NYG 27 HOU 15

Well, ok, HOU scored 22. But if we deducted 10 Giants pts last week for garbage time, we can deduct the 7 Houston pts in garbage time too.

One of the things a good team does is they close out games with their offense in Q4. Houston got 7 pts in garbage time BECAUSE THE GIANTS OFFENSE SCORED 7 AND PUT THE GAME OUT OF REACH. The Giants are not a good team yet, but that was a very good sign.

Another good sign? How about scoring a TD on your first drive. Great stuff.

There are good wins. There are bad wins. There are good losses. There are bad losses. There were so many good things to note about this victory.  This was a good win on so many levels.

While there were four sacks, the OL overall played a much better game. In the first half, the OL did a very good job of giving Eli just enough time. In the second half, Eli took a little more time and it cost him/Giants. I probably watched Wheeler more closely than any player on the field. Was he great? Of course not. But he was good enough. He went toe to toe with JJ Watt and won some battles. Watt bested him on more than a few snaps (2 sacks vs Wheeler). Living in Houston and watching Watt a lot, I can tell you it takes 2 or 3 guys to slow Watt down, and he still makes you pay. How is it possible that Watt got a total of 3 sacks and Wheeler did enough to help the Giants win? Because Wheeler was not getting blown up at 0.4 seconds after the snap (except one play, the sack strip) and also kept Watt from causing excessive and consistent mayhem. Wheeler wasn’t leg whipping or getting caught holding the pass rusher. Wheeler got thrown into the deep end of the pool. He survived. And the Giants thrived.

Scheme matters so much. The coaches gave Wheeler help early with a Tight End. They ran run plays between the B gap, which helped to take away Watt’s aggressiveness in trying to beat Wheeler on the outside speed rush. And I saw at least 3 times that I counted (likely more) that they rolled Eli out of the pocket to buy him additional time (for longer pass play options) and help the OL. This helps a guy like Wheeler immensely too.

Clowney? Crickets. He was playing through an injury and Solder kept him quiet.

Snacks was dominant against the run. The Texans became one-dimensional. The bad news was that the Giants got carved up in the middle of the field. The soft zone was a major liability. It will not be pretty vs Brees.

Pocket contain is a must. Watson extended so many plays by stepping through holes in the pocket. Brees is not as mobile as Watson but he will hurt the Giants because he likes to see his passing lanes. Brees will use those holes to squeeze out, see the field better and let the ball rip. Watson was inaccurate. Brees will be much more accurate.

Kerry Wynn was Michael Strahan-esque. He was ubiquitous. He was dominant. He made so many impact plays. The fumble turnover. A pass defensed. So many pressures. A great stop for a loss which set up the end of a drive.

Let’s talk about Eli. 25 for 29. 2 TDs. 0 INTs. 297 yds. He was efficient and accurate. Hmm, the OL gave him time and he did not cringe for the first two seconds.

Engram hurt his knee. Injury results Monday.

There was one part of the game I did not like. It looked like the playcalling became less aggressive in the second half until the lead was trimmed to 5. Then the playcalling opened up again and the Giants were able to drive down the field for a TD. You will not get away with that against better teams. You can’t just turn the Offense off and expect to be able to turn it back on again.

Speaking about aggressive playcalling, Shep, Latimer and OBJ looked very good. They caught everything thrown their way. They moved the sticks a lot. 27 points worth. Shep had only one transgression, which was to taunt one of the Houston players in the secondary after a Giants first down. 15 yd unsportsmanlike conduct. NO. NO.

Barkley is a beast. He needs more road graders. Even WITHOUT ROAD GRADERS, Barkley has run for ~4.7 yds per carry after 3 games. He continues to find new ways each game to make players miss. He is special to watch. Wait until he gets more isolation in 1 on 1’s in the flat… he will light it up. I am a bit concerned how Barkley gets dinged up a lot. He bounces back and gets back on the field routinely, but I hope it does not mean he is more susceptible to the pounding than we would otherwise expect.

Speaking about Engram and Barkley getting dinged- it’s clear that that horse manure rule about leading with the helmet is telling defenders to go for the legs more. You won’t get called for a penalty, but you’ll rip up guys knees. The net result is awful. It’s marginally better for brain safety but it’s a lot worse for the game.

Tight End in the Red Zone! Nice way to cap a drive in Q2.

BJ Hill and Lorenzo Carter, the Giants rookies taken in Round 3 this year, both collected their first NFL sacks. That should be the start of much greater things to come from each of them. These are the players to build a future with.

We were looking for 2 or possibly 3 wins in the first 7 games. This is now one of them. The Giants have separated themselves from the nightmare of 2017. They got better. If they keep improving from week to week they will lay the foundation for good things. If the OL becomes serviceable, even greater things will be possible.

We will be joining a Saints podcast this week to discuss that matchup. Onward to Week 4.

2018 NY Giants Season Forecast

Tomorrow marks the beginning of the 2018 NFL Football season. Giants Football is back! Purging the nightmare of a 3-13 record last year begins with hopes anew for a turnaround.

We were struck almost immediately last year with how little had changed in the Offense in Week 1 & Week 2 vs Dallas and Detroit from the fumes of 2016. Why dredge up such unpleasant memories? Because it is a reminder of how little we truly know about what to expect from a coaching staff. McAdoo was a football fraud. The emperor had no clothes. We and everyone else incorrectly assumed that an entire offseason of adjustments would rescue a failing 2016 offense in 2017. There were none. We forecast 10 wins. The Giants won 3. After nailing it in 2014-2016 with a very good sense of what the year would look like, we were blindsided. It’s not to say that we didn’t understand the shortcomings of Flowers and Hart. They were front and center. It was just stunning how a boob coach could fail to do anything about it. We also admit to failing our readership in buying into Paul Dottino’s promises that Hart and Flowers were improving. He’s a completely worthless PR front man whose lack of objectivity is everything we rail against on this NY Giants blog. About the only thing I did correctly was reverse course after Week 1 & 2, sounding the alarm. That was too late, as the implosion was already in motion.

2017 is a sobering reminder of the limitations we are faced with here in forecasting 2018. The nature of preseason, where there is (1) no gameplan (2) extremely reduced first string appearances (3) limited disclosure of scheme (4) no halftime adjustments and (5) no great sense of overall coaching abilities for a new staff, all make handicapping 2018 difficult. I say each year that I’ll get a much better sense of what the team looks like after the first 3 games. That couldn’t be more true this year.

There are so many questions that we will get answers to only after watching 2-3 games. They are:

1) What do we see from the Offensive Line, particularly the right side?

2) Do we see fireworks from finally getting OBJ, Barkley, Engram and Shepard on the field at the same time?

3) Are Shurmur and Shula able to scheme so that liabilities from Flowers and Omameh are minimized?

4) Is Eli, at 37, given a Renaissance or a Rebuke?

5) Special Teams Coordinator McGaughey has cancer. Do we get his reversion to the mean or (demoted) assistant Tom Quinn’s return to ruin?

6) How long does it take for Bettcher’s new 3-4 Defense to gel?

7) How badly does the Giants pass coverage get gashed?

8) How long is Olivier Vernon out, and can players like Barwin and Carter get QB pressure before he returns?

9) Do the rookies (Barkley, Hernandez, Carter and Hill) deliver as quickly as we hope?

10) The Giants have no depth. Shurmur brought in 7 new players from other teams after preseason was over. This means the impact from injuries will be greater than otherwise expected. How healthy are the Giants this season, and can they minimize the damage from a significant lack of depth?

11) Is Shurmur 2.0 in New York a big upgrade from Shurmur 1.0 in Cleveland?

Frankly there are too many known unknowns here to be too optimistic about 2018.

The Bulls will weave a theme where

  • scheme minimizes OL liability
  • we get Offensive explosion from the OBJ wrecking crew
  • Eli pilots a much improved ship
  • Specials are effective
  • we get gashed in coverage but
  • Bettcher’s blitzing generates enough pressure
  • the rookies deliver
  • the team enjoys better health and
  • Shurmur is a better coach

The Bears will bring us back to reality where

  • Flowers is still Flowers
  • Omameh is a journeyman on his 5th team in 5 years
  • Barkley can’t rescue a running game all by himself
  • Eli’s limitations are there
  • Defensive pass coverage is exactly what we feared
  • the rookies are good but need a half season to get it going
  • a normal amount of injuries expose the underbelly and
  • Shurmur is a normal coach (not a savior)

Where is the truth? It is likely somewhere in between. I have said this offseason that if you can tell me how the OL fares, I’ll tell you how this team does. Every year it is this way. It’s the legacy of Reese’s failure with this unit. He was finally held accountable, years too late. Because of Solder’s age, he’s a Gettleman patch. Hernandez is a fix, but he’s only one guy. (For the record, we wanted Gettleman to draft MANY more OLmen than just Hernandez in 2018, although Hernandez alone was a huge start.)

Bulls have one very good argument that I like as a contrarian: last year everyone was making Super Bowl reservations and we stunk. This year we are getting cautiousness, so that will bode well for a better year.

Scheme will be vital. How’s this for scheme… Wonder explains that he’d max protect for Eli by using a lot of a 6 man OL. Keep Eli upright so he gets the ball to those weapons. And then because the Tackle is eligible, he can fan out on a flare to Barkley and not be illegally downfield before the throw. Everyone knows how electric Saquad will be in the open field, so it’s up to scheme to leverage that. We are optimistic that Shurmur’s Offense will empower the skill players. We don’t know to what degree Eli is kept upright. Campbell, Dareus, Bryan and Jack will be a problem for any team, but will present even more problems here.

It’s really difficult to see exactly how this unfolds. Everyone knows how tough the first 7 games will be. 3-4 can get them to 9 wins. 2-5 is likely the rebuilding year we expect. The line in Week 1 is a FG because even the bettors have no idea what the Giants will bring. A win in Week 1 salvages the first 7 games. A loss probably puts 2-5 squarely on the map. I’m hoping for the best but realistically thinking 7-9 is what we get. I cited 11 questions to drill home the volatility in this year’s expectations. If you can answer those questions more decisively than I can, please share your comments and get on record for what the team will be in 2018.

Play the games. Entertain us. Give us fireworks. Stay healthy. Scheme. Surprise us with championship work ethic and mettle. I believe this is a rebuilding year. Let’s see good football and maybe we get more positives than we bargained for. GO GIANTS!

Wonder’s Season Preview for the 32 NFL Teams in 2018

Wonder handicaps the NFL in 2018. Some of the totals are too high and some are too low, but we did this to get a sense of where the teams were headed this season. I.e. a team with 2 wins will maybe win 4-5 games, but we think it will anchor at a low number. These totals don’t necessary add to 256. Some adjustments were made when later developments at the end of preseason pushed some numbers around.

NE 13-3. Unbeknownst to everyone, Brady sold his soul to the devil to be in the AFC East for life.
NYJ 6-10. Worthwhile growing pains for Sam Darnold, see you in 2019.
BUF 4-12. Nathan Peterman. Need I say more?!
MIA 2-14. No QB, no Defense, no WRs = no wins.

PIT 12? Everything dependent on LeVeon Bell. 10 wins without him.
BAL 8-8. Good defense, mediocre QB, no weapons = average.
CIN 6-10. Should hold a fundraiser to get rid of Marvin Lewis.
CLE 4-12. Anybody who thinks they are ready to compete for a playoff spot should be drug-tested.

JAX 11-5. If Aaron Rodgers was their QB, they would go 16-0.
HOU 10-6. As long as Watson, Hopkins and Watt are healthy, pencil them in for double digit wins. Every year.
TEN 9-7. Do you remember when Wonder said that Mariota would be a better pro than Winston?!
IND 3-13. What was once a promising Andrew Luck-led playoff team has become pathetic. No defense, no OL, no RBs.

LAC 10-6. Rivers will finally show a national audience just how good a career he has had. Stacked on Defense. Underrated Keenan Allen, good OL. The most well rounded team in the AFC.
KC 10-6. Offense, offense, offense. Will light up the scoreboard. Question is defensive secondary and LBers.
DEN 9-7. People will find out that Case Keenum is a pretty good QB. Can they run the ball? If Royce Freeman and the OL can gel, they can be a playoff contender.
LAR 6-10. Losing Khalil Mack cost them 2 games. Plus the locker room. Chucky has lost his mind.

PHI 11-5. Could be more wins depending on how fast Wentz gets back.
DAL 7-9. I cannot believe how quickly the best OL in football has become ok to average plus at best. Defense could be good.
NYG 6-10. An aging QB who might not be protected is not a recipe for success.
WAS 6-10. I feel bad for Alex Smith, who has become a pretty good QB. If you believe in curses, WAS’s history of injuries may be retribution for Daniel Snyder.

GB 10-6. How many games would Aaron Rodgers win if he ever had any defense or running game?
MIN 10-6. Very solid team. Just not as great a Defense as everybody thinks. Top 10 D, but overrated.
DET 7-9. Pretty good team, but Stafford needs some kind of a running game, which is not there.
CHI 6-10. Picked up 2 games after Mack. He may push them to 7 or 8 wins due to great locker room morale. Trubisky is still Trubisky (not sold, oh god no).

NO 13-3. As long as they make it through first 4 games, this team is loaded. Michael Thomas is the most underrated WR in the NFL.
ATL 11-5. Can the Falcons maximize their Offensive potential and play better on Defense? If so, can be a contender.
CAR 9-7. Can Cam Newton be Cam Newton again? McCaffrey will be a beast this year.
TB 2-14. Forget the 3 game suspension, if they don’t get rid of Winston soon, the entire franchise is in trouble.

LAR 13-3. The best team in the NFC, will pound opponents into oblivion. Goff takes the next step. If all personalities work together, you are looking at the Super Bowl champions.
SF 8-8. Luck will determine if they win 6 or 9 games. Everyone is overrating this team. Reuben Foster? Thin team. OL, LB & Secondary are mediocre.
SEA 7-9. Oh how they mighty have fallen. No Earl Thomas = big locker room headache. No OL either. This might be the year Russell Wilson applies for disability.
AZ 6-10. Headed down before they go back up. Need to rebuild behind Josh Rosen.

More Wonder on the Giants: If the right side of the line can emerge and make the OL run block and give Eli time, the Giants can compete for a wild card spot. But that is a real big IF. Also assumes Vernon is healthy and productive. A high ankle sprain injury has a wide range of outcomes. Some have torn ligaments, some don’t. Not sure what he has.

 

Eight

Eight players. That’s the 2018 NFL record for number of players picked up from other teams after September waivers. I can’t tell you all their names because I don’t know them and didn’t bother to ask our analyst Wonder about them either. Maybe that’s because both of us are still a little stunned about what happened to Webb, one of the eight players on the original roster that was replaced. That it happened eight times is more noteworthy, if not alarming.

Injuries happen in the NFL. No one knows that more than the followers of this NY Giants blog. The point is that your depth matters in the NFL because “next man up” is a reality in professional football. These 8 players WILL PLAY at some point.

A positive that I take from this is that Shurmur is not bashful about leading this team. I don’t think he would have put his first head-coached team through this kind of wholesale change (I don’t have the data from his first preseason with Cleveland to confirm this or not). It’s pretty unusual to rid your roster of ~15% of its contents only a week from the start of the season. I think Shurmur’s experience is a plus here, having the willingness to be his own man and do it the way he believes it needs to get done. I respect that. It reminds me a little of Parcells in 1984, when he lost a season abysmally at 3-12-1 as a rookie head coach and then said to himself, if I’m going down, I’m going down with my players, not someone else’s. He circled the wagons. They went to the playoffs.

The negative is that a team with this much deadwood & turnover feels like one that is rebuilding. This has been Wonder’s contention all along, that the Giants are pretending to believe they can rush back to the playoffs and vie for a title in 2018. He felt that paying Solder $62M for 4 years was the move of someone who was a couple of players away from the prize. Rebuild, he said. Even for a single year. Cutting and picking up 8 brand new players at this juncture sure feels like a team that is rebuilding. It feels like the Giants are at risk of being an incomplete team due to a very tight salary cap with enormous strains on maintaining the frontline names. Collins needs an extension. Vernon would appear to be a cap casualty. What about Jenkins? These are the pressures the Giants will have because they went full on for 2018. Yes, I know Solder was an acute need for a team without ANY credible Offensive Tackle. But his cap hit in the next 3 years will be $17M per, compared to $10M this year in a tight year. It was great to take the hit on JPP now but the point is that 2019 and 2020’s decisions are harder because of the effort to win it all right now. Is this merely a bridge, that we’ll be very competitive AND not hamper ourselves going forward? That’s certainly Gettleman’s line. But Shurmur’s actions imply otherwise.