Wildcard Weekend: New York Giants @ Green Bay Packers

It wouldn’t be the NFL playoffs without a playoff game on the Frozen Tundra of Lambeau Field. Tonight we’re going to dip a couple degrees below zero wind chill. With both of these teams allergic to running the football this game is tricky to pick.

eli-frozenHowever the Packers have committed to running the football in recent weeks with #88 Ty Montgomery in the backfield. How will he hold onto the football with playoff intensity hitting?? He led the team in rushing this year with 457 yards but McCarthy may use #22 Aaron Ripkowski more. He’s more 3 yards and a cloud of dust but he is conditioned to the hitting from close proximity more. Fumbles are critical in cold weather playoff games.

Over the last 6 years of his career, this has been the hardest season to watch him. He just hasn’t looked comfortable all season. His play has been sporadic even though he threw for 4,027 yards 26 TDs and 16 interceptions. Much of this has to do with Odell Beckham’s ability to break big plays for him. He has to keep from turning the ball over on his side of the 50.

Which Eli Manning is going to show up?

Aaron Rodgers has had another great season and many think he should receive MVP consideration. He finished the season with 4,427 yards 40 TDs with just 7 interceptions. He led the Packers to a 5 game winning streak to finish the season as he predicted they would run the table. However none of this happened in below zero weather. For the last 5 years our CEO has questioned if this is the best approach to winning in Lambeau in January. It hasn’t panned out.

Ripkowski could be the unknown factor.

Ripkowski could be the unknown factor.

The penchant for Mike McCarthy to pass, pass, pass could play in the Giants hands as their defense is leading their charge. He has to fight that urge and stay on the ground. Although the Packers have scored over 30 in their last 4 games, the Giants have held 3 of their last 4 opponents to 10 points or less.

New York comes into this game with the NFL’s 10th best defense giving up 339 yards per game. However a closer look and the Giants have only given up 288.5 yards per game in the last 4. That would have the Giants ranked #1 and this is how they are coming into Lambeau Field. Early in the season Green Bay receivers were having a hard time getting open. Now they face CBs Janoris Jenkins, Eli Apple, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie who have jelled into the best secondary in football. At least from the corner position. They will smother the slow Packers receivers.

Jenkins and the CBs for New York are the key to New York winning this game.

Jenkins and the CBs for New York are the key to New York winning this game.

On the strength of this defensive matchup and the cold, the defense will keep Eli and the offense in it. They will need 1 or 2 explosive plays from Odell Beckham and the Giants will win a close game 23-16. Eli Manning has always risen to the occasion when he needs to make that one play.

 

Top Ten Quarterbacks Going Into 2013

NFL_Logo_NewWhen you’re outlining the play of NFL quarterback, you have to assess how the player will do going into the given season based upon performance and relative age. Will the quarterback break down during the season if he’s older?? What will be his prospects based upon the receiving talent coming into the new year.

The Chancellor of Football bases his analysis on a multitude of things. How does the quarterback fare statistically and is he still in his prime?? With Robert Griffin III just coming back from serious knee surgery, we left him off of this list. Everyone has their opinions and without further adieu here is ours.

Honorable Mention. Matt Schaub – Houston Texans: This has been a model quarterback in the regular season over the last 5 seasons, 3 of which he threw for more than 4,000 yards. His listing here is he has yet to gain a signature win in the playoffs. At 31 years of age we may have seen the best of Schaub who’s prime is passing with each day. This season is going to make or break his career in Houston where it’s Super Bowl or bust with an aging team.

Colin's 181 yard rushing performance was a transcendent performance.

Colin’s 181 yard rushing performance was a transcendent performance.

10. Colin Kaepernick -San Francisco 49ers: Now the knock on him is he hasn’t played a complete season as a starting quarterback. It doesn’t matter, you can’t underscore the performance he had in last year’s playoff run. The Pistol formation and the read option is a part of the NFL as it evolves into a space game.

Clogged lines of scrimmage is a thing of the past outside of obvious goal line and 3rd or 4th and shorts. Kaepernick proved last year he developed touch on his intermediate passing game and learned to exploit Vernon Davis during the playoff run. This year will be a set back season with the loss of Michael Crabtree. Could pass for 3,000 and run for 1,000 with a healthy season. You can’t coach speed…he breaks containment…good bye.

9. Joe Flacco – Baltimore Ravens: When you come through a post season with 1,140 yards 11 touchdowns and no interceptions, it’s hard not to anoint a quarterback among the league’s elite. Not so fast. He only completed 59% of his passes in the regular season which is what he had as a percentage in the playoffs. His security blanket in Anquan Boldin is running routes 2,000 miles to the west. This will have an affect on Flacco coming into 2013.

Think back to every tight situation the Ravens were in, who did Flacco turn to? He turned to Boldin where he hadn’t in years past. See pass to Lee Evans at the end of 2011 AFC Championship Game. Think back to last year’s Super Bowl when the 49ers made it to 31-29. Flacco had a key third down where he needed to keep the Niner’s offense off the field: Who did he go to even with tight coverage?? Boldin. He fought for the ball and a key first down. According to ESPN, he completed 62% of his passe attempt to Boldin and only 48% of his passes to every other Raven.

It took him nearly 5 years to develop a trust for Boldin in key situations. So where do we go from here?? He does have Jacoby Jones and Torrey Smith to throw to but how bad will he miss Boldin. Today Jones fails the conditioning contest as the Ravens reported to training camp. Does he turn back into the dink and dunk quarterback throwing outlet passes to Ray Rice or keep throwing down-field?? This will be a season of growing pains early on for him and why he’s 8th on this list.

Mannung delivered in year one as the Broncos finished 13-3 in 2012.

Mannung delivered in year one as the Broncos finished 13-3 in 2012.

8. Peyton Manning -Denver Broncos: In the twilight of his career, he had one of his greatest statistical seasons in 2012. However a closer look at his play down the stretch and against teams in particular, lowered his ranking. His season mirrored that of the Broncos overall, they feasted on a lot of patsies to pad their stats. In the last five weeks of the season, he faced the Chiefs twice, Oakland, Baltimore, and Cleveland or the teams that were 12th (twice), 32nd, 20th, 17th, and 25th against the pass. Not a strong group as the team went 5-0 down the stretch. The only reason the 2-14 Chiefs pass defense wasn’t rated lower (12th), they were a team that had given up at that point of the season, were behind and opponents weren’t passing.

Yet if you look at his play against the five playoff teams faced, two of his worst outings were in this pack. He threw 3 interceptions losing in Atlanta, and 2 more in a 31-23 win against Cincinnati. Still he’s a Super Bowl caliber quarterback in the early part of the season and the AFC West will be better prepared for Manning 2.0. His arm may give out late on him again and he’s had some issues with his neck and arm this off-season. He’s never been that good in cold games and if the Broncos did make it to this year’s Super Bowl, good luck with the weather in New Jersey.

7. Matt Ryan-Atlanta Falcons: ‘Matty Ice” has grown every single year in the NFL and is this season’s version of Joe Flacco. He finally won his first playoff game and has had numerous 4th quarter drives as well. He had to lift his Falcons with a playoff comeback against the Seahawks in the final stanza as well. Last year he completed a whopping 68.6% of his passes for 32 touchdowns. One problem he has is he disappears in the middle of games which necessitates the need to come from behind. If he can make it to Super Bowl XLVIII, this list definitely gets revamped.

Center Max Unger was an All Pro and protected Russell Wilson like The Hope Diamond.

Center Max Unger was an All Pro and protected Russell Wilson like The Hope Diamond.

6. Russell Wilson- Seattle Seahawks: One of the biggest beneficiaries to RGIII when it comes to this list is Wilson. After all his team did beat Washington in the playoffs and took a late 28-27 lead against the Falcons in the divisional round, and appeared headed to the NFC Championship Game as well. However folks that want to talk about Andrew Luck and RG III, forgot that it was Wilson who had the best rookie QB season in NFL history. Not only did he tie Peyton Manning’s 1998 record of 26 TDs thrown, he only had 10 interceptions as compared to the 28 Manning threw. All this while throwing for 3,118 yards and rushing for 489 yards and another 4TDs. He also has Percy Harvin to run after the catch for him at least 65-70 times coming up. He could be Super Bowl bound this year also.

5. Ben Roethlisberger -Pittsburgh Steelers: The quarterback that is always left out of the conversation when you talk about the NFL’s best signal callers. One might look at this list and say Big Ben was only 7-6 as a starter last year. Yet those same pundits forget that the Steelers put in a new offense, one he didn’t favor. Yet in that crucible he still completed 63% of his passes for 26 TDs and only 8 interceptions. Uh…excuse me those TD and interception numbers were the second best of his 9 year career. What do you think he’ll do as an encore now that he has a running game with the arrival of LeVeon Bell??

Brady will be pointing out more than protections and who is the "Mike" linebacker in 2013.

Brady will be pointing out more than protections and who is the “Mike” linebacker in 2013.

4. Tom Brady -New England Patriots: It’s hard to believe but Brady could have and should have fallen farther on this list. No time in NFL history has a high ranking offense (#1) returned with 91% of their starters gone. We’re in uncharted waters here. However the Patriots drafted him two dynamite receivers in Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce. Yet it remains to be seen how they’ll develop. The same can be said of the prospects of Gronkowski returning from multiple surgeries. Will Danny Amendola live up to the $31 million contract as well?? Odds are 2 of the 4 will come through but that would mean a drop from an offense that has scored over 500 points in 3 straight years.

Could you imagine The Greatest Show on Turf going into a new season and Kurt Warner didn’t have Isaac Bruce, Tory Holt, Az Zahir Hakim, and Marshall Faulk?? That is the only equivalent to what Brady faces going into the 2013 season. Why?? This was the only other team that scored 500 points in 3 successive seasons. Brady has played well with other receivers but remember last year the offense went back to Wes Welker once the tight ends were in the infirmary. Welker is in Denver now…so we shall see.

3. Drew Brees- New Orleans Saints: The Saints are coming off a year where Brees had to overcome Head Coach Sean Payton enduring a season long suspension. Now he gets his confidante back yet loses his Pro Bowl LT Jermon Bushrod in free agency to the Chicago Bears. They did retain WR Marques Colston but they found themselves over the cap and couldn’t help their $100 million quarterback out much.

The Saints face what all Super Bowl champions wind up facing. You try so hard to field the team that won the Super Bowl in ensuing years, that you forget to make adjustments to all the moves opponents are making to knock you off. So while they kept WR Marques Colston, in comes CB Darrelle Revis and S Dashon Goldson to Tampa Bay.

This illustrates how Brees will stay down a notch in 2013 like he did last year. He threw for 19 interceptions as he tried to rally the Saints from deficits his defense gave away. With 5,177 yards and 43 touchdowns this should be the #1 quarterback. With the flux on the line, better defenses within the division, and porous defense, he’s going to throw more interceptions than he should and keep him 3rd on this list.

If Rodgers continues at this pace, his career statistics could be staggering.

If Rodgers continues at this pace, his career statistics could be staggering.

2. Aaron Rodgers -Green Bay Packers: You’re looking at the game’s statistical anomaly in Rodgers. Do you realize he’s only thrown 14 interceptions vs 84 touchdowns over the last two years?? Only Drew Brees has stayed on such an extended run of excellence. Last year Rodgers completed an astonishing 67.2% of his passes for 4,295 yards. So why just a number two ranking??

The first is Rodgers is a tremendous quarterback as long as the Green Bay Packers have a lead. When others get in front he doesn’t bring them from behind. The same can be said if a defense knocks he and the Packers offense off of their timing early, they stay a bit off pace the rest of the game. Take a look at their losses to the San Francisco 49ers to bookend the season. In week one, the Niners jumped on top 16-7 in Lambeau before halftime. It took until 6:00 to go in the game before the Packers saw the endzone in a 30-22 loss. In the playoff loss they fell behind 24-21 and couldn’t muster a touchdown for nearly the entire second half. By then the 49ers were on cruise control 45-24.

Sure it can be harsh using a comparison for Rodgers against the eventual NFC Champion 49ers, but Russell Wilson clobbered them 42-13 on Sunday Night Football. Eli Manning danced over them 26- 3 in Candlestick. You want to believe you are the best you need to prove you can beat the best and Rodgers’s Packers fell short of that in 2012.

Last year Rodgers and the Packers lost 5 times, each to a  team that made the playoffs, while going 1-2 against quarterbacks on this list. The lone win?? A 28-27 win over Brees and New Orleans. Now Donald Driver retires and Rodgers favorite target of the last four years, Greg Jennings, signs with the hated Vikings. There is some speculation the team may move Jermichael Finley as well. This will be a new year for him now with a few rookie linemen protecting him also. He’s number one on a lot of lists….just not at the Taylor Blitz Times for all we just pointed out to you.

Eli Manning's late game heroics make him the best in the NFL today.

Eli Manning’s late game heroics make him the best in the NFL today.

1.Eli Manning-New York Giants: Our CEO lobbied loudly for Eli to be the number one quarterback on this list. Yet like we offered up front, this isn’t a lifetime achievement award but we are talking about a two time Super Bowl MVP. What separates Eli from his contemporaries is how he’s at his best against the highest level of competition, and his performance at the end of games. So you forgot that Eli and the Giants routed future NFC Champion San Francisco 26-3, routed Drew Brees and his Saints 52-27, and head slapped the Packers 38-10 last year. That’s #2 and 3 on this list he beat head to head in 2012.

Last year’s Pro Bowl status was actually cemented in week 2, when he threw for 245 yards in the fourth quarter to bring the Giants back to win 41-34. He finished with 510 yards passing & came within 44 yards of Norm Van Brocklin’s 62 year old record of 554. One of the NFL’s oldest records.  The Giants scored 25 4th quarter points. Yikes!

In that game, the nerves of steel he flashed on two Super Bowl winning drives before, was on full display and has won over some critics. Five weeks later, Eli was behind late in his first high profile game against RGIII’s Redskins, and he struck again. Down 23-20 with 1:27 left, the Giants were pinned to their own 20 yard line. Where other quarterbacks are conservative with their throws trying to get into field goal range, Manning struck a thunderous blow by going 77 yards for the winning touchdown with a bomb to Victor Cruz. Ballgame!! He caught the safety cheating up and applied a sword to the heart. The New York Football Giants are never out of a game with Manning at the helm. They came from behind 3 times last year.

Others don’t realize how durable he is. He hasn’t missed a game in 8 years and now he has been to the last two Pro Bowls. His best receiver Victor Cruz just signed a $46 million contract keeping him in New York along with WR Hakeem Nicks. He’s a Hall of Fame quarterback in his prime and he will win a 3rd Super Bowl for the Giants within the next 3 years. Possibly this year in his own stadium. Do you realize he’s the only quarterback in the top 5 of this list who returns with his top receivers intact?? What will this list look like next year??

So that’s it… Our 2013 list…

Epilogue: Ron Jaworski picks Eli 8th in his selection going into 2013. Absolutely the dumbest analysis I have heard in nearly a decade. Just a year removed from his second Super Bowl ring I offered this in the Giants 2012 team preview — “Get used to it Giant fans, Manning is like a great “B” student. He will stumble on some assignments but he’s a great test taker and comes through in the end. Do you realize Manning is now 7-1 in postseason games away from the Meadowlands? He now has postseason wins over an 18-0 Patriot team in Super Bowl XLII, and an upset over a 15-1 Packers team in last year’s playoff.  He is the only quarterback in NFL history to defeat 5 postseason foes with records of 13-3 or better.  No one even comes close to that.”

Since he’s not the sexiest player in some sportswriters eyes, no one is talking about the fact he could possibly become the first quarterback in NFL history to play in the Super Bowl in his own home stadium. This isn’t the Cowboys and Tony Romo hoping against common sense two seasons ago when the big game was in Dallas. We’re talking about a two time Super Bowl MVP who could tie Joe Montana if he gets there and captures that award again. Recognize greatness when you see it…and don’t give him the ball for a final drive within striking distance either.

Next: Top ten running backs going into the 2013 season

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Taylor Blitz Times new logo!!

Taylor Blitz Times new logo!!

Is The 2004 NFL QB Draft Class The Best Ever?

Eli Manning has two rings….were they better than the 1983 class?

With 3 members of the great quarterback class of 1983 in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, at first glance you might say no. Until you realize the class of 2004 has 4 Super Bowl rings won between Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger. Not only are they in the prime of their careers but you have to include Pro Bowl QB Matt Schaub and Phillip Rivers as well. Many pundits have the Houston Texans as an AFC favorite to make this year’s Super Bowl and Phillip Rivers has made the AFC Championship along with a couple of Pro Bowls. How do they stack against the great classes of the past??

Well for starters this class didn’t have to live up to the expectations of the class of 1999. Remember that group? Donovan McNabb, Duante Culpepper, Tim Couch, Akili Smith, and Cade McNown were the hot quarterbacks anointed to challenge the class of 1983 yet came up woefully short. Couch, Smith, and McNown were out of the league within 5 years. Culpepper had some big seasons culminating with an NFC Championship visit in 2000 and had his best season in 2004 with 4,717 yards and 39 TDs. After that he was a journeyman playing for several teams.

As for Donovan McNabb, he was the face of the Philadelphia Eagles and led them to 4 straight NFC Championship Games and a Super Bowl appearance. He played with distinction for well over a decade and was a Pro Bowl quarterback 6 times including 5 straight years (2000-2004). For his career, he threw for 37,726 yards and 234 touchdowns while crossing the 3,000 yard threshold in 8 different seasons. Yet no Super Bowl victories. The class of ’99 only had 1 Super Bowl appearance.

Which brings us to the hallowed class of 1983. Dan Marino, John Elway, Jim Kelly, Todd Blackledge, Ken O’Brien, and Tony Eason were the signal callers who were going to dominate pro football for the next 15 years. They did….well kind of. With all of them going to the AFC, the next decade worth of drafts were slanted to pass protecters, specialist linebackers who defensed the pass better than the run along with receivers, and cornerbacks to cover them. The AFC took to the air as their earthbound counterparts in the NFC were rooted in the ground with power running schemes and more stout physical defenses. As the decade wore on each of the class of 83 started making their way to the Super Bowl. One after the other they went down in Super Bowls XIX- XXVIII in 10 straight games. Only after the Denver Broncos built John Elway an NFC team did the class of ’83 finally win two Super Bowls. Four of them reached the Super Bowl and three of them made it to multiple Super Bowls. While Elway, Kelly, and Marino rewrote the record books: Were they better than the ’04 class??

Big Ben has had playoff heroics that are either equal or surpass those of John Elway

The biggest issue the newer quarterbacks face is perception. The media fawned over John Elway being the prototypical quarterback (6’3, blonde hair, golden arm) that he rarely faced detractors until his Super Bowl losses. Sportswriters of the time lauded Marino for his cool in the face of a blitz, and Kelly for his toughness. Roethlisberger, because of a few off field incidents, is rarely thought of in high regard when it comes to writers who romanticize the game’s players. His scrambles and daring play are every bit as good as John Elway’s and has won more games for the Steelers than most can keep count. Where Elway had The Drive (Elway’s 98 yard drive to tie the 1986 AFC Championship Game) Roethlisberger led a last second drive culminating with a last second touchdown throw to win Super Bowl XLIII with :42 seconds left. We hardly hear of it talked about in the air of Elway’s drive when Big Ben’s was greater because it won a Super Bowl. Why?? Talk about playoff heroics… What about the 3rd and 19, 58 yard bomb to Antonio Brown with 2:00 left in the 2010 playoff with the Ravens?? It led to the game winning score and another Super Bowl visit. Others in that instance would have played for overtime. Yet where is the coverage of his daring or a nickname for either of these moments??

Did we say last second drives to win Super Bowls?? Well Eli Manning has two. Not only did he take down an undefeated Patriot team in 1 Super Bowl (2007), he proved it wasn’t a fluke with an encore performance in the 46th edition. Where Elway won one conference championship game with a last minute drive on the road, Eli has done that twice now in Green Bay and San Francisco in overtime. He has become the NFL’s all time winningest quarterback in the playoffs with 8 wins away from home, he set the record for road wins in a season with 11. Then what may go down as one of the defining games of his career happened last Sunday. After throwing 3 interceptions early in the game to put his Giants in a hole, Eli comes back with 240 yards passing in the 4th quarter alone in beating Tampa Bay 41-34. The Giants scored 25 points in that final period as Manning threw for 510 yards overall. He came within 45 yards of the all time record of 554 set by Norm Van Brocklin in 1950.

Comparing these two classes is one-sided in the favor of the ’04 group when it comes to Super Bowls. The latter group is 4-1 in the big game where the ’83 group was 2-10. Where John Elway was the winningest quarterback in NFL history at one time, folks are slow to notice Roethlisberger is approaching 100 with a total of 84 right now. To further tilt matters this group is in it’s prime and how many Super Bowl visits are in the near future when we include Matt Schaub and possibly a Phillip Rivers (both are 2-0 to start 2012). As of right now there are 3 busts in Canton from the earlier group but this one is better and hasn’t come close to finishing their run yet. They need to get the respect their elders did concerning their on-field heroics.

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2012 New York Giants Preview

When we last saw the New York Giants, they were hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in Indianapolis. Lingering questions remained about the impending personnel decisions on RB Brandon Jacobs and DE Osi Yumeniora.  Which obscured the real reality: Eli Manning is on his way to becoming a Hall of Fame quarterback. One who will win more championships than his celebrated brother Peyton when it’s all said and done. He is also surrounded by several playmaking receivers in Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks.

The Giants rely on a stout pass rush, and tactically sound defense and with the emergence of DE Pierre Paul on a relatively young team, it would appear that they’re not done competing for championships.  Tom Coughlin’s group won it all with the worst record ever at 9-7, yet proved an axiom that is becoming the NFL’s most prevalent theme: Just get hot going into the playoffs. It worked for the Giants last year just as it had with Green Bay the season before. Will the Giants repeat as champions or further frustrate their fans with spotty inconsistent play??

Quarterback: After another mind numbing last second drive to upend the New England Patriots in a Super Bowl setting, Eli Manning’s legend is growing and he has half of his career to build upon it. However Giant fans have to realize that Manning may never turn in a Joe Montana-like season where he just completes pass after pass for a 70% completion rating. Get used to it Giant fans, Manning is like a great “B” student. He will stumble on some assignments but he’s a great test taker and comes through in the end. Do you realize Manning is now 7-1 in postseason games away from the Meadowlands? He now has postseason wins over an 18-0 Patriot team in Super Bowl XLII, and an upset over a 15-1 Packers team in last year’s playoff.  He is the only quarterback in NFL history to defeat 5 postseason foes with records of 13-3 or better.  No one even comes close to that.

We here at the Taylor Blitz Times tried to prepare you of his ascendant potential before the NFC Championship last year. https://taylorblitztimes.com/2012/01/18/2011-nfc-championship-preview-eli-manning-the-silent-killer/  He just missed becoming the fifth quarterback in NFL history to throw for 5,000 yards in a season with 4,933. That is the highest for a Super Bowl champion quarterback by the way.  For the season, he was 359 of 589 while throwing for 29 touchdowns to just 16 interceptions. You look at 61% completion rating and think “that’s not that high”, yet a closer look reveals he lowered his interception total from 25 the year before. Credit that to a more mature Manning throwing the ball away more.

His maturation as a quarterback was evident in last year’s playoffs.  He was in total command in both the NFC Championship Game as well as the Super Bowl.  When the season was on the line, he led his team to a 17-14 4th quarter lead gunning a 17 yard touchdown to Mario Manningham. Then the winning drive in overtime. If that weren’t enough.. in the fading minutes of Super Bowl XLVI, Manning got his team out of the shadow of their goal line with a 38 yard strike to Manningham.  Eli looked down the middle to hold the Patriot safety, subtly took two steps to his left (shortened the trajectory of the throw) and fired the best pass seen in a Super Bowl.  Complete command in that situation and again he was flawless in the 4th quarter. Remember last year before the season Manning was asked; “Are you an elite quarterback??” Everyone scoffed when he responded “yes” well he shut up a lot of critics. Even though he’s a great “B” student the Giants at quarterback get an A and is Super Bowl quality.

Offensive Backfield: Although they weren’t necessarily thunder and lightning, Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw were an effective tandem running the football. Yet this partnership has ended with Jacobs signing with the 49ers and let’s face it, at times he just didn’t run with the thunder a 264 lb running back should. Part of that was the fault of the coaches trying to run him wide. Other times he “beat his feet” before hitting a hole and could be stood up by a scraping linebacker.   Bradshaw had a good year and was the most versatile RB the Giants had. He ran for 659 yards and 9 touchdowns in spot duty, and also caught 34 passes out of the backfield for another 2 TDs. He’s a good space runner out of 3 and 4 receivers sets yet may have to handle pushing the pile at the goal line this year. Not sure he’s suited for that. In the Super Bowl he scored from a multiple receiver set in the final seconds. Who is going to be this team’s goal line runner??

The Giants brought in a potential playmaker in draft pick David Wilson out of Virginia Tech who was ACC Player of the Year. When you look at how he plays…he’s a quicker, shiftier version of Bradshaw with more of a burst. If he can pick up the blitzes he may be the starter by the time we get to September. During the draft just about every play showcasing his ability came from spread and multiple receiver sets. Think of him as a quicker, thicker Dave Meggett who can also return kicks. Running back is average  in New York and we have to find out who will be the 3rd & 1, 4th & 1 guy.

Receivers: This is one of the quiet strengths of this team. Last year’s emergence of Victor Cruz illustrates how well this position is taught in New York. Everyone forgets offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride used to coach the run and shoot in Houston. Along with Tom Coughlin being a former wide receiver coach we now understand how Hakeem Nicks caught 76 for 1,192 yards and 7 touchdowns in a supporting role. The star was Cruz who gathered in 82 asses for a whopping 1,536 yards and 9 scores. His average was over 3 yards greater than Nicks last season who was thought of as the team’s deep threat. At 23 and 25 years respectively, these two should terrorize NFC East foes for several years. No wonder Dallas drafted a CB #1.

Definitely this team is Super Bowl quality at receiver and that is before we get to draft pick Reuben Randle out of LSU. He will have to learn the routes just as an undrafted Cruz picked them up. You can clearly see Gilbride’s teachings when the Giants face zone. You will see their receivers hook in open spaces and then slide behind adjusting linebackers on intermediate routes. A complete run and shoot principle. These guys may go for over 1,300 yards each this season.

Offensive Line: This is an area of concern for this team. What came first the chicken or the egg?? What we mean by that is has this team become a passing team out of necessity or can they run the football?? According to NFL accounting it was out of necessity. The Giants were last in rushing with 1,427 yards and last in average with 3.5 yards per carry. That’s terrible and the worst ever for a Super Bowl champion. These guys just aren’t driving anyone off the ball…period. Otherwise the Giants wouldn’t have gone after two OT in this year’s draft.

Passing the football they fared pretty well ranking 7th with 28 sacks yet were middle of the pack getting Eli hit with 72 hits. This could be attributed to Manning’s quick decision making more than the line’s total performance because he took a lot of hits. We have to see what type of camp draftees Brandon Mosely (Auburn) and Matt McCants (UAB) have to see if one goes after Kareem McKenzie’s job. This line is in a state of flux and may need to meld the early part of the season. Right now the line is well below average.

Pierre Paul emerging from a sack of Alex Smith in the NFC Championship Game

Defensive Line: Clearly a strength and possibly the heart and soul of this team. The story of the 2011 campaign was the emergence of 2010 1st round pick Jason Pierre Paul, who impersonated Michael Strahan to the tune of 16.5 sacks. Incredibly he was third on the team in tackles with 93 total. That is a high tackle number for a DE. His combination of size and athleticism could be the finest ever seen in a defensive end. Remember the footage of him doing back flips before the Super Bowl?? Yikes! He’s just tapping into his potential and could have won NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors last year.

However it’s the total rotation package with fellow DE’s Justin Tuck and Osi Yumeniora that has opponents struggling with whom to focus the most attention on. Tuck has to bounce back from a season where his sack total fell from 11.5 in 2010 to 5 last year. Of course he missed four games with injury but going into this year he should see far fewer double teams with Pierre Paul on the other side. It’s still unclear if Yumeniora will return yet the Giants also signed 350 lbs Shaun Rogers to help plug the middle. Last year this team was 3rd in the NFL with 48 sacks. This year if they can return healthy they could hit 60. Defensive line is Super Bowl quality in Gotham.

Linebackers: Surprisingly this team didn’t go after a linebacker in free agency or the draft. Michael Boley seems to be the only complete linebacker of the bunch. He made plays all over the field and was 2nd on the team in solo tackles with 74. Mathias Kiwanuka did have a solid year but gets lost out there at times if his hand isn’t on the ground rushing the passer. Super Bowl hero Chase Blackburn was re-signed after a short trip through free agency. Aside from Boley, Kiwanuka, Blackburn, Greg Jones, and company are pedestrian linebackers each with clear shortcomings. Kiwanuka struggles in space where Jones, Blackburn can’t disengage if linemen get their hands on them. Hence the Giants can be run on…hence their 19th ranking against the run. They don’t have a true middle linebacker and until they do this is the only weakness of this defense. Linebacker is below average.

Corey Webster should become a Pro Bowl at corner in 2012

Secondary: The most versatile secondary in the NFL yet the loss of CB Aaron Ross would have been a greater impact had the Giants not drafted CB Jayron Hosely out of Virginia Tech. Truth be told the Giants run a lot of zone behind that pass rush. So this team should be good with current corners Corey Webster and Hosely if he can get into camp and develop quickly. One of the personnel packages that worked out well was when the Giants could use S Antrel Rolle, a converted corner, to drop down and cover a TE or 3rd WR as well as most corners. If Hosely isn’t ready and the G-men have to go with a veteran on corner opposite Webster. Speaking of Webster, he’s coming off his best season as a pro where he picked off 6 passes, returning them for 71 yards. Webster should make his first Pro Bowl this year. With a 3rd safety in Deon Grant seeing playing time the Giants were able to play with 3 safeties and gave extreme flexibility to their exotic coverages.

Defensive Coordinator Perry Fewell utilized his backfield in a varitey of ways. They played a cat and mouse game in obvious passing situations as in Super Bowl XLVI. In the second half they lined up safeties Kenny Phillips and Rolle just 15 yards off the ball in what looked like a cover two. At the snap Brady read cover two yet the safeties DIDNT go deep, they stayed in the 15-20 yard zone right off the line of scrimmage and dared the slow Patriots to throw deep. Which they couldn’t and the Giants shut them down in the last two drives. They need rookie CB Hosely to develop or they’ll have to go more vanilla with personnel and play call manipulation. Early on there will be some defensive breakdowns and it’s imperative the pass rush shows up as the 2012 season begins to cover these shortcomings. The last line of defense is a “B” right now but can improve to Super Bowl quality if they can get the corner situation handled.

Overall: Again Giants fans will be frustrated by the Giants inability to roll up their fists and hit their opponent with a haymaker and win the game big. They will always play close to the vest affairs and should finish this season with a 10-6 record. Manning will have a great season and is unquestionably a leader on this team. In defensing their title, we believe they’ll make the playoffs yet lose in the divisional round after a typical late season push to gain the playoffs.

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Next up: San Francisco 49ers

Super Bowl XLVI: The Chancellor’s Thoughts On The Game

Now that was a hell of a Super Bowl. The New York Giants roped the New England Patriots into another slugfest and won their eighth world championship 21-17. It was a mirror of Super Bowl XLII all over again only this time there was a glaring difference. The Patriots were unable to stretch the field as they could in 2007 and the Giants knew it. During the second half of yesterday’s football game the Giants played plenty of subtle tricks on Tom Brady that ultimately won the game. OK Eli Manning had something to do with it.

Now a two time Super Bowl winning coach in 4 years; What’s Tom Coughlin’s chances for the Hall of Fame??

Once the Giants gave up the touchdown to start the second half, the Giants deployed an interesting defense. They came out in a nickel cover 2 look with a linebacker taking the deep zone and safeties Kenny Phillips and Antrell Rolle actually playing just fifteen yards downfield.  They stayed put rather than go deep. Think back to the Patriots final drive. Remember the two passes over the middle that were incomplete to Deion Branch and Aaron Hernandez?? Well the first one you’ll note was tipped by Phillips and went behind Branch. The second Hernandez took his eye off the football. This was an example of that play. Another was when we watched LB Chase Blackburn run all the way down the field to intercept a bomb for Gronkowski.

You’ll notice that Tom Brady had to come off his first and second reads many times in that second half and up until that final drive was the story of the game. They got pressure on him by crowding his crossing routes without a deep threat.  The forgotten sparkplug to it all was Antrel Rolle (The [[_]]) who came over from the Arizona Cardinals over a season ago. His athleticism as a former cornerback, helped disguise when the Giants were going to blitz,  go man to man, or deploy him as a slot corner with his taking on Wes Welker much of the evening.  Welker caught 7 balls for 60 yards and had little yardage after the catch. These defensive tactics were overlooked by pundits thanks to Eli Manning’s final drive. The Patriots were exposed for being slow just as the Jets had in last year’s AFC divisional playoff loss.

Eli avoids Ninkovich to throw during Super Bowl XVLI

Yet there was Eli Manning, whom we dubbed the silent killer before the NFC Championship Game, just played his way into the Hall of Fame.  How?? Did you see that laser of a pass to Manningham for 38 yards at the start of that final 88 yard drive?? In the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl with everything on the line, he threw atop the cornerback and before the safety in cover 2?? In XLII, he fought off the pass rush and got lucky with David Tyree holding the ball against his helmet making a circus catch. This time he looked off the safety, kept his feet in throwing position and rotated into the throw. One of the best passes ever in a championship game. The throw was perfect and took guts.

Today’s quarterbacking has been reduced to throwing to the running back if the read takes away your receivers. Very passive. Manning knew where he was going the whole time. Even when the read tells him to go elsewhere with the ball. You’ll notice him take those subtle steps in the direction of Manningham to shorten the throw and gain the trajectory necessary to squeeze that throw in there taking the angle away from S Patrick Chung. THAT is quarterbacking!! Not only did Eli Manning gain 7 first downs on that drive, just like Super Bowl XLII. Not one of his throws was off during that final drive as he methodically marched the Giants to the go ahead touchdown. Going 30 for 40 for 296 yards and 1 touchdown.

Hall of Fame?? Well the last time we saw Peyton Manning in a Super Bowl, he threw the critical interception that Tracy Porter  returned for a touchdown to put the nail in the Colts coffin in Super Bowl XLIV. Eli didn’t do that. What about the 92 yard drive in Super Bowl XXIII, when Joe Montana drove the 49ers to the winning touchdown against Cincinnati?? Eli equaled that with an 88 yard drive in this one and Montana didn’t have a throw as lethal as the 38 yarder to Manningham. Eight years ago in Super Bowl XXXVIII, we anointed Tom Brady to Hall of Fame status when leading his second Super Bowl winning drive against the Carolina Panthers. Well guess what Eli just led his second. Yes he’s a Hall of Famer!! Yes we said it just as we forshadowed this may be his run to greatness before the NFC Championship Game.

What is the legacy of Tom Coughlin now that his Giants won Super Bowl XLVI over the Patriots this past Sunday?? Talking heads are bantering in Indianapolis over this 5 game run to the Super Bowl, yet no one is regarding that he may be a great coach. He won his second  Vince Lombardi trophy in five years. Equal to that of his mentor Bill Parcells who won two in a four year span.  Is he a Hall of Fame coach?? Well they just removed the 1988 San Francisco 49ers from the record book for winning the Super Bowl with the lowest record. (9-7 to 10-6 for 49ers)

Super Bowl XLII Championship Ring

Everyone also forgets he almost went undefeated in 1999. His Jacksonville Jaguars went 14-2 and had homefield throughout the playoffs. Before game 15 they were on pace to break the record for fewest points allowed in a 16 game season also. However they got swept during the regular season by the Tennessee Titans and Jeff Fisher. The Titans also beat them in the AFC Championship Game to end Coughlin’s Jags season 33-14. They did have a rousing win in the AFC Divisional round with a 61-7 win over Jimmy Johnson’s Miami Dolphins.

Eli Manning just became a Hall of Fame quarterback tying Terry Bradshaw and Bart Starr as fellow 2 time Super Bowl MVP quarterbacks.

Want some irony?? Fisher had some parting verbal shots at Jacksonville and the Jaguars were never the same. Coughlin gets fired a few years later. Fisher goes on to lose Super Bowl XXXIV to the St. Louis Rams. Now Jeff Fisher is the St. Louis Rams head coach after NOT winning a Super Bowl in Tennessee. Guess what Fisher did this Sunday?? He sat his ass on a couch and watched Tom Coughlin win his second Super Bowl to put his name on the short list of great coaches who have accomplished that.

Right now, the New York Giants are World Champions and a parade awaits. Congratulations on a remarkable run.

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2011 NFC Championship Preview; Eli Manning “The Silent Killer”

George Halas Trophy: Awarded to the NFC Champion

As the NFL train heads for the NFC Championship, one passenger looks strangely familiar to us. We’ve seen him before and haven’t really given him his due as how great he’s actually becoming. Do you realize thanks to last week; Eli Manning is the only quarterback in NFL history to defeat two different teams with 15 regular season wins?? He was the quarterback of the Super Bowl XLII upset of the 16-0 New England Patriots, and now conquered the 15-1 Packers last week in Lambeau. Is it time we consider him great?? We know…get up off the floor and consider this; he has more signature playoff wins than his celebrated brother Peyton. In fact he’s the tougher quarterback between the two.

Stop and think of the signature games Eli has in his back pocket. Everyone remembers the run to the Super Bowl in 2007 especially the Dallas Cowboys. Remember that group?? An emerging Tony Romo and Terrell Owens sparkled as they ran to an NFC best 13-3 record and the championship of the Eastern Division. Then in a frigid Lambeau Field took down the 13-3 Green Bay in Brett Favre’s last game as a Packer. The most startling fact were these two games and the Super Bowl that year were all of these teams beat Eli and the Giants in their first meeting. Something the 49ers should take solace in since they defeated Manning’s Giants 27-20 in November.

Last weekend propelled Alex Smith into a higher echelon of quarterbacks, yet where did the 37-20 defeat of the Packers propel Eli?? We have to remember he is already a Super Bowl winning quarterback although the sporting press doesn’t cover him like one. He isn’t coddled like his brother when it comes to his short comings. Think about it for a second…. Had Eli Manning thrown a 4th quarter interception to seal his team’s fate in a Super Bowl you would never hear the end of it. We hardly hear of his triumph in Super Bowl XLII, he’s treated like a supporting actor to the upset itself or even David Tyree’s helmet catch. Neither of which could have taken place without Eli’s heroics. If you can remember Eli had to break free of two linemen and scrambled before throwing that famous pass to Tyree.

The silent killer

With a win this week, Manning will have his 7th playoff win and second Super Bowl appearance. He has a 5-3 record in the playoffs and get this he’s 5-1 away from home in the playoffs including the Super Bowl, for his career. Contrast that against Peyton’s 3-6 record away from home in the playoffs, which includes a 41-0 devastating loss to the New York Jets. http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/200301040nyj.htm Understand Eli doesn’t have a lopsided postseason loss to that degree on his resume’. It also needs to be reiterated he just missed becoming the 4th quarterback to throw for 5,000 yards this year with 4,933, while throwing for 29TDs to just 16 interceptions. You’re starting to get the feeling that he will win this road game and advance to his second Super Bowl.

No one even comes close to his road post season record. He’s quiet and tremendously unassuming off the field. Yet it’s at this moment we have to anoint him to that of a great quarterback on the precipice of his second Super Bowl. You’d think that the coddling the media has given his brother would have rubbed off on him. That it hasn’t has given him a thicker skin and stronger resolve. The same as being a younger brother getting beat up by his older brother’s Peyton and Cooper.

If Aaron Rodgers ascended to greatness with last year’s postseason, where will that leave Eli if he’s able to pull it off for a second time??  An NFC showdown against the formidable (13-3) 49ers awaits. Yet nothing has rattled a quarterback who has bested 4 teams with that same record or better for his postseason career. Before this championship he ascended to becoming a great quarterback with the win over the Green Bay Packers. With a win in San Francisco he’ll cement it. Can he pull it off?? We’re not betting against the “silent killer”.

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