By Aaron Weiss
The New York Giants could not survive the short week on the road, losing to the Eagles 24-19. Let’s break down the game, examine the playoff implications, and look ahead to the last week of the regular season!
Paul Perkins – In a depressing showing across the board, Perkins continues to shine, showing us flashes of his ability for when he inevitably replaces Rashad Jennings (who had a respectable day in his own right). He carried 15 times for 68 yards, averaging 4.5 yards a carry, and he also added a 9 yard reception on 2 targets. While this offense drowned in the amount of passing attempts (63 attempts were a career high for Eli Manning), it was not due to an ineffective rushing attack, but rather a dramatic increase in the time of possession (the Giants’ held the ball for 34+ minutes, a season high).
Victor Cruz – Vic had caught 5 passes in the previous 6 games, essentially becoming a decoy for OBJ and Sterling Shepard, and falling on the depth chart behind rookie Roger Lewis. However, this week, on the site of his 2014 season ending injury that kept him off the field until this season, he caught a whopping 8 catches on 13 targets for 84 yards. On a day where Jim Schwartz’s defense continually played Cover 2 defense to avoid a gamebreakinig play by Odell Beckham, Cruz jumped into the spotlight, continually making excellent plays on first and third down, including a sweet 29 yard catch. In what will probably be his last year as a Giant, this was the highlight of a bittersweet year.
Robbie Gould – On a day where the Giants could not get into the end zone, scoring a TD only once in a whopping 5 red zone trips, Gould, who was a mid-season replacement for the suspended domestic abuser Josh Brown, nailed all 4 of his field goals, plus the one extra point, keeping the Giants in the game until the very end.
Trevin Wade – Star CB Janoris Jenkins was held out on the short week with a back injury, which thrusted Wade into the starting lineup. He had been ranging from mediocre to awful in his other showings this year (and in general). However, in a game where he was definitely a target for the Eagles’ offense, he stepped up big time, recording 3 tackles and a pass defended, plus a 85.9 PFF grade and two incredible plays, one a fantastic open field tackle on a third down screen where the Giants were beat, and one a deflection on a deep pass from Carson Wentz. While it may not have paid dividends with a W, this secondary did well in JJ’s absence.
Pass Protection – While Eli threw an incredible number of passes, and he wasn’t sacked despite that, he was still pressured on way too many attempts. According to PFF he was pressured 19 times and hit 10 times, which, combined with his sloppy play, led to a very jumpy Eli.
Will Tye – Tye finished with a tolerable 5 receptions for 23 yards on 8 targets, although the 2.9 average yards per target is clearly awful. However, the Giants’ last offensive play was a pseudo-hail mary to Tye, and he didn’t even attempt to try to contend to grab the ball, allowing Terrence Brooks to make the interception. He doesn’t qualify for the ugly section as he isn’t exactly a wide receiver, he isn’t designed to make deep catches, and I imagine that his decision to not contend had some logic behind it. I suspect as someone who doesn’t do that sort of route running, he thought that if he stopped to contend the catch (and did so successfully) the clock would run out before the Giants would score, and therefore he naively thought it’d be better to catch it while falling backwards. Still, Tye admitted he needed to do better in those situations and I imagine he’ll work on it going forward.
Eli Manning – In his defense, he did throw for the 3rd most yards this season (for him), he did complete a tolerable 60% of his passes, and he attempted a career high 63 passes. However, he threw 1 touchdown to 3 picks, 2 of which were entirely on Eli (the Tye pick wasn’t as much), and he continually threw bad passes. He wasn’t throwing spirals and his receivers continually had to contort their bodies to make catches, at the expense of yards after the catch. The numbers look better than he performed on the field, and the lack of protection didn’t help, but if Eli was a little more collected and a little more savvy the Giants win this game, even if they still started in a 14-0 hole.
Reffing – There were a few bad calls and non calls throughout the game. Most significantly, a bad roughing the passer penalty on Eli Apple, which the Eagles piggybacked off of to score a 40 yard TD on the next play, and no pass interference was called on a 4th and 6 that would’ve resulted in a 1st down.
John Jerry – 3 of the Giants’ 5 penalties were on the offensive line (the other two were roughing the passer), and two of the 3 o-line penalties were on Justin Pugh (holding) and Brett Jones (false start). However, the most egregious penalty of the night belonged to John Jerry. As the Giants were driving down the field with 2 minutes left in the game, down 5, the Giants ended up being stuck at 4th and 1 due to a well called challenge by the Eagles. The Giants had already notched 3 first downs on the drive and looked really good, and it was clear on 4th down that the Giants were going to run the ball and attempt a hard count beforehand. And yet the only one fooled by the hard count was Jerry, who jumped, causing a false start. This killed all the Giants’ momentum, pushed them back to 4th and 6, and led to a turnover on downs on an incomplete pass to Sterling Shepard (that should’ve been called for defensive pass interference). In most cases that would’ve killed all of the Giants’ chances, and in this case they still received an opportunity afterwards, but given that required the Giants to go 85 yards in 90 seconds with only one timeout, Jerry’s penalty basically ended the game. These sorts of miscues will doom the Giants in the playoffs, and they’ll need to get their acts together if they wish to succeed.
Injuries – DT Damon Harrison was the only Giant who was hurt in the game, with a knee injury, but he later returned. The Eagles lost Ryan Mathews for the season with a neck injury, as well as Allen Barbre and Jaylen Watkins for the game.
NFC East Standings – With this loss the Cowboys clinched the division and the 1 seed in the NFC. The Giants fell to 10-5 and the Eagles climbed to 6-9. Dallas, 12-2, faces Detroit on Monday Night Football, and Washington dominated the Bears to go to 8-6-1.
While the Giants can no longer win the division, they did clinch a the 5th seed in the NFC this week with Tampa Bay losing to New Orleans. It’s their first playoff berth since 2011, the last time the Giants won the Super Bowl. This means the Giants will face the 4 seed in the wildcard round.
As for the other seeds, Atlanta will clinch the 2 seed with a win next week, Detroit would clinch if Atlanta loses and they win out (against Dallas this week and Green Bay the next), and Seattle clinches if Atlanta loses, they win, and Detroit doesn’t win out.
The 3 and 4 seeds will be split by the two odd teams out for the 2 seed, plus Green Bay if Detroit doesn’t get the 2 seed. This means the Giants will open the playoffs against one of Green Bay, Detroit, Atlanta, or Seattle, whichever gets that 4th seed. If you’re a Giants fan you have to pray that Detroit is the one to nab the 4 seed.
The only other potential contender in the NFC is Washington, who could clinch the 6th seed if they beat the Giants and either Detroit or Green Bay loses out. Considering my pick for the Washington game below, I don’t like Washington’s odds.
NFC East Seed predictions:
- Dallas (already secured 1st seed and division)
- Atlanta (clinched divison)
- Seattle (clinched division)
- Green Bay
- New York (clinched 5th seed)
Next Week – The Giants’ play their last game of the regular season against Washington, in Washington. In week 3 the Giants recorded their only home loss on the season against Washington, 29-27, in a game that the Giants should’ve won, but let slip away. Additionally, it was the beginning of an early season down spiral for Odell Beckham, as Josh Norman got into his head (although Odell beat Norman in the matchup statistically and on the field). While it is possible for the Giants to blow it on the road in what is a meaningless game, the G-Men seem to play best when they are in a “prove it” mode, and after losing two of their last four, there is still doubt around the league about the legitimacy of the Giants as a playoff team, and I imagine the Giants will go out with that “prove it” attitude. While it’ll be close, as all Giant games are, I think the Giants end the regular season with a W.
Prediction – Giants wins 24-18