The Good, The Bad, The Ugly: New York Giants, Week 16

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!

The Good:

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.

The Bad:

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.

The Ugly:

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:

  1. Dallas (already secured 1st seed and division)
  2. Atlanta (clinched divison)
  3. Seattle (clinched division)
  4. Green Bay
  5. New York (clinched 5th seed)
  6. Detroit

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

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly: New York Giants, Week 9

By Aaron Weiss

The New York Giants played their most complete game of the season, working surprisingly well on all facets of the game to beat the Eagles 28-23! Let’s break down the game and look towards  week 10!

The Good:

Eli Manning – Manning did throw two picks in the game, but in both circumstances it was due to lucky chance, and not poor judgement on Manning’s part (one was a tipped pass, and the other was a weird drop/fumble that turned into a pick via Odell Beckham). Eli completed 61% of his passes, only got sacked once, and threw for four touchdowns. Especially early in the game, with the help of some defensive turnovers, Manning seemed to be on fire, spreading the ball to 8 different players using what appeared to be far more creative play calls on the part of Ben McAdoo. Manning scored a touchdown on the Giants only red zone appearance, and had a 96.6 rating on the day. Had he maintained the momentum of the first half he could’ve had a truly great day, but all in all it was still refreshing to see an offensive unit look good.

The Defense – Somewhere Jerry Reese is patting himself on the back. Yet again the defense triumphed, recording two sacks, four tackles for loss, seven passes defended, six QB hits and two picks. The Eagles never got anything going on the ground game, gaining 96 yards on 25 attempts, and Carson Wentz only completed 57% of his passes. The Eagles only scored touchdowns twice on six red zone appearances, and they only went 3-15 on third down. Perhaps most notably for this game, the Giants held the Eagles to 1-4 on fourth down, as Eagles’ Coach Doug Pederson was incredibly aggressive throughout the day. The Giants also only recorded 5 penalties, another good showing for a mistake prone team. The only “mistakes” made by the defense were a few mistakes on some long throws, giving up passes of 58 yards, 33 yards, 32 yards, and 30 yards. Still, with the secondary not entirely healthy, and with the Giants impeccable in short yardage situations, this is mostly forgivable. The Giants are currently the 12th ranked defense in the league, up from last place just last year, so credit Steve Spagnuolo, Jerry Reese, and this new and improved defense.

The Bad:

The Rushing Game – When praising the Giants Defense I lauded them for holding the Eagles to 96 yards on 25 attempts. The Giants ran for 54 yards on 24 attempts. Another week, and another dismal showing, although there were a few bright spots as rookie Paul Perkins flashed potential. The Giants rank dead last in the league in total rushing yards, last in yards per game, 29th in yards per rush, 29th in longest rush, and T-23rd for rushing touchdowns. The only consolation is that the Giants are also one of the best teams as it relates to ball security, with only 1 rushing fumble. Nonetheless, the New York Giants are entirely one dimensional on offense, and that isn’t likely to change going forward.

3rd Down Efficiency – Compared to previous games there wasn’t that much to criticize, but the Giants once again were ineffective on third down, going 4-13 on the day. They also went 0-1 on fourth down, with Eli throwing one of his two picks. This is primarily due to the fact that the Giants cannot run the ball, as mentioned earlier, allowing teams to only put three or four players in the box. This is another facet of the Giants’ stat sheet that isn’t likely to change, but eventually the Giants will need to improve their third down offense if they want to contend.

The Ugly:

Dwayne Harris – There wasn’t much that was ugly in this game. The most obvious was Dwayne Harris, who went a measly 30 yards on two kick returns and 10 yards on one punt return. The Giants special teams gave him no room the run on returns, and it led to some less than ideal field positioning. Brad Wing also shanked a punt late in the game that set up a potential game winning drive for the Eagles, but the excellent blocked FG gets the special teams unit off the hook for the week.

End of Game – To the surprise of no one, the Giants had to stress everyone out by giving the Eagles hope near the end of the game. After being up 14-0 to start the game, and 28-17 late in the third quarter, the Giants either threw picks or punted on their last four drives (excluding the victory formation at the end of the game), with a 4 play, 1:28 minute drive that ended in a punt, a 5 play 1:53 minute that ended in a pick, a 3 play, 1:31 minute drive that ended in a punt, and a 5 play, 2:03 minute drive that ended in a pick. Fortunately for the Giants the Eagles failed to score on either pick, and only notched field goals after each of the punts, but the Giants offense seems incapable of managing the clock when they need to.

 

Injury Report – The Giants were hit with a few key injuries, losing WR Victor Cruz to a sprained ankle and LG Justin Pugh to a sprained knee. Considering Cruz’s injury history and the way Pugh was hurt the Giants are incredibly fortunate that these injuries aren’t incredibly worse. Still, these two will be monitored closely and will most likely be day to day over the upcoming week. If Cruz isn’t healthy for next week he can be replaced by Sterling Shepard or the unexpectedly pleasant Roger Lewis. Pugh is one of the best guards in the league, and it’d be hard to find an adequate replacement if he misses time, but most likely he’d be replaced by Brett Jones. Additionally, rookie safety Darian Thompson will continue to be monitored after having missed the past 6 games.

NFC East Standings – Dallas thrashed the Cleveland Browns this week, and Washington was on their bye week, meaning that the Giants have slid into 2nd place with a 5-3 record. Dallas is at the top with a 7-1 record, Washington is in 3rd at 4-3-1, and Philly is in last at 4-4. The NFC East is still the only division without a team with a losing record. The Giants also current project to own the 1st wildcard spot in the NFC.

Next Week – The Giants have a long week ahead, playing on Monday night at home against the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals, currently 3-4-1, will be coming off of their bye week, having most recently tied with the Washington Redskins 27-27. While the Bengals have talented players in their backfield, I don’t expect this relentless Giants run defense to allow the Bengals much leeway. This will lead to the inevitable battle between the Giants pass defense and the inhuman AJ Green. If the Giants can win that battle they can win the game, but I’m not too confident.

Prediction – Cincinnati wins 31-27

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly: New York Giants, Week 7

By Aaron Weiss

The New York Giants defense carried them to victory against the Los Angeles Rams in London, 17-10, bringing them above .500 as they head into their bye week. Let’s break down the game, and look towards week 9!

The Good:

Landon Collins – The clear player of the day was Landon Collins, who collected 8 solo tackles, 2 passes deflected, and 2 picks, one of which he stylishly took to the house. He was on fire all day, forcing pressure on Case Keenum when he blitzed, and consistently getting tackles all over the field. It’s been clear going back to last year that the player the Giants traded up to draft was going to be a premier strong safety, and it seems over the past few weeks he is really beginning to bloom.

The Giants’ Defense – I praised them last week and I’m going to do the same this week. This group recorded three sacks and four picks (the other two corralled by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie) and a game changing touchdown. Despite being on the field for 10 more minutes than the offense and facing 76 total plays to the Giants’ 57, this defense kept the total yards per play down (4.5), kept Todd Gurley and the run game in check with a total of 74 yards, made two stops in the red zone (only blowing an early setup from a Larry Donnell fumble, more on Donnell later), keeping the Rams 3rd down conversion rate under 50%, and, perhaps most importantly, they only gave up one 1st Down from penalties. While the entire Giants team was incredibly disciplined with only 3 penalties, one of which was an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, it is particularly pertinent to laud this defense for it’s successes today, as yet again they were the driving force of this team.

The Bad:

The Rushing Game – Last week the Giants totaled 38 yards on the ground on 17 plays, and this week they tallied 36 yards on 20 plays. This running attack is stale, largely due to an inability to consistently move people up front. Rashad Jennings looked a little better this week, removed from his troublesome thumb injury, scoring a goal line touchdown and catching a pair of passes, but he still averaged 1.9 yards a carry. While there are issues all across this offense, the running game has put up less than 50 yards 4 times, and only over 100 yards once, and it makes game planning for this team simplistic for opposing defenses. Hopefully the running attack is more robust after the upcoming bye week.

The Passing Game (including ODB) – While the passing game wasn’t atrocious, it was definitely out of sync in too many familiar ways. With under 200 yards, 9 missed targets amongst the big three (Odell Beckham, Victor Cruz, and Sterling Shepard), and no touchdown, this passing game really never showed up to bail out the paltry running game, like Odell alone did last week. The Giants’ running backs put up 10 less yards receiving than they did rushing on 16 less touches, again showing the one dimensionality of this team. Perhaps most egregiously this offense only converted on 31% of 3rd downs. All in all this offense was bailed out by the defense this week. At least Eli Manning wasn’t sacked, the only consolation from a mediocre showing.

The Ugly:

Larry Donnell – Donnell caught one pass for 8 yards on three targets, and a fumble on the 2nd play of the game to setup a Rams touchdown. It is incredibly unclear why Donnell is out on the field with the regularity that he is, given that he isn’t the pass catcher Will Tye is, and he doesn’t have close to the upside Jerell Adams has. It isn’t like he’s a tremendous blocking TE either. While perhaps the Giants’ have an affinity for Donnell due to his good run with the team back in 2014, his yards per game is at an all time low by over 11 ypg (excluding his 3 catch 2013 season. He’s also getting 20 less ypg compared to his 2014 year), reaching the halfway point of the season he has 1 touchdown compared to the six he had in 2014, and now he has a fumble to his name, on top of the 4 he recorded in 2014. He should not be resigned when his contract expires at the end of the year.

Josh Brown – Robbie Gould flew out to London on short notice and drained two extra points and a field goal at a 100% clip, proving that it is possible to accurately kick a ball and not have an innate need to abuse women.

Injury Report – The Giants were remarkably injury free, barring a scary looking back injury to Dwayne Harris at the end of the 1st half. However, he returned to the game. With the Giants looking at a bye week they should be healthy and well rested for their week 9 matchup against the Eagles.

NFC East Standings – Despite their win, the Giants currently remain 4th in the division at 4-3. The Cowboys are on bye, and will remain in 1st place at 5-1. The Eagles are second at 4-2 after an impressive in over the previously undefeated Vikings and the Redskins are third at 4-3 after losing to the Lions (they hold a one game tiebreaker over the Giants). For another week, the NFC East remains the only division with no team below .500.

Next Week – The Giants are on bye next week, and look to facing the Eagles at home in Week 9. A pivotal divisional matchup, the Giants will look to capitalize on the bye to beat an Eagles team with a stellar defense but average offense quarterbacked by a rookie. Look to Ben McAdoo as the X-factor, as he will dictate the mindset of the Giants over the break, and if they come out flat that’s on him as the coach. However, I expect the Giants to play with fire, and come out with a surprisingly easy win.

Prediction – New York wins 30-20