By Aaron Weiss
The New York Giants finally broke the 7 point curse, beating the Cleveland Browns 27-13. Let’s break down the game and look towards Week 12!
Jason Pierre-Paul – While I could laud the defense as a whole, as they probably deserve, there is no doubt that JPP deserves special distinction for his play on Sunday. He recorded 7 tackles, a game high 3 sacks (the team had 7), 4 tackles for loss, 4 QB hits, and a beautiful fumble recovery returned for a touchdown. The touchdown was set up by DT Johnathan Hankins knocking the ball away from Cleveland QB Josh McCown. JPP was a force on the line, causing a 3rd down sack to start the 4th quarter & the game ending strip sack, among other things. This game was his best of the year, a tour de force, and he’s now had 5.5 sacks and two forced fumbles in the last two games, after only recording 1.5 sacks and a fumble over the 9 preceding games. With his play matching his talent, in a contract year, he should be paid handsomely by the Giants or another suitor.
Odell Beckham Jr. – He did only connect on 6 of his 11 targets, but he also notched 96 yards and two touchdowns, including a key 32 yard TD on a shallow crossing route to give the Giants a 14-3 lead just before half (although the Browns scored a FG with time expiring). He also had a beautiful 59 yard touchdown on a punt return that was nullified by offensive holding. It’s a little distressing that 73 of Odell’s 96 yards came on two plays, but nonetheless, he was impressive in his two touchdown showing.
Brad Wing – The Giants punted on a whopping 9 of their 13 drives (12 if we exclude the victory formations to end the game), and 5 of those punts ended up within the 20 yard line. Three of them ended up inside or at the 5 yard line, excepting the muffed punt by Bobby Rainey, the Browns never received the ball past their own 37, and that 37 yard starting point was after a whopping 56 yard punt. For all the troubles the Giants had continuing offensive drives, it was Wing who ensured the Browns had to spend extended time with the ferocious Giants D.
Terrelle Pryor – Terrelle Pryor has been a top 10 receiver this year, and yet Janoris Jenkins and Landon Collins decided it wise to call out Pryor before the game. Jenkins said he didn’t see Pryor as a challenge, as he was “another receiver” and “just big”. Landon said that Pryor “only has some height over [Jenkins].” Pyror seemed to take this rather well, scorching the Giants for 6 catches on 12 targets for 131 yards, including a 54 yard catch. Granted Pryor’s best work came either in zone coverage or against rookie CB Eli Apple, but nonetheless Jenkins attacks before and after the game fell flat after Pryor’s performance. If you’re going to roast a guy, keep it tactful.
Sterling Shepard – After collecting a touchdown in each of the past three games, and putting up either 50 yards or 5 catches in each, Sterling went ahead and roasted the Browns defense for 0 yards. On 0 catches. On 0 targets. While he did drop 22 yards on an end around rush that was the Giants’ longest run of the game, Shepard was nonexistent in the passing attack (and that 22 yarder was his only touch of the game). While this almost qualifies as ugly, not just bad, I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt that this is an odd aberration. He had 6 targets in each of the nine games prior to this one, so look for him to rebound against the Steelers.
Penalties – After weeks of impeccable self-control, the Giants looked like the Raiders, dropping 9 penalties for 100 yards. This included a holding penalty on Ereck Flowers and a false start on Bobby Hart on back to back plays to ruin a drive that started at the 50 yard line, a 35 yard pass interference penalty on Eli Apple (covering Terrelle Pryor), defensive holding on Trevin Wade that turned what would’ve been 4th and 8 (and a 56 yard FG) into 1st and 10 and an eventual FG as time expired in the 2nd quarter, and holding on Mark Herzlich that nullified a 59 yard punt return touchdown from Odell Beckham. More than perhaps anything else, the Giants’ lack of discipline kept this game feeling much closer than the score indicated, and with an unspectacular offense or special teams, there is no way the Giants’ contend with the top teams in the league if they are this careless.
Bobby Rainey – Bobby Rainey sucked. He did have two kickoffs of 25 and 26 yards, which is respectable. But on three punt returns in the 1st half, he had his first return of 10 yards nullified by an invalid fair catch signal on his part, he managed a meh 7 yards on his second return, and he muffed a punt on his third, which, due to impeccable defense, only led to a field goal. He was removed from punt return duty in the 2nd half, with Odell Beckham taking his place. It was an atrocious showing, and probably not indicative of his skills as a returner in general. But it would not be surprising if the Giants take the injury risk and have Odell replace Rainey permanently.
Injuries – Odell Beckham hurt his thumb in the first quarter, but he appears to be unaffected in any long term way. CB Eli Apple left the game in the 4th quarter after cramping, but he should be fine. S Nat Berhe suffered a concussion in the second quarter, and his status for next week is unclear. Considering he missed four games earlier in the year with a concussion, there’s a chance he fails to see the field for the rest of the regular season. LB Mark Herzlich also suffered a concussion, and his status for next week is unknown. Finally, DE Owa Odighizuwa injured his left knee and left the game in the 2nd quarter, only to later return, and KR/WR Dwayne Harris was off of special teams duty due to a variety of injuries, but he did record his first catch and touchdown on the season. Whether or not he returns to special teams duty next week is unclear.
In the long term, RB Shane Vereen is supposedly targeting a return from his torn triceps on December 11, against the Cowboys, but Coach McAdoo only commented “We’ll wait and see,” so it’s unclear if he’ll make a return this year at all. The O-line remains banged up, as Adam Gettis became the fourth player to start at LG against the Browns. McAdoo says he doesn’t know if starter Justin Pugh (knee) or backups Brett Jones (calf) or Marshall Newhouse (knee) will be able to practice this week. Going forward look to this O-line to remain a rotating, somewhat porous unit starring whoever is healthy.
NFC East Standings – Dallas won their 10th straight game against Washington on Thanksgiving, establishing a 10 game streak for the first time in franchise history. The Eagles play tonight against the Packers. Ergo the Giants remain in 2nd place in the division at 8-3. The Giants currently have a solid lock on the 5th seed in the NFC, with a game and a half lead on Washington, who has the 6th seed, and 2 games ahead of the next contenders (Tampa Bay, Minnesota, potentially Philadelphia). With a quarter of the season left, the Giants’ playoff fate is entirely in their hands.
Next Week – The Giants travel to Pittsburgh to play the Steelers, who get a long week after cruising past an Andrew Luck-less Indianapolis Colts. The Steelers are 6-5 and are tied for 1st in their division, alongside the Baltimore Ravens. While the Steelers have won back to back games, they were against the Browns and, as previously mentioned, a Luck-less Colts, and they lost the four games prior to the Dolphins, Patriots, Ravens, and Cowboys. Their only particularly good win was a week 4 thrashing of the Kansas City Chiefs. The Steelers’ offense is explosive, ranking 7th in pass yards, but their defense is mediocre, and I expect the Giants’ 3rd ranked defense (based on total yards) to lead the Giants to yet another victory.
Prediction – Giants wins 21-17