Speaking with the Enemy: A Look at Sunday's Giant Clash

Speaking with the Enemy: A Look at Sunday's Giant Clash

Perhaps overlooked amid several of the other huge stories going on around town, the Philadelphia Eagles, winners of three straight, are locked in a first place tie over the NFC East, and must play the Giants in New York this Sunday night. It's kind of a big deal. We see the Giants a lot, but they're a bit of a different team this season, so we asked Rick Resch from Giants Football Blog some questions about their current make-up, and what we can expect to see this week and maybe even down the road.

Donovan McNabb had one of his best games of the season the last time these teams met (you knew I was going there). If Osi Umenyiora doesn't make his presence known, and he hasn't been having his best season, do the Giants have enough of a pass rush otherwise to match up against the Eagles' explosive offense?

The Giants' pass rush has disappointed all season, and while I'd love to see it come alive Sunday night, I don't know if I can honestly predict that.  Even in a rejuvenated performance against the Cowboys, Romo was usually given enough time to find an open receiver.  I could see the Giants doing what they did against the Cowboys and lock down on the running game, making the Eagles' offense one dimensional (which might actually play into Andy Reid's hand).

Specifically on Osi, he has basically been relegated to a part time player, only getting on the field in passing situations.  He does have a nose for the big play, but he is lacking on a play-to-play basis.  Mathias Kiwanuka started in his place last week, and he is the better overall player right now.  If the Giants are going to get their pass rush going, it'll start with Justin Tuck and Kiwanuka winning their battles.

The Giants just recently lost the quarterback of their defense in Antoino Pierce, pressing second year linebacker Jonathan Goff in at middle linebacker. How did he perform in his first start last week against the Cowboys, and what are his limitations or those of the defense when he's in the game?

I thought Goff played well given that it was his first start.  He plays the run very well and is faster than I thought, although he did over-pursue the ball carrier a couple of times.  It's still too early to tell if he can be the future at MLB, but I saw more positives than negatives in his first game.  

As for the loss of Pierce: it hurts in a leadership perspective, although last week Pierce was on the sideline acting as a coach/cheerleader.  Michael Boley has stepped into Pierce's shoes as the quarterback of the defense, and I feel that he is the linebacker most suited for the role.  When healthy, Boley has been the Giants' best linebacker, Pierce included. 

The Giants rushing attack has been averaging 124.6 (10th) yards per game, which is somewhat surprising because they haven't been able to get both Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw going within the same 60 minutes for much of the season. Jacobs in particular has struggled. The offensive line has been healthy, so what is the problem?

This actually surprises me; I didn't know the Giants still averaged that many rushing yards.

My opinion is that there are three problems with the Giants' running game.  Jacobs seems to be running a tad bit more cautiously than in the past, although recently he looks like he's been running harder.  Bradshaw has been plagued with injuries, although he looked like his old self last week. 

Most importantly, the offensive line just hasn't been playing like it had the past couple of years.  Both Jacobs' and Bradshaw's troubles are related to the lack of holes being opened up by the offensive line. They are getting pushed around by defenses, and my only guess is that age has finally started to catch up with them.  I hope that they can keep momentum going from their performance last week, but I'd be less surprised if the Giants go into the offseason with offensive line as a top priority.

Like the Eagles, the Giants have a deep group of young receivers. Steve Smith is having what could be considered a Pro Bowl season, though I'm not sure we're talking about a dominant player here. Will he ultimately wind up the best of the bunch, and how would you describe Mario Manningham's and Hakeem Nicks' roles compared to Smith?

I am very high on the Giants' receiving core, as I believe the team has turned a weakness into a strength.  Coming into the 2010 season, wide receiver depth will be one of the Giants' greatest assets.

I think Nicks will become the best of the bunch, probably by next season.  He has deceptive speed, good strength and the best hands on the team.  He has a knack for making the big play, and he has already become a go-to weapon for Eli when he's on the field.

Manningham's biggest problem is a common case of the butterfingers.  When he has the ball in his hands, he can be as tricky to tackle as anyone, and he does a great job of keeping his feet in bounds along the sidelines.  But he's always a candidate to drop or bobble a ball.  If he can get past the drops, he can turn into a very good NFL receiver.

Steve Smith is one of the most confusing players on the team.  He's not that fast, he's not tall and his go-to move after making a catch is the "fall down."  Yet, on third downs, it is impossible to cover him.  At least a couple times a day, I find myself saying "how can they let Smith get that open?"  Whenever Eli needs a first down, he's usually looking for Smith, who just knows how to find soft spots in the defense.

Coming into the season, I expected Smith to be relegated to slot receiver, while Nicks and Manningham would become the focus of the passing attack.  But 78 catches and almost 1,000 yards later, I have learned not to underestimate Steve Smith.  So, no, Smith does not have a dominant skill set, and he's not a prototypical number one receiver.  But it's hard to argue that a guy on pace for 104 receptions and 1305 yards is not a dominant player.

Right now, who would you say most Giants fans feel will win the NFC East?

It's funny what one big win can do for a fan base.  I think most Giants fans are pumped up by the win over the Cowboys, and having gotten a glimpse of what this team can do when firing on both sides of the ball, a newfound hope has been restored.  I'd say that most Giants fans expect to make the playoffs, and a good deal of them believe they will win the division.

Personally, given the Cowboys' tough remaining schedule, I think there's a good chance that the winner of Sunday night's battle will take home the division crown.

Let's get ahead of ourselves.  Which team would you feel more comfortable facing in a potential playoff game: Eagles or Cowboys?

Any team can beat any other team in the NFL, and for that reason, I usually don't get caught up in rooting for a certain playoff opponent.

With that said, I do think I would feel less comfortable playing a team that has knocked us out of the playoffs twice in the past three years.

The Giants have beaten the Cowboys twice, albeit in two well contested games, and their Winter struggles are well documented.  But we've all seen heavy favorites fail to win that third playoff game after sweeping the regular season series, and the Cowboys are due to bust out of their cold-weather slump.

In the end, I'd welcome either challenge.  But if I had to pick one, not knowing what the outcome of Sunday night's game will be, I would choose the Cowboys.

Prediction time: who you got on Sunday?

Obviously, I have to pick the Giants, which is why I don't like doing predictions.  So instead I'll say this:

I fully expect the Eagles' offensive line to keep Donovan McNabb clean once again.  If the Giants can get more than two sacks, I'll do naked cartwheels in Times Square.  And with a healthy DeSean Jackson and the emergence of Jeremy Maclin, no pressure would mean McNabb can pick apart the Giants' secondary.

So if the Giants' offense can come out with a balanced attack and put some points on the board, I think the Giants can win.  But if they wait till there's 4 minutes left in the first half to score, it could be a long day.

I'd say if the Giants can score more than 30 points, they should be able to win.  If the defensive line somehow plays like its 2007, things can swing in the Giants' favor.

These are some big ifs, but as I said, I have to have faith in my team.  I'll say Giants 31-30.

But I hate doing predictions.

That was Rick Resch from Giants Football Blog. You can check out our interview with Rick right here.

Sixers acquire, merge two leading eSport companies

Sixers acquire, merge two leading eSport companies

The Sixers on Monday acquired controlling stake in Team Dignitas and Team Apex, two eSport companies.

The companies will be combining under the Team Dignitas banner. The Sixers become the first North American sports franchise to acquire an eSports team and intend to manage the day-to-day operations of Team Dignitas.

"There is a tremendous opportunity to leverage the infrastructure, resources and experience of the Sixers organization to support these exciting teams as they continue to compete at the highest levels across multiple games," Sixers managing general partner Josh Harris said in a statement. "We see our entrance into eSports as a natural extension of our expanding interests in traditional sports and entertainment and are confident that our involvement will accelerate the already rapid pace of growth in eSports as a whole.”

Team Dignitas and Team Apex have created games such as League of Legends, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Overwatch, Heroes of the Storm and Smite.

NFC East Week 3: Eagles sit alone atop the division

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USA Today Sports

NFC East Week 3: Eagles sit alone atop the division

Washington reverses course, Dak just wants to be Carson, and OBJ is getting knocked out by kicking equipment. The Eagles sit atop the NFC East heading into the bye week; let’s see if any of the objects in the rearview mirror are closer than they appear.

Washington

What Happened: Jay Gruden’s squad took a defibrillator to their season, coming back from a 21-to-9 deficit to beat the Giants in New York by a final score of 29-27.

The game was billed as a rematch between Josh Norman and Odell Beckham Jr., who went WWE on each other in last season’s Giants-Panthers match. And yet, to the surprise of no one, the two didn’t end up lighting each other on fire on the 50-yard line. Shocker, really, I know. Apparently, the refs didn’t even let them bring their flame-throwers in the building.

It was an odd game, featuring 19 penalties, 7 field goals, and zero Kirk Cousins interceptions. Perhaps not coincidentally, Washington found success offensively when they took the ball out of Cousins’ hands; their final drive for the go-ahead score featured eight running plays. This may be a sign of things to come, as Washington’s offense had been ridiculously pass-focused the previous 11 quarters this season.

The most impressive player on Washington’s roster, meanwhile, was kicker Dustin Hopkins, who went 5-for-5 on field goals for the day. There’s only so much excitement a fanbase can get when the best player is the kicker. Like finding out your favorite bar started serving hot cocoa. Neat!

What It Means: The lungs may be pumping, but the body may be lost. The victory in New Jersey came at a significant cost for Washington; DeAngelo Hall suffered his annual season-ending injury, the offensive line needed three back-ups on the final drive, and so many guys in the D.C. secondary went down that safety Will Blackmon had to finish the game playing the slot. 

And if you think this team is just starting to come together, think again. Chris Baker (he of Nick Foles crushing fame) was seen yelling at his defensive coordinator. Vernon Davis (who is, yes, still playing football) was making play-call requests like he was talking to the DJ at a bar-mitzvah. And Hall, who is likely out for the season, had to call a players-only meeting before the game even started. This team has more cracks in it than SpaceX’s recycled rockets

(Side bar: who has the money to send themselves into space, but then opts for the discounted spaceship? It’s gotta be Dan Snyder, right?)

What’s Next: The Cleveland Browns at home, so okay, yes, Washington should be able to get back to .500 next week. But if (when) they do, let’s not completely forget that they only won this game because of gross incompetence on the Giants end: a turnaround in Washington is about as likely as global warming being caused by zebra farts. It’s so unlikely, it’s not even worth exploring. Also, it’s gross.

New York Giants

What Happened: The Giants fell into old habits, choking away a fourth quarter lead like this was 2015. The loss was assisted by 11 penalties (5 personal fouls) for 128 yards and 3 turnovers (including, as it always seems to, a pair of Eli Manning interceptions in the fourth quarter). It was the kind of totally-dysfunctional defeat that makes you wanna fire the head coach and hire a disciplinarian like Tom Coughlin.

OBJ was statistically terrific (seven receptions for 121 yards), but it didn’t matter in the end. He is now the fastest player to 3,000 yards receiving, which he did in an impressive 30 games. The Giants, meanwhile, are 12-18 in those 30 games, which gives him a lower winning percentage than Kevin Kolb. Or Brett Myers. Or Mo Cheeks, as a coach!

Looking for positive news? Slot receiver Sterling Shepard looks legit. The rookie wide-out had five catches for 73 yards, including an impressive touchdown across the middle. His continued development will likely result in Victor Cruz’s home eventually being up for sale.

Oh, and lastly, if you had predicted that Giants center Weston Richburg would become the first player ejected for two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, please DM me your lottery numbers immediately.

What It Means: New York is now 2-1, but it’ll feel about as bad as 2-1 can feel. Like throwing up on the beach; it’s not ideal but could certainly be a lot worse.

But like throwing up on the beach, things could get really bad, really quickly, depending on what happens next. Big Blue let a very winnable game slip through their fingers, and lost it in a fashion that will have pundits comparing this squad to the one from last year. THAT team made a fourth-quarter lead feel about as safe as Tesla’s auto-pilot. The Giants need to do everything in their power not to be THAT team.

Beckham, meanwhile, continues his quest to become the most dislikable receiver in the NFC East (an award Dez Bryant has held tighter than he holds touchdown passes). The guy had the audacity to question why the refs gave him a warning before the game about fighting. That’s like a puppy getting upset you covered the living room floor in newspaper. You think we’re gonna just let you come in here and pee everywhere again? Fool me once, pup. 

Even the equipment thinks this guy’s a jerk, a fact proven by this video of Beckham getting smacked in the face with a kicking net. PUT HIM IN THE CONCUSSION PROTOCOL, ROGER! 

What’s Next: Monday Night Football against the Sam Bradford-led Minnesota Vikings. The Giants will likely be underdogs heading out to Minnesota, which is an odd thing to say about any team going up against Bradford.

Dallas Cowboys

What Happened: Remember a week ago when the Birds made mincemeat out of the Bears on Monday Night Football? That’s essentially what the Cowboys did Sunday night to Chicago. Ezekiel Elliot had his biggest game so far, getting over a hundred yards rushing for the first time in his young career, and Dak Prescott threw his first touchdown pass, to Dez Bryant. Dallas led 24-7 at halftime and walked out with a 31-17 victory that didn’t even feel that close.

Like fellow rookie Carson Wentz, Prescott has yet to throw an interception. And like Wentz, Prescott found beating the Bears an easy task. Their stats are freakishly similar, actually: Wentz has thrown 66 completions, completing 64.7%, for 769 yards. Prescott has also thrown 66 completions, completing 66.7%, for 767 yards. It makes the match-up between Dallas and Philly on October 30th all the more intriguing… assuming Prescott isn’t benched for 52-year-old Tony Romo by then.

In other news, Bryant appeared to injure his knee at one point, but returned, and that was about as much drama as Dallas faced on Sunday. Yawn. 

What It Means: Every win in the NFL is a tough-win, the other team gets paid too, blah-blah-blah. The Cowboys swam in the Eagles wake on this one. Chicago was coming off a humiliating Monday night whipping, traveling to Dallas on a short week, and playing without their starting quarterback (a detriment no matter how uninspiring as that QB may be). Let’s not confuse the Cowboys opponent with the ‘85 Bears… or even the ‘05 version. 

Sure, Dallas has now doubled the number of Romo-less victories they had last season. Sure, they’ll feel better at 2-1 than the Giants probably do. But anyone who had held out doubts about the Iggles after Week 2 needs to allocate those same doubts for ‘dem Boys.

Meanwhile, the better Prescott plays, the more controversy Romo’s return will eventually stir-up. Playing your back-up quarterback should be like visiting the dentist; it’s great when everything goes well, but if you’re already thinking of going back right when you leave, something probably went wrong. 

What’s Next: Chip Kelly! The Cowboys head out to San Francisco to face Blaine Gabbert (groan) and the 49ers who are averaging an unsurprising 26:45 in the time of possession department, which is about 26 minutes higher than expected. Why not spend your bye week being nostalgic as The Chippah runs the same four plays over and over till your head explodes?