harvin (provided he can get his porcelain bones to the stadium in one piece, which is never a given); tight end Charles Clay; and third-year USC product Robert Woods.

Oh, and they can also lean on a guy at running back (Karlos Williams) who is averaging 7.8 yards per carry. Is Williams available in your fantasy league? Go check right now. Run. Seriously, hurry up.

The rookie from Florida State ran for 110 yards on 12 carries in last week's 41-14 drubbing of the Dolphins. So just imagine what he's going to do against a defense that doesn't have Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake.

The long lag time between the victory over Washington has tempered some of the bickering about this Giants team, which still has no pass rush, an unreliable running game, few playmakers on defense and a future slot receiver (Victor Cruz) who is in dire need of some good juju.

It's hard to be confident about the Giants' prospects in traveling to Buffalo when you're basically counting on Odell Beckham Jr. to go 150 with two TDs, Eli Manning to continue posting zeros in the INT column, and the defense to continue producing turnovers. Can all three of those things happen? They're going to need to happen in order for New York to travel upstate and raise their record to 2-2 and put them firmly in the hunt in the NFC (L)East.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Best Takeways From Giants' Win Over Washington]]> Fri, 25 Sep 2015 13:13:58 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Redskins+Giants+Punt+Blocked+092415+GettyImages-489878872.jpg

The Giants beat Washington 32-21 Thursday night to raise their record to 1-2, a must-win that had plenty of the plays we’ve come to associate with Thursday night football, a brazen money grab by the NFL that typically features two teams still limping along three days removed from their last soiree of sanctioned violence.

Kirk Cousins played terribly? Yeah, didn’t see that coming. The Giants’ defense surrendered 15 points in the fourth quarter? It was like déjà vu all over again, what with the team’s historic accomplishment of being the first squad to throw away two double-digit fourth quarter leads in the first two games of the season.

No, this third game of the season wasn’t altogether pretty, but a win was definitely the best thing the Giants could have hoped for, especially since a loss is an unwelcome thing among most NFL teams.

Let’s look at some other best things associated with the Giants-Washington game.

Best cure for an NFL team’s troubles: Winning.

Best time to jump needlessly in the air: Is not right before you try to catch a pass, Larry Donnell.

Best guess as to what Donnell was thinking when he caught a pass and did a somersault into a defender just as he was about to be tackled: “Whee!!!”

Best take that with you next time: The ball has to go into the end zone with you, Matt Jones.

Best play we’ve seen out of starting running back Rashad Jennings this season: The blocked punt that gave the Giants a 2-0 lead.

Best reception total for a wide receiver through his first 15 NFL games: Odell Beckham Jr., 110.

Best number of receiving yards through his first 15 NFL games: Beckham, 1,574.

Best not do that: Washington had at least double coverage on Beckham for most of the game until that 30-yard scoring strike from Manning, who recognized Beckham was in single coverage.

Best way to describe Beckham’s touchdown dance: A work in progress.

Best rushing offense in the NFL: Belonged to Washington coming into this game.

Best Manning playing quarterback in the NFL right now: Definitely isn’t Peyton.

Best kicker to have in fantasy: Might be Josh Brown if the Giants’ offense continues to stall in enemy territory.

Best chance to see Victor Cruz dance the salsa again: Might come next week when he’s finally expected to return from injury.

Best stat to demonstrate Eli’s effectiveness through three games: Zero interceptions.

Best place to find Giants middle line backer Jon Beason: On the field, finally.

Best time to produce now that Preston Parker is no longer dropping passes for the team: Rueben Randle finally awoke from his early season coma to catch seven passes for 116 yards and a touchdown.

Best nose for the ball: Prince Amukamara had an interception, six solo tackles and two assists.

Best play made by Washington: Rashad Ross’s 101 yard kickoff return touchdown.

Best time to rest their weary bones: The Giants now have nine days until their next game against Buffalo.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Must-Win Game for Giants Against Washington]]> Thu, 24 Sep 2015 10:28:35 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/beason4.jpg

Thursday night’s game against Washington is a must-win for the Giants. At 0-2, and bearing the ignominy of being the only team in NFL history to blow two 10-point leads in the fourth quarter of their first two games, the Giants’ glass nevertheless remains half full.

Fans are still on board, confident the Eli-Coughlin administration was simply emitting its season’s worth of brain farts in throwing away two very winnable games against the Cowboys and Falcons. But if they lose to Washington at home to drop to 0-3? Yeah, Giants fans will suddenly be much more available on Sunday afternoons this fall to check out the foliage, smash some pumpkins or sleep in a corn maze.

Blowing late game leads to the likes of Tony Romo and Julio Jones are one thing. Losing to a Washington team whose best available wideout is Art Monk (or maybe Pierre Garcon) is something else entirely.

Washington fans are feeling pretty good about themselves and their team after Washington ran at will against a usually stout Rams defense last week, with Matt Jones and Alfred Morris doing an admirable impression of the Earnest Byner-Kevin Mack era Cleveland Browns.

This must stop. Washington fans need to be reminded that the wife of their general manager basically accused an ESPN reporter of servicing her husband to obtain tips about the team. That’s the Washington team we all know and expect. A Washington team on the precipice of going 2-1 and perhaps tying the Cowboys for the NFC East lead? Nope, not a world I want to live in.

The game plan for the Giants should be pretty straight forward. On offense, they need to remind Washington cornerback Deangelo Hall that he is perhaps the most overpaid, overrated, over talking (we’re making that a term) defensive player of the 21st century. If Odell Beckham is targeted fewer than five times per quarter, Giants offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo should be fired. Extreme? Yes, but frankly no Giants fan is going to care who survives the housecleaning if the Giants lose to the most dysfunctional franchise in professional sports.

Will a victory against Washington turn the team’s season around? Debatable. But the Giants’ upcoming schedule –- at Buffalo, San Francisco, at Philadelphia, hosting Matt Cassel and Brandon Weeden -– is about as favorable as it gets. Get past Washington and its resurgent running game and vistas of beautiful lilacs will emerge for the Giants and their fans. Lose to Dan Snyder’s traveling freak show and you might as well call it a day because the season is effectively over.

The team gets back a big part of its defense in middle linebacker Jon Beason, who has been injured since the Nixon era. The Giants absolutely need to make Kirk Cousins beat them. Washington hung tough before falling to Miami (which looks less impressive in retrospect given the Dolphins’ week two loss to Jacksonville) and more or less dominated a St. Louis team that had defeated Seattle in week one.

Against St. Louis, Cousins was 23 of 27 for 203 yards and a touchdown, and so he brought honor to his family –- unlike Eli Manning, who has been managing late-game situations like a fourth-grader charged with explaining trigonometry to a stadium full of frothing miscreants.

No more late-game snafus. No more incredulous looks from Tom Coughlin. No more comments like, “Well, at least Josh Brown had a nice game.” Giants fans have already had a season’s worth of stupidity. The indignity of losing to Washington at home will provide them with a season’s worth of everything.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Giants Lose to Falcons, but it Could Be Worse]]> Mon, 21 Sep 2015 12:10:27 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-489334002.jpg

Cheer up, Giants fan, it could be worse.

Sure, your team is now 0-2 after losing to the Falcons, 24-20, becoming the first team in NFL history to blow 10-point leads in the fourth quarter of its first two games. But there’s a lot to be thankful for. Namely, that you’re not a fan of the Cowboys, Eagles or Washington, divisional rivals whose 2015 prospects amazingly look more bleak than the G-men’s through the first two weeks of the season.

The Cowboys? In the words of owner Jerry Jones, they’re as low as a crippled cricket’s ass after learning that quarterback Tony Romo has a broken clavicle and is expected to miss about eight weeks.

The Eagles? They capitalized on the Romo injury by taking the ensuing drive right down the field, ending it with quarterback Sam Bradford throwing a ghastly interception in the end zone. Their offense is a hot mess.

Washington? They’ve won eight games since the beginning of the 2013 season, and while Washington has to be feeling good about themselves after beating a Rams team that last week beat the Seahawks, Washington is still the most dysfunctional franchise in the NFL and Kirk Cousins -- 21 interceptions in 15 career games -- briefly went against script by not throwing any passes to St. Louis on Sunday.

Yup, the 0-2 Giants are tied for last place in the division with Philadelphia, while Washington is 1-1 and Dallas is 2-0. But has there ever been a 2-0 team that feels less sanguine about its future than the 2015 Cowboys? If backup quarterback Brandon Weeden can do an adequate Earl Morrall impersonation, maybe the Cowboys can get by with a stout defense, a great offensive line and – who are their top skill players now with Romo and Dez Bryant injured? – oh, right, Terrance Williams, Joseph Randle and Jason Witten.

Oof.

Who would have predicted that the best QB-WR tandem in the division for the next two months would be Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr.? And with a favorable upcoming schedule -- Washington, Buffalo, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Dallas, New Orleans and Tampa Bay -- before facing New England on Nov. 15, the Giants aren't dead yet.

At about 4 p.m. ET yesterday, after Manning ended the Giants’ comeback attempt by unsuccessfully throwing to Preston Parker on fourth down -- yeah, I would never have guessed that Parker would come up short in a key moment -- the Giants looked about as low as a crippled cricket’s ass, a term I will be working into conversations as often as possible.

Midway through the fourth quarter, up by 10 points and deep in Atlanta territory, the Giants seemed primed to shake off last week’s devastating loss to Dallas – when time-management stupidity and bad decision-making by Manning did them in again.

Manning was flushed out of the pocket, didn’t sense pressure from behind and fumbled the ball. Instead of -- at worse -- being up by 13 points, the team was on its heels and everyone watching the game could sense that the tide had turned.

How can a team play so well for three and a half quarters and yet feel so insecure that a 10-point lead feels so tenuous at the first sign of trouble? If this were a team with a rookie head coach and a rookie quarterback, it'd be more understandable. But Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning have seen a thing or two.

Until the Giants manage to close out a game by successfully protecting a lead, fans are going to be on tenterhooks. There was a lot of good things to take away from yesterday's game -- Odell Beckham Jr.'s explosive touchdown reception, some great situational punting by Brad Wing, a recovered fumble by Larry Donnell (!) -- but the running game was largely dormant and the miscues in the red zone (including  Dwayne Harris failing to come to a set before the snap on a third down) continue to kill this team.

Still, who among NFC East fans feels best about their team today? Cowboys fan? Not likely. Eagles fans? No chance. Honestly, it's probably Washington fans, which says all you need to know about how wide open the division will be this season.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Do's and Don'ts for Tom Coughlin and Dan Quinn]]> Fri, 18 Sep 2015 10:47:42 -0400 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/238*120/ap-falcons-julio-jones.jpg

It’s often said that NFL games are typically decided by just a handful of plays. Teams are so evenly matched that a big play on offense or defense -- or in the case of the Giants and Falcons’ week one games, a big snafu by a head coach -- is often the difference in contests.

Giants head coach Tom Coughlin spent the last few days getting eviscerated on television, radio, the Internet, your mom’s Facebook news feed and several other mediums for the Giants’ reprehensible clock management skills and decision-making at the end of last week’s loss to the Cowboys, a game they were leading by 10 points late in the fourth quarter.

To briefly recap: Giants quarterback Eli Manning lost track of how many timeouts the Cowboys had -- thanks, in part to a stupid rule that allowed the Cowboys to not have to burn a timeout to stop the clock after they had committed a penalty -- and so he instructed Giants running back Rashad Jennings to not score from the 1 yard line, but to instead fall short so that the Cowboys would have to burn their remaining timeouts.

Dumb? You betcha, not least because a touchdown would have put the Giants up by 10 points with about 90 seconds left. The game, essentially, would have been over. As we all know by now, the Giants settled for a field goal and then rolled over like dogs looking for a belly rub as Tony Romo led the Cowboys on the game-winning drive, with Dallas winning by 1 point.

Contrast that with what happened in the Philadelphia-Atlanta game. The Falcons had the game well in hand, leading 20-3 at the half -- unlike the Giants, who were damn lucky to ever be ahead -- and almost coughed it away against the Eagles. The coaching play that made a huge difference? It was by the Eagles, not the Falcons.

Eagles coach Chip Kelly was indecisive about running out placekicker Cody Parkey to attempt a go-ahead 44-yard field goal attempt with 2:33 left. If Parkey had the usual time to prepare, the Eagles had a great chance of taking a lead late in the game.

Would the Eagles have held on to win? Hard to say and mostly moot. The point is how the respective postgame narratives developed for Tom Coughlin and Falcons head coach Dan Quinn.

The Giants’ defense was flocking to the ball for most of the game against Dallas, causing turnovers. But the postgame focus was all on Coughlin, Manning and the Giants’ late-game antics. Meanwhile, Jon Gruden couldn’t stop marveling at how the Falcons’ defense flocked to the ball for most of the game against Philadelphia, causing turnovers. Thanks to Chip Kelly’s coaching snafu, that largely remained the narrative for Dan Quinn, the former Seahawks defensive coordinator who was coaching his first game for the Falcons.

Atlanta almost blew a huge lead at home, while the Giants almost held onto a moderate lead on the road. One or two plays made all the difference in how Coughlin and Quinn were portrayed in the media in the ensuing days. And as it turns out, neither of them had much to do with the key, late plays that made the difference in the outcomes of their games.

Coughlin didn’t tell Jennings not to score. And Quinn didn’t tell Chip Kelly to hem and haw about whether to attempt that go-ahead field goal. Regardless, Coughlin came out of the loss to the Cowboys looking to some like an over-the-hill coach, while Quinn came out of the win against the Eagles looking to most like a young upstart who has -- grrr!! -- energized his team.

As coaches, they can only do so much to affect the outcomes of the games. Still, here are some advisable Do’s and Don’ts for Coughlin and Quinn as the Giants hold their home opener against the Falcons. As the coach of the visiting team, we’ll start with Quinn.

Quinn:
Do: expect Giants fans to be loud for the home opener.
Don’t: forget, you're not playing at home, so you can't pipe in fake fan noise.

Do: keep feeding the rock to rookie running back Tevin Coleman
Don't: make me regret my decision to bench Devonta Freeman (and his 1.8 yards per carry) in fantasy football.

Do: blitz rookie defensive end Vic Beasley Jr. as often as possible.
Don't: be surprised if Giants rookie left tackle Ereck Flowers holds his own.

Do: double team Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
Don't: miss Beckham in pregame warmups; he likes to put on a show catching balls with his teeth.

Do: throw the ball to Julio Jones as often as possible.
Don't: take after Jon Gruden and start calling him "Hammering Julio."

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As for Coughlin:
Do: pray your defense has more sacks this week than it did against the Cowboys (zero).
Don’t: blitz and leave Julio Jones covered by less than five people.

Do: run the ball more than you did last week (22 totes).
Don't: worry, running across the goal line will not vaporize your players.

Do: get more touches for Odell Beckham Jr.
Don't: even think about calling Preston Parker's number on third down.

Do: tell your defensive players to continue flying to the ball.
Don't: get distracted if your team gets hosed on another bogus pass interference call.

Do: go for it on fourth down and short on the Falcons' side of the field.
Don't: settle for four field goals again.

Do: know where your red challenge flag is at all times.
Don't: stick it in your white tube sock, Cliff Clavin.

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