<![CDATA[NBC New York - Giants]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcnewyork.com/feature/giants http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/4NY_Horizontal.jpg NBC New York http://www.nbcnewyork.com en-us Mon, 24 Nov 2014 02:09:51 -0500 Mon, 24 Nov 2014 02:09:51 -0500 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Much Has Changed Since Giants Last Faced Cowboys]]> Fri, 21 Nov 2014 14:54:38 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/458696810.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eli Manning >> Bob Griese.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hero: Eli Manning.

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

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

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

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

Nero: Unknown media member.

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

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

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

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

Zero: Red zone success for the 49ers.

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

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

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

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

Count me among the legion.

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

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

That’s it, that’s all I’m going on.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Step Up: Larry Donnell.

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

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

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

Step Down: The 12th man.

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

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

Step Up: Eli Manning.

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

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

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

Step Down: Marshawn Lynch.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Hero, Nero, Zero in Giants-Colts Game]]> Tue, 04 Nov 2014 13:47:23 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Williams+Giants+Colts+1103.jpg


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

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

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

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

Hero: Chris Botti.

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

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

Nero: Giants’ playcalling.

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

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

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

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

Zero: Luck for the Giants.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doubtful factor of the game: Hakeem Nicks.

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

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

Out factor of the game: Rashad Jennings.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This year they’ll have to flip the script.

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

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

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

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

Time has a way of changing things.

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

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

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

Luckily for Pete Carroll, NFL titles cannot be vacated.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best reason for hope: There are nine games left.

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

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

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

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

Best thing beyond that: Nothing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best get healthy soon: Jennings.

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

Best word for Giants’ turnover differential: Zero.

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

Best stop fumbling: Larry Donnell.

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

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

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

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

Best possible upgrade at quarterback: Peyton Manning.

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

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

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

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

Hero: DeMarco Murray.

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

But no, we won’t go that route.

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

Nero: Jerry Jones.

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

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

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

Zero: Giants playing this week.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Look at me, look at me!”

No, thanks.

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

I thought that was hilarious.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hero: The Eagles’ offensive line.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zero: What went right for the Giants.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Anything newsworthy happen this week?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hero: Ben McAdoo

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

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

Wikipedia hits the most salient points:

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

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

Nero: Jeter haters

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zero: Phil Simms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trickery! Love it! Give that man some fortune!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Giants Sticking With Coughlin After 7-9 Season]]> Mon, 30 Dec 2013 15:01:08 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/tom-coughlin-giants.jpg

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Jernigan Makes Case for Bigger Role]]> Mon, 30 Dec 2013 09:25:37 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/189*120/459735157+MONDAY.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Redskins-Giants Preview: Changes ComIng for NFC East]]> Fri, 27 Dec 2013 11:45:27 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/199*120/458917125.jpg

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

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

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

It just hurts thinking about it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: Giants 24, Redskins 13

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Despite Tough Season, Eli Is Still Elite]]> Thu, 26 Dec 2013 16:10:36 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/189*120/183444874.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Giants Have Reason to Be Proud]]> Mon, 23 Dec 2013 13:58:52 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/200*120/458918351.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[If Lions Are Dazed, Giants Could Capitalize ]]> Fri, 20 Dec 2013 14:25:31 -0500 > at Ford Field on December 16, 2013 in Detroit, Michigan.]]> > at Ford Field on December 16, 2013 in Detroit, Michigan.]]> http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/230*120/457328199.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Giants 2014 NFL Draft Needs: Holes on Both Fronts]]> Thu, 19 Dec 2013 06:55:39 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/210*120/454437503.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Shutout Another Reminder of Giants' Work Ahead]]> Mon, 16 Dec 2013 12:25:35 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/221*120/456888181.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>