Giants Have Question Marks, Too

While there are some very good reasons to be optimistic about the 2009 Eagles campaign — it doesn’t take much thought to put together some reasons for doubt, either.  Will the offensive line gel?  Will and how much will the defense suffer after losing Jim Johnson?  And perhaps the biggest of all, will Brian Westbrook be healthy and effective?

But the other likely NFC East powerhouse — the Giants — have their share of question marks as well.

  • Don’t forget, this team also will have a new, unproven defensive coordinator (Bill Sheridan).
  • Eli Manning is playing without Plaxico Burress, and the Giants did not go out and get any of the big name receivers that were rumored available.  Whether any of their young crop of receivers is really any good is yet to be determined.
  • Gone is one big part of their rushing attack — Derrick Ward.  Keeping Jacobs healthy is more vital than ever, as “Ahmad Bradshaw, feature back” has never been tested.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  This team will be good.  They have an excellent offensive and defensive line — and when you’re team is strong in the trenches you will always be competitive.

The question I see for them is — when they face a tough defense, will they be able to put up points?  The passing game is the key to almost every modern and powerful NFL offense.  And whether Eli and that group of pass-catchers will be up to the task is an open question.

About Last Night…

Good to know some things never change.   The Redskins will switch offensive coordinators after another mediocre season, and they will not get any better.  Eli Manning, when pressured, will flail around and throw the ball to almost anyone in any jersey.

And Plaxico Burress is unstoppable.

Super Bowl

I am ill-prepared to live in a world where Eli Manning is a Super Bowl MVP. I’m shaken.

Dealing with my many friends who are Giants’ fans will be difficult for the next year. I always had the Eli jokes to trump whatever insults they threw my way. I’m not sure what I have to hang my hat on any more.

At least Shockey didn’t catch the game-winning touchdown.

Today sucks.

What the Postseason Means for the Eagles

There are several prevailing pieces of wisdom being floated throughout the mainstream media this postseason. But the biggest, of course, is the theory that Eli Manning has turned into a star. Pick your cliche’ — “the light has been turned on”, “he’s arrived”, etc, etc.

Eli Manning

The young quarterback of the Giants is finally providing some return on the team’s significant investment in him. This must be bad for the Eagles, right?

Well, I’m not so sure. I don’t think there’s any reason to believe this three-game run portends a prolonged stretch of excellence that takes the Giants’ to multiple playoff appearances. Despite the Super Bowl appearance, this Giants’ team is not ahead of the Cowboys or Eagles in the talent department.

Look, this should be obvious but this Giants team isn’t succeeding because Manning has taken the reigns and made game-changing plays. They are succeeding because of the magnificent play of their defensive front seven — especially Strahan, Umenyiora, Tuck, Mitchell, and Pierce. They are succeeding because their much-maligned defensive backfield is actually doing an adequate job and making plays when given the opportunity. And they are succeeding because their opponents are faltering at absolutely critical moments. Combine that with the fact that the Giants’ quarterback isn’t turning the ball over every third possession and you can win some games.

So no, I don’t think massive Eli love-fest is bad news for the Eagles. I think we will see the quarterback we are used to seeing in 2008. The one that can make a critical mistake and a game saving throw. The one that badly misses open receivers and pouts. The quarterback that infuriates both Giants’ fans and their opponents’. And as an Eagles fan, I’m OK with this.

Breaking Down the Giants/Packers NFC Championship

I’m going to try and break down this week’s unlikely matchup in the NFC Championship and give an edge where there is one. This isn’t the sort of thing I’ll do regularly here, and this really just came to me as an idea to write a really long post — which I needed to see presented as I develop my “theme” for the blog.

We’ll start with the ball in the Giants’ hands.

Giants’ Interior Line (Suebert, O’Hara, Snee) vs. Packers’ DT’s (Pickett, Williams)
Snee and O’Hara are both excellent run blockers, and when combined with Kareem McKenzie the Giants’ have a ton of success running to the right side. Suebert is a veteran who is an average, dependable player. The Giants O-Line as a whole is an “OK” pass-blocking unit, but the middle of the line generally holds up pretty well.

Corey Williams had an impressive seven sacks from the tackle position, but he can be exploited in the running game. Ryan Pickett is humongous, designed to eat up blocks that let Nick Barnett and AJ Hawk do their work. Both of these DT’s are good at getting their hands in the air and getting a pass deflection.

Overall, this is an area of strength for the Giants. They should run right at these guys.
Edge: Giants

Giants’ OTs (Diehl, McKenzie) vs. Packers’ DEs (Kampman, Jenkins, KGB)

Diehl has proven himself adequate in his first year as a tackle, but he’s not the kind of guy who can keep Kampman in check all game. Kampman and Jenkins both perform well against the run, and KGB will come in for Jenkins on obvious passing downs. This is a big edge in passing situations for the Packers — and something the Giants have to be concerned with.
Edge: Packers

Giants’ TE (Kevin Boss) vs. Packers’ SAM & SS (Poppinga, Bigby)
Poppinga isn’t anything to write home about, and Bigby has been a disaster in coverage — whether it’s man or zone. With that being said, he does look to be improving a little, evidenced by his performance against the Seahawks.

Kevin Boss has done a pretty good job filling in for Jeremy Shockey. If Eli Manning is lacking any confidence in this young TE, it isn’t showing. This matchup is pretty even in that it shouldn’t impact the game much.
Edge: None

Giants’ Running Game vs. Packers’ Front Seven

You could argue the Giants were the best running team in the NFL this season. Brandon Jacobs averaged a robust 5.0 ypc. Ahmad Bradshaw has made a bit of a name for himself in December and January. He’s shifty, strong for his size, and he can break a big one at any time.

The Packers have outstanding speed all over their defense, but they aren’t the biggest group. They are young, and can be susceptible to cutbacks and misdirections. The Giants should have success when they want to run the ball.
Edge: Giants

Giants’ WRs (Burress, Toomer, Smith) vs. Packers Secondary (Woodson, Harris, Collins, Bigby)

Plaxico Burress has looked like a shell of himself for the last two months. Amani Toomer is ancient, but still reliable. Steve Smith is inconsistent, but he had a good game last week.

Plaxico is capable of dominating a game when healthy, but as I said he’s just not close to that. He can’t get much push off of the line of scrimmage, and if Harris and Woodson choose to wrestle with him at the line I think they can be successful. They are excellent cover corners, who should be able to handle themselves well in this situation. The Packers’ safeties can be exploited, especially Bigby, if Eli can find guys up the seems and sidelines.
Edge: None

Packers’ Interior Line (Colledge, Wells, Spitz) vs. Giants’ DTs (Cofield, Robbins)
Much of Brett Favre’s improved performance this season can be contributed to the improved pass protection. He’s not throwing off his back foot as frequently, which has often led to turnovers.  These guys are a solid but unspectacular crew.  The Guards, especially Colledge move well and Ryan Grant has taken the starting job and run with it (ehh).

The Giants’ DTs get plenty of rest in the first part of the season, as the well-known “4 DE” (Strahan, Umenyora, Tuck, Kiwunuka) line was employed on passing downs.  They do a good job against the run, but this Packers group is pounding opponents right now.
Edge:  Packers