The Birds Are Alright

By John Camera

With an impressive offensive output against the hapless Giants, the Nick Foles-led Eagles look poised to continue their impressive play this season.

No, Philly isn’t going to tank now that Carson Wentz is out for the season.

Foles stepped into the starting lineup for the first time since 2016 when he had a single start for Kansas City. Before that, Foles started seven games for the 2015 Rams after leaving Philly via trade following the 2014 season. The Arizona product has been mostly an afterthought following a spectacular and out-of-nowhere 2013 season that saw him throw for 27 TDs and just 2 INTs under Chip Kelly.

It was the veteran signal caller, who almost considered retirement following a forgettable stint with the Rams, that was the most reassuring  part of Philadelphia’s win over the Giants. Nick Foles was consistent, efficient and most importantly, didn’t have any turnovers in a commanding performance. The Quarterback had complete control of an offense that didn’t show any signs of stepping back or fading away following the loss of Wentz. Foles finished the game completing 24 of his 38 passes, several drops and miscues by WRs could’ve led to more completions, for 237 yards and 4 huge TDs. Every touchdown pass came in the red zone, underscoring the brilliant performance Foles had when the Eagles needed touchdowns the most. With a Giants’ offense that suddenly found life, Foles ensured Philly was getting in the paint and not being forced to kick field goals.

And did I mention he didn’t turn the ball over?

With a running game that was good but not great, Foles was handed the keys to a shiny, big-play offense and made them look down-right methodical against New York, in the best way possible. Foles took what the defense gave him, carving up a depleted Giants’ secondary without forcing the ball to any one player at any given time. Foles is not on the same level of Carson Wentz, that much is clear, but his efficiency in the pocket, inability to be rattled and knack for not turning the ball over will make him a capable replacement to guide the Eagles into the playoffs.

With this win, Philadelphia clinched a first-round bye for the first time since 2004, where they met the Patriots in the Super Bowl only to lose, 24-21.

The biggest negative from this showdown in New York was Philly’s defense. The lackluster performance in terms of tackling and pass coverage nearly gave the game away despite Fole’s excellence. The Eagles’ defense kept a usually-dormant Giants’ offense in the game by failing to wrap up their playmakers, playing soft defense with a lot of cushion for the New York’s receivers and biting on double moves. Cornerbacks Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills were especially at fault, victims of several big plays by the Giants’ passing attack.

That being said, clean up some of the negatives on defense, and the Eagles should be able to make noise in the playoffs even with Nick Foles under center.


Kansas City Forgot What Made Them Great

By John Camera

The Chiefs find themselves drifting further away from contender and closer to pretender following an embarrassing 12-9 loss in overtime against a 2-8 New York Giants team that had all but quit on its coach. Make no mistake, the Kansas City team that has dropped four of its last five is not the same team that started 2-0 against the Patriots and Eagles respectively, arguably the two best teams in the league right now. Kansas City has very much lost its way.

The Chiefs are not yet in danger of missing out on the playoffs thanks in large part to an AFC West full of underachievers. The Chargers look average, although have rebounded well from a 0-4 start, the Broncos can’t find any offensive momentum to break a six game losing streak and the Raiders looked especially listless in an embarrassing 33-8 loss against New England. This has allowed the Chiefs to remain on top, two games ahead of everyone else, at 6-4. But the most concerning thing is not their ability to take home an AFC West title, it is their place in the AFC hierarchy of power.

After racing out to a 5-0 start, Kansas City looked like the best team in the league, especially after trouncing the defending champion Patriots in Foxborough on opening night. They did it with a potent offense, a QB in Alex Smith that seemed reborn without the shackles of being a game manager and a running game led by rookie Kareem Hunt. They lost WR Jeremy Maclin but it seemed to be addition by subtraction with the way the passing game soared in his absence. Smith was more confident and took deeper, more aggressive shots against defenses with speedy and talented WRs like Tyreek Hill, Albert Wilson, Marcus Robinson and Chris Conley. Travis Kelce remained their number one target and thrived in the role, the big, athletic TE able to stretch the field and be equally effective both short and deep down the seam.

Alex Smith’s performance in the first five game compared to the last five are stark and telling of the struggle that the offense has had. Smith has had less chances to do what made the Chiefs so surprisingly dominant in their passing game; attack downfield. Smith’s yards per attempt went from 8.71 to 7.35, indicative of the more conservative approach that the air attack has been relegated to and has used in past seasons. His other passing stats have dropped as well. Passing yards are down from 278 per game to 257, TDs are down from 2 to 1 and completion percentage from 76.5% all the way down to 62.3%. And after throwing zero interceptions in the first five games, Smith has thrown three in the past five.

While the running game has also struggled in the Chiefs four losses, it’s been the passing game’s sudden impotency that has ultimately made Kansas City fall from the top of the league to the third or fourth best team in it’s own conference. The Chiefs will absolutely need to get back to a downfield, deep-shot, aggressive passing game if they expect to make a significant playoff run. Reverting back to the check down, conservative passing game and trying to win with a running game behind an average offensive line and a defense that has looked weaker than usual is not going to get it done for Kansas City.

Its not surprising that fans and media want to sound the alarm after that embarrassing loss to a Giants squad that looked lost. I don’t think its that time, at least not yet. The Chiefs still have a solid lead in the AFC West and can essentially make the playoffs just by taking care of business against their divisional opponents. However, they will need to recover their early season form in the passing game if they can expect to challenge the Patriots or Steelers and be considered true title contenders.

I Was Wrong About Carson Wentz and Jared Goff: Here’s Why

By John Camera

If you’ve seen my draft profiles on Carson Wentz and Jared Goff, you’ll know that my opinions on them as the top two quarterbacks in the 2016 draft were very strong. Yes, I agreed they were probably the best of the bunch, but still, I thought that wasn’t saying much. To me draft media was hyping up these two because the narrative behind the NFL Draft is so much more interesting when franchise QBs are involved. In addition to the media, my thinking was that General Managers who felt the need for a young QB who can guide their team to success would artificially inflate the value of those who are the closest thing to that.

I thought Wentz and Goff were both second round picks, guys who would need significant time before a team got their return on investment. And there was nothing wrong with that; Derek Carr and Jimmy Garoppolo were second round picks and Teddy Bridgewater was picked 32nd overall. I believed that taking them early in the first, much less numbers one and two overall, was a huge mistake. And their rookie seasons proved me right more or less. Wentz started hot with a lot of easy reads and simple throws and cooled off quickly once defensive coordinators figured out how to stop him. Goff was terrible as soon as he got into the lineup, unable to get the ball downfield and lacking good pocket presence. In their sophomore seasons, a lot has changed, and while it is still early to say what their career path will be, Wentz is 24 and Goff is 23, we are getting a firm idea of they are capable of.

Starting with the number one overall pick, I felt Goff would be woefully unprepared to make a switch from a college spread system to a more conservative NFL attack, especially one under someone so notably unimaginative as head coach Jeff Fisher. More importantly, I had major concerns with his accuracy. On his throws more than 10 yards downfield, I did not see consistent touch and accuracy. Goff threw wide of his targets quite often at Cal, making his receivers work extra hard to grab his passes and sometimes getting them killed when throwing them into coverage, like throwing them directly into the path of a safety coming downhill. I also thought his footwork and pocket presence left something to be desired. All of these issues were prevalent in his rookie year, where Goff struggled to do anything positive and talk of Sean Mannion replacing him was no longer a whisper in the 2017 offseason.

Rookie Head Coach Sean McVay has a lot to do with Goff’s development into a competent Quarterback this year, as the Cal product has gotten significantly better in the all the areas that I had issues with previously. His accuracy in particular has take a huge step forward that is simply unusual for most QBs. Accuracy is a big thing to try and change and for Goff to be able to do so should earn him a lot of credit. The addition of weapons like Robert Woods, Sammy Watkins and Gerald Everett was also critical but no acquisition was more offense-changing than Left Tackle Andrew Whitworth. Look no further to the success of Goff as compared to Andy Dalton, Whitworth’s old QB. It goes to show what a real, effective coach and a retooled offense can do for a young QB who experiences turmoil in his first season.

Wentz on the other hand had a rookie season with a lot of promise. He looked pretty good despite a limited preseason and an offense that was largely devoid of weapons at WR and RB. I was largely skeptical of Wentz because of how defensive coordinators were able to shut him down in the second half of the season when they adjusted to the Eagles’ somewhat conservative offense. However, it is foolish to deny Wentz’ ability and play-making acumen any longer. He is clearly an excellent young QB and could be the next great star at the position. He is having an MVP caliber year so far, guiding the Eagles to 9-1 while putting up the most passing TDs in the league. Wentz has improved in every area from his rookie to sophomore year; decision making, pocket presence, accuracy at all levels of the field, timing and footwork. Coming out of North Dakota State, I feared that Wentz’ poor footwork, inconsistency in reading through his progressions and especially his uneven pocket presence (noting how badly his accuracy degraded under pressure and his penchant for holding the ball too long) could be his undoing at the next level.

All of these weakness cropped up in Wentz’ first season and while not a reason to call him a bust, I was not ready to consider him undeniably and eventually great. This season, however, he has been great, issues coming up here and there but more often than not Wentz has been simply spectacular. And just like Goff, an influx of weapons like Jay Ajayi, LeGarrette Blount and Alshon Jeffrey has also helped make Wentz a better and more consistent QB.

It’s important to remember that we can’t account for everything when scouting players, especially a complex position like QB. We don’t know what the player’s work ethic is like, their film study acumen, how well they respond to coaching, and how well the team they will go to coaches’ are. Scouting as an outsider can very much be a “best guess” based on what is seen on tape and scouting reports that end up erroneous are impossible to escape. As long as the reason why they were wrong is understood, we can learn from past scouting mistakes and make better judgments in the future.

2017 Midseason NFL Award Races

By Alexander C. Lawrence

It’s that time of the year again and that’s midseason NFL awards! We all love them and let’s be honest, it’s always fun to look back at and see how right or wrong we were come seasons’ end. This season of candidates for each award is like no other year. There is no shortage of talent, just some familiar faces missing such as Aaron Rodgers, Derek Carr and Matt Ryan, all of whom were seen as potential MVP candidates. I’ll take us through some MVP, Offensive Rookie of the Year, Defensive Rookie of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year choices.


1) Carson Wentz – The Eagles are off to a great start as Wentz and Co. are 8-1 now and in firm control of the NFC East. A big reason for this is Carson Wentz, who has played out of his mind in his second full-season in the NFL. It’s crazy to think during  Wentz’ rookie season there was talks of Chase Daniel starting over him.

Wentz is pacing the NFL with 23 touchdown passes. The duo of Wentz-to-Alshon Jeffrey is becoming more and more dangerous and it’s time to consider the Eagles a serious playoff threat. He has the Eagles with the best record in the NFL. He is second in passing yards and third in passer rating among QBs. Not to mention all the tight coverage throws he has completed and made look easy all season.

Wentz is having the type of season that makes you check the record books. That’s just how good he is right now. For example Donovan McNabb has the club record with five games in a season with four or more touchdowns passes. Wentz is currently at three. The most touchdown passes by an Eagles’ QB in a single season is 32. The North Dakota State product is on pace to have a staggering  41 TD passes. Wentz is seemingly re-writing the Eagles record book and well on his way to breaking a few of them.

2) Alex Smith – Mr. Efficiency himself is now in the MVP conversation as the Kansas City Chiefs started off the season red-hot. And who was behind this great start? Not the defense, but Smith and rookie running back Kareem Hunt, who himself is on the verge of having a rookie of the year campaign (see below). Alex Smith has been known as the conservative QB who doesn’t attempt to throw down the field that often and is more of a check-down guy. You might be surprised to know he leads the NFL this season with 8.4 yards per pass attempt. He also leads the NFL in passer rating with 115.4.

3) Tom Brady – Every year Brady plays it seems like he’s in the conversation for MVP and until he stops playing I don’t see that stopping. He has the Patriots atop the AFC East right now; clearly father-time hasn’t impacted his playmaking ability. He’s won the award before and he’s always the team’s MVP, but this season he has some deadly weapons, even with Julian Edleman out for the year. Rob Gronkowski and Brandin Cooks are proving to be very reliable targets which are keeping Brady’s numbers on pace to warrant the MVP talks. Where Brady separates himself from the rest is how he performed with the Pats’ poor defensive play in the first half of the season and being forced to keep pace with other offenses. Still, he’s picking apart opposing team’s defenses to win games and managing to supplement a bad defense. Tom is very much in this race each and every year until proven otherwise.

4) Russell Wilson – People were disappointed with Russell Wilson’s play last season, but a strong season in 2017 has put Wilson firmly back in the MVP race. The Seahawks just traded for Duane Brown, one of several great trade deadline moves, who will only help Wilson feel more comfortable and less pressured during games. If you saw that epic 41-38 win over the Houston Texans you know why everyone may believe the hype around Wilson and what this offense can achieve. I don’t believe all their cards have been dealt and I can see the Seahawks being a sleeper candidate to make an appearance in the Super Bowl. Wilson has to carry the load of the team and put it on his back much like Tom Brady. He’s showing he can be up to the task to shoulder the offense and as long as he continues to put up points, Wilson will be in MVP talks.

Offensive Rookie of the Year

1) Deshaun Watson – Okay before you tell me Watson is out for the year just hear me out for a minute. Since becoming the starter in his short stint with Houston, the rookie has helped the offense put up 13, 33, 57, 34, 33, and 38 points during the games he did start. That is more than enough offense to win some games which he did. He went 3-4 as a starter, but he was tied (with Carson Wentz) for passing TDs with 19 up until his ACL injury. The talent was there and I see no reason why he couldn’t have continued to be a rookie revelation, even if his numbers eventually fell back to Earth. He’s a good candidate nonetheless since he proved he can tear a defense a part. He threw for 402 yards against a Seahawks D in Seattle and kept the game going back and forth. Anyone who can put up that much offense should be seriously looked at. He is everything we’d hope he would be when he came into the league.

2) Kareem Hunt – The Toledo product who most saw as no more than an afterthought quickly became a break-out rookie. His top tier production has been boosted by the injuries in the Kansas City Chiefs’ backfield. He leads the NFL in rushing yards though Zeke Elliott and Le’Veon Bell are quickly approaching behind him and with 32 receptions he has made an impact through the air as well. He came onto the scene quickly and is already a critical piece of that offense. He’s averaged over a 100 yards from scrimmage, no easy feat to achieve. Look at what he’s done for Alex Smith and helping Smith balance out his game with an effective and consistent run game.

3) JuJu Smith-Shuster – There’s something in the air in Pittsburgh. Much credit goes to the coaching staff, since it seems the Steelers are always developing wide receivers well; JuJu Smith is just the latest. Among the rookie receiver class he doesn’t have too much competition at this moment. Watch out as he already does have over 400 receiving yards and averages 17.7 yards per reception. Regardless of how many targets he is given, he should continue to be one of the most electrifying rookies this year.

Defensive Rookie of the Year

1) Marshon Lattimore – It’s clear why many scouts viewed him as the top CB prospect in the draft and the New Orleans Saint were more than happy when he fell to them. It was a match made in heaven and Lattimore is proving it every week. Lattimore’s impact has made the Saints a surprisingly good defense which we haven’t seen for quite a while now. He tackles well and is outstanding in coverage. For last decade the Saints have typically been awful on defense and the playmaking ability he brings to that team is enough to outshine most other defensive rookies.

2) Marcus Maye – Talk about getting your own “Legion of Boom” version for Gang Green when they drafted Jamal Adams (1st round) and Marcus Maye (2nd round) in the 2017 NFL draft. Marcus Maye has performed well to this point and has been a real leader for that Jets defense and looks to be a cornerstone for years to come. He is tied with the team lead in interceptions with two and his nose to get to the ball and make plays this season can’t be ignored.

Defensive Player of the Year

1) Jalen Ramsey – No need to really explain this one as Jalen Ramsey has quickly made his mark in the NFL and is perhaps the best Cornerback in the league. He has made a huge difference with the Jaguars defense and stepped up to be a leader. He should be an obvious candidate and maybe a favorite to win DPOY if he can continue to play at such a high level with amazing consistency. He controls the defense and how he has helped transformed that secondary is well deserving of the award. I do realize that Calais Campbell is leading the NFL in sacks and destroying opposing offenses in his own right so while both are deserving of the award, I have to give the nod to Ramsey.

Winners & Losers of the NFL Trade Deadline

By Alexander C. Lawrence

Going into this deadline I didn’t believe there would be many, if any, blockbuster deals. The NFL typically doesn’t have the most active teams making trades right up until the deadline and with big names involved. I was very wrong. In fact this may be one of the most arguably active deadlines in history. Some pretty big names were moved and we could be witnessing some teams pull away and prove they are true contenders. Like any NFL fan I enjoy to see trade action, especially big names on the move to new teams. Here’s a look at some of the best and worst deals that were made at the deadline.


1) Jay Ajayi – He was traded from the Miami Dolphins to the Philadelphia Eagles for just a fourth-round pick! There was a lot of mixed reactions about his snap count in Miami and that he’d be reduced to a part-time role in Philly with LeGarrette Blount, Corey Clement and Wendall Smallwood lurking in the backfield. However, I’m not too concerned about his ability to make an impact with that impeccable offensive line.

It’s no secret that Ajayi through the first half of the season didn’t live up to expectations after breaking out in 2016 with Miami. I don’t understand why Miami didn’t ask for more in compensation for him, but nonetheless he is an Eagle now and I believe he was the missing piece to help the Eagles soar and compete in the playoffs with the way Wentz and that offensive have already performed this season. I see nothing but improvement in that offense coming as Ajayi has too much talent not to do so.

2) Duane Brown – Brown was a big part of the reason Deshaun Watson succeeded so quickly in his rookie year prior to a devastating ACL injury. The Seahawks got a proven offensive linemen who will make Russell Wilson much happier in Seattle. The potential of the production that Wilson and can put up with a significantly now upgraded offensive line is exciting.

Left Tackle is one of the most important positions and sometimes that’s forgotten in the mist of all these touchdowns being scored. This trade is one of the best things Seattle could’ve done. To put this in perspective Seattle’s production from the left tackle position has had Wilson under pressure 84 times. Brown has given up less than half the amount of pressure in the last 17 games he’s played.

3) 49ers and Jimmy Garoppolo – A second rounder is what it took for the Patriots to move the prized back-up of Tom Brady and hand him over to the 49ers, the team Tom Brady grew up rooting for. After sitting and learning behind Brady for four years all eyes are on Jimmy to see what he can do. He is in a contract year so, the ball is now in the 49ers court to evaluate him in their facilities, and not the few snaps he got with the Pats, and determine if he is indeed their franchise QB worthy of a contract that matches that.

The Browns offered a trade to the Patriots six months ago during the 2017 NFL draft. Cleveland would deal a second rounder in exchange for Garoppolo. The question remains; what changed six months later? We may not ever find out that answer, but I do expect Jimmy Garoppolo to suit-up for the 49ers soon and I think this may play out well for San Fran. A second rounder for your highly regarded back-up who was seemingly the heir to the Patriots throne once Brady hung it up is not a bad price. But the time is now for Jimmy Garoppolo to make his NFL mark.

4) Tom Brady – At 40-years-old a lot of people were wondering what the job security of arguably the best QB of this generation was like. The Jimmy Garoppolo trade shed some light on the situation as it seems the Patriots are okay with the age of Tom Brady and his ability to continue playing at an elite level. There’s no question Garoppolo would’ve commanded massive money to remain a back-up and then there’s the issue of a highly paid back-up QB and wasting that money for someone to ride out the bench. Brady’s fight with father time continues and don’t be shocked, based on their history, if they draft a QB in the 2018 NFL draft.

5) Rashard Robinson – A week ago he was one of the worst teams in the NFL (49ers) but he has since moved to the New York Jets who sit at 4-5 (last place in AFC East). Coming into the season people thought the Jets would be getting a top three pick in the 2018 NFL draft, but now that seems highly unlikely. This move indicates the Jets are not giving up, and improving themselves on defense with the addition of this defensive back. Don’t expect big things, but no one can deny the Jets are playing significantly more competent football than what was expected heading into the 2017 season.


1) The Jaguars trading for Marcell Dareus – To say Dareus has been a bust in Buffalo would be an understatement. He experienced success when he recorded 19 sacks between 2013 and 2014, but other than that all he’s done is wind up with a few suspensions and headaches for the Bills front office. There is risk, but that’s why he was traded for a sixth-rounder. The potential is there for Dareus to be an impactful defender for the Jags but he doesn’t always give it a 100% on the field. If the Jaguars can change his training habits and mature him he could very well be an excellent addition to an already-talented defense that features Calais Campbell and Jalen Ramsey.

2) Kelvin Benjamin – When I heard about this trade I was partly confused as most people wrote the Bills off after they traded away Sammy Watkins, Ronald Darby, and Reggie Ragland. It made me wonder what the Bills’ organization was doing. And then it turned out their team played better without them.

Benjamin was never a #1 receiver in Carolina in my opinion and I still don’t like him in Buffalo, but the Bills are making their team work as they are 5-3 (second in the AFC East), which most fans did not expect coming into 2017. Bills fan it is time to start believing this team can end their lengthy playoff-drought, but temper expectations for Benjamin. He won’t be a #1 receiver here either with the likes of Jordan Matthews and rookie Zay Jones around. The move just doesn’t seem poised to work out and the Panthers were getting the most out of Benjamin with Cam Newton so Tyrod Taylor may not do much better for his real life or fantasy value.


Kareem The Dream: Breaking Down His Stratospheric Start

By John Camera

Don’t look now but the rookie runner leading the league in rushing has become a top-tier runningback in the NFL. Arguably only sitting behind stars like Zeke Elliot, David Johnson, Le’Veon Bell and Todd Gurley, Kareem Hunt is establishing himself as a force to be reckoned with with each game that passes.

Hunt was one my personal favorite runningbacks in this past draft class, second only to Jamaal Williams, and I compared him to perennial 1,000-yard rusher Frank Gore. That’s a lofty comparison but I truly believed Hunt deserved it and would emulate Gore if he improved the weaknesses in his game. Boy has he ever.

The following is my scouting report on Hunt following his senior year at Toledo:

hunt scouting

All of the positives I found in his game transitioned almost immediately, not something that happens very often as rookies adjust to the speed and complexity of the NFL. Not only that, but Hunt improved on the negatives that made him a very good back rather than an elite one on the level of Leonard Fournette.

To start, I greatly underestimated Hunt’s finishing speed on his carries at Toledo. While I did note his speed was excellent and acceleration immediate, I didn’t think he had that game-breaking gear to pull away and break off runs for 70, 80 yards a pop. Hunt proved me wrong in his very first game, twice pulling away from the New England defense and hasn’t stopped since then. Make no mistake, Kareem Hunt may not look like Gurley or Fournette but he is as much, if not more, of a world class athlete as those guys are.

Hunt has also shown a commitment to his pass-blocking game, something that was already solid but needed some work to it. Hunt has protected Alex Smith well since taking over the starting role for the injured Spencer Ware. In addition, the Toledo product has kept his weight in the 210s, a perfect weight for his combination of speed and power, not getting as high as the 230s that he was at in his earlier years with the Rockets.

Most impressive to me is how Hunt has gotten better and more patient as a runner. That manic style that he sometimes exhibited is much harder to find now than it was last season at Toledo. Hunt should get major props for how he has not only adjusted to the speed of the NFL but improved as a player at the same time.

While improving his negatives, every one of Hunt’s positives that I noted has transitioned almost perfectly to the NFL. The rookie has shown his great speed, impressive acceleration and elite level change of direction and agility in every single performance. On top of that, his vision has been very strong to start the season; Hunt is trusting his blockers and picking the right holes to run through.

Hunt’s ability to move the pile, whether at 230 or 200, could never be disputed, but it’s still worth noting just how well a 5’10” and 216 pound runningback is crushing defenders. His full toolbox of open field moves and elite balance has also helped him churn out yards even when it seems little to nothing is there for him.

The one positive that I did note but am nonetheless still surprised at how well Hunt has adapted it into the NFL is his receiving ability. While not on the level of fellow rookie Christian McCaffrey, Hunt has immediately inserted himself into the Chiefs passing game and done an excellent job of contributing to it. Hunt was always a good receiver at Toledo, he caught 73 passes there, but he wasn’t quite the contributor that he has become for the Chiefs.

While it would be fair to imagine the rookie having speedbumps or games similar to the 9-carry, 21-yard performance he had against Pittsburgh, don’t think for one second that Kareem Hunt will be a one-year wonder. Defenses will figure out the best way to defend this potent Chiefs offense and Hunt will see games where his chances are limited, but rest assured the Toledo product’s name is one we can get used to for a long time.

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly – New York Giants Week 6

By Aaron Weiss

The New York Giants defied the odds and any semblance of logic, rolling over the now 3-2 Denver Broncos by a score of 23-10. While there are a good number of things to criticize (such as Janoris “Jackrabbit” Jenkins getting beat all night by Demaryius Thomas, although he redeemed himself with a critical pick six), considering the Giants got their first win of the season, in primetime, against a Super Bowl contender and their premier defense, with their top three receivers, starting center, top EDGE rusher, captain linebacker, and star slot corner out, I’m going easy on the G-Men. Let’s breakdown everything that happened and look forward to the Giants last game before their bye!

The Good:

Evan Engram – With the Giants top three receivers out this week (and two of them out for the year), Engram was thrust into the top spot as it comes to receiving options, and he did not disappoint. He had more targets, yards, and touchdowns than the Giants 3 wide receivers combined, and he caught 45% of the Giants completions, had 64% of their receiving yards, and their lone offensive touchdown. Sterling Shepard will return either next week or after the bye week, which will lighten the load on Engram somewhat, but there’s no doubt that the continuing success of the Giants offense is going to depend on Engram putting up numbers like he did on Sunday.

Jason Pierre-Paul – Denver RT Menelik Watson is the weak link on the Broncos’ offensive line, coming into the contest with a PFF score of 40.2, and he had the unenviable task of going up against Pierre-Paul. JPP definitely won the matchup, notching 6 tackles, a sack, a tackle for loss, and a forced fumble, all in the first half (which was as far as Watson would make it in the contest, he’d get hurt and be replaced by Billy Turner and his 38.9 PPR grade in the 2nd half). Despite not having Olivier Vernon to draw primary or even double coverage on the other side, JPP totaled 3 sacks, 3 tackles for loss, 2 QB hits, and a QB hurry, continually spooking Trevor Siemian even when he wasn’t generating pressure. JPP reminded the world why he remains a premier edge rusher in this league.

The Offensive Line – The offensive line hardly qualifies as above average yet, but perhaps they’ve found their best iteration. The Giants moved star LG Justin Pugh to RT, moving RG John Jerry to LG and backup OL DJ Fluker to RG (also with C Weston Richburg out Brett Jones played center, although that will undoubtedly revert to Richburg when he’s healthy). I don’t know if this is the “we need our best OL at tackle” gameplan, or if it’s the “lets put our best OL on their best DL,” which in this case is Pugh vs Von Miller, but either way, this o-line kept the pressure on Eli Manning limited while absolutely punishing Denver in the run game (especially with Orleans Darkwa in the backfield). With the Giants’ wide receives not doing a whole lot, credit this offensive line for keeping this offense on the field.

Mike Sullivan – For the first time since Ben McAdoo joined the Giants as their offensive coordinator, McAdoo wasn’t calling the offensive plays, passing off those duties to current offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan, and in Sullivan’s first opportunity he showed what he brings to the offense. He didn’t call any crazy plays, and you have to wonder how much of the play calling changes are due to Sullivan and how many are due to the new receivers the Giants are stuck with, but Sullivan was incredibly solid, sticking to the ground game while not overextending Eli or making him rely on his new receivers (the Giants ran the ball 32 times while passing a mere 19). McAdoo also looked more in control without having to call the offensive plays. Sullivan will almost certainly call the plays next week and for the immediate future, and we’ll see if he can continue to be successful, but tonight Sullivan earned his pay as the Giants’ offensive coordinator.

The Bad:

The Little Three – With the big three of Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard, and Brandon Marshall out, the Giants turned to the new lesser three in Roger Lewis, Tavarres King, and Travis Rudolph, and…it didn’t really work out. They combined for 2 catches on 4 targets in the first half, collectively getting outworked by TE Evan Engram. As mentioned above, Shepard will return to the lineup and inherit the top receiving spot, but GM Jerry Reese should be looking to find outside help this week. Perhaps disgruntled Pittsburgh WR Martavis Bryant could be an option going forward.

The Ugly:


The Giants had a couple of players banged up, with players like Jay Bromley and BJ Goodson briefly going down on the field, but the only significant injury was to rookie linebacker Calvin Munson, who had a quad injury in the game and was unable to return. While he is a backup, meaning his loss isn’t as critical, the Giants are currently paper thin at linebacker, with Jonathan Casillas missing the contest with a neck injury. Should Munson be out for an extended period it would be wise of the Giants to acquire some depth at the position.

NFC East Picture:

Dallas had their bye week, so they remained in third place at 2-3. However, their stock in the division fell dramatically with news that star RB Ezekiel Elliott had his suspension reinforced immediately, meaning that, barring further legal directives, he will miss the Cowboys’ next six games. Philly won a tight battle against Carolina on Thursday night football, going to 5-1, and Carson Wentz and his Eagles continued to show they’re in a different class than their division counterparts. Finally, Washington eked out a victory against the now 0-6 San Francisco 49ers, leaving them in second place at 3-2.

Next Week: The Giants come home to face the Seahawks before they go on their desperately needed bye week. Seattle comes into the game at 3-2, coming off of their bye week, which means they’ll be fresh against a Giants team that could not be more battered. On the other hand, Seattle is 1-2 on the road, although those losses came against a Mariota-led Titans and a Rodgers-led Packers. Still, the Giants showed they’re capable of contending with top defenses with mediocre offenses, and while the Seahawks offense is much better than Denver’s, their putrid offensive line will mean more JPP sacks and pressures, keeping this one close. Look for a slugfest, but considering what the Giants have as receiving options, look for Seattle to edge out a victory.

Prediction – Seahawks win 17-13

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly – New York Giants Week 5

By Aaron Weiss

In a season that somehow keeps getting worse, the Giants lost their week five matchup against the now 1-4 Los Angeles Chargers 27-22, dropping to 0-5. The Giants simply could not hang around with the Chargers after suffering a rash of injuries, in what ended up being one of the worst three hour periods in New York Giant history. Let’s break down what little went right, everything that went wrong, and anything else in between while look forward to New York’s week 6 match-up.

The Good:

Wayne Gallman & Orleans Darkwa – The Giants may finally have a run game! Gallman, playing his second regular season game, and Darkwa, coming back from injury, combined for 19 carries, 126 yards and a touchdown. The pair alone had the Giants best single game effort on the ground this year (with a 91 yard performance coming in second and a 62 yard performance coming in third), which doesn’t include contributions by Shane Vereen and Odell Beckham, who brought the Giants’ run game total to 152 yards on 25 carries. Darkwa has looked impressive all year when he’s been healthy, and Gallman has made a impactful impression to start his career, averaging 3.8 yards per carry after contact. Given the other developments of the day, look for the Giants to try and push this pair further into the spotlight.

Darian Thompson – Thompson was all over the field on Sunday. He may not have the skillset or the star power of his fellow safety Landon Collins, but Thompson recorded his first interception, along with a team high 11 tackles, 2 passes defended, and 1 QB hit. To date he hadn’t made much of an impression to distance himself from fellow sophomore and last year’s starting safety Andrew Adams, but performances like this will secure his status as the starting Free Safety.

Damon Harrison & Dalvin Tomlinson – While the Giants got absolutely steamrolled by Chargers RB Melvin Gordon, the big interior duo on the Giants’ defensive line did a remarkable job holding Gordon and anyone else trying to work down the middle in check. Gordon rushed 7 times down the middle for a measly 22 yards (3.1 yards/carry), as opposed to 13 carries for 83 yards (6.4 yards/carry), when rushing to the left or right side of the offensive line (although Gordon did have a 26 yard run up the middle negated by a holding penalty). Snacks Harrison also excelled in pass defense, recording 4 QB hurries on 24 pass rushing snaps.


The Bad:

Penalties – Once again this season, the Giants’ agonizing mental mistakes were overshadowed by worse ones from an opponent, but that’s no reason to give the Giants a pass. The G-Men had 10 penalties for 67 yards (as opposed to LA’s 11 penalties for 87 yards). Some of the more egregious penalties were unnecessary roughness from BJ Goodson, running into the kicker from Nordly Capi (which thankfully didn’t extend the Chargers’ drive), and 2(!) defensive offsides penalties from beleaguered edge rusher Jason Pierre-Paul (his 50.4 PFF grade is 24.2 points worst than his previous worst PFF grade). In a game where everything outside of New York’s control went wrong, the Giants couldn’t make sure to do the easy things right.

Pass Protection – Bobby Hart and his 36.6 PFF grade returned to the lineup after missing time with an injury, and boy oh boy did it show. Unlike Philip Rivers, who wasn’t sacked once, Eli Manning was brought down 5 times, losing 42 yards and one fumble in the process. Manning took 7 QB hits on the day, and once again he often looked spooked in the pocket. To be clear, the offensive line continues to “improve”, with the average rush yards before contact increased to 2.0, but once again this offensive line showed it couldn’t stop the duo of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram.


The Ugly:

Injuries – Wow. Just wow. In what has to be one of the most wrath of godlike moments in NFL history, the Giants lost 4 of their 5 active WR’s on injury throughout the game. WR Sterling Shepard sprained his ankle early in the second quarter, only to have fellow WR Brandon Marshall hurt his ankle the very next play (while Coach McAdoo called his injury a sprain, the fact that he’s undergone surgery implies it’s something more serious). Special teams ace and plugin WR Dwayne Harris broke his foot on a special teams play in the third quarter, and, most significantly, superstar WR Odell Beckham fractured his ankle in the fourth quarter, a huge blow both in the short term (he was scorching hot against star cornerback Casey Hayward, making 5 catches on 8 targets for 97 yards and a touchdown, and Eli Manning would fumble the ball the play after Odell left), and in the long run. Of the 4, only Sterling Shepard avoided injured reserve, and he is listed as day to day, although the odds he plays this upcoming week are slim. This rash of injuries left Eli Manning with one active healthy receiver for the last few minutes of the game, Roger Lewis, and on the Giants last make or break drive, Manning had Lewis and TE Rhett Ellison lined up outside, with TE Evan Engram on the inside and pass catching specialist RB Shane Vereen in the backfield, a recipe that led to a disastrous interception. No offense, and no quarterback (excepting perhaps Aaron Rodgers) can successfully win a game with only a 4th string wide receiver and no other WRs, and the rash of injuries doomed any chance that Giants had to win a close game they so desperately needed.


NFC East Picture:

In one of the more contentious divisions to date, it was the Philadelphia Eagles who stood out the most, convincingly beating the Arizona Cardinals 34-7, and going to 4-1 on the season in the process. Washington had a bye week, and the Dallas Cowboys met the same fate most teams do when facing the inhuman god that is Aaron Rodgers, falling to 2-3. Barring a miracle, the Giants are out of playoff contention, but for the first time this season, it looks like one of the teams in the NFC East is on the cusp on breaking away from the competition.

Next Week: The Giants signed veteran WR Tavarres King, who they cut in the offseason, and practice squad WR Travis Rudolph to replace Beckham and Marshall (they also signed WR Darius Powe, who they also cut in the offseason, to the practice squad). That means, unless Sterling Shepard makes a remarkable comeback and plays this week, that King, Rudolph and Lewis, who have a combined 19 career receptions (15 for King, 4 for Lewis and 0 for the rookie Rudolph), will go head to head with Aqib Talib, Chris Harris Jr, and Bradley Roby, who have a combined 55 career interceptions and 7 Pro Bowl appearances. The rest of the Denver defense is just as intimidating, and while the Giants may make headway against the run, they still only ran the ball to the left side twice against the Chargers, so clearly there are still issues to be addressed. While it would not be surprising to see the Giants’ defense push around Trevor Siemian and the mediocre Denver offense, it’s honestly more likely that the Giants score a touchdown on defense than offense. There’s no way, especially on the road, and with the Broncos coming off their bye week that this Giants’ team beats the 3-1 Denver Broncos.

Prediction – Broncos win 17-3

2017 New York Jets Quarter Report

By Alexander C. Lawrence

Despite all the gloom and doom about the 2017 season coming in, the Jets actually have two more victories (2-2) than their stadium-sharing neighbors, the Giants (0-4). What does this all mean in a world where the Jets have a better record than the Giants AND the Bills (3-1) sit atop the AFC East?

1) The Jets new-look, swagger-filled defense

Since joining the Jets on draft day as first and second round picks, Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye have really played intense and fast football to go along with third-year defensive linemen out of USC, Leonard Williams. Not only did this Jets defense outplay Miami in Week 3, they look poised to go all out this season. Something tells me Adams, Maye, and Williams don’t know what the word “tank” means, though I’m also sure they’d rather have guys like Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen on their team.

2) Will Hackenberg ever see the field in 2017?

A month ago I would’ve told you that Christian Hackenberg would be the starting QB for the New York Jets by mid-to-late October, but right now I’m not so sure. I believed in the Jets ability to develop him. He had proven himself in a pro-style offense his first year at Penn State. So far with two wins under his belt, Josh McCown may ensure Hackenberg doesn’t see the field. As a Jet fan, wasting a second round pick shows just how foolish the front office was for drafting him with high capital and then not allowing him to prove himself.

3) Is winning hurting the Jets future?

A lot of people expected the Jets to be either 0-4 or 1-3 at this point, including myself. McCown and that Jets’ offense have played impressive football and I’m honestly not thrilled about it. The Jets need to start fresh at QB and Josh Rosen or Sam Darnold look primed to be that long-awaited franchise guy. That was until McCown started winning. He is not the future, just a hold-the-fort-together guy until they get the chance to draft a real QB. The Jets just don’t have the talent to compete all season long, as teams will adjust and eventually that offense will slow down once they face tougher defenses. If the Jets finish 6-10 and get a top-10 pick, I’d call this season a waste because QB is a must in this draft and the Jets may be too far back in the draft order to grab the one they want/need.

4) Kony Ealy’s tough Week 4

Kony Ealy had a key defensive play in securing the Week 4 victory over the Jaguars for the Jets. He was presented with the game-ball, but not any game-ball. Ealy lost his sister this week, Latoya Brown and no details were given outside of that. That forced Ealy to leave the team for a couple of days but would suit-up Sunday and have the game of his career. He did his scouting report on Blake Bortles, who likes to throw low, and Ealy sure took advantage of that as he put his arms up and ended with four pass deflections on the day. None would top his third quarter batted pass that he caught and ran for seven-yards and almost had their first defensive touchdown in 61 games.

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly – New York Giants Week 4

By Aaron Weiss

The New York Giants suffered another demoralizing loss on a game-ending field goal, losing on the road against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 25-23. The Giants ended up once again gaining a lead in the 4th quarter, only to blow it after being incapable of halting the Tampa offense. Still, while there is next to no hope for this 0-4 squad, this team improved in many ways this week, while also taking some major steps back in other areas. So, as always, let’s break down what happened this week, and look ahead to see what’s coming up next week!

The Good:

Wayne Gallman – Welcome to the NFL, Wayne Gallman! The 4th round pick out of Clemson got his first NFL action on his 23rd birthday, taking over the reins in the 3rd quarter after Paul Perkins left the field with a rib injury. By comparison, the rookie shined, putting up 42 yards on 11 carries, significantly outpacing the Giants’ other two backs on the ground (Vereen and Perkins combined for 27 yards on 13 carries; Orleans Darkwa was held out of the contest with a back injury). The rookie also caught 2 passes for 8 yards and a touchdown. His 3.8 yards per rush is normally uninspiring, but he was a breath of fresh air compared to what the Giants normally put out on the field. Look for him to join the flustercuck that is the Giants’ running back committee on a more consistent basis.

Eli Manning – Manning was at his best on the deep throw today in spite of his 5.8 yards per catch average, nailing passes of 42, 21 and 19 yards, and he remained incredibly consistent, throwing for 288 yards and 2 touchdowns while going 30/49. Plus, the old man notched his first rushing touchdown since 2014, sneaking out of the pocket and speeding in for a 14 yard score. While this entire team is in disarray, and Eli is somewhat responsible, the old stalwart mostly remains a pillar of reliability in the chaos that is this team.

Everything I’ve criticized the Giants about this year – So far this year there has been a lot of chide the Giants about, but on Sunday the Giants excelled in many aspects that they’d previously failed at. Their run game was almost as good as Tampa’s, they dominated time of possession, holding the ball for a whopping 34 minutes, they had more first downs than Tampa, they were 3/4 in the red zone, they were the far better 3rd down team (8/17 as opposed to Tampa’s 3/11), they ran 15 more plays than Tampa, didn’t turnover the ball, didn’t give up any sacks, and, perhaps most importantly, they only had one penalty for 0 yards. On paper this team corrected almost everything they’d done poorly in the past, but once again it wasn’t enough to get the win.


The Bad:

Aldrick Rosas – The rookie finally stumbled, missing a key 43 yard field goal in the 4th quarter, which, considering the Giants ended up losing by 2, was mildly significant. It was his first miss on the year, which complemented his competitive counterpart Nick Folk 2 missed field goals (from 49 and 46 yards). At this point it’s still unclear how good Rosas is. He’s yet to be fully utilized (for comparison’s sake, Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein attempted more FGs on Sunday (7) than Rosas has all year (5)), and he’s not been significantly challenged, having not had to kick a 50+ yard FG. So until the offense becomes a little more scoring heavy, Giants’ fans will have to wait to see what the rookie can do.

Run defense – The Giants could not contain the run game for the second week in a row, giving up 111 yards on the ground, including 83 to lead back Jacquizz Rodgers on 16 carries (5.2 yards per rush). Lead run defender Damon ‘Snacks’ Harrison missed some of the game with an injury, but at the end of the day this is starting to become the standard as opposed to the aberration. Look for defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo to dial up more blitzes and put even more faith in his top heavy secondary, especially against run dominant teams.

Brad Wing – Wing strikes again, putting together a relatively mediocre game (plus one great 56 yard punt) that was absolutely eviscerated by a brutal 15 yard punt with just under 10 minutes left in the 4th quarter. Wing is spared from the Ugly section because unlike last week this didn’t set up the game winning score, but it did give the Bucs an easy touchdown and the lead, which took Rhett Ellison and the Giants about 4 or 5 minutes to reclaim. While it’s too early to pull the plug on the 2-year Giant now, he needs to figure out how not to choke in the clutch, or he will be out of a job.


The Ugly:

Defense against tight ends – BJ Goodson reclaimed his role as the starting middle linebacker this week, just in time to be obliterated by Tampa’s pair of TEs. The Giants gave up 143 yards and 2 touchdowns on 6 catches to the Tampa duo of TEs (OJ Howard and Cameron Brate; the two combined for 10 targets). Howard’s touchdown came on a truly horrifying blown coverage, which allowed him to basically walk in from 58 yards out. Meanwhile, Brate had 35 and 26 yard catches, plus another 14 yard completion for his touchdown. While Janoris remains incredibly good in spite of his various ailments, and even Eli Apple looked much improved from the past few weeks, the Giants continue to have no answers over the middle of the field.

Injuries – While it was Tampa who came into the game looking like the banged up team, it’s New York that limps away. Odell Beckham left the game twice, first for an apparent ankle injury and then for a dislocated finger; he returned after both injuries and neither is projected to affect his availability going forward. Others weren’t so lucky. DE Olivier Vernon came into the game listed as questionable with an ankle injury, and he pulled up near the end of the first half, seeming to have aggravated said injury. He did not return, and it’s unclear how this will impact him next week. C Weston Richburg left the game with concussion symptoms, and while he has yet to be officially diagnosed he did not return to the game, so his availability will be dependent on his ability to clear concussion protocol. Finally, starting RB Paul Perkins left the game in the third quarter with a rib injury, which he did not return from. Without more specifics we’re left in the dark about how this will affect him going forward.

0-4 – At this point in the season the Giants should probably start packing up for the season, as their chances of a playoff berth are all but extinguished. In spite of more well rounded play the Giants shot themselves in the foot, and made a few key mistakes that doomed them to their fourth loss in a row. To add to the dumpster fire that is this season, the Giants need only look to the other locker room to find the New York Jets, universally considered the worst team heading into the season and now 2-2, tied with the defending champion New England Patriots. The Giants should be able to salvage something of this season, and it’s unlike them to tank, but a quarter of the season in and Jerry Reese reaps what he sows, especially when it comes to the Giants offense, particularly the run game and offensive line. With no hope left for 2017, Giants fans can find comfort in Coach McAdoo’s subdued Jim Mora impression.

NFC East Picture:

Washington will play tonight against the league-best Kansas City Chiefs, while the Cowboys lost a shootout against one LA team (the Rams) and Eagles won a shootout against the other (the Chargers). This leaves Philly on top at 3-1, while Washington is 2-1, Dallas 2-2, and New York 0-4. The way this division is shaping up it may only take 8 or 9 wins to take the division, so don’t count anyone out, but at this point the Giants need close to a miracle to remain in contention.

Next Week: They say misery loves company, so MetLife Stadium should be a stadium of anguish come Sunday afternoon, when the 0-4 Giants play the 0-4 Chargers (the San Francisco 49ers are the only other team currently 0-4). The Chargers are coming off a 26-24 loss to Philly, in a game where, excluding one 35 yard TD run by the 3rd string RB, the Chargers rushed 12 times for 23 yards on the ground. However, unlike fellow 2004 draft pick Eli Manning, Philip Rivers remains a master of the long ball, hitting a 75 and 50 yard pass in the contest. While I hope New York gets off the schneid, it’s all too easy to envision a game like this week where a “good enough” offensive effort and a “good enough” defensive effort is spoiled by one or two blown coverages on big plays, especially with the Giants suffering a few major injuries this week. Fingers crossed I’m wrong, but don’t be surprised if things go from bad to worse for the Giants.

Prediction – Chargers win 27-20