The Good, The Bad, The Ugly: New York Giants, Week 15

By John Camera

The New York Giants stayed the course, winning their 8th of the last 9 games. Another dominant defensive performance powered the Giants to a 17-6 victory over the Detroit Lions in the Giants final regular season home game of 2016. Let’s review this past week and look forward to a massive Week 16!

The Good:

There was a lot of good this week, especially on the defensive side of the ball. But we would be remised if we didn’t start with the Mann himself.

Eli Manning – For anyone who’s been watching the Giants this season, it’s not hyperbole to claim that this has been one of Manning’s worst seasons. Manning hasn’t been particularly putrid but the offense around him has struggled and, unlike what he has done most of his career, he hasn’t been able to lift them up and drag them to 20 point performances very often. And although the offense only put up 17 points against Detroit, Manning was efficient, mistake-free, and put points on the board when his team needed it. His 25-yard pass to Odell Beckham Jr. on 3rd and 10 was perhaps his best pass of the season. ODB described it as a “dime.”

Brad Wing – Coach Ben McAdoo has described his punter as a “weapon” and it’s certainly an apt acclamation. Wing, and his special teams gunners, have done a fantastic job of pinning opponents deep inside their own side of the field. Wing punted four times in the 4th quarter and was able to stick three of them inside the Detroit 20-yard line, including two inside the 5-yard line.

Odell Beckham Jr. – Yeah, yeah, yeah. One handed catch? Check. Game-sealing touchdown? Check. A fun touchdown dance? Check. Yawn. Just another day at the office for the most prolific young WR in the NFL today. ODB breaks records every week, and become just the third receiver in history to catch 80+ passes, 1,000+ yards, and 10+ TDs in his first three seasons.Keep in mind he played 12 games in 2014, 15 in 2015, and has two left this season.

Justin Pugh – Pugh returned from a bad knee injury that sidelined him for the past five games and made an impact for the get-go. The Giants’ best lineman cleared the way for 12 rushing yards on the offenses’ first two plays, starting off a perfect first drive that ended with a touchdown. Pugh’s return also seemed to spark Ereck Flowers, who bounced back with a solid outing after a rough first half versus Dallas.

Damon Harrison – “Snacks” gets attention despite not being a pass-rushing DT but it still doesn’t seem to be enough. He is the heart and soul of this defensive line, a dominating front-four that even without JPP continues to own the line of scrimmage. Snacks’ combination of size, speed, and quickness is uncanny and allows him to knife through offensive lineman to blow up running plays before they can start. Like every other free agent this year, Harrison has been worth every penny.

The Giants’ Linebackers – Yes, the ‘backers get some love! A unit infamous for its mediocrity over the years, the rag-tag group played extremely well, tackling efficiently and flying to the ballcarrier. Jon Casillas, Devon Kennard, Kelvin Sheppard, Keenan Robinson, even rookie B.J. Goodson were out there making plays. Goodson in particular, perhaps auditioning for a starting role in 2017, blew up Detroit FB Michael Burton on his way to making a tackle for a minimal gain.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – When Janoris Jenkins went out early in the second quarter (more on that later), pretty much every Giants fan felt like throwing up. DRC, the man who would replace him, was ready to have a “heart attack” with his teammate laying on the ground, in pain. However, DRC didn’t allow the quality of CB play to drop very much. The veteran, who had been replaced on the outside by Jackrabbit and rookie Eli Apple, made 7 tackles and 3 huge pass deflections. His biggest plays though were a touchdown-saving tackle on Golden Tate when DRC recovered after being beat, and then the game-icing, end zone INT. DRC proved his worth once again today and likely will be CB1 for the Giants again in Week 16.

The Bad:

Rashad Jennings – Jennings can still run with power, pass-block well, and exhibits great ball security. However, the veteran RB just isn’t a dynamic runner and rookie Paul Perkins regularly got through holes the offensive line opened up faster than the vet. It’s time for Jennings to take a seat on the bench and allow the young gun to take the reins. The veteran would still be a valuable asset on the goal line and in grind it out situations.

Touchdown-Killing Penalties – The Giants’ had two of these against the Lions and prevented the game from being pretty lopsided. The first occurred on RT Bobby Hart, who was flagged for illegal hands to the face and negated a fumble recovered in the endzone by Victor Cruz, which would’ve been six for NY. The Giants instead settled for a Field Goal to make it 10-3, Giants. With 5 minutes left in the game, NYG leading 17-6, Odell Beckham ran to his left, broke some tackles, then reversed field to his right on his way to a spectacular punt return for a touchdown. Except this too was called back on a penalty by Safety Eric Pinkins, the second time an ODB punt return TD has been nullified.

The Ugly:

Janoris Jenkins and Trevin Wade – Unfortunately for the Giants’ All-Pro caliber safety, he couldn’t make it through the game unscathed. Jenkins and Wade both attacked downhill on an out route to Detroit TE Eric Ebron. At the point of attack both defenders collided in the air, with Jenkins receiving a knee to the back. After a scary few minutes, Jenkins was taken to the locker room and went through a battery of tests, the Giants’ taking precautions and holding him out for the rest of the game. Everything came back negative and it seems Jackrabbit lucked out; no internal injury, no spine injury, just a bad back bruise.

 

Injuries – Besides the aforementioned Janoris Jenkins injury, Shane Vereen was revealed to have re-torn the triceps he injured in Week 3. Vereen can’t catch a break and seems to be headed back to IR.

NFC East Standings – The Eagles, also playing a 1 p.m. game, lost their fifth straight; a one-point heartbreaker to the Baltimore Ravens. They fell to 5-9 and look to play spoiler the rest of the way. The Cowboys silenced any doubters by rebounding at home against the red-hot Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 26-20. They moved to 12-2 but would need to lose out with the Giants’ winning out for the G-Men to grab the NFC East title. Washington was embarrassed at home by a depleted Carolina team in an uninspiring 26-15 Monday night loss. Washington is now 7-6-1.

Next Week – The Giants head to Philadelphia on a short week to do battle with a tough Eagles team. NY can clinch a playoff berth with a win, their first since 2011. Despite losing five straight, Philly plays every opponent tough and has a defensive front that can wreak havoc on any given night. The setting for this game is a frighteningly familiar one for NY; on the road, prime-time, their down-the-road rivals dressed in all back. The Giants typically you-know-what the bed against Philly in this situation the past few seasons but with the attitude of this team, it won’t be anywhere near that bad. Victor Cruz returns to the spot that both launched and nearly ended his career. But of course, the Giants make it hard on themselves, setting up a do-or-die game in Week 17 in Washington.

Prediction – Eagles win 16-14

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly: New York Giants, Week 14

By Aaron Weiss

The New York Giants won the game of the year, snapping the Cowboys’ 11 game win streak in a brutal 10-7 slugfest. Let’s break it down and look forward to week 15!

The Good:

Every single member of the New York Giants’ defense deserves a medal and a pay raise, but here are the 4 defensive dudes that stood out today (plus a few non-defensive extras):

Romeo Okwara – Okwara was the Giant with the most pressure on him going into tonight’s matchup. Okwara, an undrafted free agent from Notre Dame, was going from having never played more than 50% of defensive snaps in a game to replacing the injured Jason Pierre-Paul, a superstar who had recorded 5.5 sacks and a fumble recovery for a touchdown over the three prior weeks. He’d be regularly facing off against Tyron Smith, who is one of, if not the, best tackles in the game and the rest of the Dallas O-Line, which is the best in football.

And boy, oh boy, did he deliver. He played 60 of 66 snaps, recording a sack, 3 QB hits, one hurry, 2 stops, a pass defended, and 8 tackles (3 solo tackles). He did not provide a weakness for the Cowboys to exploit on a star-studded defensive line. Ezekiel Elliot did run for over 100 yards, but he ran 9 times for 21 yards in the 2nd half. Elliot failed to break a single tackle, the Cowboys failed to enter the red zone, Dak Prescott was pressured on 43% of dropbacks, and on a defense we knew was great, and Dallas knew was great, Romeo Okwara was the weak point, and Dallas could not break him. He is the unquestioned player of the game, and if he plays well down the stretch (and potentially in the playoffs) he could lead to the Giants passing on resigning JPP.

Janoris Jenkins – Jenkins was probably the best corner in all of football this week. JJ recorded 2 tackles, 2 passes defended, a forced fumble and a pick. Prescott had a 0.0 passer rating when throwing to JJ, completing just two passes for 17 yards on 8 attempts, plus he threw the pick, which Jenkins nabbed by cutting off Dez Bryant to make a sweet grab. Dez’s only recorded one catch for 10 yards on a whopping 9 targets, and Janoris made Dez cough up the football on that play. Finally, he also made a crucial play on the Cowboys’ last offensive play, forcing a turnover on downs. This was one of the greatest lockdown corner performances I’ve ever seen.

After questioning the price tag that he came with, he has blown away all expectations. Dez Bryant only has 2 catches for 14 yards and a fumble against Janoris Jenkins in two showings. Jenkins is the only CB this year with 3+ picks, 9+ PDs and less than 500 yards allowed. He was the highest graded player by PFF in this game with a 91.6 rating, the only player to score over 90. He’s also one of PFF’s top ten ranked corners on the year (actually a spot behind teammate Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie). Were it not for Okwara being put on the spot, and the fact that JJ has been fantastic all year, Janoris would clearly be the best player on the day.

Olivier Vernon – Coming in as the star DE with JPP sidelined, he still made his presence felt despite being public enemy number 1 in the trenches. He recorded 8 QB pressures, 4 defensive stops, a batted pass, one QB hit, 5 tackles, and an 83.4 PFF rating. A muted performance compared to the others, but still worth recognition.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – Another performance that was overlooked behind his teammates, DRC allowed 3 catches in 6 attempts for a measly 15 yards and two passes defended. The entire secondary shut down Dallas’ pass game, led by JJ and DRC.

Dwayne Harris – Dwayne twice downed punts on the three yard line, once at the top of the 2nd quarter, which led to Dallas punting 4 plays later, and once with just over a minute left in the game, forcing Dak to throw four times from his own end zone, trying to put together a game winning drive with no timeouts while down 3, and it led to four incompletions. While Dallas still probably doesn’t win if that punt turns into a touchback, there’s no doubt that downing it at the 3 yard line led to making Dak uncomfortable and helped the Giants to a win.

Kangaroo Jack – There are times that I question whether the successes of this year are truly correlated to Tom Coughlin’s firing, since it coincided with the year that Jerry Reese went bonkers in free agency. As an ardent Coughlin fan there’s a large part of me that believes that had TC been given this defense he could have guided the Giants to the same, if not better result (both in this game and on the year).

But then you find out that (one of) Coach McAdoo’s sources of inspiration for the team this week was a viral video of a man punching a kangaroo in the face, and you realize that this is McAdoo’s team. Love or hate Coughlin, he would never have used a viral video as a source of inspiration, let alone one of a man literally punching a kangaroo in the face. And in this critical division game, where the Giants could lose their 2nd straight and potentially collapse after their 6 game win streak, behavior all too familiar to the TC era, McAdoo’s Giants beat the best team in football after watching a man punch a kangaroo in the face. Godspeed to Tom Coughlin, in all of his coaching and non-coaching adventures of the future. This is Ben McAdoo’s team now.

So this week’s game ball should go to that kangaroo, wherever you are, for taking that hit, and inspiring the New York Giants to make the best team in football look mortal.

The Bad:

Eli Manning – Eli was by no means awful, but he made some mistakes. He went 17/28 for 193 yards, a touchdown, a pick, three sacks and two fumbles. The pick was recovered by Anthony Brown, who made a fantastic diving play, but three of Manning’s incompletions should’ve (or at least could’ve) been picked. Additionally if we eliminate Odell’s 61 yard touchdown which happened on a quick slant, and should never have gone for the touchdown if the receiver isn’t Odell, then Eli would only gone 16/27 with no touchdowns and 132 yards. His performance was entirely uninspiring, and error prone, but it was not god-awful.

Clutch/Mental Errors – The Giants did go 2-2 on fourth down, but they were 2-14 on third down, keeping the Cowboys in the game far longer than they should’ve. They also were 0-1 in the red zone (in terms of touchdowns) and they notched 7 penalties for 50 yards (granted one penalty was intentional to setup a punt, but still, 6-45 isn’t ideal). There isn’t a lot to critique, but there are clearly improvements to be made on the play calling and mental discipline side

The Ugly:

Terrance Williams – In a game where Janoris Jenkins shut down Dez, and the Giants D shut down the rest of Dak’s favorite targets (Jason Witten and Cole Beasley), Terrance managed to dent the Giants’ defense with 5 receptions on 6 targets for 76 yards and a TD. While hardly a line worthy of the ugly section, he gets put here due to the godawful blown coverage on his 31 yard touchdown, where he was left uncovered on a play action, behind the Giants’ defense, and walked in for a score. It was the 2nd drive of the game, and this mistake nearly blew the lid on the game, but the Giants’ Defense made sure to take care of business, and the Giants’ offense did just enough to get New York the win. Still, once again the Giants were plagued by the long ball.

 

Injuries – RB Shane Vereen recorded his first snap after missing nine games with a triceps injury, but left the game in the 2nd quarter with a concussion. Whether he can play next week is unknown. No one else was injured.

NFC East Standings – Washington beat Philadelphia this week, which leaves the gap between the Giants and Washington at a game and a half. Dallas still tops the NFL at 11-2 (although the Patriots are 10-2 going into their matchup tonight), the Giants’ are 2nd in the NFC East at 9-4, Washington is third at 7-5-1, and Philly is last (and basically out of playoff contention) at 5-8.

The Giants could still win the East, if they win out and Dallas loses two of their last three games, or if Dallas loses out and New York wins two of their last three games. Considering Dallas has yet to lose to a team that isn’t the Giants, that doesn’t seem likely. Once again, the Giants retain the 5th seed, staying a game ahead of 6th seed Tampa and a game and a half over Washington.

Next Week – The Giants’ play their last home game facing off against Detroit. Detroit beat Chicago this week 20-17. However, QB Matthew Stafford suffered a PIP joint dislocation and torn ligaments to the middle finger of his throwing hand, which will force him to play the rest of the season with a glove on his throwing hand. Apparently his finger was bent at a 90-degree angle, and he had no control over the top of the digit. He will apparently play through the injury, but it’s unclear how it’ll affect his ability to throw, or take a hit. It’s possible he will be forced to take snaps exclusively from the shotgun or pistol, a la Derek Carr in Oakland. Between that, the Giants great pass rush, and the Lions’ starting RB coming off a wrist injury (assuming he’s back), combined with the Giants’ 6-1 home record (the Lions are 3-3 on the road), I think the Giants grab the win (but like always with them, they’ll make it entertaining).

Prediction – Giants wins 23-20

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly: New York Giants, Week 12

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!

The Good:

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.

The Bad:

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.

The Ugly:

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