Tuesday, October 27, 2009

GSTV: Thoughts on the Cardinals Game


It was a rough loss but still a fun time on Sunday night, as I attended my first ever regular season NFL game and hung out with some fellow Giants' fans from YouTube.

Unfortunately, Big Blue couldn't add that final piece to the evening with a good performance. The team instead finds itself with some work to do after suffering two consecutive losses. The g-men need to rediscover their identity before Sunday's looming showdown against the Eagles. A third straight loss could spell trouble for the Giants. A 3-0 start in the division would put us right back in the driver's seat.



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Giants 5-2
Sack Count: 16
Take-away Count: 14

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Tuesday Two-Step: Week 7 Edition

I don’t know if it’s the back-to-back losses talking, but the 2009 NFL steadily is becoming less and less exciting by the week...ok, so it's definitely the losses talking. The good teams are good, the bad teams are not, and the Giants are making it hard to determine where they fall in the pecking order with their poor performances in consecutive weeks.

Speaking of poor performances, Jake has a real job now and can’t be here this week, so it will be a short-handed Two-Step for Week 7.

Bring on the random section titles with “step” in them!

Steppenwolf!

Let's talk Week 7:

  • British fans at this year’s annual London game were outraged to discover the contest pitted two of the most loathed groups in the country’s history against each other: pirates and colonials. One fan remarked, “Oh, that’s great. Does one of them have to win? I mean really…What’s on the schedule for next year? The Catholics vs. the Prussians?!?”
  • Pressure, turnovers and points. The Steeler D remains the (black and) gold standard in the league.

LB Lamarr Woodley was one of the stars in Pittsburgh's stellar defensive performance against Minnesota.

  • On Monday, the Redskins tied a season high for most points in a half with ten. 'Nuff said...
  • Relax everyone, the Raiders are back to being terrible.
  • Gang Green got gang-banged on the injury front this week, losing the corner stone of their defense, DT Kris Jenkins, and skill position superman, RB Leon Washington, for the season.
  • Is Miles Austin the next Miles Davis? Wait…what?
  • The Dolphins wildcat offense confirms the “Green Day Rule”: when some new genre comes along, the originators do it best.
  • Who dey? Who dey? Who dey? The Bengals are 5-2…What the? What the? What the?
  • After whining like a spoiled prima donna about not being involved enough in the offense in last week’s win, Steve Smith South had 6 catches for 99 yards to go with a fat Carolina loss. Haven’t heard any complaints this week…
  • The highly anticipated clash of the Midwest titans ended up a bit of a disappointment, with Indianapolis surprisingly beating St. Louis in a blowout.

Giants Stumble

  • I can’t decide whether or not to be panicked about the inability of the defensive line to get more pressure. I’m not sure if it’s the new coordinator, the three starters coming back from knee injuries, or Canty’s absence. In any case, the team’s trademark on defense has been wanting.
  • Despite the lack of pass rush, the Giants still lead the league in total defense. Unfortunately, when the opponent starts every other possession in Giant territory, it still translates into over 20 points per game.
  • Sunday night, 2009 Eli looked like pre-2008 playoff run Eli. Anybody else wondering about that foot?
  • If they kept a stat for most games with at least one awesome play and one terrible play by a player, I think Terrell Thomas might lead the league. The guy is often great in coverage. He picked off a pass and broke up a deep ball on Sunday. He complimented that with a horrific missed tackle that resulted in an Arizona touchdown. Not the first time he's put on such a bipolar display.

CB Terrell Thomas picks off Kurt Warner in the first quarter of Sunday's loss to Arizona.

  • Monday morning, Brandon Jacobs’ picture was on the milk carton at the breakfast table. He was apparently abducted by some guy named “Kevin G.” who suffers from a mental disorder that causes him to try and mimic the high-flying passing attacks of his opponents. Police say “Kevin G.” can be identified by the trail of questionable plays he leaves strewn across a field in his wake, and by his creepy pervert moustache.
  • One last thought on the running game: I hope this “more Bradshaw” camp will keep quiet from now on. Two costly mistakes in consecutive weeks and a reduced load for Jacobs have not done much for this offense. Bradshaw is a great player, but Jacobs is a pillar of this offense and should be recognized and utilized as such.

The Top 10

1) New Orleans (6-0) (1) A huge come-from-behind win against a very good team cements the Saints’ status on top of the board.

2) Indianapolis (6-0) (2) The Colts were lucky they had two weeks to prepare for the Rams, otherwise…no, they still would’ve slaughtered St. Louis.

3) Denver (6-0) (3) The world waits with anticipation to see what horrific throwback uniform the Broncos will unveil next week.

4) Pittsburgh (5-2) (8) Told ya Jake.

5) Minnesota (6-1) (4) Another one bites the dust…

6) New England (5-2) (5) Despite back-to-back shellackings of their opponents, the Pats drop a spot to make room for the defending Super Bowl Champs.

7) Cincinnati (5-2) (9) An impressive win over the Bears earns Palmer, Benson, Ocho Cinco and co. the seventh spot this week.

8) New York Giants (5-2) (6) The Giants need to right the ship quickly before this slide becomes a plummet. A division win in Philly this week will do the trick.

9) Green Bay (4-2) (N/A) If Rodgers gets some help from his offensive line, who knows what this team might do. This week, they broke into the Two-Step Top 10.

10) Dallas (4-2) (N/A) I’d rather not talk about it…

Post your comments and let us know what you think. You can also post your own two-step thoughts below!

Spread the word!



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Giants 5-2
Sack Count: 16
Take-away Count: 14

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tuesday Two-Step: Week 6 Edition

These Shoes were Made for Stepping

Week 3 of the Two-Step, week 6 of the NFL season. Somehow, one of the most anticipated weekends of the year yielded the most disappointment. Certainly, the Giant debacle in New Orleans didn’t make things easier for fans of Big Blue to enjoy the slate of compelling games on Sunday, but with meltdowns in Oakland, New England, and the Meadowlands, this seemed to be one demoralizing Sunday.
  • ALL BOW DOWN BEFORE THE MIGHTY AFC WEST!


  • Kyle Orton dips his ever-changing beard in Jack Daniels from time to time and has your typical well-covered-up history of youthful indiscretion with the ladies, but I tell you what, it's hard not to root for him. DIIIP IT! DIIIP IT!

Never thought you'd hear this: "Kyle Orton is one of the best QB's in the league."

  • Broncos Uniform Watch Wk 6: “Hot Dog Roller Derby” gives way to “Mustard-Stained Ding Dongs”


  • Norv Turner is the poster boy for brilliant coordinators/clueless head coaches everywhere.


  • On Monday, my 87-year-old Grandpa told me that he can tell the Bears are missing #54 but that Cutler just needs a little more time with his new receiver group. In the opposite wing of the retirement home, my 80-year-old Grandma told me that she's never seen a better team play worse. Fandom ages gracefully.

  • Don't sleep on the Packers, they deserve credit for not sleeping on the Lions, Culpepper and all.


  • I was impressed with the Vikings...you can say they shouldn't have won, but I think they made more plays in the game and deserved it. I'm not sure who looks hungrier right now, Jared Allen or Jared from Subway.


  • Jim Zorn calls plays as though he’s secretly in a pool betting on Washington “3 and Outs”…and thus he’s not calling plays anymore.


  • Albert Haynesworth: After leaving TEN for WAS, it’s like everything he touches turns to…well, it just sucks.


  • You know the Pats are back because Tom Brady is back to looking narcoleptic in the pocket, which is also a great name for a Crystal Method album.

Where's Randy? Steps needs more fantasy points...


  • By the transitive property of Al Davis, the Giants will beat the Eagles 44-3 in Week 8.

  • Ironically, Drew Brees does not blow…
  • You have to hate a guy like Jeremy Shockey…when he’s not on your team.

A Giant Step back?

  • Watching the Saints receivers against the Giants DBs was as close to a snuff film as you’ll get in the NFL...too extreme? Not as extreme as the whooping we took.
  • C.C. Brown led the team in tackles on Sunday. Unfortunately, they were all after double-digit gains by the Saints.

It wasn't really his fault Tom...

  • Sunday was the third time this season the Giants D went without a sack of the starting QB. It was the first time the defensive unit itself was “sacked,” as Drew Brees tea-bagged them up and down the field.

  • NFL.com headline apropos to my partner's title for this section: "Giant Step Back?" I, the Bears Guy, say 'No' and mean it. Did y'all expect to go 16-0? I still don't know whether I'd rather my team face the G-men or the Saints. It's about the match-ups. (BG)


Power Rankings

(The Top 10 is determined by finding the average of Will's and Jake's votes. Each team's record and their ranking from the previous week are noted in parenthesis next to the team name.)

Some big moves and fresh faces this week...

1) Saints (5-0) (3) When you pick apart the team previously believed to be number one, well...Outstanding QB, outstanding coaches, outstanding O-line, solid D and running game. (Steps)

2) Colts (5-0) (2) After a week off, Peyton Manning still runs this. (Steps)

3) Broncos (6-0) (4) I still don't get it. When I try to watch the Broncs play, that's all I can think. But hey, imagine how long Josh McDaniels' career could be! (BG)

4) Vikings (6-0) (5) Capable of more, unlikely to achieve it, still good enough to ruin the dreams of many. (BG)

5) New England (4-2) (N/A) 59-0. A game of Techmo Bowl later and the Pats are looking like a contender once again. (Steps)

6) Giants (5-1) (1) From dominant to dominated in 60 minutes, Big Blue has a lot to prove next Sunday against Arizona. (Steps)

7) Atlanta (4-1) (9) We now know the offense can be slowed, but that the defense can step up. if they get both clicking at the same time, it will be something to see. (BG)

8) Pittsburgh (4-2) (N/A) I told Steps Pittsburgh hasn't beaten anyone good. He didn't care, and he's probably right. (BG)

9) Cincinatti (4-2) (6) The Bengals will need to stay sharp if they won't hold onto to their winning ways, not to mention the AFC North title. Someone ask OchoCinco if there's an app for that.(Steps)

10) Chicago (3-2) (N/A) Trade acquisition Gaines Adams brings the type of body that, relative to his position, compares to Adrian Peterson's or Terrell Owens. He also brings a Wonderlic score of 7. The Bears are going to have to figure out how to win with the players they started with, while Rod Marinelli teaches Adams the difference between an X and an O. (BG)

Please post your comments and let us know what you think. Spread the word about the Tuesday Two-Step on Giants' Steps




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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Tuesday Two-Step: Week 5

The Tuesday Two-Step returns for a second installment to ponder the major stories of Week 5.

Steps Around the NFL
  • In Week 5, the Bronco’s “Hotdog Roller Derby” throwbacks beat out “We Suck at Double Dare” slime green Seahawks alternates for ugliest uniform of 2009.


  • Barf-tastic!


  • And the players in the uniforms? Kyle Orton has a low ceiling, Denver's defense was just plain terrible last season, Shanahan was an irreplacable offensive genius, and I personally have to own up to the fact that this offseason I saw the Donkeys as being headed for the Raider-logo-emblazoned black hole that is the bottom of the AFC west. You can't explain it all away by pointing out that some little guy named Elvis has been running circles around the league's left tackles.


  • I wonder if the Cowboys will need overtime to beat the bye this week.


  • 2 of 17, Derek Anderson? How?! That sounds more plausible as your birth order in a ridiculously large orthodox farming family than as a completion ratio in a football game.


  • McNabb-to-Maclin falls just shy of Manning-to-Manningham in QB-Receiver duos with similar-sounding names.


  • "Cedric Benson leads league in rushing” sounds like an Onion headline. It’s not.

Benson's league-leading performance through five weeks is perhaps more surprising than his team's division-leading performance.


  • On Cedric Benson: Among the biggest draft busts in history. The back that by his insolence, injuries, and ineptitude failed to show any reason why he should be considered starting material in Chicago and ran off the heroic, fiery Thomas Jones in the process. The back taken with the 4th pick when Frank Gore went #65. The back who is now leading the league in rushing, and doing it for the Cincinnatti Bengals.

  • Matt and Tim Hasslebeck are to QB brother baldness what Eli and Peyton Manning are to QB brother play on the field.


  • Braylon Edwards is still winless in 2009.


  • It’s looking like a seamless transition at the Chad for the Dolphins.

QB Chad Henne has looked impressive taking over for injured Chad Pennington.

  • Rush Limbaugh wants to buy the Rams. As if that team didn’t suck enough already…

  • Minnesota has beaten Cleveland, Detroit, San Francisco, Green Bay, and St. Louis, to become 5-0. Sure, there's something to be said for just showing up and executing. While certainly there's no shame in close wins over the Niners and the Pack, there is some shame in the fact that ESPN has the Vikes ranked 3 when, according to their own rankings, they haven't beaten anyone ranked better than 14 (14, 15, 26, 28, 32). The Broncos are ranked 5 after having beaten Cincinnatti (6) and New England (10) on top of a bunch of nobodies.

Giants' Steps

Not much to be witty about in a week in which the Giants were pretty much perfect. That said:

  • Way to go Sinorice Moss.


  • For the second time this season a Giant Safety’s touchdown did not count.


  • Jamarcus Russell is big and bad in the most unflattering, literal way possible.


  • I think the Giants have more guys named Johnson on their roster than the Raiders had first downs Sunday.


  • After going 3 for 3, I guess Tynes found the right shoe in that bag of his…


The Top 10

(The Top 10 is determined by finding the average of Will's and Jake's votes. Each team's record and their ranking from the previous week are noted in parenthesis next to the team name.)

1. Giants (5-0) (3) When you are one bounce away from winning a game 44 or 51-0, no matter who you play, that deserves a move up the ladder. Big Blue has the talent, depth and experience to hold down the number one spot…

2. Indianapolis (5-0) (1) The class of the AFC through 5 games. They fall to number 2 by default, but it’s hard to separate the top spots.

3. New Orleans (4-0) (2) The bye week set them back in the win column. “1C” wouldn’t make for very good power rankings.

4. Broncos (5-0) (N/A) Two impressive wins in a row, this team is surprisingly for real.

5. Vikings (5-0) (4) Play-makers in all phases of the game and some wins against tough teams.

6. Cincy (4-1) (N/A) Wow…go figure.

7. Philly (3-1) (8) Donovan McNabb makes an impressive return as Philly lights up the Bucs.

8. Baltimore (3-2) (6) Some costly and uncharacteristic penalties cost them a close one against the Bengals.

9. Atlanta (3-1) (N/A) A la McNabb, the Falcons are back with a vengeance, following a whoopin’ of the Niners. The Dirty Birds make their debut on the Giants’ Steps Top 10.

10. Jets (3-2) (10) Two losses to two very good teams has Gang Green reeling, but they will recover.

Please post your comments and let us know what you think. Spread the word about the Tuesday Two-Step on Giants' Steps!


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Monday, October 12, 2009

Under the Lens: Giants Dominate Raiders, 44-7



GSTV breaks down the Giants 5-0 start.


How terrible are the Raiders? Or perhaps more accurately, how good are the Giants? It’s hard to tell when a really good team destroys a really bad team just which piece of the equation matters the most. Sunday, and though the first five games for that matter, with the exception of Dallas, it’s been tough to assess if the Giants are that dominant, or the competition just that pathetic.

Sunday’s thrashing of the Raiders showcased the balance, depth and talent on the Giants roster. Big Blue came in banged up, beat up a bad team, and came out in pretty good shape. With any luck some guys will get back healthy this week, and the team can build off of an impressive performance and bring its best down to New Orleans next Sunday.

Let’s take a look back…


Pro’s

There’s always a lot to love when a team wins 44-7, and hey, let’s face it, this game could’ve been 51-0 if the refs did not discount C.C. Brown’s red zone fumble recovery for a touchdown. Here’s what stood out from Sunday’s dominant performance:

Eli Manning – Eli’s day was done before half-time and in his limited work, Eli was perfect. He had a perfect QB rating of 158.3, highlighted by two PERFECTLY touchdowns to Mario Manningham and Hakeem Nicks and another PERFECT deep ball to all-round legitimate beast Steve Smith. Eli is off to the best start of his career. Accordingly, the Giants are off to their first 5-0 start since 1990.

The Wide Receivers – Manningham, Nicks and Smith all performed very well against Oakland. Smith led the team in receiving yards, and through five weeks, still leads the league in receiving yards and receptions. Manningham bounced back from a drop-alicious performance against KC to haul in his third touchdown of the season and Hakeem Nicks continues to find his rhythm in the offense. His non-catch against Asomugha down the sidelines was especially impressive.

Ahmad Bradshaw – Derrick who? Bradshaw had his second 100 game of the season, and only needed 11 carries to do it. He found the end zone twice and added 55 yards receiving. He has quickly confirmed that the Giants running game will be the same monster to contend with as it was last season, despite the departure of 1,000 yard-rusher Derrick Ward.

“Russell back to pa…SACK!!” - After tallying only 3 sacks in its first three games, the vaunted Giants pass rush seems to have arrived. With 11 sacks in the last two games, six against Oakland, including 3 that forced fumbles, it’s looking like the Giants defensive line is in fact as talented as many were saying it was. Credit goes to the players up front for some outstanding play and the coordinator on the sidelines for some outstanding play-calling. It should not be overlooked that two of yesterday’s sacks came from the secondary.

DE Dave Tollefson sacks Jamarcus Russell in the second half of Sunday's game.

Back-up TE’s – Tight end is one of the few spots on the Giants roster where depth is a concern. With Kevin Boss missing the game due to injury, back-up Darcy Johnson and rookie Travis Beckum both saw a lot of the field and performed nicely. As both young players get much needed experience, they should continue to evolve into reliable back-ups, or even compliments, to Boss.

Special Teams – The Giants back-up linebackers are some Special Teams studs! With Bryan Kehl out recovering from a surgically-repaired finger, I was not sure how the coverage units would perform. Jonathan Goff stepped up and had a huge game on Teams, along with Chase Blackburn, Zak DeOssie and rookie Clint Sintim. Those guys were all over the field…reflecting their talent as well as an outstanding job by the coaching staff.

Tynes – 3 for 3! Attaway!

Con’s

There really isn’t much to complain about, but there was only one reason why we could not get the shut out Sunday:

Sinorice Moss – Domenik Hixon and Danny Ware can’t get back on return duty soon enough. If not for Moss’s bone-headed play on a punt return, Oakland never gets the ball at the 15 yard line and never comes close to scoring. I like the Moss’s attitude, but his erratic decision-making on return duty will not fly when the competition gets tougher.

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Game Balls

Everybody played very well, but if a few individuals are worthy of special attention, they are as follows: Eli Manning, the Wide Receivers, Ahmad Bradshaw, Justin Tuck (6 tackles, 2 sacks and a FF), Jonathan Goff, Terrell Thomas (did you see that pass defensed?) and Bill Sheridan.

I apologize for the abbreviate version, but I gots thangs ta do! Post a comment if you’d like more explanation or have other nominees.


When the Giants Go Marching In

Sunday’s win was a great momentum-builder for Big Blue heading into their much anticipated contest with the Saints next Sunday. The game will be a great measuring stick for both teams, and I will take a closer look at the NFC showdown later in the week.

If the past few weeks are any indication, and the Giants play with the same precision and physicality they’ve showed off in the early stretch of the season, they will use their measuring stick to whip same Bayou behind. I smell 6-0…

Will Drew Brees be next?

Go G-MEN!


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Giants: 5-0
Sack Count: 14
Take-away Count: 10

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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Tuesday Two-Step (Inaugural Edition)

I am happy to introduce a new contributor to the Giants’ Steps blog, and a new weekly column: “The Tuesday Two-Step.” Jake “The Bears Guy,” of Giants’ Steps Podcast “fame,” will now be lending his pen and redoubtable vocabulary to the blog, to offer his perspectives on the NFL and provide an outsider’s take on the state of Big Blue. Every Tuesday, he and I will team up to run down our weekend musings in bullet form, and throw out a meaningless Top 10 “Power Ranking.”

So, albeit belated, without further ado...


Step 1: Jake's Take on the NFL

1) Sidney Rice has a magic invisible pogo-stick, which, while very useful for recovering onside kicks, will confuse everyone when he falls and impales himself on it.

2) 49ers vs. Rams: get that weak crap off my TV. How am I supposed to get pleasantly slanted on Mad Dog 20/20 with such poor entertainment?

3) Are the Saints finally real? They and the Giants may be tied as the most balanced 4-0 teams, and both are now the scariest after the lackluster Pats still managed to bring down the Ravens.

4) Peyton Manning is still a franchise unto himself, and a good one at that.

5) Chicago Bears special teams: it's in the blocking.

6) Last night in one of my fantasy leagues, Jared Allen doubled-up Adrian Peterson.

7) If you look at defensive points allowed, it looks like Albert Haynesworth may have been worth it: Titans have allowed 108 points, Redskins 62. Now if only he could carry the ball at the goal line and make the franchise name less overtly racist, Washington would be in business!

8) Nice of the Lions, Bills and Jaguars to stick around the NFL...just in spite of everything, you know?

9) Notably unfair NFL starting QB sequences: 49ers (Montana then Young then Garcia), Chargers (Brees then Eli Manning (sorta) then Rivers), Packers (Favre then Rodgers), Rams (Green to Warner to Bulger), Redskins (Sonny Jurgensen to Billy Kilmer (1971)), Cowboys (Staubach to Danny White to, shortly thereafter, Aikman), Patriots (Bledsoe to Brady to Cassel to Brady), Falcons (Vick to Schaub (sorta) to Matt Ryan). See how this doesn't happen too often, though? Is it too early to wonder about the future possibility of McNabb to Kolb?

10) Was it me or was the uber-hyped breast cancer awareness pink theme a bit understated? Of course I'm colorblind, so maybe I just missed it.

11) The “Roughing the Passer” calls are out-of-hand. The NFL's efforts to protect the quarterback have reached a crossroads, and depending how Goodell and the officials decide to go, the game could be changing beyond recognition. Between the huge offensive lines, the disproportionate salaries, and the more and more persnickety yellow-flag-throwers, QBs might as well be sitting in an office on Sundays (unless your offensive line belongs to the Packers or your office employs Terry Tate).

Step 2: Will on the G-men

1) It was revealed that Eli Manning has actually been having foot problems for a few weeks now, but that’s to be expected when you’re stomping out everyone in sight.

2) Lawrence Tynes will have to pull more than a shoe out of that bag of his if he wants to keep his job…

3) Steve Smith is better than Steve Smith.

4) When his potentially brilliant football career is over, Mario Manningham has a bright future in juggling.

5) Stat of the week: The Giants O-line has started 36 consecutive regular season games together; the Raiders O-line has sucked for 94 consecutive games.

6) The Hamstrings have a better chance of defeating the Giants than the Raiders do, and they’re not even an actual team.

7) Props to WR Hakeem Nicks for scoring his first NFL touchdown, and props for using a prop to celebrate and not getting fined…

8) (From Pat Hanlon) This week, it was 2-for-Tuesday on Weak-side linebacker surgeries at the hospital: Kehl is week-to-week, Boley out approximately 4 weeks.

9) In other Giants injury news: yes.

10) Having Aaron Ross and Aaron Rouse in the same defensive backfield makes me thankful Slim Thug doesn’t do color commentary for the Giants’ radio broadcasts.

11) Lawrence Tynes: Making extra points as nerve-racking as game-winning field goals since 2009.



The Top 10

1) Indianapolis - Peyton Manning runs this...

2) New Orleans - A terrifying passing attack, now mixed with defense and a running game? Big win against the Jets on Sunday, not sure if they'll be so lucky when "the other" New York team comes to town.

3) NY Giants - The deepest team in football, with arguably the most balanced and dangerous offense in the game. Pair that with the best defense in the league, and you're looking at a Super Bowl contender. The question is if they can maintain their excellent play in spite of injuries and superior competition.

4) Minnesota - I believe now...

5) New England - A big win over the Ravens puts Brady's bunch back in the mix.

6) Baltimore - Tough loss to the Pats, but this team has all the pieces in place to win the conference.

7) Pittsburgh - Statement game against San Diego on Sunday night...

8) Philadelphia - Talented play-makers on offense, and a defense that is always hard to handle.

9) San Francisco - Off to a great start to go 7-9

10) NY Jets - Sanchez reminded us not everyone's Matt Ryan; Calvin Pace returns in Week 5 to take the D to a new level of terrifying.

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Now, I believe the Giants have the potential to be the best team in football, but that's contingent on getting people healthy and executing to perfection on the field. I will hold off on giving them the top ranking just yet. I want to see how Big Blue stacks up against the competition from Week 6 on...

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Monday, October 5, 2009

Under the Lens: Giants K.O. KC

GSTV weighs in on the Giants' 4-0 start.


Road Warrioring

The Giants completed the sweep of their 3-game road trip Sunday with a convincing 27-16 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs, and improved to 4-0 on the season. The win makes the Giants only the seventh team in the last 19 years to sweep a 3-game road trip in the regular season. It is the second time a Tom Coughlin team has pulled off such a feat, and it brings to mind the 2007 Giants' impressive playoff run on the road to Super Bowl XLII (ahhh...still lovin' it).

In all honesty, after beating the Cowboys on the first leg of the trip, Big Blue had no business not going undefeated on their road swing. The real question in my mind was "How dominant can this team be against inferior competition?" After last week’s total annihilation of the Tampa Bay Bucs, my hope was Big Blue could put on a repeat performance against KC, that way I'd get to call this post “A KC Masterpiece.” But alas, while the win was impressive, it did not showcase the Giants' best football. That is okay right now, but when the competition picks up in a couple weeks, the Giants will have to elevate their game.

This week, we take a look at where the team can build and where they need to improve, as we go...duhn, duhn, duhn..."Under the Lens."


Under the Lens

"Under the Lens" is a hastily-named segment that assesses the pro's and con's of the Giants' performance each week. Against Kansas City, the G-men provided plenty to consider in each category:

Pro’s

Steve Smith – Another double-digit reception, 100+ yard performance has solidified the third-year receiver’s status as…well… as everything: Eli’s “go-to guy,” a reliable target in the clutch, a legitimate number one receiver, “the real Steve Smith,” you name it. After his 11 catch, 134 yard, 2 touchdown performance, Smith leads the NFL in receiving yards, receptions AND receiving TDs. He is averaging over 100 receiving yards a GAME.




Smith celebrates one of his two touchdown catches on the day with fellow WR Mario Manningham.


Michael Boley – This guy is looking like more of a play-maker every week, and that’s something the Giants have not had at linebacker in a long time. Boley is just beginning to find his rhythm after off-season hip surgery, which doesn’t appear to have slowed him down. He was all over the field Sunday, recording 5 tackles, 1 sack and 2 passes defensed. I expect we will be hearing a lot more from #52 as the season progresses.

The Pass Rush – After two games without a sack, and only 3 sacks through three games, I’m sure many of you were thinking the same thing as me: “Wha’ haaaappen?” Sunday, the Big Blue wave finally crashed down on the opposing QB, taking down Matt Cassel five times. The treacherous trio at DE recorded a sack apiece, as did free-agent acquisition Rocky Bernard and Boley. They say sacks come in bunches. I’m hoping to see a bunch more as the season goes on.

The Whole Defense – Don’t look now, but the Giants have the best overall defense (232.2 ypg) and top pass defense (115 ypg) in the league. The unit put in another strong effort in Kansas City, holding the Chiefs to under 200 yards of total offense, including only 88 yards through the air. It’s not perfect yet, but great job from the top down to a unit that will only get better as the year goes on.

Con’s

Eli Injury – It’s always terrifying when the most important player on the team can’t finish the game. Eli’s injury could have been a lot worse at first glance. Thankfully, it is not a dreaded Achilles injury (Mike Garafolo has more on the Eli story) and the quarterback, hopefully, will not miss significant (if any) time. Eli’s a tough guy and has played through worse. With a little luck, he’ll be ready to go next week to continue his assault on opposing defenses.

Red zone offense – After seeming to address the issue last week in Tampa Bay, the Giants’ red zone offense took a step back this week against one of the worst red zone defenses in the league, going only 1 for 3 on trips inside the twenty. Moving the ball up and down the field at will is all well and good, but the G-men will need points to put stronger competition away.

Manning to Manningham – The explosive young receiver struggled to make plays on the field for the first time this season. He dropped three of the balls thrown his way, one of which resulted in an interception. Certainly, the onus is on Manningham to make the play if the ball is in his hands, but Manning also needs to acclimate to Super Mario’s quickness to get the ball out in front of the target so he can better make a play on the ball.

Patience, grasshoppers….

TYNES!! – Make your field goals, dude.

When you win the game, the positives will usually outweigh the negatives. This week was no exception. Let's give out the game balls.

Game Balls

Bryan Kehl –First play of the game, first game ball. Kehl is emerging as a force on Special Teams. He showed great reaction time recovering Jamaal Charles’ fumble on the opening kick-off, shades of his play on Tashard Choice against Dallas in Week 2.

Bryan Kehl recovers a Chiefs' fumble on the game's opening kick-off.

Steve Smith – A legit beast, as alluded to above.

Hakeem Nicks – Congrats on your first NFL touchdown! The first-round pick showed off his play-making ability with a magnificent juke n’ move touchdown reception, taking the ball 54 yards for the score. That’s a nice way to announce your return from injury… With Nicks, Smith and Manningham in the mix, this passing attack could be a force to be reckoned with.

Eli Manning – Another outstanding day for the QB, heel issue aside. Manning’s 3 TD’s on the day tie him for second in the league in TD’s with eight on the season. He also continues to deliver a QB rating of over 100. Hard to see the Giants not being successful if he can keep that up…

Brandon Jacobs – A solid game by the big man. Answered the critics, ran well, hit the holes with aggression and power.

Kevin Boss – Outstanding awareness on the final offensive play of the first half. He shook off his injury to line up for the snap allowing the Giants to put an extra three points on the board before the half.

Boley – Great game for the new guy…

Antonio Pierce – Great game for the old guy…Pierce has been outstanding through the first four games. His preparation and awareness on the field are second to no one in the league, and he translates that into great play on the field.

Always Room for Improvement

The Giants have been impressive through four games, but they know they can be better. More importantly, they know they have to be. Their success on this three game road trip is a testament to the coaching staff and the focus in the locker room. Now we will see how those attributes come into play as the level of competition goes up a notch in the coming weeks.

Oakland will provide one more "tune-up match" to prepare for the tough four game stretch leading into the bye week. If the players can continue to work their way back from injuries, and Eli can recover quickly from his heel injury, I am confident this team will address the issues holding them back from the next level.

With the number one defense in the league - a unit getting better with each passing week - and one of, if not the most dynamic offense in football, it's exciting to think what the "next level" will look like for this team.



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Giants 4 - 0
Sack Count: 8
Take-away Count: 8

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Friday, October 2, 2009

Giants Wk. 4 Outlook: Light at the End of the Tunnel

(Giants' Steps takes stock of the Giants' injury prospects and reviews some Week 3 storylines.)

Before I say a word, let me preface this article with this:

KNOCK, KNOCK!

The Giants have been bombarded with injuries through the first three weeks of the season. They started off Week 4 with 11 players listed on the injury report, including key contributors DE Justin Tuck, WR Domenik Hixon and RT Kareem McKenzie, projected starters DT Chris Canty, CB Aaron Ross, and surprise addition RB Ahmad Bradshaw. Although it is the longest injury report of the season for Big Blue, things might actually be turning a corner on the injury front…

Speaking of Corners

In spite of the absence of one of last year’s starters, Ross, and last year’s primary nickleback, Kevin Dockery, the Giants secondary has been stellar in 2009. The Giants boast the league’s best pass defense, allowing only 124 yards per game through the air, and they are tied for fifth in the league in interceptions with 5. Perhaps most impressive, they’ve done it with only three healthy corners.

Corey Webster has continued to build off of a Pro Bowl-caliber season in 2008. He consistently shuts down the opposing team’s primary target. His tip-toe sideline interception in Week 1 was one of the sickest picks I’ve ever seen. Second year man Terrell Thomas continues to mature with every passing week. His coverage skills are very impressive and as his awareness develops, this will only lead to more turnovers. Rookie FA Bruce Johnson has been one of the best surprises of this young season. And then there were four:

What's up Dock?


With a full week of practice under his belt, Dockery is expected to return to the mix against KC. The defensive backfield has been outstanding at about 60% strength. How good can it be at 75%? At 90%? Opposing offenses are about to find out.

Is the Giants Passing Attack About to Get More Dangerous?

While some savvy Giants fans may have predicted the team’s pass defense would shine in 2009 (author included), I don’t know that any realist could have anticipated the success Eli Manning and company have enjoyed with the passing attack. The Giants’ QB has been stellar in the early stretch of the season, completing 65 percent of his passes, with 5 touchdowns, 1 interception and the third best QB rating in the league at 104.1.

His targets have been equally superb, despite two of the top four wide receivers missing time. The two – Hakeem Nicks and Hixon – appear poised to return this week. In their absence, Steve Smith and Mario Manningham have become the top receivers in the NFC. Smith leads the way with 277 yards, and Mannigham is close behind with 263. Both players have caught two touchdown passes through three games.

Nick flashed speed and play-making ability in the pre-season.

Inject first round pick Nicks, who led the league in receiving yards during the pre-season, and the steady Hixon back into the fold, and I don’t know that defenses will know where to focus their energies at the position.

The 36-5

When the Giants finished massacring Tampa Bay last week, with LG Rich Seubert on the sidelines with a sore shoulder and RT Kareem McKenzie in the locker room with a knee sprain, it appeared an impressive streak might be in jeopardy for the most consistent offensive line in football.

A major piece of the Giants’ successes in recent years has been the fact that the same five men have started 35 consecutive regular season games. With Seubert not even on the injury report Week 4 and McKenzie practicing fully all three days, the legend of the “Iron Line” grows…

Kenny Phillips Elects Surgery

While the line manages to stay on the field, there was some off-the-field news from Giants Land this week. Safety Kenny Phillips, placed on IR last week, underwent successful micro-fracture surgery on Tuesday. He broke the news on his blog.

Phillips will not be allowed run to for at least four months, but he was back at the Meadowlands for treatment on Thursday. Phillips feels extremely confident he will be back on the field ready to go next season. He is already able to put weight on the knee and claims he is feeling no pain. Encouraging signs – attitude and physical indications both – for the young Giants play-maker’s recovery.

Getting Stronger

Bradshaw, Tuck and McKenzie are all slated to play Sunday, and Dockery, Nicks and Hixon could all return to action as well. Rookie LB Clint Sintim has been getting increased reps and should be back very soon. The upcoming games against the Chiefs and Raiders are critical for the younger players, and those that haven’t seen the field in a while, to get reps in before a very difficult four-game stretch against playoff caliber teams.

The Giants have been impressive in spite of the injuries, but with this current crop returning to the field, it’s about to go up a notch. The tunnel is long, but there appears to be light ahead…for the Giants at least.

Other teams? They won’t see light…just blue.


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Giants 3 - 0
Sack Count: 3
Take-away Count: 7

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Thursday, October 1, 2009

GSTV Graphics Teaser

Hi everyone. I'm just checking in quickly to share some of the new graphics I hope to use in upcoming episodes of GSTV with you. I admit, I spend far too much time messing around with video editing software, but on the bright side, I might actually be getting decent at it...

This is the first video I've directly uploaded to the blog and not just embedded from YouTube. Check it out below...


video

Please let me know what you think!

I will be back Friday with a look at the Giants' injury situation heading into Week 4's contest in Kansas City. Looking forward to a great game for Big Blue, and another chance for the G-men to showcase their dominance!

Go Giants!

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Giants 3-0
Sack Count: 3
Take-away Count: 7

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Flawless Execution: Giants Dominate Bucs 24-0

A 2-0 team, badly banged up, coming off an emotional-but-flawed victory against a division rival and traveling south into 90 degree weather to take on a dangerous 0-2 team growing more desperate by the day… For any other NFL team, this might have qualified as a “trap game,” but not for the New York Giants.

I’m convinced, even before today’s blowout, that this team doesn’t play “trap games” anymore. The experiences of the past two seasons have helped forge a group of players, who despite compiling wins and playing some very good football, remain humble and hungry to improve and get better each week, regardless of the opponent. This week, Tampa Bay was no exception…

Despite two victories in two games in 2009, Big Blue had much to prove against their NFC South opponents. Eli Manning and company had failed to score a touchdown in the red zone all season, the defense gave up 254 rushing yards against the Cowboys in Week 2, and the league-leading running attack of 2008 was averaging a pedestrian 100 yards a game in 2009. Even against winless opponents, that wasn't going to cut it for the Giants, and they came to play.

GSTV checks in with more:



Game Balls

Pretty much the entire team plays well when you beat a team 24-0 and outgain them by over 300 yards, but still, a few exceptional performances warrant game balls:

The Giants Coaching Staff – Outstanding game plan, outstanding job preparing the team to play, outstanding play-calling. ’Nuff said…

The D-line – After giving up over 250 yards to the Cowboys in Week 2, the Giants’ defensive front absolutely shut down the Buccaneers’ running attack, holding Cadillac Williams and former Giant Derrick Ward to just 28 yards on the ground. While they failed to record a sack, Big Blue’s front four were in the backfield and in the quarterback’s face all game long.

Antonio Pierce – The Giant captain has looked sharp to me this season, and today was one of his headier performances so far this year. He battle down a couple of pass attempts, including one on a big red zone stop, and was a big reason why the Bucs' offense spent most of the game on the sidelines.

Ahmad Bradshaw – Bradshaw was a beast on the field Sunday, running for 104 yards on 14 carries in front of the man that used to handle the back-up duties for Brandon Jacobs. While Jacobs is the face of the Giants running attack, #44 set the tone for the ground game Sunday, running with speed, power and intensity. He broke off a 38 yard run in the first half. It’s just a matter of time before he takes one all the way to the house.

Steve Smith – The third-year receiver followed up on the best game of his career with another great performance: 7 receptions for 63 yards and a TD, and a number of crucial third down receptions. Last year Smith emerged as Eli Manning’s favorite target, and his stellar performance through the early part of the season has made him one of the most popular targets in the NFL. Smith ranks 2nd in the league in receptions with 23, and 4th in receiving yards with 277.

On to Road Again...

The Giants looked like their old selves against Tampa, dominating time of possession with a powerful running attack and dominant defense. They wrap up a three game road trip next week in Kansas City. With another strong performance, and a 3-0 stint away from the Meadowlands, the Giants might resurrect another dormant past identity: "Road Warriors."

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Giants: 3-0
Sack Count: 3
Take-away Count: 7

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Replacing a Play-maker: Kenny Phillips to IR

Fresh off of his best game as a pro, Kenny Phillips’ season abruptly came to an end on Thursday, as the Giants’ second-year Safety landed on IR with a rare knee ailment that had been affecting him since training camp: Patello-femoral Arthritis.


The Giants will miss not having No. 21 in pads this season.

The news hit me like…well, like Kenny Phillips. The young play-maker ranked up there among my favorite players on the team because of his outstanding athletic ability and the tremendous talent he brought to the position and to the field. At the beginning of the season, I tabbed him as my number one “Breakout Giant” of 2009.

But alas, the Giants put the brakes on the “Breakout Giant’s” 2009 season yesterday in hopes of addressing this serious condition as quickly and effectively as possible. Patello-femoral arthritis occurs when the cartilage behind the knee cap wears down to the point that the knee cap comes directly in contact with the femur…unpleasant, as you can imagine, and very rare for a 20-something year old football player.

Again, ouch.


While KP and the Giants were expecting/hoping to manage the injury throughout the season, an MRI on Wednesday revealed that Phillips’ condition had worsened since his 2 INT performance against the Cowboys. Word began circulating around noon on Thursday that the Giants were putting together a contingency plan, and shortly after 4pm, the worst was confirmed.

How Bad is It?

The nature of the injury, for me, is more troubling than the loss of Phillips’ presence on the field. And before I explain why I think the Giants will recover from this latest hit, I want to stress that KP’s recovery is what should take priority in everyone’s minds.

The phrase going around is “career-threatening,” due to the difficulties that come with treating it effectively and the rarity that it occurs in young people. Of course, a lot of this talk is coming from people unfamiliar with the specifics of Kenny’s injury, so take that for what you will. Ralph Vacchiano (see article) and Jenny Vrentas (see article) offer some great perspectives on that piece of the equation.

Ultimately however, a young man’s health and career could be in jeopardy. Keep him in your thoughts and prayers, and stay positive. I look at it this way: when the best athletes in the world work with the best doctors in the world, the outcome should be a good one. I expect to see Phillips back on the field next season to resume his promising career.

KP still has a few more Tony Romo passes to pick off...

Now back to the team…

Duck n’ Weave

Phillips is the first (and hopefully only) knockout blow in what has been a regular season filled with jabs through two weeks. With a basketball team’s worth of players watching from the sidelines, this team suddenly finds itself thin at positions many once considered to have great depth. Secondary is now at the top of that list.

C.C. Brown will start for Phillips, and the Giants claimed former Packer Aaron Rouse of waivers yesterday. Admittedly, both players are mysteries to me, though I think it’s safe to say neither has the raw play-making ability of KP.

Rolling with the Punches

Loss of talent aside, I don’t believe this will be a damning injury to the Giants’ chances this season. In the Giants’ scheme and with the talent already on the defensive side of the ball, Kenny Phillips’ talent was a luxury, not a necessity. With great pressure up front and solid cornerback play, Giants safeties just need to make tackles and be in the right place. While the preseason may have indicated this could be harder than it sounds for Brown, I have faith the Giants will be fine at the position. Here’s why:

First, Jerry Reese has a strong track record for bringing in mid-level talent via free agency. Kawika Mitchell and Danny Clark worked out well, and from first impressions Michael Boley could be a HUGE acquisition. Until proven otherwise, I will assume Reese has the same savvy for spotting solid DB’s as he does LB’s.

Second, this is an organization and locker room that demands its players be prepared to contribute at all times, and has a history of players upping their games to fill a void.
Despite an inconsistent preseason, Brown has become more comfortable in the system in recent weeks and has expressed his readiness to contribute in a bigger role.

Third, it doesn’t all fall on Brown, or Rouse...or Ed Reed if the Giants can pull off the long-shot Sinorice Moss trade to the Ravens. It will fall on the shoulders of everyone to pick up the slack, and if you put on a Giants jersey for a living, you can handle it. For those of us that put on the jersey for fun, I think we can handle it too…

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Giants 2-0
Sack Count: 4
Take-away Count: 6

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

5 Things We Learned from Sunday Night

The Pyramids, the Coliseum, the Great Wall…

On the night Jerry Jones unveiled his own magnificent construction to the world, the mammoth HD screen that overhangs the field at Cowboys Stadium displayed images of these architectural marvels. And while Cowboys Stadium was indeed spectacular (like the Pyramids) and the host to fierce combat (like the Coliseum), it did little to protect its inhabitants from the Northern invaders (like the…you get it).


Everything's ridiculously huger in Texas.

Genghis Tom and his horde of blue-clad warriors rode into town and defeated the Dallas Cowboys 33-31 in a thrilling game, decided in the final seconds by a Lawrence Tynes field goal. The game featured nine lead changes and no team ever led by more than six points. Many will point to the Cowboys 4 turnovers (3 INT’s from Romo) as the deciding factor in the game. I submit the Giants’ converting five trips to the red zone into just 12 points and 0 touchdowns was just as big a factor. You put touchdowns on the board, even half the time, this game is no contest.

Rookie free-agent CB Bruce Johnson returns Romo's first INT for a touchdown.

The win moves the Giants to 2-0 on the season, and perhaps more importantly 2-0 in the NFC East – a fine position to be in early in the season...It is indeed early however, and at this point in the year, players and fans alike are still getting a sense for what their teams are all about. While it is hard to get a pulse still on just how good Big Blue will be in 2009, here are five things that we CAN take away from Sunday night’s victory:

5. Michael Boley looks like a player. Last night Michael Boley made his Giant debut, starting at weak-side linebacker. Boley showed little ill effects from his off-season hip surgery as he was all over the field in the early parts of the game. Watching from home, it looked like he was in on every tackle through the first half (he finished with 7). As his stamina and comfort level with the defense develops, he looks poised to evolve into the play-maker the Giants believe he can be.

4. Our run defense still needs to work out the kinks. A week after completely shutting down the Washington Redskins’ ground attack, the Giants surrendered 251 yards on the ground to the Cowboys, with an average of 8.7 yards per carry. Part of that can be attributed to a great Dallas running game, part of it can also be attributed to a short-handed, still-getting-healthy D-line. A big part of it though is players missing assignments and being out of position. Big Blue will need to rebound to shut down Tampa Bay’s backs next week.

Felix Jones takes off...

3. Eli is the MAN. (This shouldn’t be a news flash to many of you...) His contract stirred up a lot of controversy this off-season among some circles (not any I spend much time in). Sunday night he showed off both the tangible and intangible qualities he possesses as a quarterback that make him one of the best in the NFL, and deserving of his lucrative extension. 25 for 38, for 330 yards and 2 TD’s, and ANOTHER game-winning drive in the clutch. Eli is the man. End of discussion.

Few are better at leading their team down the field in the clutch.

2. Did you catch that? Because Mario Manningham and Steve Smith sure did. Sunday night, as ESPN’s NFC East blogger Matt Mosley put it, the two receivers were the best players on the field. The duo have been catching everything thrown their way through two games, and more than that, they’re making plays with the ball once they have it in their hands. Reese’s decision not to trade for a veteran receiver in the off-season is looking pretty smart right now. When Nicks and Hixon return from injury, the Giants, stunningly, might be looking at one of the more potent passing attacks in the NFL.

Steve Smith has stepped up in a big way for Big Blue.

1. The “green zone” is a red zone for Big Blue. Tom Coughlin’s terminology for the most important area of the football field is rather ironic thus far this season because the Giants’ offense has not been able to “go” anywhere. In eight trips inside the 20 yard line, the Giants have managed zero touchdowns and come away with only 18 points. Eight trips to the red zone – 8 pts. For an offense so effective at moving the ball, this will have to change.

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Two weeks, two wins, and a handful of encouraging signs and concerns that the Giants can build on. How they handle the next few weeks, probably the easiest stretch of the schedule with games against the Bucs, Chiefs and Raiders, will reveal a lot about the identity of this team in 2009.

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Giants 2 - 0
Sack Count: 4
Take-away Count: 6

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Friday, September 18, 2009

5 Reasons the Giants will Beat the Cowboys

Sunday’s showdown in Dallas looms large on the horizon like the monstrous scoreboard in “The House that Jerry Built,” as what is arguably the most heated rivalry in the NFC East is set to resume this weekend.

Both teams are coming off Week 1 wins that were each impressive in their own right, but not without flaws. Dallas put on a prolific passing display, with over 350 yards and 3 scores through the air, but they also gave up over 450 yards and generated minimal pressure on the quarterback against a Tampa team widely recognized as “in transition.” The Giants showed off what could be a dominating defense in 2009. They controlled the clock and moved the ball against a stout defense. Their short yardage rushing and green zone efficiency left a lot to be desired however, and unless those areas are improved on, the Giants could struggle against more effective offenses this season.

How both sides follow up on their first performances of the season will reveal much about the nature of each team as well as the pecking order in the league’s toughest division. I think both teams are similar in many ways, and this weekend’s game could be one of the best from this early part of the season. Ultimately however, when it comes down to it, I believe that the Giants’ best is better than the Cowboys’ best, and they will prevail in a close contest.

Here are five reasons why:

5) The Road-Field Advantage. The Super Bowl-winning “Road Warriors” team of 2007 is still intact at the core. With more than 100,000 fans expected to join the celebration of Jerry’s creation, the stadium could be thunderous. For inferior or less experienced teams this could pose a big problem, but the Giants veteran group will be prepared for any challenges the environment might throw at them.

On the road again...



4) The Giants WR corps is stronger than the Cowboys secondary. With the exception of Terrence Newman, who has dropped off in recent years due to injury, I believe the Dallas secondary is mediocre at best. Orlando Scandrick and Mike Jenkins are very young and still developing. In the limited opportunities I’ve had to watch them (including against Tampa Bay), they’ve looked like liabilities rather than threats. In Week 1, Byron Leftwich threw for 276 yards. If not for a few air balls, who knows what that total could have been?

The young Giants receiving corps, in contrast, stepped up big with some clutch catches and key plays to help put away the Redskins. Manning completed passes to eight different receivers in Week 1. The absence of a clear number one, and the speed and play-making ability after the catch of each of Manning’s young targets, could work to the Giants’ advantage and put an inconsistent Cowboys secondary on its heels.

3) The Giants secondary will not give up 350 passing yards. While Dallas’s offensive display in Week 1 was impressive, it was not as dominating as some fans might think. Half of the yards came on three plays (80, 66, 42 yard TD passes), and all of the yards came against a disoriented, disorganized secondary attempting to muddle through an off-season of inconsistencies and transitions (See article). Outside of those plays, the Cowboys offense looked rather pedestrian for much of the game.

The Giants defensive backfield features a rotation of young veterans that are very comfortable in their scheme, and excellent in coverage. The unit also is home to one of the premier shut-down corners in the league, Corey Webster. Webster held perennial deep-threat Santana Moss to just 6 yards this past Sunday. With the possible return of CB Kevin Dockery to line-up, I am very skeptical Dallas can put on a similar show in Week 2.

CB Corey Webster will be critical to the Giants' success on Sunday.

2) The Giants run defense is superb. While Dallas does boast an impressive trio of runners, the challenge before the group is great. With the exception of a blown play on Washington’s first carry of the game, the Giants D held Clinton Portis to 28 yards on 15 carries last Sunday, continuing its tradition from last season of shutting down opposing backs. The wild-card for me is Felix Jones, who is a threat any time the ball is in his hands. If any defense is programmed to shut down a player like Jones however, it is the athletic and versatile Giants front.

1) The Giants will run wild on the Cowboy’s D. The Giants’ managed over 100 yards with two backs against a very good defense (4th best in the league last season + perhaps the most formidable defensive line presence in the game in Albert Haynesworth). Dallas gave up 174 yards on the ground to the Bucs, the 15th best rushing attack in league last season (Admittedly, a healthy Cadillac Williams and Derrick Ward are a big upgrade, but the OL has 4 of the same 5 starters).

Dallas will most definitely be looking to rebound after such a poor defensive performance, but so too will a Giants O-line that struggled with short yardage last week and struggled with the Dallas front seven last year. The influx of new personnel to the Cowboys defensive front injects an additional element of uncertainty to the Cowboys’ chances. Advantage: Giants

… …

These two teams are evenly matched and I think we are in for a treat if we can control our anxiety long enough to appreciate the competition (not looking good on this end). Whichever team wins the battle for most effective running attack and most disruptive pass rush will go home with a “W.” If the Giants play their best football, I believe it will do the job.

Final score: Giants 27 – Cowboys 20



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Giants 1-0
Sack Count: 4
Take-away Count: 2

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Sunday, September 6, 2009

2009 NFL Season Predictions

Steps and the Bears Guy welcome Philadelphia Eagles fan extraordinairre "PR" to the show this week as they discuss their picks for the 2009 NFL season. Which teams will make the playoffs? Who will compete for the Lombardi Trophy at Super Bowl XLIV? Which team is a sleeper to make the playoffs?

Click the player below or "The Show" in the central column to listen. You can also download the show for your listening convenience. The panel's picks are also outlined below...



Steps

AFC Playoff Seeds: New England, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, San Diego, Miami, NY Jets
AFC Sleeper: Houston

NFC Playoff Seeds: Green Bay, Dallas, New Orleans, Seattles, NY Giants, Chicago
NFC Sleeper: Washington (amongst others)

Super Bowl: Giants vs. Colts

Bears Guy

AFC Playoff Seeds: New England, Baltimore, San Diego, Tenessee, Pittsburgh, Houston
AFC Sleeper: Oakland

NFC Playoff Seeds (loose order): Dallas, Carolina, Chicago, Seattle, New Orleans, Minnesota
NFC Sleeper: N/A

Super Bowl: Bears vs. Ravens

PR

AFC Playoff Seeds: New England, Indianapolis, Baltimore, San Diego, Miami, Houston
AFC Sleeper: Denver

NFC Playoff Seeds: NY Giants, Minnesota, Carolina, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Green Bay
NFC Sleeper: N/A

Super Bowl: Eagles vs. Ravens

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Friday, September 4, 2009

Regular Season, Here We Come

Two things went through my head immediately following Thursday night’s final preseason game: “Yes, we made it.” and “Yes, the Fifth Element is on!” And while I had a few too many drinks in me to make it through the sci-fi classic without falling asleep, I was wide awake for the Giants’ last tune-up match…and I liked what I saw.


Arguably, Chris Tucker's least annoying role.

For many teams, the fourth preseason game carries very little weight and serves to function only as a final audition for those pushing for those last few roster spots. The Patriots embraced this notion fully, as they rested all of their starters. The Giants decided to bring out the big guns for a few series – a risky but wise move in my opinion – and they were firing on all cylinders.

Building Momentum

On both side of the ball, the Giants first-teamers did their jobs against the Patriots back-ups. On offense, Big Blue scored a touchdown on each of their first three drives, all through the air. Even more impressively, Eli Manning and David Carr did not throw an incomplete pass. Sinorice “I just made this team” Moss hauled in two TDs, and rookie Hakeem Nicks followed up on his two score performance in Week 3 with another long touchdown run. An interesting note on Nicks from Newsday’s Tom Rock: he leads the league in receptions during the preseason.


The Giants' first-round draft pick made a splash in the final weeks of August.

On defense, a chain of three-and-outs by the first-teamers, with sacks in the first two series and an interception that was not called was enough to impress through the TV. It took some top notch detective work after the fact from Mike Garafolo at the Newark Star Ledger to uncover that the Giants first team defense allowed a total of -6 yards!

I said “Phew, we made it” above because I was relieved we made through the preseason without catastrophic injury, but I thought we ended the exhibition season on a very positive and encouraging note. Both sides of the ball definitely took steps in the right direction last night and I think we have a lot of talent and momentum to build on as we prepare for the Redskins.

Off the Bubble

Of course, the main question of "Who is going to make the team?" was not overshadowed by the first team’s performance. Perhaps the biggest name on the bubble was Moss. I think his two touchdown performance secured him a spot on this team. He is undoubtedly a talent and somebody I think can deliver on this team when called upon in the right situations. I thought RB Allen Patrick also made his case for a roster spot with solid work running the ball and an energized effort on special teams.

WR Sinorice Moss showed he can make the plays when called upon.

No other bubble players jumped out at me. On the contrary, many made a case not to make the team. We don’t have a third quarterback worthy of a roster spot. After the top four CBs and starting Safeties, I don’t know that there is much depth at defensive back either. C.C. Brown will most likely make the team, but his play has been very inconsistent. My projection for fifth CB, Stoney Woodson, was cut last week because of an ankle injury. No one else on the Giants roster has stood up to claim that spot.

Ready for Battle

Of course, the Giants aren’t the only team making cuts on Saturday and some talent should be available at these weak positions. Philadelphia currently has four capable QBs on their roster so that’s one situation to keep an eye on. I will certainly be scanning the waiver wires to see which DB’s become available as well. I’m sure Jerry Reese and company will be doing the same. The Giants have landed some major contributors in free agency the last few seasons, including Domenik Hixon and Madison Hedgecock. We’ll see if they have some more magic in their hats this season.

Beyond addressing these depth concerns, the Giants have a roster ready to go. People will continue to question the wide receivers but the talent is undeniably there. They have a stable of wide-outs capable of getting behind defenses, and each brings something unique to the table. It will all come down to consistency of execution. Thursday night’s performance was a step in the right direction.

For me, the most pressing issue is getting guys healthy. DT Chris Canty and CB Aaron Ross are both nursing hamstring injuries that have kept them out for the bulk of the preseason. As one beat-writer pointed out, 10 of the Giants’ 11 projected starters have missed time this summer with injuries. All five of the Giants defensive tackles have missed time with injury, including Jay Alford who is out for the season. Not only do these injuries negate the Giants’ much-touted “depth” on defense, but they also complicate Bill Sheridan’s transition to Defensive Coordinator. We need to get guys healthy, otherwise the elite Giant defense everyone keeps praising could take more time to develop than the team can afford.

The regular season is days away. With some smart moves on the waiver wire and some good luck in the training room, this team looks ready for battle. Redskins, here we come!

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Monday, August 24, 2009

The Sky Isn't Falling...Yet


Saturday night’s thrashing at the hands of the Chicago Bears was painful to watch, to say the least. The Giants were dominated in all aspects of the game and looked out-matched, out-hustled and on many plays, out of place. Both sides of the ball put on an embarrassing display, which frustrated the coach and fans alike.

Tom Coughlin will have a lot to say to his players following Saturday's display.

Some were quick to proclaim the apocalypse is nigh and were polishing their pitchforks to storm Jerry Reese’s castle; others casually dismissed the loss with an “It’s just the preseason…” and another beer to numb the pain. My take: put the pitchforks away before somebody pulls a Leeroy Jenkins, and hold off on that next Duff Dry, Homer. You need to keep things in perspective…

Preseason or Not

First, it IS only the preseason, so the score doesn’t matter. (Thank God.) But even in the preseason, the results matter, meaning the product teams put on the field. Saturday, I don’t think anyone would buy what the Giants were selling.

“Well, we were missing a ton of starters. That’s not what we’ll look like come Week 1. No big deal,” some would claim.

Well, we were missing the same amount of guys in Week 1 and we dominated the opposition. At some point you need to be able to rely on your 3rd or 4th Cornerback, or back-up Safety, or back-up Guard, to hang with the first teamers. Guys go down…we’re learning that now, unfortunately. Which players were out Week 2 may have been a factor. I think the absence of Antonio Pierce and Kenny Phillips affected the defense early on. Chicago got some momentum and the Giants couldn’t recover.

But the injury list is not getting shorter, and it might be a few weeks into the regular season before the team is at full strength, if ever. Perhaps the worst thing to come out of Saturday’s game is that third-year DT and Field Goal team snapper, Jay Alford, has a torn MCL and partially torn ACL following a collision with a teammate. He will rehab for two weeks before being reevaluated...

Anyway, back to the field. The Giants performance on Saturday was not a reflection of the talent (or lack thereof) on it, but rather a lack of intensity and fundamental execution: issues that can be fixed, qualities the Giants possess. Big Blue was owned at the line of scrimmage on either side of the ball. The Linebackers and DBs were often out of position. The O-line looked old and slow and the backs didn’t do their part in the blocking game.

You can’t gauge the passing game if the Quarterbacks have no pass protection. You can’t play good defense if the D-line is running all over the place, or getting pushed all over the place. Carl Banks repeatedly pointed out the D-line not maintaining their “lane integrity.” You could see it on multiple plays…when we failed to get to the quarterback and gave up big plays as a result.

Hang in there, Eli.

Not All Bad

But on the positive side, there were a number of plays where players were off by a split-second: Manning’s late pass to Manningham, Dockery’s blitz and attempted run stuff, Michael Johnson and Corey Webster making plays on the ball. These are timing issues that teams should be dealing with now, and problems that will hopefully be resolved this week.

There were some bigger positives to take away too (though you had to look for them). Manningham looks like he is emerging as the number 3 WR on this team. Rookies Hakeem Nicks and Ramses Barden both made some nice catches. All three running backs looked very solid, and Eli looked poised, again, despite a few errant throws. On the defensive side of the ball, Jonathan Goff and Gerris Wilkinson both made strong cases to be on the final 53 come September.

Freight train a-comin'! Woo wooooo!

Lesson Learned

In the end, I believe this will go down as a valuable learning experience. Chicago needed to show something after a lousy performance in Week 1. The Giants were coming off a short week and probably did not invest much mental energy in getting ready for the game. Sometimes it takes a good slap in the face to wake up and realize that no matter how talented or experienced, in the NFL you can’t just put a helmet on and expect things to go your way.

DE Justin Tuck offered his take after the game. "I think this loss right here will wake some people up...It's human nature, but it's easy for us to look at all the talent we have on this football team, especially on defense, you kind of get complacent. In a way I'm kind of glad we played like that, because I know for a fact we got a bunch of guys on the sideline that don't ever want to see that. We don't ever want to have that feeling."

The Giants will respond and be ready for the annual Week 3 preseason game against the Jets. The third preseason game is typically regarded as the practice run for the regular season. I trust the Giants will make a much better showing in the cross-town showdown. If they don't, “It’s the preseason” won’t work much longer...

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