Jan 242023
Daniel Jones, New York Giants (January 21, 2023)

Daniel Jones – © USA TODAY Sports

Thank You to Eric and thank you to BBI for giving me the opportunity to put my thoughts here on this team weekly. I’ve been doing these reviews since the start of 2017, Evan Engram’s rookie season. This was the most fun I’ve had since then.


-Daniel Jones: 15/27 – 135 yards / 0 TD – 1 INT / 53.8 RAT … 6 att / 24 yards

A week after what I considered to be the most big-time performance of his career, Jones entered Lincoln Financial Field looking for his first ever road win against the Eagles. David vs. Goliath. The odds were stacked against him no matter what angle you looked at it. Jones was tasked with elevating the team around him to create something larger than the sum of its parts. Overmatched in the trenches. Overmatched in coverage. Overmatched on the other side of the ball. All of this against a team coming off an extra week of rest. I did not have sky high expectations here. I did want to see him elevate, however. Do things that outsiders did not think he can do. NYG was one loss away from, what I consider to be, the biggest decision of their offseason and something that strongly impacts the trajectory of the franchise.

Jones folded. He did not elevate the team. He sunk. He did not derive a larger sum, it went below zero. He threw an interception in PHI territory. He fumbled in the fourth quarter after holding onto the ball too long. He did not get into the end zone. Now, none of that gets pinned on Jones alone. But the turnover down 14-0, the under throw to Darius Slayton in the third quarter on his deepest pass of the day, the wild pass to Richie James on the very next play (a third-down conversion attempt), and the inaccurate ball on 3rd-and-6 to Slayton when NYG had a little taste of momentum in the fourth quarter were lost opportunities. Were they make or breaks for his future? No. Were they even make or breaks of this game? Probably not. But the point still resonates – he had a chance to step up, he instead fell down.


-Saquon Barkley: 9 att – 61 yards / 2 att – 21 yards

-39 of Barkley’s 61 yards came on a run in the third quarter. That ended up being the drive where NYG put seven points on the board. 11 touches for the team’s best player simply were not enough. The one negative of being reliant on a running game to get your best player involved was exactly this. NYG was down 14 points before anyone took their first pee break and no matter what coaches say, it does impact the offensive approach. Barkley subtly played a solid game. 7+ yards per touch is a good number against a defense like this. He played physically, he took what the defense gave him on those inside runs, he didn’t dance around. The game got away from NYG and the PHI defense put some serious attention on him in coverage. When he can’t be, or isn’t a big part of the offense, NYG is even more limited.

-Matt Breida carried the ball four times and gained 23 yards; he also added a 19-yard catch. He scored the team’s lone touchdown. If this game ended with a different result, we would be talking highly about Breida. I liked what he brought to the table this season and I think there is more in the tank for a team can get out of him.


-I am going to start with Darius Slayton and Richie James, both soon-to-be-free agents. Slayton had one catch for four yards. He was targeted five times and was the victim of multiple bad throws by Jones. Put me in the camp of people that is simply disappointed by this guy. The talent is there, and we know he can make things happen. He’s done it. But at some point, this guy needs to be the one who steps up and makes a play. The one that picks up Jones. He hasn’t done it and remains among league-leaders in drops. Speaking of drops, James let one bounce off his hands on a play that would have been a touchdown. He ended up leading the team with 7 receptions and 51 yards, four of which went for first downs. I thought these two were going to need to step up for this offense to put up sufficient points. Neither did.

-The reason I thought Slayton and James needed to get more on the stat sheet was PHI’s plan against Isaiah Hodgins. It was obvious they would put an extra defender on him because Jones has been looking his way in key moments for a month. The problem with that, Hodgins is not the kind of athlete who can overcome it. To make it worse, Jones did not or could not get much going with anyone else. Hodgins finished with 1 catch for 3 yards.


-Lawrence Cager had a first-quarter catch for 16 yards and Daniel Bellinger caught his only pass in the fourth quarter for 3 yards. I said prior to the postseason that I thought Bellinger could have been a sneaky-strong component to the passing game. He responded in the playoffs with 3 catches for 20 yards and a touchdown. I was hoping for more, but the looks were not there. The question with him will revolve around speed and ability to get open. I like his ball skills and he is sneaky-effective after the catch. But whether this front office and coaching staff believes he can run himself open will dictate a lot about what they do at tight end this offseason. I like Bellinger, but I think there is something missing from the position group.


-Really tough assignment for this group that did seem to solidify themselves over the past few weeks. But matched up against the deepest and best overall pass rush on long rest on the road? The interior was solid enough in pass protection. Nick Gates, Jon Feliciano, and Mark Glowinski allowed 1 pressure each. My negative on them, notably Gates and Feliciano, was the lack of movement they got off the ball in the running game. Again, it was a small sample size, so I won’t come down on them too hard. But watching the contrast in these two interior OLs was eye opening to me. The gap between the NYG line and PHI line is bigger than most think.

-Outside we saw the continued trend that has been there all year. Andrew Thomas was almost lights out, Evan Neal struggled mightily. Thomas allowed 1 sack technically, but I did not record it. It was an end-around sack and Jones held on to the ball forever. Can’t use that one against him. Neal was the turnstile again. He allowed 2 sacks and 4 pressures. There is a ton of ground to make up here for the #7 overall selection in last year’s draft. I will not sugar coat it. Yes, Andrew Thomas struggled in 2020. But if you want to play the comparison game (which is not necessary), the structure of Neal’s issues looks closer to Ereck Flowers than Thomas.


-The NYG pass rush was abysmal and I initially looked at the edge defenders for that cause. It is true that neither Kayvon Thibodeaux nor Azeez Ojulari even sniffed Jalen Hurts. They were overmatched by the PHI tackles and that is the shortcoming in both of their games. They lack a power rush component and I think it is a team-issue that needs to be addressed. But I want to give a tip of the cap to Thibodeaux. In a game where they allowed 38 points and simply got owned as a group, he had 8 tackles and several of them were high level plays. His straight-line burst combined with sheer effort in pursuit was a difference maker. Ojulari, on the other hand, had just 1 tackle and lost the edge on multiple occasions. Defending a running game like PHI is so much about getting and keeping a hard edge and I thought Ojulari did poor job there. He also did not look 100%.

-Jihad Ward gave an admirable effort. He had 2 tackles and 1 TFL, but also did a lot of the necessary dirty work. If others stepped up and the defense itself did not miss so many tackles as a group, we would be singing more of Ward’s praises. I’ve said this a few times, sorry if it is repetitive. Ward’s role in the Martindale scheme is very important and not easy to fill. I do see some options in the draft, but in all reality, I’m not sure they can play as stout as Ward does against the run. On a day where I was disappointed by several of the front seven defenders against the run, Ward was a guy who kept showing up. Also, a great locker room guy. If the market ignores him like they did last offseason, I will welcome him back while they groom a rookie behind him.


-I noted before the game how much the pass rush can throw Hurts off. It was a vital component to the defensive execution, more than usual. Whether or not Martindale built off his league-high blitz rate, we needed to see a big-time performance out of both Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams. They did not rise to the occasion. Williams had one pressure and was put on ice skates against the run, finishing with two tackles. Lawrence did not get any pressure at all and while he did have 6 tackles, only two of them were near the point-of-attack. The PHI line had their way with these two.

-Ryder Anderson and Justin Ellis saw rotational snaps and will likely wind up on the PHI offensive line highlight reel. They were getting 4-5 yards of movement on these guys in all directions consistently. This defensive line is incredibly thin and will need serious attention this offseason.


-This was a two-man show. Jaylon Smith and Jarrad Davis both played 90% of the snaps. Smith led the team with 14 tackles and Davis had 5, one for a loss. Both missed one tackle each and Davis was flagged for an unfortunate personal-foul penalty that could have gone either way. Both play a very tight game. What I mean by that is they may look impressive with their straight-line speed and power, and it does make an impact when they guess correctly. But in a game full of subtle adjustments and quickness, they just don’t have it. A running game like this exposes that. They’re late and they can’t adjust. NYG enters the offseason in need of not one, but two starters at linebacker.


-Adoree’ Jackson did not look like he was at full strength. I went back and watched a half of a game from earlier in the season to confirm that. The movement out of his breaks looked less explosive and needed an extra step. He also had no power when fighting blocks. He did finish with 7 tackles, 1 for a loss. He missed a tackle and was beat for a couple of third-down conversions. The long speed was there though, as he was able to stick to A.J. Brown and Devonta Smith on deep routes. NYG can go into the offseason knowing they have a good starter here at a solid price.

-Behind him? One could make a case it is the second biggest need on the team. Nick McCloud was not tested much but when he was, he allowed a touchdown to Smith. The lack of recovery speed was apparent there. He had the angle on him and just got beat in a short window into the end zone. McCloud was also another victim of getting owned by PHI receivers when they blocked. Promising young player though who I would like to see on the depth chart next season.

-Darnay Holmes added one tackle and missed two of them. Defending the run against a team like PHI puts pressure on the nickel to fill hard and make tackles. He failed there. He was targeted three times and allowed three catches. Holmes is a little perplexing to me. He has all the talent and I think he plays with the necessary energy and physical nature. But he is the cornerback version of Jabrill Peppers to me. There just isn’t enough feel and instincts in his game and a good offense can eat that up whenever they want. Nickel corner is way down the list of team needs and Holmes is back on the final year of his rookie deal in 2023, but it is a spot worth looking into at some point this offseason for the sake of 2024.

-Fabian Moreau was not tested much in coverage and he added 2 tackles. What they do with him will dictate some of how they approach corner in the draft. On one side, you can’t trust him to cover good receivers consistently. On the other, the 28-year old is better than what a lot of other teams are using and his contract is small.


-I’ve noted and praised Julian Love all season for how versatile and impactful he has been for this defense. To keep this real, however, I have to say he had the most disappointing performance of the night. Coming into the game, he had 6 missed tackles all year (one of the best rates in the league, all positions). In this game alone, Love missed 5 tackles and allowed the biggest play of the day on the game’s opening drive. Compared to what he offered all season, Love let this defense down in a big way.

-On the flip side, Xavier McKinney made a couple of flash plays. He had 8 tackles, a sack, a forced fumble, and a pass deflection at the line. I was excited for this kid at the start of the year and I know the coaches were too. The ATV accident was an unfortunate accident that reminded us this is all a part of life. It happens. Hopefully he learned his lesson because he may be one of the most important 3 players on this defense next year.

-Tony Jefferson and Jason Pinnock played just 7 snaps a piece. Pinnock should very much be a part of this team’s future. I think they have something here and at the very least, he is a stud special teamer. Jefferson was brought in because of the familiarity to Martindale’s system. Very common practice when coaches change locations. I expect that backup box safety role to be filled by a rookie next year.


-K Graham Gano: 1/1 XP
-P Jamie Gillan: 5 punts / 43.2 avg – 43.2 net


-S Xavier McKinney, RB Matt Breida, EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux


-QB Daniel Jones, S Julian Love, OT Evan Neal


(1) Three games against the Eagles in under one month. On December 11, I wrote in the review that PHI would be the NFC representative in the Super Bowl. Fast forward to right now, I think they should be a heavy favorite over SF. And I like SF a lot. The gap between PHI and the rest of the conference has been a mile wide all season and even though SF has forgotten what it is like to lose a game, PHI matches up well and is simply better across the board.

(2) The PHI offensive line is the part of their team I am most impressed by. I think it is the best way to build a sustainable winning team. A good offensive line can make other players look better. A great offensive line can make other players look great. I am under the notion that no matter where you stand, the offensive line needs to be fed via the draft and/or free agency year after year. It is not one position. It is five. Used two first rounders on the line in recent memory? Cool. That isn’t enough if the other three spots are below average or average. Three? Not enough. Four? Maybe enough. But if you find five guys that can be considered near the top of their respective positions, your offense is going to be elite. On the Ourlads All-Pro team, PHI has the 1st-team center (Kelce), and the 2nd-team LG (Dickerson) and RT (Johnson). The other two starters are probably considered top-7 in the league at their positions. This line is one of the best I have ever seen. Their starters were brought in via the draft, every single one. 2011, 2013, 2016, 2018, 2021. Their backups? 2019, 2021, 2022, 2022. All in the draft or undrafted free agency. Feed the trenches. Draft better linemen. Then draft their backups. It will work.

(3) Now, on this loaded roster of theirs, someone has to shake free in free agency right? That is correct. DTs Hargrave and Cox are going to be FAs. DEs Graham and Quinn are going to be free agents. OC Kelce and CB Bradberry are going to be free agents. LBs White and Edwards are going to be free agents. The one guy I want NYG to take a long look at? OG Isaac Seumalo. Starting experience at both OG spots. Known for his pass protection skills. Constant movement as an inside run blocker. Would Joe Schoen bring him in even though they signed Glowinski last offseason? It could be a tall ask, but he is a rock-solid player who strengthens the starting lineup AND depth, as it would leave the revolving door they had at left guard in positions to fight for backup snaps.


(1) How do you wrap up a season’s worth of reviews? I could go on and on. My simple statement here, though, is that this needs to be considered a wildly successful season for this franchise. More wins than anyone thought they would get, even those in the building I bet. The first playoff win in a decade. A coaching staff that seems to finally be right there with some of the best in the game. A forward-thinking front office that, all things considered, touched all the right buttons with limited resources and flexibility. NYG is back on the map and even though they’re still far away from the level of PHI and SF, they’ve at least entered the church and are walking toward the front pew.

(2) The 2022 rookie class officially has their first season in the rear-view mirror. Let’s take a very quick look and assess how it turned out to this point (but remember, a draft class can only be evaluated after 3 years). I consider a successful draft one in that over 50% of the players taken contribute and meet their expectation. More specifically, over 22% of day 3 picks. Over 65% of day 2 picks. Over 85% of day one picks. I still have some digging to do on that data there, but the success rate league wide for successful picks is around those ranges. When looking only at their rookie seasons: Thibodeaux and Neal are split as it simply was not a good year for the tackle. Robinson and Ezeudu saw enough time and I would consider them hits, as they both contributed and saw starting-caliber snaps and played well enough. I think both are competing for starting jobs next season. Flott is a hit. He will be a starter or heavy rotational player in 2023. Bellinger is a hit, no question. Belton and McFadden are both hits, both day three picks that saw starting caliber snaps at points and provided solid play. Davidson, McKethan, and Beavers are N/A because of injuries. This was a home-run draft class to this point for the front office and one of the reasons I feel optimistic moving forward. I’m not sure how many people understand just how good it was.

(3) Where do we go from here? The talks start with what this team needs the most in order to get them on the next level. Their top five needs, not necessarily in any sort of strict order are:

WR: At least one, preferably two starting-caliber guys who can play the outside and provide explosive plays. They need speed, one of them needs size.

Pass Rusher: Preferably one DL, one OLB. They can’t rely on the four-man nucleus for an entire year. They need depth in case one goes down but also, they need a couple guys who can give a credible 8-12 snaps per game, at least.

Offensive Line: A starting caliber OC or OG needs to be signed or drafted. That will improve the starting group but also give them a sense of plus-depth when injuries arise.

Linebacker: Two new starters. Maybe Beavers comes back strong and takes a spot. Maybe McFadden evolves into one. But, maybe not. At least one needs to be signed or drafted with the intention of starting.

Cornerback: Jackson is a good player and good value at a position that is hard to find both. Holmes and McCloud can offer solid competition and depth at nickel. I would love to see this team draft a young outside corner with the kind of upside they view as a team’s CB1 in the near future. I’ve only started to begin deep dives on the defensive side of the draft class, but I can see this corner group is one of the deeper ones I have seen in a long, long time.


The next order of business on this team will revolve around what to do with their money. Yes, NYG does have a lot of cap space this offseason AND even more slated for next offseason (depending on what they do in the next 2 months). But QB Jones, RB Barkley, OT Thomas, and DT Lawrence are going to swallow up a ton of those funds if all are re-signed. If you had to choose one to let walk, who would it be? Not an easy decision at all but positional value will lead to the notion that Barkley is the first on the list they let out the door. Franchise tags are always possible, but they always present issues to the team environment. This will be an interesting situation to watch. Of all 32 teams, NYG is set to have one of the most fascinating offseasons in the league.

Jan 192023
Scut Farkus

Eagles fans are unpleasant and unlikeable.

One of two outcomes will occur late Saturday night. The New York Giants will pull off one of the biggest post-season upsets in franchise history. Or the Giants and their fans will learn just how big the talent gap is between them and a Philadelphia Eagles team that will have won all three games against them this season.

Let’s address the unpleasant reality first. The Eagles are the better team. While the Giants have some very good players, the Eagles simply have more at all levels of offense, defense, and special teams. Almost as importantly, their depth is superior. When one of their starters leaves the game, the drop off isn’t as noticeable. The Eagles finished the season 14-3, best in the NFC and tied with the Kansas City Chiefs for the best record in football. Philadelphia has the #3 offense and #2 defense in the entire NFL. That’s balanced dominance. Thus, the odds makers have appropriately favored the Eagles by more than a touchdown to handily defeat the Giants.

Giants’ fans are understandably giddy right now. Their team was not expected to win a playoff game, let alone have a winning record or make the playoffs in the first place. It appears the franchise will not have to start over again at quarterback, thus accelerating the rebuilding process. Beating the 13-4 Minnesota Vikings on their home turf felt great. However, the NFL post-season graveyard is filled with Wild Card winners getting smacked in the divisional round by superior and well-rested teams. There is a good chance reality is about to slap New York fans back into reality.


If I were a fan of the Philadelphia Eagles, I don’t think I would be feeling particularly comfortable right now. Yes, your team has owned the Giants for the better part of the past decade, including the two regular-season games this year. But the Giants are clearly ascending at the right moment. Meanwhile, the Eagles seemed to prematurely hit their stride earlier in the season. There are questions about Jalen Hurts’ shoulder. And a group of predominantly second- and third-teamers just gave Philadelphia a tougher game than anyone expected less than two weeks ago against these very same Giants on your home field. Above all, divisional opponents have a way of making games far tighter than anyone anticipates. The Giants know the Eagles. Finally, Brian Daboll, Mike Kafka, and Don Martindale are far superior than the likes of Ben McAdoo, Pat Shurmur, and Joe Judge. Coaching won’t be an issue. The Giants will be ready to play.

Eagle fans are busy telling themselves this game is in the bag. The Giants are merely a road bump on an inevitable Super Bowl run. They believe the Giants did them a favor by beating the Vikings as it makes their playoff path that much easier. All of this might be true. But if being a sports fan has taught me anything over the past several decades, it is there is such a thing as karma. The more convinced you are of something, the more likely the powers that be will bitch slap you back into reality. Eagle fans are unpleasant and unlikeable people who live in an unpleasant and unlikeable city. Whatever self-awareness they might have is swallowed up by their ugly inability to relate to the rest of humanity. If anyone is due a karmic kick to the groin, it’s them.

Bring it on.


  • WR Isaiah Hodgins (ankle – probable)
  • OLB Azeez Ojulari (quad – questionable)
  • ILB/S Landon Collins (ankle – probable)
  • CB Adoree’ Jackson (back – probable)
  • CB Fabian Moreau (hip – probable)
  • S Julian Love (hamstring – probable)
  • S Jason Pinnock (abdomen – probable)

I have already covered the Eagles in two previous game previews. Much of this will sound like a broken record. Big picture is that while many pundits and fans love to focus on offense, defense still wins games and the Eagles have one of the best defenses in the NFL. In terms of yards allowed, only the San Fransisco 49ers are better (and only by ONE yard). If anything, the Eagles defense is underrated. They are #1 against the pass and a more pedestrian 16th against the run. Most importantly, they are #8 in scoring defense.

What happened this offseason is the Eagles built up their secondary, combined with further improvements to an already strong defensive front. Adding ex-Giant James Bradberry at cornerback and ex-Saint safety C. J. Gardner-Johnson significantly altered Philly’s defensive backfield for the better. Bradberry now teams with Darius Slay for one of the better and more-aggressive corner duos in the game. Gardner-Johnson is still tied with the league-lead in interceptions despite missing all of December with a lacerated kidney. He was just activated from IR and can fill in as a slot corner.

The Eagles did not stand pat up front either. They drafted Jordan Davis at DT with the #13 overall pick. During the season, they signed Ndamukong Suh and ex-Giant Linval Joseph. These three are the BACKUPS behind Giant-killer Fletcher Cox (7 sacks) and Javon Hargrave (11 sacks). Milton Williams (4 sacks) is no slouch either. Outside is another Giant-killer in DE Brandon Graham (11 sacks). He teams with Josh Sweat (11 sacks) and in-season pickup Robert Quinn (18.5 sacks with the Bears in 2021). To add icing on the cake, the Eagles also signed Haason Reddick (16 sacks), a player who has given the Giants fits in the past with other teams. Long story short, the Eagles lead the NFL with 70 sacks. No other team has more than 55.  (The Giants have 41 sacks with Dexter Lawrence leading the team with 7.5).

In the Eagles’ 48-22 drubbing of the Giants on December 11, just over a month ago, Daniel Jones and Tyrod Taylor were sacked seven times and officially hit 12 times. The Eagles also were credited with an extremely high 10 tackles for losses. Brandon Graham had three sacks, but the usual suspects all got into the act too, including Cox, Reddick, and Sweat. In his game review, Sy’56 wrote: “This was a match-up nightmare for the NYG offensive line. Not just from a macro-perspective (PHI DL simply being better than NYG OL), but also from a micro-perspective. The holes in the games of the NYG line – player by player – were exploited greatly by the skillset of the individuals along the PHI defensive line.”

Sy’56 then highlighted the difficulties all of the NYG offensive linemen had up front. Andrew Thomas allowed a sack. The interior of the line really struggled. Evan Neal got abused, allowing two sacks and five pressures. Four weeks later, Thomas and Glowinski sat, but Neal, Bredeson, and Gates all played. Neal struggled again. So did Bredeson.

You’ve heard me say it for years now when covering the Giants and Eagles. The Eagles have dominated the Giants in the W-L column because they have dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. It’s really almost that simple. The obvious target for the ire of most Giants fans right now is Neal, but the entire line hasn’t been very good at all against the Eagles. If Thomas, Gates/Bredeson, Feliciano, Glowinski, and Neal don’t elevate their game against a very talented and very deep defensive line, the Giants are going to lose this football game.

As for the skill positions, they will not be playing the terrible Vikings’ defense this week. The Vikings can rush the passer, but they were 31st in the NFL in defending the pass. The Eagles are #1. I will say that again, the Eagles have the #1 pass defense in the entire NFL. Folks say the 49ers are tough, but they are 20th against the pass. In other words, Isaiah Hodgins, Richie James, and Darius Slayton are not going to be running as free as they did a week ago. Philly’s corners are good and aggressive, and safety Gardner-Johnson is back in the mix. The Eagles are tied 4th overall with 17 interceptions and have generated 27 overall turnovers (4th in the NFL). And the tremendous pass rush is helping everyone in coverage.

Even if the OL plays great, Daniel Jones will be under duress much of the game. There are four guys on the Eagles who have more sacks (49) than the Giants do as a team (41). There is a psychological component at work here too. When guys like Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham see Giants uniforms, think how Lawrence Taylor and Leonard Marshall used to salivate when playing the Eagles in the 1980s. They just knew they were going to feast. Daniel Jones is going to return in 2023. He has gotten markedly better. But we’re about to find out what he is really made of on Saturday night. If he pulls this off, Jones deserves to be showered with praise.

As for the game plan, the Giants must employ the quick passing attack to get the ball out of Jones’ hands quickly. Saquon Barkley, who was battling a neck injury in the first game, must be a difference-maker. He’ll need help up front of course. The 10 tackles for losses was far too much in the original contest. Jones will have to run the ball and he’s going to take a lot of shots after carrying the ball an astounding 17 times against the Vikings. If Daboll and Kafka have any tricks up their sleeves, this would be the time to use them. The New York tight ends, both as blockers and receivers, will be on the spot. Daniel Bellinger missed much of the first game with a rib injury that he suffered during the contest.

I’ve seen posts this week where fans say, “we need to keep the tight ends in to help Neal in pass protection.” Perhaps this is the smart way to go, but I don’t think the Giants can play scared and win this game. They will have to take some chances to pull off the upset. I constantly preach not making mistakes and turning the football over, but sometimes you just have to play the game straight up and take your chances. Be aggressive. Be the hammer, not the anvil.

On December 11th, the Giants gave up 27 first downs, 437 total yards, and 253 rushing yards to the Eagles. Philadelphia was 6-of-11 (55 percent) on 3rd down and 1-of-1 (100 percent) on 4th down. The defense only had two pass defenses and did not create a turnover. Jalen Hurt had a 109.2 quarterback rating, threw two touchdowns, and rushed for 77 yards and another touchdown. Wink Martindale’s defense gave up six touchdowns, two field goals, and 48 points. It was the low point of the season for his unit.

However, some important cogs were missing that day, including Leonard Williams, Adoree’ Jackson, and Xavier McKinney. Those three were sorely missed and change the entire defense by their mere presence. Newcomers Landon Collins and Jarrad Davis weren’t yet in the picture. However, Azeez Ojulari, who may have played his best game of the season against the Eagles on December 11th, is nursing a quad injury. Fabian Moreau is also not 100 percent.

Let’s address the scary parts first. Eagles are #3 in offense in both yards and points. They are dominantly balanced on offense with top-10 rankings both running (5th) and passing (9th) the football. You constantly hear coaches around the league preach about balance; the Eagles are as balanced a team as there is. In addition, the Eagles are 4th in red-zone efficiency and 2nd in big plays (20+ yards). Before he got hurt, Jalen Hurts was playing at an MVP level at quarterback. He has two dynamic, game-breaking wideouts in A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith. And just to add to the fun, Dallas Goedert is one of those tight ends who gives the Giants problems. Hurts has thrown 22 touchdowns to just six interceptions (101.6 QBR). But he can kill you with his feet too, 760 rushing yards and an incredible 13 rushing touchdowns for a quarterback. Throw in running backs Miles Sanders (1,269 yards, 11 touchdowns) and you have yourself a two-headed monster on the ground. Back-up Boston Scott has 10 career touchdowns against the Giants.

Loaded at the skill positions. But worse, loaded on the offensive line. And they get their stud right tackle, Lane Johnson, back. The man doesn’t give up sacks. But more than him, the Eagles have one of the best and deepest offensive lines in the game. They are the engine that allows for top-10 rushing and passing. The Giants are going to need the best from Leonard Williams, Dexter Lawrence, Kayvon Thibodeaux, Azeez Ojulari, and Jihad Ward up front. They have to play well, and play a lot of snaps. Guys like Ojulari are going to have to tough it out. Many eyes will be on the battle between Lawrence and Jason Kelce, who is an outstanding center.

Having Adoree’ Jackson and Xavier McKinney back is big and should help with A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith. If Moreau isn’t near 100 percent, we may see more of Cor’Dale Flott. He could possibly be a bigger asset in coverage against Smith. However, the thin-framed Flott is also likely to get abused in run defense. As much as damage as the Eagles can do throwing the football, their ground game is what makes that offense hum.

The potential fly in the ointment for the Eagles is Hurts. He’s no longer on the Philadelphia injury report and he may be close to 100 percent. But he will have to prove that both mentally and physically. If Hurts is as dominant running the ball as he was pre-injury, the Eagles are very difficult to defend. But if his shoulder prevents him and play-callers from being as aggressive, that will impact the offense. The pass rush can bother Hurts too, although he is extremely elusive and difficult to tackle. In a nutshell, the pressure is on Hurts to perform. The city expects him to lead this team to glory. They are not a very forgiving fan base.

As has been widely discussed, Martindale went against his tendencies in Minnesota and did not attack as much. I don’t think he can do that in Philadelphia. He’s got to take chances and live with the outcome. The key will be to mix things up to confuse Hurts and the Eagles as much as possible. After the last game these two teams played on January 8th, Hurts said, “(Martindale) does a great job. No doubt in my mind we will learn from that and if we see them again.” Wink has to anticipate what the Eagles will do to counter what he did on January 8th. Move and counter-move. Punch and counter-punch. I would not be surprised to see Adoree’ follow Brown. If he can keep him somewhat under control (a big if), then the questions are who can limit Smith and Goedert? And defending the all-important ground attack. Easier said than done.

Attack, attack, attack. Be aggressive. Gang tackle. Knock the ball loose. Intercept the pass. Win the turnover battle.

If there was ever a time for the Giants special teams to make a statement, here it is. The Giants simply cannot afford to lose the special teams battle. Every player on the roster, including the guys who just play special teams, can make or break this game. Be smart, stick to your assignments, but make a play. A block, tackle, downed punt, return, or kick can make all of the difference in the world.

Defensive Coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale on Jalen Hurts: “Everybody’s saying he’s having an MVP season, and I agree because he can beat you with his legs. He can beat you with just being a drop-back quarterback. He can beat you with a sore shoulder. He can beat you a lot of different ways, and that’s a great challenge because there’s just a few quarterbacks that can do it that way. And you can have him dead to rights back there in the pocket, and he’s a magician. He’ll get out of it… It’s going to be a tremendous challenge.”

On paper, the Eagles should win this game. They are the better team. They are at home. They are healthy and well-rested. The last team they played was the Giants so they didn’t even have to study up too much for this contest. They view playing the Giants as Giants fans used to view playing the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1980s, an automatic win. The last time the Giants won in Philadelphia was 2013, nearly a decade ago. If these two teams, as they are presently constituted, play each other 10 times in a row, the Giants may win one of those games.

However, I can’t get over the notion that this may be that one game in ten. There is such a thing as over-confidence. There is such a thing as rustiness. There is such a thing as momentum. There is such a thing as karma. It doesn’t make sense, but I give the Giants a shot on Saturday night. They won’t be perfect. They don’t have to be. As I said before the Giants played the Patriots before Super Bowl XLII, the Giants simply need to play their game. Or as this coaching staff preaches, be smart, tough, dependable. The longer this game stays close, the more the pressure will mount on Philly’s coaches and players. What does Wink say? Pressure breaks pipes.

Be careful for what you wish for, Eagles fans.

Jan 172023
Daniel Jones, New York Giants (January 15, 2023)

Daniel Jones – © USA TODAY Sports


-Daniel Jones: 24/35 – 301 yards / 2 TD – 0 INT / 114.1 RAT / 17 att – 78 yards

Jones started 53 games prior to this matchup in MIN. That is three-plus seasons worth. This one, the first ever in the post-season, needs to be considered one of the best of his career to this point, if not the best when considering the magnitude. What made this one so impressive? He essentially did everything a big-time quarterback does all wrapped into four quarters in a road post-season matchup. Jones’ throws were tremendous, plain and simple. They were accurate to all angles of the tree, from the pocket and on the move. His running attempts were no-nonsense and explosive. Chunk gain after chunk gain with his legs. His pocket presence and decision-making looked so sharp and sure. He responded exceptionally to pressure. He scored 2 touchdowns and did not turn the ball over. He took big hits (a lot of them) and got back up. The list goes on. Proving all of this in one game, a first-ever playoff game for the player and many around him, is worthy of being talked about in Giants history.

Does this kind of performance catapult Jones into a higher level? You know, I hate the talk this time of year about where guys rank in the league. One, it does not matter. Two, save that chatter for the offseason where it holds at least some value. I do wonder if this game in Jones’ own head gives him the last bit of confidence to go out there and play like this week in, week out no matter the opponent. That is what the upper tier quarterbacks do. MIN does not have a good defense. They have solid pieces here and there, but they were bottom 5 in the NFL. But Jones is elevating to arguably the top dual threat in the league. He has 3 interceptions over his last 14 games. THREE. He can’t throw with the likes of Burrow and Mahomes, but they can’t move the way he does. The final component to Jones getting to his own ceiling is between his ears now that he has the right coaching staff. This is the kind of game that can awaken that monster. Next up, a rested defense that allowed the second-fewest yards in football.


-Saquon Barkley: 9 att – 53 yards – 2 TD / 5 rec – 56 yards

#26 look possessed. We have, I have, been critical of Barkley’s back-and-forth hesitation style over the past few years. We have seen a different version of him in this offense, but what we saw here was next level. The sudden burst looked like he was playing in fast forward. The violence he showed on multiple touches left MIN defenders fixing their chin straps after the play. He had two big-time blocks in pass protection. Barkley, like Jones, elevated his game on the biggest stage. The fact he touched the ball just 14 times (and rested during week 18) makes me feel good about his ceiling in PHI next Saturday night. While you can’t just force him into 30 carries because of game situations and tempo, Barkley is set up for the night of his career in the NFC Divisional round against the number one seed.

-Matt Breida had just 3 carries for 8 yards. While the impact wasn’t frequent, he did come up with one of the biggest effort plays of the game. On a 3rd-and-1 jet sweep that was doomed from the beginning, Breida broke three tackles and inched his way over the first down marker. It did not lead to a score or anything big, but the energy it produced for the team and the wind it took out of MIN sails kept the momentum in NYG’s favor.


-Isaiah Hodgins: 8 rec – 105 yards / 1 TD

NYG may not have their own Justin Jefferson, but they do have a version of a go-to receiver who they consider a number one guy. In his last three games including this playoff win, he has 20 catches on just 24 targets for 236 yards and 3 touchdowns. The plays he is making are not layups, either. Precise, sharp routes with elite hand coordination and strength are the standout traits I am seeing. He had four first downs in addition to the score. His catch in the fourth quarter of a tie game on 2nd-and-10 near the sideline was as good as you are going to find. The play was equally impressive and created by Jones. If that were Mahomes and Kelce, it would be played on repeat across all networks. Do not underestimate how hard that was across the board. An in-season waiver pick up. Just amazing.

-Darius Slayton was a big part of the offensive success. He had 88 yards on 4 catches, by far the biggest play-threat in the passing game. He nearly came down with a touchdown in the fourth quarter as well. The play that everyone remembers, however, is the fourth quarter drop that would have likely resulted in a first down and all but sealed the win. Instead, MIN got another possession and forced the defense to come up with the stop. This was Slayton’s second drop of the day, his eighth of the year. His drop percentage is the highest in the NFL. As unfair as it may seem, this is anything but dependable, where the potential ramifications from the result are enormous.

-Richie James caught 4 passes for 31 yards. And Kenny Golladay saw a few snaps (4), but made a huge block on the edge in the fourth quarter that contributed. Good to see that kind of hustle and aggression considering the circumstances. It is plays like that, effort like that, from all 46 active game-day players that win games.


-Daniel Bellinger caught 2 passes for 17 yards. He was chewed out by Daboll for moving early on a play that ended in Jones rushing for an apparent touchdown. He was flagged for an illegal shift and NYG ended up settling for a field goal. While it did not impact the result of the game, those were four points NYG left on the board because of a mental mistake. Remember, Bellinger also had a red-zone lost fumble last time NYG was in MIN. But credit to the fourth-round rookie from San Diego State. He came up big on the opening drive of the third quarter, catching Jones’ second touchdown pass. It was a play-action bootleg design that needed Bellinger to sell the block and peel out at the exact right moment. He checked the boxes, caught the ball, and got into the end zone.

-Nick Vannett and Lawrence Cager saw the backup snaps, the latter seeing more and catching a ball for 4 yards. Cager also had a 3rd-and-goal target, but he slipped out of his break and gave the MIN defender a clear shot at batting the ball away.


-The tackles were on the opposite side of the spectrum, as has been the case all year. Andrew Thomas allowed one pressure and was lights out the rest of the way. He played fast and powerful in the running game both in-line and in space. They pulled him outside as a lead blocker on a couple of occasions and he did serious damage. He had one of the key blocks on the first Barkley touchdown run and it only happens because of how fast he can get out of his stance. He looked fully healthy. Evan Neal, in a matchup I absolutely hated on paper prior to the game, had a rough game. He allowed 4 pressures, a sack, and a TFL. The feet keep stopping on initial contact and the edge defenders are just continuing their climb up the edge until they’re free. Too much catch-up needed for a guy who does not have catch up speed. The NYG win and Jones’ performance hid just how bad Neal was in this game.

-Hats off to veterans Jon Feliciano and Mark Glowinski. They were not perfect, but they were effective. Both of their contributions were especially felt in the running game. Glowinski stayed attached and kept the line moving upfield. Feliciano, who allowed 1 pressure, was most effective on the move. His speed when he pulls out laterally is an underrated component to their outside power-run game. Not all centers can get out there fast enough. It is refreshing to see these two gritty linemen raise their games to the next level in this environment.

-Nick Gates got the start at left guard but saw less than half the snaps Ben Bredeson did there. Gates was flagged for a hold early on. Bredeson did not fare much better. He lost a lot of one-on-one battles against the likes of former Giant Dalvin Tomlinson and Harrison Phillips.


-It was good to see the starters back together. Azeez Ojulari and Kayvon Thibodeaux on the outside with the two monsters in the middle creates such a dangerous four-man rush. Some of that shows up in obvious fashion; other ways are hidden to the naked eye but equally beneficial to the defense. These two did not do much against the pass. Thibodeaux had 2 pressures but added 5 tackles and was great in pursuit once again. Ojulari had a half-TFL and one pressure. He left the game early with a quad injury, yet another soft tissue blow to the lower body. These have piled up and I now worry about his long-term prospects.

-Jihad Ward was on the field for just half of the snaps. He is an early-down defender who they tried to keep off the field on most passing downs. He is best suited for that role. He finished with one tackle.

-Oshane Ximines saw most of the snaps after Ojulari went out; Tomon Fox had a handful. Neither made an impact. Overall, a pretty quiet day from the outside guys when it came to the pass rush, but they did well setting the edge in the running game.


-I said earlier that Jones put this team on his shoulders and led the team to victory. A strong argument can be made it was in fact the two-headed monster of Dexter Lawrence + Leonard Williams on defense. These two are special to watch when they’re healthy and on top of their games. They combined for 10 tackles (Lawrence 6 / Williams 4), 11 pressures (Lawrence 6 / Williams 5), and 1 TFL (Lawrence). The second-team, All-Pro Lawrence especially took the game over down the stretch. He was unblockable and MIN center Garrett Bradbury is going to be seeing him in his nightmares all offseason. The power and lockout by himself were unbeatable. Williams missed two tackles and was not as disruptive in the second half; he got put on ice skates a couple times against the run. But nonetheless, big time and game-changing performances by these two.

-Lawrence and Williams were on the field for all but six plays, an uptick from what we saw over the final month of the season. The magnitude of the game and lack of quality depth behind them dictated that. Ryder Anderson and Justin Ellis saw a few snaps and it did not go well. I know Lawrence + Williams cannot stay on the field every single snap, but it is hard to get these two off of the field and not experience a drastic decline in impact up front.


-In a move that surprised me, Micah McFadden was a healthy scratch in favor of Jarrad Davis, who was signed on December 28. Davis played over half of the snaps. He and Jaylon Smith are both very similar profiles. Former highly-touted prospects, former starters in the middle for other teams, overall disappointments who did not reach the ceiling many projected. But they still have three traits that nobody can deny. They’re fast, big, and physical. One of the standout traits to this defense overall is how sudden they are in pursuit. They truly fly after the football with a mob mentality. Davis and Smith both had some issues against the inside run, but they picked it up as the game went on and remained aggressive. Smith had 7 tackles and a TFL while Davis had 3 tackles and a pressure. He also allowed a touchdown in zone coverage against a receiver, not a battle anyone would expect him to win. It was a great play design and I thought safety Xavier McKinney should have made a better read on the play.

-Landon Collins played just 11 snaps and made 1 tackle. Davis really did shoot up this depth chart in a hurry. It has Martindale written all over it. There is a specific way he wanted to work against this offense, and he went after the size + speed + physicality traits. It could be completely different at PHI. He wants you to be confused, he relishes in that fact.


-Adoree’ Jackson was back for the first time in seven weeks after spraining his knee on a punt return. As expected, he looked a bit rusty early on and MIN attacked him. He later allowed a touchdown in zone coverage to TE Irv Smith. While it wasn’t the best game for Jackson, I would still take this version of him over what they had out there during his injury. Add in the fact he looked more confident later, I feel good about his status against PHI and A.J. Brown/DeVonta Smith.

-Darnay Holmes was handed a tough assignment. He drew T.J. Hockenson often in man coverage and got roasted. He allowed 7 catches on 7 targets. Many of them were underneath though and he quickly made the tackle afterward. With that in mind, he was dynamite against the MIN screen game. He sniffed two out in a hurry, reacted fast, and recorded 2 TFL. His physical play is a weapon in these nickel/dime looks, almost like an extra linebacker.

-Fabian Moreau was on the field for almost the entire game and we rarely heard his name called. That is a good sign and upon looking at the All-22, his coverage matched the perception. Martindale showed more zone coverage than we are used to seeing in this game and I believe Moreau shined in that role. He seems much more comfortable than Jackson did.

-Cor’Dale Flott played just 3 snaps, but he had the best play on the ball we saw all game from NYG defenders on a 3rd-down pass on the final drive of the game. Excellent recovery speed, steady eyes, and an accurate extension for a nice, clean break-up. Nick McCloud saw 16 snaps and was not much of a factor, good or bad.


-The two unsung heroes in a game of full of easily noticeable stars were Xavier McKinney and Julian Love. They were a joy to watch over the top, as they took turns on doubling/bracketing Justin Jefferson. McKinney led the team with 8 tackles and added a deep ball pass break-up. Love added 4 tackles. One of the biggest wins this defense had was limiting yards after catch to the MIN wide receivers. Adam Thielen had 4 yards on 3 catches (1.3 avg vs. 2.3 on the year). Justin Jefferson had 7 yards on 7 catches (1.0 avg vs 4.7 on the year). K.J. Osborn had 4 yards on 2 catches (2.0 avg vs 4.9 on the year). You may not think that is a lot, but it adds up if you do the math. Much of this had to do with McKinney being there right away and good tackling by the rest of the defensive backs.

-All three backups saw time. Tony Jefferson led the way with 22 snaps, Dane Belton played 10 snaps, and Jason Pinnock was on the field for 7 snaps before being carted off with a serious abdomen injury that required a trip to the hospital. The mix in personnel packages helps the Martindale ethos. Cause confusion, create your own match-up advantages. Jefferson had 4 tackles and a pressure. Belton added 2 tackles and provided quality coverage down the stretch. I know the staff may not fully trust the day-three rookie, but Belton’s range and movement are excellent.


-K Graham Gano: 1/1 (Made 25)
-P Jamie Gillan: 2 punts / 45.0 avg – 45.0 net


-QB Daniel Jones, DT Dexter Lawrence, WR Isaiah Hodgins


-OT Evan Neal, WR Darius Slayton, EDGE Oshane Ximines


(1) We need to go into this offseason knowing that, despite winning 13 games, the Vikings simply were not a good team. Yes, from the basic (and maybe more important to some) level, wins are wins. Nevertheless, the Vikings are middle tier in the league when it comes to point differential and turnover differential. They ranked number one in the league in fumble luck. They won 11 out of 12 games decided by one score, which almost always regresses from a mark like that in the next season. MIN is in a division that provided almost no competition and that helped inflate what they really were.

(2) All of this and the team ranks 10th worst in cap space for 2023. We are about to see a lot of changes to that roster; guys who have been mainstays on the team that has made the playoffs three times since 2017 but has ranked bottom-five in yards allowed each of the last three seasons. Adam Thielen carries a $19+ million cap hit, way too high. Harrison Smith is in the same exact boat. They both carry hurtful dead money amounts if cut, however. Za’Darius Smith and Dalvin Cook do not. They are due to make a combined $30 million in 2023, but they can both be let go for roughly $6 million in dead cap combined. Those are just a few examples and there a couple others, but the point is we are going to see players with something left to give shake free from this team that can help NYG moving forward at a cheaper price.

(3) Not sure if everyone remembers or even knows what MIN did this past offseason in their front office. They hired Kwesi Adofo-Mensah as general manager, a former Wall Streeter with very limited football background compared to most in that position. A New Jersey kid who went to Princeton and played college basketball, Mensah was initially hired by the Niners in the analytics/research department. Ten years later, he is a GM. Year two is where I really pay close attention to a new general manager and his tactics. I’ll be interested to see what he does this offseason. His trade value chart for the draft was way different than anything that has been used in the past, based on his value of draft picks in the 35-60 range. I am also curious to see where he spends his future money that will eventually become available from this offseason’s expected cuts. This could be the way of the future, or this could be an experiment that folds in a hurry.


(1) Is the NYG coaching staff playing chess while the rest of us are playing checkers? The decision to play for the tie vs. WAS Week 13. The decline in usage of Dexter Lawrence down the stretch in important games. The rotations they have used along the OL all season. The back-and-forth safety depth chart. The progression of Daniel Jones. The aggressive nature vs. the conservative style at the end of halves and games. I could go on with a few others, but there were a few head-scratchers this year, a few decisions by the coaching staff that simply left me confused. Was this a part of their long-term vision? Are they really that detailed with what they have mapped out for the future in a league full of weekly surprises? Coaching staffs and front offices often talk about a long-term plan, but on game day and with certain roster moves, it appears to be BS. Their vision seems to be a step ahead of everyone else. I can count on one hand how many teams challenge us intellectually. I’m now thinking NYG is one of them.

(2) “My mission is to confuse the quarterback.” A quote from Wink Martindale that stood out to me soon after he was hired. This is a guy who led the NFL in blitzing by a wide margin in 2022. Nobody was even close. We have to think with a banged up MIN offensive line, and facing a healthy group of NYG pass rushers, more of the same right? Martindale essentially cut his blitz rate in half, utilized more zone coverage than he did all season, and made a surprising personnel change at inside linebacker that nobody saw coming. I thought one of the keys to the game was NYG causing disruption with four pass rushers and dropping seven into coverage. It went against what Martindale did all year, but that is what he did and it worked. The lack of explosive plays generated at receiver by MIN were a catalyst to the win, and a result derived from NYG dropping seven and still getting enough pressure. Whatever PHI thinks they will see Saturday, expect the opposite? What do you think Martindale will do?

(3) The Divisional Playoffs in Philadelphia on a Saturday night against the number-one seed. You want to talk about a franchise-changing opportunity? We all know the ship is heading in the right direction a few knots faster than anticipated. This game, however, is a different level of complexity and potential trajectory. A team that has been at the top of the NFC all season. A division rival. Arguably the deepest roster in the league, many of their players battle-tested in the post-season. NYG is the team that comes in with nothing to lose, though. This is the kind of matchup we saw back in 2008, the season after NYG won Eli Manning’s first Super Bowl. They went 12-4 (#1 seed), got a first-round bye, and faced off against the 9-6-1 Eagles coming off a Wild Card win at…you guessed it…Minnesota. I went back and took at look at Eric’s game review from that game 14 years ago, and I suggest you do too. Here is an excerpt you need to keep in mind when thinking about this game that will be played in a few days:

“In football, nothing is given.  It is earned.  Every playoff game is a season in itself and if you do not out-play your opponent on that given day, you go home.  It hurts, but that is the reality of post-season football.  #1 seeds fall all the time in the playoffs.  It’s not a rare event.”

Jan 132023
Daniel Jones, New York Giants (December 24, 2022)

Daniel Jones – © USA TODAY Sports

Stating the obvious, there are a lot of good things that have come out of this season for the New York Giants. Near the top of list must be creating a winning culture or mindset. Success creates success. The players believe they can win because they have done so. Important steps on this journey in 2022 were the upset wins against the Titans, Packers, and Ravens before the bye week when the team surged to a 6-2 record. Perhaps the most important post-bye game in terms of impacting team confidence was the Christmas Eve defeat to the Minnesota Vikings just three weeks ago. At the time, the Vikings were 11-3 and considered one of the best teams in the NFC. The Giants were coming off of their critical second game against the Commanders, but had gone 0-3-1 in the four games before that contest. The expectation at the time was that the Giants would be handily defeated by the Vikings and Eagles in the last three regular-season games, and would have to beat the Colts to secure a playoff spot. While this is in fact what happened, the Giants-Vikings game on Christmas Eve was far more competitive than expected. Indeed, it took a 61-yard, last-second kick for the Vikings to avoid overtime.

The most important thing that came out of that game was that the team now knew it could compete at that level. Indeed, the overriding feeling in the fan base (and probably the team itself) was the desire to face the Vikings again. Three weeks later, here we are. In between, the Giants’ win over the Colts was far easier than expected, and group of backups gave the Eagles a tougher game than expected. The Giants seem to be surging at the right time.

That does not mean the 2022 New York Giants have become a Super Bowl-caliber team. Far from it. This roster still has glaring weaknesses at many spots. And depth is razor thin. But some of the luster has also come off of the Eagles, Cowboys, and Vikings in recent weeks. There is a growing sense that if this team can just stay healthy, they might create some noise in the NFC post-season tournament.

Win or lose, at this point what is important for the Giants as a franchise under Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll is the playoff experience. The 1986 Super Bowl champions needed the 1984 and 1985 playoff experiences. The 1990 Super Bowl champions needed the 1989 playoff game. The 2007 Super Bowl champions needed the 2005 and 2006 playoff experiences. There is something to learn here, to grow from. The longer they can keep this ride going, the better.


  • WR Marcus Johnson (knee – probable)
  • OC Jon Feliciano (back – probable)
  • RT Evan Neal (ankle – probable)
  • DL Leonard Williams (neck – probable)
  • OLB Azeez Ojulari (ankle – probable)
  • CB Adoree’ Jackson (knee – probable)
  • S Jason Pinnock (shoulder – probable)
  • S Xavier McKinney (fingers – probable)

In my preview between these two teams from a few weeks ago, the gist of my offensive preview was Daniel Jones and the New York Giants offense was going to have to score more than their usual 20 points per game to have a chance to win. At the time, the Vikings were 8th in scoring offense, averaging 25 points per game, and dead last in yards allowed (almost 400 per game). The Giants had a mini-offensive explosion that day, scoring a whopping 24 points. It wasn’t enough.

Minnesota finished the regular-season 7th in total yards gained, 6th in passing yards, 28th in rushing yards, and 8th in scoring (still around 25 points per game). The challenge remains. The Vikings are going to move the ball and score. The New York offense has to keep pace. The good news is that Jones and the offense did have one of their better games against the now-ranked 31st defense in the league (31st against the pass, 20th against the run, 30th in scoring). Jones was 30-of-42 for 334 yards and a touchdown. Saquon Barkley ran the ball 14 times for 84 yards (6 yards per carry) and a touchdown. The Giants had a season-high 445 total yards. The bad news were the mistakes, a rare interception by Jones this season and a fumble by Daniel Bellinger. Both turnovers came when the Giants were inside Minnesota territory and driving for points. In a game decided on a 61-yard field goal, the Giants lost the critical turnover battle 2-0. That was the difference in the game.

The other macro-level point is that, unless something strange happens, this is going to be a nail-biter. This is just the way both of these two teams play. The Vikings were -3 in point differential in 2022; the Giants were -6. Most of the games the Giants and Vikings play are close and decided in the 4th quarter. The Giants have been good in winning 4th-quarter games; the Vikings have been outstanding. No lead is probably safe.

Aside from the two turnovers, a few other things hurt the Giants in the first game. There were a few dropped passes (two uncharacteristic drops by Richie James and one characteristic drop by Darius Slayton). The offensive line also had a rough game against one of the more-talented set of edge rushers in Za’Darius Smith (10 sacks) and Danielle Hunter (10.5 sacks). Right tackle Evan Neal struggled against Hunter and allowed 1.5 sacks, multiple QB hits, and a bunch of pressures. Neal was also added to the injury report this week with an ankle issue that he suffered in practice on Thursday. LT Andrew Thomas gave up a couple of pressures that led to sacks. The interior line had problems too, particularly with stunts. Ex-Giant Dalvin Tomlinson was fired up against his old team.

It will be interesting to see how Brian Daboll and Mike Kafka approach this game. Despite their two outstanding edge rushers, the Vikings are terrible against the pass. And Jones did throw for over 300 yards against these guys just three weeks ago. Early in the game, even wide receiver Isaiah Hodgins was surprisingly getting the best out of their top corner, Patrick Peterson (though Peterson got his revenge with a timely interception). Statistically, Hodgins and James had their best games of the season. The damage could have been worse had the NYG receivers not dropped a few passes. However, the offensive line did struggle in pass protection, particularly Neal. The match-up against him and Hunter is not a good one. Also keep in mind that Barkley averaged six yards per carry, but he only carried the ball 14 times (he did have eight catches). The Giants only ran it 21 times total, with Jones having only four carries. Do the Giants go with a heavier emphasis in running the ball this time around? That may be the safer route, but it’s not usually the best for scoring points. On the flip side, it would help to keep Minnesota’s explosive offense off of the field. Tough decisions.

It’s this side of the ball where things get really interesting. There are some key take-aways from the last contest between these two teams and some significant changes.

On December 24th, the Giants allowed 23 first downs and 353 total net yards to the Vikings. The bulk of those yards came via the passing game (270 net yards). But the 83 yards in rushing is a bit misleading as Minnesota ran the ball only 18 times with their backs. This was consistent with the Vikings’ pass-centric offense all year. The good news for the NYG defense was the 4 sacks, 11 quarterback hits, 6 tackles for losses, and 7 pass defenses. The bad news was zero turnovers created, including two dropped interceptions.

There are some significant injury-related developments to note. CB Adoree’ Jackson and S Xavier McKinney missed the last game. OLB Azeez Ojulari left the game in the first half with an ankle injury after being credited with 2 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss, and sack. DL Leonard Williams also left the game in the second half a neck/burner issue. He returned, but his play seemed to be affected. The issue with both Ojulari and Williams is not just their availability to start a game, but to be able to play the entire contest at a high level. To be blunt, the Giants need them to stay on the field and play well through pain.

The additions of Jackson and McKinney could be huge. Fabian Moreau was abused by WR Justin Jefferson in the first game, catching 12 passes for 133 yards and a touchdown. But much depends on how many snaps Jackson can play, and how rusty/effective he will be after missing two months of action. The return of McKinney increases team speed/range in the secondary, allowing for greater flexibility in covering Jefferson. The Giants can now also use McKinney, or Julian Love more since he shifts back to strong safety, in covering tight end T.J. Hockenson, who killed the Giants with 13 catches for 109 yards and two touchdowns. Landon Collins, who played 49 percent of defensive snaps in the first game, should also see more playing time in lieu of Micah McFadden, who had his issues in coverage. The domino effect on the return of McKinney should not be underestimated. Love could be a huge player in this game as a moveable chess piece. Love may also have a chip on his shoulder after just missing breaking up a touchdown pass to Hockenson in the first game.

For the Giants, there is good and bad news on the Minnesota injury front. In the first contest, Dexter Lawerence absolutely abused the back-up center. However, the Vikings get starting center Garrett Bradbury back. That’s a big deal. On the flip side, starting right tackle Brian O’Neill is out this time around. That should help the Giants’ edge rushers. Both O’Neill and LT Christian Darrisaw were a strength up front and now one of them is missing.

On Christmas Eve, the bulk of the Minnesota offense was Kirk Cousins throwing to Jefferson and Hockenson (25 of the 34 receptions and 242 of the 299 receiving yards). Running back Dalvin Cook also added 64 yards on 14 carries (4.6 yards per rush). The game plan is obvious. Try to limit the damage by Jefferson and Hockenson. When Cousins does put the ball in harm’s way, catch it. So much will depend on the availability/effectiveness of Adoree’ Jackson against Jefferson. The Giants should be in better position to deal with Hockenson this time around. The wild card is Dalvin Cook. He can break off game-changing runs if the defense is not careful.

Terrible protection in the first game caused a punt block that set up the Vikings on a short field for an easy touchdown. Expect Minnesota to be coming after Jamie Gillan on every punt. All six New York kickoffs resulted in touchbacks in the first game. I hope that continues and the Giants simply avoid flirting with kickoff coverage breakdowns. Kick returner Kene Nwangwu was voted second-team All-Pro.

Head Coach Brian Daboll on playing the Vikings again: “I think any time you play a team for a second time – Washington, Philadelphia, Dallas – you always watch the previous game. That’s part of the preparation process. But we are full steam ahead on preparing, watching the games that they have played after us. We’ve already watched all the games before that. So, it’s really like playing another division team that you just played a few weeks ago and doing everything you can to prepare the right way.”

Barring something strange happening, this is going to be a really close game again, probably a contest that comes down to a field goal. When you have two teams like this who play tight games almost every week, it usually comes down to things like red-zone efficiency and turnovers. Tell me who won those two stats on Sunday night and I’ll tell you who won the game. I would not be shocked if the Giants try to cross up the Vikings in the game and use a heavy dose of Barkley on the ground, perhaps doubling his carry total from the first game. They could also use more RPO with Jones to slow down the edge rushers.

Jan 102023
Lawrence Cager, New York Giants (January 8, 2023)

Lawrence Cager – © USA TODAY Sports


-Davis Webb: 23/40 – 168 yards / 1 TD- 0 INT / 75.8 RAT / 6 att – 41 yards / 1 TD

Such a feel-good story here for a kid drafted in the third round by NYG near the end of the Eli Manning era. The future coach has been waived five times since 2018, never started an NFL game, and had never thrown a pass in a regular-season game. That all changed as he took on the #1 seed Eagles in a game NYG was resting the majority of the entire offensive line and starting skill position players matched up against a defense that was throwing the entire starting lineup on the field. Talk about a tall order!

Webb earned the respect of everybody in this one. He was under pressure for most of the game but responded with zero turnovers and avoided taking one sack. His internal clock and escapability were the top two traits I saw out of him. Nobody is going to mistake Webb for the athlete Jones is, but he has such a good feel for when to take off and run. This game was a prime example for young QBs to see just how valuable it is to get the ball out in a hurry when an offense is overmatched. Webb took what the PHI defense gave and ended up scoring two touchdowns, one on the ground and one in the air. He may never get this opportunity again and I’m glad this lone career start went the way it did.


-Saquon Barkley stayed in sweats on the sideline, an easy decision for the staff. I don’t believe there was any debate with that one. Gary Brightwell was the biggest beneficiary, seeing a career-high 60 yards on 11 carries. He was impressive with how many tackle attempts he ripped through, gaining most of his yards after contact (47). The overall sample size is still pretty small, but this kid has shown he belongs. The burst, power, and passion he displays can be a difference maker. He has broken a tackle once every 5 touches this year. Incredibly low data, I know. But just for reference, Barkley broke one every 8 touches.

-Matt Breida gained 28 yards on 4 carries and added 7 catches for 12 yards. His explosion and speed in the open field is the best on the team and quite frankly near the best in the NFL at the position. If I had to choose one off-the-radar guy who I think can create a huge play against MIN next Sunday, it is Breida. This guy can fly.


-Kenny Golladay signed a 4-year, $72 million in 2021. It will go down as one of the worst contracts in league history when looking at dollars spent, and production posted. In the 26th game of his tenure with NYG, Golladay scored his first touchdown. It was a remarkable play that brought back the memories of his career in Detroit where he made several high-caliber, highlight-reel catches. He finished what I expect to be his final regular-season game here with 2 receptions for 30 yards.

-Isaiah Hodgins did not see the field. Darius Slayton only was in the game for three snaps. Richie James only saw snaps on special teams. That opened the door for Marcus Johnson, who led the position group with 36 yards and 3 catches. Webb missed him downfield on a broken play where PHI simply forgot about him. It would have been a 40+ yard gain, at least.


-Daniel Bellinger was a healthy inactive for this one, a sign of how much they value the rookie fourth rounder. This opened the door for Lawrence Cager, an overlooked in-season pick up who I wish had more opportunities when Bellinger was out. His receiving skillset is obvious. He led the team with 8 catches for 69 yards, showing elite ball skills on passes away from his body. There is a different level of twitch to the former wide receiver’s post-catch movement. It was his effort and power that converted a short pass on 4th-and-1 for a first down on the first NYG touchdown drive.

-Nick Vannett saw a season-high 55 snaps. He added 2 catches for 18 yards and some quality blocking on the edge.


-Evan Neal got the start at right tackle and played about half the snaps before Matt Peart relieved him. It was an ugly game for the rookie, who has piled up those performances this season. He allowed three pressures and was flagged for two false starts. I don’t want to keep repeating myself, but I want to reiterate that Neal is one of the most vital players on this team next week. His bad-caliber games can put such a restriction on the passing attack. He just does not have it right now. The losses on an island are the same every week. Big test for him.

-Tyre Phillips got the start at left tackle, while Andrew Thomas was inactive. He allowed four pressures, and all things considered, was not bad. I will not label it a victory for the third-year veteran, but his run-blocking performance did help his overall grade a bit. Matt Peart got some playing time at right tackle and appears to have the same shortcomings we have seen in the past. He was flagged for a false start and allowed a pressure. He does not even look comfortable in his stance, let alone on an island against the most underrated edge defender in the league, Haason Reddick.

-Inside we saw a mix of players, but Ben Bredeson and Jack Anderson were the two who played every snap. Their match-ups against the PHI interior defensive line is about as hard as it gets in the NFL. Both allowed two pressures and Bredeson allowed a TFL. There isn’t much to say beyond the fact there is such a big gap in talent between the PHI line and Bredeson/Anderson. Considering that, we got what we expected there, and I hate saying stuff like this, but it could have been much worse.

-Wyatt Davis got his feet wet with 26 snaps down the stretch when Nick Gates (who played well) went out, and Bredeson moved to OC. Remember, Davis was a recent third -round pick (2021). The 26 snaps were by far a career-high (he never saw more than 2 snaps in a game prior to this) and I liked his initial pop/power. He allowed 1 pressure and got movement in the running game. Definitely a guy I want to keep around.


-Azeez Ojulari, Kayvon Thibodeaux, and Jihad Ward sat the game out. It was the right call in my eyes. That also opened the door for Tomon Fox and Oshane Ximines to get a full plate of playing time. They both played all 73 defensive snaps. Fox played a better game, finishing with 4 tackles and 2 pressures, one of which led to a sack. Ximines added 2 tackles and an untouched pressure.

-There is one thing I’ve noticed in recent weeks. Ward’s role (mix of OLB + DE + DT) does not have a true backup. It is not a big deal because you can fill his role with other guys based on the situation, but I think his spot is something NYG will be attacking in the draft. I have a list of at least five guys who can do it in the upcoming class.


-So much of this defense is on the shoulders of the DT duo of Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence. I was glad to see them both inactive for this one. Ryder Anderson and Justin Ellis saw an uptick in playing time and it wasn’t pretty. Anderson did pressure Hurts twice, but he was on ice skates against the run. He was easily driven back 3-4 yards multiple times. Ellis, a much bigger body, was not driven back as much but he wasn’t stout either. Tough day for these two.

-Henry Mondeaux and Jack Heflin held their ground better. The former added 2 tackles.


-Jarrad Davis made his debut with the Giants. The former first-round pick has bounced between practice squads and backup roles on the 53-man rosters of DET and NYJ since 2017. This guy plays the high-risk, high-speed, violent brand of football that Martindale loves to use. He finished with 10 tackles, a half-sack, and a pressure. He is very linear. Meaning he can shoot downhill and make an impact, but the issue of lack of twitchy lateral adjustment is still there. Simply a guy who plays fast and strong, but not quick if that makes sense. No, I don’t think he will be a factor next week at all. I doubt he has a strong grasp of the playbook. But a fun tape to watch and maybe he turns into the next version of Jaylon Smith this upcoming offseason.

-Micah McFadden played his best game of the season on 35 snaps. He had 7 tackles, 1 sack, 1 TFL, and the most physical hits of the afternoon on both sides. He has always been instinctive and solid between the tackles, but he appeared to have extra juice in this one. Perhaps a sign he is clicking mentally? McFadden needs to be kept out of specific space situations but his impact between the tackles can be a difference against Dalvin Cook next week.

-Landon Collins didn’t play a ton but I liked seeing him in coverage against PHI tight ends and backs. He also had some QB spy roles on Hurts which did help contain him on a couple of scrambles. Should NYG find their way to PHI again in a couple weeks, he will be an important player.

-Carter Coughlin and Cam Brown played just three snaps on defense.


-Adoree’ Jackson will return from his injury in the playoffs. He joined Fabian Moreau and Darnay Holmes on the sideline for this one.

-That left second year pros Rodarius Williams and Nick McCloud along with rookie Cor’Dale Flott. I’ll start with Flott. He finished with 3 tackles and 1 PD. He missed a tackle and continues to be just a hair late on throws that head his way. I am still pleased with his movement, but I am still worried about the lack of staying power in contested situations.

-McCloud had an active game. Martindale went blitz-heavy and McCloud was one of the main weapons. Because of that, he seemed to be around the action often. He had 1.5 sacks, a pass break up at the line, and 5 tackles. He was also flagged for a dumb roughing-the-passer penalty that could have been a major blow in a playoff game. I have wondered if he is a safer bet than Holmes at nickel. Less coverage penalties, similar coverage traits. I think Martindale loves Holmes, though.

-Williams led the team with 10 tackles, largely because Hurts was throwing in his direction all night. He allowed 8 catches on a whopping 12 targets for 101 yards. It has been 6 weeks since he’s seen action, and all of the sudden, he’s covering A.J. Brown. Tough situation for him.


-Julian Love and Xavier McKinney did not play. That opened the door for Jason Pinnock, Dane Belton, and Tony Jefferson.

-Belton had the best game of the trio. He finished with 6 tackles and an end-zone interception, his second of the year. He nearly had another one that went right through his hands. This was a solid rookie season for Belton, who fought through multiple clavicle injuries and was up and down on the field. I can see the traits in Belton that lead to optimism. The physical goods are there.

-Pinnock had 4 tackles and missed one on the Boston Scott touchdown while Jefferson added 2 tackles. Pinnock just needs more experience before we really know what we have. His game gets a little out of control, but I love the speed and physical nature he brings.


-K Graham Gano: 1/1 (Made 24)
-P Jamie Gillan: 6 punts / 44.0 avg – 39.0 net


-QB Davis Webb, TE Lawrence Cager, LB Micah McFadden


-OT Evan Neal, CB Rodarius Williams, DT Justin Ellis


Not sure I am heading into the bye week with a ton of confidence right now if I am PHI. If Lane Johnson comes back from his torn adductor injury (VERY painful), he won’t be 100% or even close. Jalen Hurts looked rusty and is now heading toward another week away from football. He will start the divisional game after playing in just one game over the course of 4 weeks and he hasn’t thrown a touchdown since December 11. But has thrown three interceptions since then. The roster is stacked, no question. But I don’t view them in the same light as I have previous #1 seeds. They’ve lost a lot of steam.

Most quarterbacks are better when kept clean than when up against pressure. Obvious, I know. But the gap between a clean pocket vs. pressure is something I like to track. The margin between clean vs. pressure for Hurts is wide. Very wide. The notion was strengthened when I re-watched this tape, and it was against the backups. This may be the biggest focal point to track for PHI in the postseason.

Does Nick Sirianni deserve to be the Coach of the Year? Absolutely not. He should not even be one of the top 3 considered. This team made the playoffs last year, their schedule difficulty was average at best. Their roster is absolutely stacked on both sides of the ball. If there is anyone in that organization who deserves a league award, it is GM Howie Roseman. What he has done to engineer this squad has been remarkable from every angle.


What better week than to take an extra deep look at…NYG kicker Graham Gano. A credible statement can be made that the most underrated player on this team is the 35-year-old kicker. Who are the best 5 kickers in the game right now? Like relief pitchers, it is a moving target. But let me take a crack at it. Justin Tucker (BAL), Daniel Carlson (LV), Matt Gay (LAR), Brett Maher (DAL), and Jake Elliott (PHI). How does Gano stack up since 2020 when he joined NYG? Third in FG percentage (91.8%). Second in percentage from 50+ (80%). First in percentage from 40-49 yards (96%). Gano enters a playoff game that is projected to be a 3-point contest as one of the best kickers in the NFL over the last three years. One of the subtle reasons why I like NYG in the match-up.

I don’t feel like getting too deep into the debate surrounding the decision to sit their key players. It does not have an objective resolution and a strong case can be made for both sides. I felt they did exactly what they should have, though. The depth is not good enough to lose someone to a silly injury (see Mike Williams, LAC). Some are already banged up. And NYG has a real shot at going to MIN and winning that game. This is the first playoff game that many of these guys have ever experienced. I don’t fear rust or extra rest hurting at all for these guys. They will be as amped up as we have seen any Giants team over the past decade.

My regular-season predication for NYG was 6-11. Let’s take a quick look at why I was so wrong by 3 games. The red-zone success (7th best) was a gigantic leap from 2021 (32nd). This was Daboll’s specialty in BUF and I did not think it would be enough to make such a difference right away on this team. I was wrong. Second, I questioned just how high a level Barkley could reach after looking like a shadow of his former self against contact. His three biggest red flags from 2021 were improved. Yards after contact, touches per missed tackle, and drop percentage. That and his 18 runs of 15+ yards were the most since his rookie season (20) and more than the previous three seasons combined (15). Lastly, I was wrong about how much Martindale could do with this defensive front. NYG ranked #5 in pressure percentage, #4 in knockdown percentage, and #1 in blitz percentage. They ranked 30th, 29th, and 18th in those respective categories just a year ago. What a difference he made!

On to the playoffs! A first for me as the writer for game reviews.

Jan 062023
Daniel Jones, New York Giants (January 1, 2023)

Daniel Jones – © USA TODAY Sports

If I told you back in August that I would not be writing a typical game preview for the last regular-season game, you would have probably assumed that the New York Giants were on their sixth losing and playoff-less season in a row. Instead, the Giants already locked into the #6 seed in the NFC playoffs with a 9-6-1 record. On paper, a win on Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles does nothing to help the G-Men. On the other hand, the Eagles desperately need to win in order to ensure they maintain their grip on the #1 seed in the conference. If Philadelphia loses, they could lose the division title, a first-round playoff bye, and home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.

The scuttlebutt says Brian Daboll is going to rest many of his key and injured players. If true, there is little chance the Giants will pull off the upset as they will treat this contest more like a preseason game. Is that the right course of action to take? There are rational arguments to be made on both sides. Momentum versus protecting assets on an already thin team lay at the heart of the debate. At this point, Coach Daboll deserves the benefit of the doubt.

Before quarterback Jalen Hurts injured his shoulder a few weeks ago, the Eagles were cruising and appeared to be the NFL’s top team. Despite losing their last two games with a back-up quarterback, they are still ranked #1 in defense and #2 in offense in the league. That’s as good as it gets. As I’ve talked about before in previous game previews between these two teams, Philadelphia’s dominance over New York is largely a result of superior talent on both the offensive and defensive lines. They are just damn good up front. They win in the trenches. The Giants may be catching up, but they are still in the chase position here. The Eagles also have vastly superior talent at wide receiver and at cornerback.

As giddy as we all feel right now (and we should), keep in mind that the Giants are playing way over their heads. Their fast 6-2 start that included surprising upsets against the Titans, Packers, and Ravens allowed them to survive a 3-4-1 post-bye record with only one win in the NFC East. And those three wins came against the Texans, Commanders, and Colts. Perspective matters.

Sunday’s game should not be close, but understand the situation for both teams. Perhaps New York will see them in a few weeks at Lincoln Financial Field again.


  • OC Jon Feliciano (back – questionable)
  • DL Leonard Williams (neck – out)
  • OLB Azeez Ojulari (ankle – out)
  • CB Adoree’ Jackson (knee – doubtful)
  • S Xavier McKinney (fingers – probable)

I’m going to use my time here this week to discuss the state of the team moving forward, both in the short- and long-term.

The biggest outcome of the 2022 season is not the 9-6-1 record or the playoff appearance. It is the resurrection of Daniel Jones from the dead. Who the (blank) could have predicted that Giants fans would be giving Daniel Jones a standing ovation and chanting his name at MetLife Stadium in a playoff-clinching victory on New Year’s Day?!?

Unless I am completely misreading Daboll’s sideline and locker room interactions with his quarterback, for better or worse, Daniel Jones is going to be given big contract soon. If the Giants are right and Jones ends up being one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL, then the Giants rebuilding effort just got a heck of a lot shorter and easier. They won’t have to spend expensive draft capital on the next quarterback and can use that on other positions. They also don’t need to “waste” 2-3 more years on grooming a rookie. If they are wrong, then the rebuilding effort has no end in sight. That’s why the QB decision is bigger than the rest of the team at this point.

But for now, let’s keep things positive. Unless you have some sort of weird, personal hang-up on having your negative opinion of Jones being correct, how can you not be happy for his redemption? The good-guy vilified by the media and masses, almost run out of town, somehow maintains his focus and poise, and ends up winning over his harshest critics? That reads like a cheesy, heart-tugging, formulaic Hollywood movie. All we need now is Roy Firestone announcing on the air during a live interview with Jones that he has been given his new contract. (Screw off if you don’t get the Jerry McGuire reference).

I will reiterate what I’ve said since August when asked about my opinion of Jones. I won’t formulate my final opinion until the 2022 season is over. I told myself back in the summer that I wasn’t going to play a week-to-week evaluation game with him, but judge him on the full 17 games, assuming he didn’t get hurt, which would have also factored into the equation since has been injury-prone. Since we don’t know if he will even play on Sunday, ironically, that 17th game may now be his first playoff game. What if he gets to 18?

Meanwhile, what to do about Saquon Barkley? While not as explosive as his rookie season, Barkley is having his career-high rushing year. More was expected out of him as a passing target, especially in this system, but he’s still the most dangerous player on this team with the ball in his hands. Since his heavy day against the Texans on November 13th, Barkley is averaging 14 carries and four catches per game. How much do you pay a player at that position who the coaching staff now has touching the ball less than 20 times per game? I am pretty darn sure Daniel Jones will be back. I also think Saquon Barkley will be back. But I also would not be shocked to see the Giants let him walk if his price tag is too high. Perhaps the Franchise Tag comes into play here. There is a good chance it will be the Matt Breida and Gary Brightwell show on Sunday.

Brian Daboll and Mike Kafka have clearly settled on the Isaiah Hodgins (possession) / Richie James (slot) / Darius Slayton (deep threat) triumvirate at receiver to go along with a once-again surging Daniel Bellinger at tight end. This is not a line-up that scares anyone, but it is what it is. Wideouts who were ahead of these guys on the depth chart just a few months ago included Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney, Sterling Shepard, Wan’Dale Robinson, Colin Johnson, David Sills, and Marcus Johnson. Slayton barely made the team as the #7 receiver, James was considered almost strictly a returner (who fumbled), and Hodgins was on the Practice Squad of another team. Needless to say, in the short-term, the Giants have to be praying that no one else gets hurt. That’s why we may see more of Golladay and Johnson on Sunday. The Giants need to hit this position in a major way in the offseason.

Which brings us to the offensive line. As most SHOULD have expected, this is still a work in progress. Andrew Thomas is more than steady at left tackle and capable of silencing his opponent. Evan Neal is going through the typical rookie growing pains, but for some reason a large portion of the fan base doesn’t believe in rookie growing pains. He will likely be up and down for whatever games remain. Inside, Jon Feliciano, Mark Glowinksi, Ben Bredeson, and Nick Gates are coming off of their best game as group, but they have been shaky as well. The Giants may sit or cut short the playing time of many of these guys and that doesn’t bode well against one of the very best defensive fronts in the game. Tough spot for Tyre Phillips, Matt Peart, Jack Anderson, and Wyatt Davis. Long-term, one gets the feeling the Giants are at least one really good inside player away from having an excellent line.

If I told you back in August that Leonard Williams would be nagged and limited for much of the season with a neck injury, that Azeez Ojulari would miss 11 games, that Adoree’ Jackson would miss seven games, that Xavier McKinney would eight games, that starting corner Aaron Robinson would miss virtually all of the season, that two inside linebackers would be in-season pick-ups, and that some guys named Fabian Moreau and Nick McCloud would be starting at cornerback for much of the season where corners are often left on an island, your response would have been “Oh (expletive deleted)!”

The Giants’ 24th-ranked defense does not feel like a 24th-ranked defense. But here we are. They give up yards, but tough it out on 3rd down and in the red zone. Yet, they are still only middle of the pack in scoring defense (16th) and +2 in turnover differential (only five interceptions to go along with 13 fumble recoveries). Defensively, perhaps the biggest surprise has been just how bad the Giants are at defending the run (now 30th in terms of yards per carry). That’s bad news with Philadelphia, especially when the Giants are likely to sit Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams. Covering A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith with “starters” Moreau and McCloud or their back-ups is equally daunting. This could get ugly. We likely won’t see a lot of Kayvon Thibodeaux, Azeez Ojulari, Julian Love, and Xavier McKinney either.

Moving forward, long-term, I’m going to agree with Sy’56 here. As much as wide receiver is a desperate, desperate need on this team, I think corner is even more so. The Giants simply cannot afford to go into 2023 with the injury-prone Jackson (missed time in five of his six seasons), Moreau (who will be a free agent), Robinson (who will be coming off ACL and MCL injuries and may not be ready in August), McCloud, Darnay Holmes, Flott, Rodarius Williams, and Zyon Gilbert. You can scheme around wide receiver issues far easier than you can scheme around subpar cornerbacks. I would not be shocked to see the Giants spend two picks in the first four rounds on cornerbacks. You want a kick-ass, top-5 defense? You have to be able to cover people.

The other spot not getting enough attention is defensive line. Why do the Eagles and Cowboys do so well defensively? They come at you in waves up front. The Giants have Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams and that’s about it. Both play too many snaps and if one goes down, it affects the ENTIRE defense (see Leonard Williams this year). The good news is that D.J. Davidson was surprisingly productive before he got hurt; the bad news is he tore his ACL. Again, don’t be shocked if the Giants go defensive line earlier than you would expect. I expect Henry Mondeaux, Ryder Anderson, and Justin Ellis to get mauled by the Eagles’ starters, but this will be a good opportunity for them to prove us wrong.

Inside linebacker looks like another huge need area. The team was high on Darrian Beavers but he is another rookie who will be coming off an ACL. Jaylon Smith and Landon Collins feel like more stopgaps. We may see newcomer Jarrad Davis some this Sunday. Wink Martindale is an old inside linebacker coach. The position is still near and dear to his heart and he believes that speed at the position makes your defense play fast. Look for speedy inside guys who can play the run, cover, and rush the passer in the upcoming draft.

As long as the team can re-sign Julian Love, they look to have good talent and depth at safety. Same story with outside linebacker if they re-sign Jihad Ward to go along with Tomon Fox, who may see quite a bit of playing time on Sunday. Oshane Ximenes will get another chance to make his case. Dane Belton is likely to go through some more growing pains against the Eagles at safety. Nevertheless, this will be a good experience for him if he plays.

Many thought Jamie Gillan wouldn’t make it though the season. While he hasn’t shined, he is 15th in punting gross punting (47 yards per punt). It’s his net punting (40.8) that needs improving. His inside the 20 punting has improved a bit late in the season. He likely will be back in 2023. Where the team really needs to get its act together is finding dedicated punt and kick returners who can hold onto the ball as well as present a real threat to the opposing teams. Some fans think Thomas McGaughey is or should be on the hotseat.

Head Coach Brian Daboll on the game against the Eagles: “We have our meeting after practice. (General Manager) Joe (Schoen) and I talk after practice, in the evening, Saturday. That’s when we make our decisions (on who will play).”

Assuming that the Giants follow through and sit or reduce the playing time of many of their key players and starters, this game should not be close. Philadelphia is the superior team and needs this game desperately. If this game remains close at all, that should really make the Eagles and their fans nervous.

These two teams might play each again later this month in a do-or-die situation for BOTH teams.

Jan 032023
Richie James, New York Giants (January 1, 2023)

Richie James – © USA TODAY Sports


-Daniel Jones: 19/24 – 177 yards/ 2 TD – 0 INT / 125.2 RAT

Jones added a game-high 91 yards on 11 carries, including another 2 touchdowns. This was the first time he was responsible for more than 2 touchdowns in a game since December 22, 2019 (his rookie season). That blew me away when I first looked into it. Considering the magnitude of this game and the fact his supporting cast is still well below average, I am labeling this the best performance of his career. While we have seen more production in previous games and more downfield/complex passing, the combination of his running and the fact he put this team on his back as they approached this win-and-in contest speaks volumes. Absolute enormous volumes. While IND is a bad team, they do not have a bad defense. Jones rose to the occasion and got the most out of himself and the players around him. He rallied this team together via action, not words. He was the first to pick up Slayton after the fumble. He put his body on the line numerous times. He never lost his mojo, it only strengthened. Dumb this down to the basics and that is exactly what a team needs out of a franchise quarterback.

Recency bias will put him onto the pedestal in this week’s episode of “Should NYG lock Jones up long term?” debate, a series that has seen more twists and turns than Ozark. Like always, I will remain on the outside of what I think NYG should do until everything is over. But a takeaway I have that nobody can dispute? Jones and Daboll have a good thing going and it is only ascending. All of this with, once again, a supporting cast that I still think ranks bottom third in the NFL. The next step in the evaluation will be how he responds to playoff football on the road. A different level of intensity, a different level of pressure.


-Saquon Barkley: 12 att – 58 yards / 2 rec -5 yards

Another sign this offense has come a long way: Barkley’s 53 total yards were the fourth lowest of the year. The other three games he was held below 55? Loss to DET where they scored 18 points. Loss to DAL where they scored 20 points. Loss to PHI where they scored 22 points. This team is getting better in games where Barkley gets contained; to the point where they scored 38 points (the most since 12/22/2019) in a winning effort. If there is one negative on the lack of production, those four games under 55 yards have all come in the last 7 games.

The one catch here is Barkley had just 12 carries (he averages 18 per game). His usage has dropped a lot since the first half of the season and there are multiple variables behind that. It is a good thing. He looked fresh and explosive again. Not many backs can say that in Week 17 and it is good to know that, if necessary, he is able to touch the ball 35 times in the playoff game. I would like to see him on the sidelines next week against PHI.

-Matt Breida added 59 yards on 9 carries and 8 yards on 1 catch. Explosive day for him and someone I think we forget about. He is a dangerous player if he reaches the open field. Always has been. Gary Brightwell had 9 yards on 5 carries.


-Richie James and Isaiah Hodgins came up big once again. This is why they play the games. Who would have predicted back in August that these two would be the 1-2 punch for the playoff-bound Giants down the stretch? Not only the 1-2 punch, but a formidable one. James caught all 7 targets for 76 yards and a touchdown. Hodgins caught 4 passes for 42 yards and a touchdown. 4 touchdowns over his last 5 games for the waiver claim from BUF and James has caught 26 of his last 30 targets. Tough, dependable, and smart.

-Last week I said Darius Slayton was going to score a big touchdown soon. If you told me NYG was going to put up nearly 40 points, I would have been positive Slayton was going to be a big part of it. I was wrong. He finished with 2 catches for 14 yards and was responsible for the biggest offensive gaffe of the day. Poor ball security after a catch led to a fumble on the first play of the third quarter.

-NYG is playing with a razor-thin receiver group. An injury to any one of these guys changes the offense immensely.


-Daniel Bellinger got more involved in the passing game, catching all 3 targets for 42 yards. He has now caught 30 of 33 passes this year. There are 44 tight ends with 29+ targets this season. Bellinger’s 91% catch-percentage ranks number one. This is a guy who will not get a lot of attention from opposing defenses in the postseason, I guarantee it. If he can get open, I expect him to be a focal point in key spots. He has passed test after test as a receiver. The bigger positive, in my eyes, was the quality blocking grade he earned. He did allow a pressure in the passing game, but I thought his pop and violence made a difference on trap blocks. His mechanics are all there and I think the baseline power presence is enough to build upon. He is going to be a quality blocker over his career.

-Nick Vannett allowed a TFL and Chris Myrick barely played. Neither were targeted. NYG has taken a sharp turn away from extra tight end usage.


-This was the best overall performance we have seen from the offensive line all season. Just 4 pressures was a season-low besides the CHI game where Jones dropped back 17 times. There were also zero sacks allowed. The second time in three weeks we can say that. It looks like the group is coming together just at the right time.

-Andrew Thomas bounced back after a rough game against MIN. He pitched a shutout in pass protection. I still see some loss of power and I have no idea if the ankle/foot is acting up or weakening, but it is worth keeping an eye on. Rookie Evan Neal bounced back well after a terrible game last week. Just 2 pressures against an ascending Kwity Paye and more dominant looks as a run blocker. While it may be an unfair comment, Neal is going to be one of the most important players on this team come playoff time. The spectrum between his good and bad is massive and can dictate a lot when it comes to the offense’s consistency and big-play potential.

-Inside is where I noticed the most improvement when it came to consistency. While we saw a couple of negative plays, it was nothing game-changing or overly hurtful. Nick Gates was flagged for tripping. Jon Feliciano allowed a pressure. Ben Bredeson played a clean game. Mark Glowinski allowed just one pressure despite several one-on-one matchups against Grover Stewart and DeForest Buckner, one of the better inside duos in the league. He got away with a block in the back on the Jones rushing touchdown in the early third quarter. He is a savvy player and even though some of the tightness in his hips creates issues here and there, he does a lot of little things with his hands and angles that make a positive difference.


-Azeez Ojulari was questionable all week and he barely played. I think that was partially a result of the point margin getting so high, so quickly. I bet he would have played more had the game been tighter. I expect him to sit out next week so he can be fresh for the playoffs.

-Kayvon Thibodeaux continues his red-hot play. It is good to see him do it without Ojulari on the field. While this fearsome foursome (one of you creative people needs to come up with a nickname for them) feeds off each other, seeing them do it individually means a lot. Man am I excited to see what they can do in the next few years. Thibodeaux finished with 5 tackles, 1 sack, 1 TFL, and a pass break up. The sack was unblocked but that was the kind of explosion and lack of hesitation that we did not see early in the year. That and his power against the run are the two biggest gains throughout the season and it has turned into production. The snow angel next to an injured Foles is a complete non-story.

-Tomon Fox added 2 tackles and some physical, stout run defense along with Jihad Ward, who added 4 tackles. Oshane Ximines played 31 snaps and came on the field in passing situations. He did not pressure the quarterback once and he missed a tackle. After a solid start this season, his impact on the defense has been non-existent over the past 1-2 months.


-Maybe the two biggest winners of the blowout margin were Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams. They played just 67% and 53% of the snaps respectively. Keeping these guys fresh and healthy is absolutely vital. The lower-than-normal snap share did not result in a lack of impact. Lawrence strengthened his All-Pro candidacy with 5 tackles, 1 sack, and 2 pressures. His sack came on an island against Quenton Nelson, the best guard in football. No double moves. No fancy hand-work. He simply bull-rushed Nelson 4-5 yards backward and finished the play. Even though Nelson has taken a step back in 2022, I still think he is the stoutest pass protector against the bull rush in the league. Lawrence tossed him around. Williams added 2 tackles and 2 pressures.

-The trio of rotational linemen, Ryder Anderson-Justin Ellis-Henry Mondeaux, seems to be set in stone. Expectation for these guys is not high, but I will reiterate the importance of Lawrence and Williams being on the field for 85+ snaps in the playoffs. The other guys are solid space eaters, but not much else. After making a few plays in the backfield in consecutive weeks, the undrafted rookie Anderson was completely ineffective and moved off his point easily.


-Nice bounce back game for Jaylon Smith. Someone must have gotten into his ear about attacking his gaps downhill faster. He led the team with 9 tackles and added 2 pressures. He missed 1 tackle. Rookie Micah McFadden added 4 tackles, one of which was on special teams. He dropped back into coverage just 6 times, the lowest number we have seen since Week 8 at Seattle. Even though NYG cannot control that fully, it is a smart move to keep him out of that role as much as possible.

-Landon Collins, you’re up. He dropped into coverage 20 times and saw 30+ snaps for the second week in a row. He contributed 4 tackles and the biggest play of the game. He intercepted a Nick Foles pass in the second quarter just five plays after NYG went up 14-3. The play itself was impressive, but the timing is what put this game out of reach for IND. Sure, it was still early and “you never know.” But I thought this game was sealed after this play against a team that hasn’t won since November 13 and has scored over 21 offensive points just one time since October 16. Collins is another in-season find who deserves a ton of credit. His role in this defense is ideal and I’ll tell you what, this guy can still move. There is still some high-risk / high reward to him, but that sums up the defense as a whole. Collins is going to be a very important player against whomever NYG plays in two weeks.


-Darnay Holmes now ranks second in NFL in penalties. He was flagged for a hold on a 3rd-down stop in the first quarter. These are the kinds of plays that overshadow the fact that he is a solid player. He added 3 tackles and 1 TFL. He did a great job at limiting yards after the catch. He is one of the top pure athletes on this defense. But teams know in high-leverage situations, he is the one to attack. He can be a maddening player to work with but then again, there isn’t much to do about it. Nobody behind him brings the talent to the table he does.

-Fabian Moreau and Nick McCloud continued to fill most of the meaningful snaps on the outside. Moreau allowed a touchdown after losing his balance and falling to the ground. It was his third touchdown allowed over the last 5 games. He has been given, by far, the most difficult coverage assignments on this team. While he won’t ever be mistaken for Champ Bailey, I like what his coverage looks like from the All-22. Not the most athletic cover man, but he anticipates and knows what’s often coming. I like that about him.

-Nick McCloud added 2 tackles, some physical play, and a pass break up. Another guy who is simply showing great anticipation in coverage. Zyon Gilbert saw some action late in mop up duty. He is still learning route combos and footwork techniques. Not much to report here, though. Cor’Dale Flott played a lot (35 snaps) but was not targeted and didn’t make any plays against the run. Quiet day, but not a bad day.


-Xavier McKinney was a surprise activation for this game. He badly injured his hand during the bye week in early November and hasn’t played since. He played 83% of the snaps and because of the nature of his injury and recovery, I believe it is important to get him on the field as much as possible including next week against PHI. Get the rust out. He added 7 tackles and a pass break-up. He did get beat early on a jump ball against Paris Campbell. Overall, he was in the right position, moved well, and tackled well. The defense is better with him on the field.

-Julian Love finished with 4 tackles and 1 missed tackle. Otherwise, uneventful game for him, but he did cover well deep. His alignments have been all over the place and it is a valuable weapon for the defense. Getting McKinney back and up to speed should make that even more unpredictable for the opposing offense.

-Tony Jefferson and Jason Pinnock saw most of their playing time late in the game when it was out of reach.


-K Graham Gano: 1/1 (Made 36)
-P Jamie Gillan: 1 punt / 47 yards – 27 net


-QB Daniel Jones, WR Richie James, LB Landon Collins


-WR Darius Slayton, CB Darnay Holmes, EDGE Oshane Ximines


1. The team I was most wrong about when looking at my preseason predictions? The Colts. The team I was probably second or third most wrong about? The Giants. I said IND would get to 13 wins, NYG would finish at 6 wins. Man, I could not have been more wrong. What happened here with IND? I don’t blame the coaching (Reich is going to get hired again). The former general manager did a fine job with his draft picks. But how they handled quarterback once Andrew Luck surprisingly retired could not have been worse. Philip Rivers in his final year. A trade for Carson Wentz. A trade for Matt Ryan. A 1st-round pick, two 3rd-round picks, and just under $90 million over the course of three seasons was the overall price for what IND spent at the position. A major mishandle of the most important position in the game. While we can point to a few different components as well, this was the downfall of IND. They will be picking top 7 this April and it is time they go that route for their signal caller.

2. I am working on a Free Agent List to put out there in February. It is for use wider than just NYG followers, but if I have time, I will create a custom portion of it for you guys like how I do the draft prospects. Two of the top 20 guys play for IND and positions NYG will be looking at. In 2019, I had Bobby Okereke as a borderline 1st-2nd rounder (he was drafted toward the end of round 3). He has been a consistent run defender with speed and range, but there are questions about him in coverage. I’m not so sure NYG will be pursuing a high-priced linebacker, but if they do want to throw some money into the ring, he would be a nice option considering what Martindale wants from that spot. The other is a receiver who did not play because of a concussion. Ashton Dulin was the guy I wanted NYG to use a 7th round pick on in 2019. He started off as a key gunner on special teams but has been making plays in limited looks in the passing game his entire career. 6’1/215 with plus size and speed, Dulin will come with a cheap price tag and give the team a credible deep threat they lack. Think Darius Slayton but more physical, versatile, and with better hands. Keep an eye out for those two.

3. Who ends up coaching IND? I’m sure they will make the rounds in interviews. The hottest name is going to be Sean Payton but remember, you need to trade for him if you want him on the sidelines in 2023. I think they’re opening the door and wallet for another big name. Michigan Head Coach Jim Harbaugh. Bruce Feldman, a journalist I know and trust fully, is fairly confident he will come back to the NFL for the right job. I only see Harbaugh coming back for a job to a historic franchise. IND fits that bill and Jim played for them in the 1990s. My one question is whether or not he wants to be a part of the rebuild for a team. The Niners had a solid core of talent in 2011 when Harbaugh went there and they had a quarterback (Alex Smith). Does Harbaugh want a higher starting point? Or would he want to pick his own new quarterback (Will Levis?) to mold and develop?


1. It looks like NYG will play MIN again in the opening round of the playoffs. Despite it being a road game, it is the best possible match-up for them. We will get more into that next week, but this lined up very well. There is a scenario where they end up going to SF, but that will require ARI winning a game against the Niners. I don’t see it. They’re on quarterback number four and they’re shutting some of their players down already. By the way, MIN just lost their top offensive lineman, right tackle Brian O’Neill, to a calf injury. They are already without starting center Garrett Bradbury (although he may back for playoffs). We saw this is a very beatable team and remember, they are -19 in point differential right now. That ranks 20th in the NFL. NYG is flat in differential (0), which ranks 14th.

2. How should NYG approach resting players in week 18 against PHI? It is ironic that PHI needs to play everyone to ensure they win and gain the bye + Home Field advantage while NYG cannot gain or lose anything with a win or loss. While I am a firm believer in keeping guys on routines and continuing the momentum-build, there are a few players I would like to see in sweatpants next Sunday. Anyone questionable or with a list of nagging injuries, you’re out. And if there are inactive spots left to use, I put the key players who are likely in for a huge workload in the playoffs on the sideline. Barkley, Lawrence, Ojulari, and Williams should be kept off of the field. Then, I would limit the snaps of guys where the depth just isn’t there. Hodgins, James, Bellinger, Thomas, and most importantly Jones. Let this be a high-snap game for the likes of Ryder Anderson, Tomon Fox, Henry Mondeaux, Justin Ellis, Oshane Ximines, Tyrod Taylor, Kenny Golladay, Nick Vannett, Matt Peart, and Dane Belton.

3. What do you do with Adoree’ Jackson if he is ready to play? Sounds like he was close this past week to getting on the field. Is he experienced enough to simply just be kept on the sidelines and throw him back into the fire against MIN? He is vital to the gameplan against that passing game. I feel Xavier McKinney needs more snaps to get the feel back and I am less concerned with re-injury / soft tissue with him. This is a tough call, but I think we should see Jackson on the field (if fully ready) for 15-20 snaps. Let him get a feel. Let him make a hit or two. Let the confidence build. But let’s maybe keep him away from returning punts this time!

Dec 302022
Saquon Barkley, New York Giants (December 24, 2022)

Saquon Barkley – © USA TODAY Sports

Win and in. If you told the team, media, and fans the New York Giants would be in this position in Week 16 back in August, everyone would have signed up for that scenario. And here we are. It’s all in front of the Giants, who play their final home game against a disappointing 4-10-1 Indianapolis Colts team. But the Giants still have to do it. No game has been easy for them all year, and Sunday’s game is likely to be yet another nail-biter. We’ll learn a lot about the character of this team by the way they perform in this particular contest. The pressure is on.


  • DL Leonard Williams (neck – probable)
  • OLB Azeez Ojulari (ankle – questionable)
  • CB Adoree’ Jackson (knee – doubtful)
  • S Xavier McKinney (hand – still on Non-Football Injury List)

The Giants should not take the Indianapolis Colts lightly, despite their record. Aside from a few games, Indianapolis has been in every contest, and the main reason has been their defense. Despite being handicapped by an offense that has repeatedly put them in a tough position, the Indianapolis defense is 11th in the NFL in yards allowed (11th against the pass, 20th against the run). For comparison’s sake, the Giants are 27th in defense. A team that plays good defense and special teams will be in most games, and the Colts have both.

Defensive Coordinator Gus Bradley does not use a lot of exotic looks. He plays a more conservative style in order to prevent giving up the big play in the passing game. It works because the Colts have talent up front in their 4-3 defense. The headliner is DeForest Buckner, the 6’7”, 295-pound defensive tackle with tree trunks for arms. Buckner is a disruptive force both against the run and pass (8 sacks). Fellow tackle Grover Stewart is no slouch (42 tackles, 4 sacks). Both will present problems for Jon Feliciano, Mark Glowinski, Ben Bredeson, and Nick Gates. The ends are talented too. RDE Yannick Ngakoue has 9.5 sacks on the year and will battle Andrew Thomas. Despite missing five games, LDE Kwity Paye has 42 tackles, six sacks, and 10 tackles for losses and will face Evan Neal, who has struggled in pass protection.

The linebackers are solid with Bobby Okereke and Zaire Franklin leading the way with an incredible 279 combined tackles. Ex-Bill and Patriot Stephon Gilmore is the familiar name in the secondary. While on the wrong side of 30, he’s still playing well.

The problem for the Giants remains the same: the inability to score enough points. The Giants had a mini-offensive explosion in last week’s loss to the Vikings, scoring 24 for just the fourth time this season. Ironically, the Giants have one of the better red-zone offenses in the league this year while the Colts have one of the worst red-zone defenses. But the offensive line has to hold up well enough for Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley to do their things. In my mind, offensive success in this game will come down to Thomas, Gates/Bredeson, Feliciano, Glowinski, and Neal up front against that talented front. Indianapolis won’t blitz much. But they will play games and stunt up front.

You don’t have to look far to see the warning signs. Despite the Colts’ offense turning the ball over three times, the quarterback being sacked seven times, and being held to 173 total yards last Monday against the Chargers, the Indianapolis defense still held San Diego to just 20 points. The Giants had better take this opponent seriously or they will get burned.

The head-scratcher with the downfall of the Colts this year has been the unexpected demise of an offensive line that was considered the strength of the team. To be blunt, their line has played like crap this year, allowing 56 sacks (2nd most in the NFL). The Colts are now on their third quarterback this season with Nick Foles, who has not played much since 2020 and is coming off of a 3-interception game. How bad have the Colts been on offense? They are 29th overall in yards gained per game (310 yards) and 31st in points scored (16.5). They average 207 yards passing and 103 yards rushing. They don’t make many big plays and they don’t score many points. Worse, they are bad at converting on 3rd down and turn the ball over (30 turnovers and a -13 turnover differential). And on top of all of this, their #1 stud running back, Jonathan Taylor, is out.

Should be a cakewalk, right? Well, yes and no. Aside from the old adage of “on any given Sunday,” the Colts have just enough offensive weapons to create problems for the Giants. Indianapolis has two good tight ends in Kylen Granson and Jelani Woods (late note: Granson has been ruled out). Wideouts Michael Pittman, Parris Campbell, and Alec Pierce are more than solid. The 6’4”, 223-pound Pittman has 90 catches on the year and will present a significant size match-up problem for Fabian Moreau. (It unfortunately appears that Adoree’ Jackson will miss another game). Pierce is the deep threat, averaging over 15 yards per completion. In a game that is likely to be low scoring, the Giants simply can’t allow the Colts’ offense to get untracked or they will be in trouble.

The other issue is that New York’s defense isn’t playing as well as most fans think it is. The Giants are not only 27th overall, but they remain 29th in rushing defense and are dead last in yards per rush defense (5.4). At some point, some opponent is simply going to try to nullify all of Wink Martindale’s blitzing by just running the ball over and over again. If I’m Head Coach Jeff Saturday of the Colts, and I have a struggling Nick Foles at quarterback, I just may attempt this strategy on Sunday. The Colts could attempt to stick with RB Zack Moss and just try handing off to him 30 times.

The problem for the Colts is their offensive line versus the Giants’ defensive front of Kayvon Thibodeaux, Leonard Williams, Dexter Lawrence, and Azeez Ojulari. But everyone needs to stay healthy and play a full game, which has been a problem for Williams and Ojulari as of late. Thibodeaux could be due for another big week as he is facing fellow rookie LT Bernhard Raimann. The Colts had all kinds of issues protecting the relatively immobile Nick Foles last Monday night and that should continue on Sunday. The key is to get Foles and the offensive line in 2nd- and 3rd-and-long situations. Stop the run so you earn the right to rush the passer.

Finally, while the Giants have 13 fumble recoveries this year, they have an embarrassingly-low number of interceptions with four. Foles threw three picks in the last game. Get the football. Make life easier for your own offense.

With a blocked punt now added to their growing list of screw ups, the New York Giants special teams unit is officially hurting more than they are helping this year. Colts are #1 in kickoff returns, averaging over 28 yards per return.

Defensive Coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale on QB Nick Foles: “(Monday was) the first game he’s played in a while. So, it’s going to do nothing but get better for him, seeing things, going at a faster pace of it. But there’s definitely blood in the water.”

I get the sense that many fans think this will be cakewalk. I don’t think so. Nothing has been easy for this still undermanned New York Giants team. Expect another close game in the 4th quarter. And as I’ve been preaching for weeks, turnovers will likely decide the game. Giants won the turnover battle against the Commanders and won. They lost the turnover battle against the Vikings and lost. Win the turnover battle and you probably win this game.

Nevertheless, it’s all in front of this New York Giants team. Win and in. It would be a shame if they let this opportunity slip away. Just get that win!

Dec 272022
Isaiah Hodgins, New York Giants (December 24, 2022)

Isaiah Hodgins – © USA TODAY Sports


-Daniel Jones: 30/42 – 334 yards / 1 TD – 1 INT / 92.8 RAT

Jones added 34 yards on the ground and a successful two-point conversion attempt in a do-or-die situation in the fourth quarter, down two points. From a big picture perspective, this was the best I have seen Jones play all year. The 42 attempts were tied for the fourth-most of his career, second-most of the season. He had a stretch where he completed 22-of-24 passes. He gained a season-high 17 first downs via the air and added two more on the ground. On paper, this was a very good game by Jones. When I took a deeper look, I came away with the same impression.

Jones’ movement in the pocket was brilliant. His clock was spot on, his footwork while keeping his eyes downfield was clean, accuracy was a plus, and decision making was near-perfect. The one blemish was, of course, the fourth-quarter interception on the drive following MIN’s go-ahead touchdown. The ball was intercepted in the red zone, and it was a misplaced ball. Jones had two other bad throws. Nobody can demand perfection out of him, but when you see his stat line and add in the fact Saquon Barkley had another strong day, settling on just 20 points is a loss for the offense overall. While there were other issues stemming from the line, the Bellinger fumble, and the drop by Richie James, the interception was a big-time miss in a big-time situation. He also fumbled earlier in the game (did not result in a turnover) where his ball security technique was the main culprit. This game causes more confliction. For almost the entire game I was ready to say this was the best we have seen out of Jones all year when breaking all elements down. Then, the ill-timed interception. I see vast improvement across multiple components to the position, but once again he left me wanting more.


-Saquon Barkley: 14 att – 84 yards – 1 TD / 8 rec – 49 yards

Another explosive game by Barkley. Elite movement across multiple forms. One of his best yard-after-contact games of the year and a clutch touchdown that stemmed from good vision and aggression. Barkley is trusting the play designs and I cannot stress enough how big of a difference that is. Even the runs that end up not being there, the 1-3 yard gains make such a difference over the 1-3 yard losses in an offense that is working with such a small margin. 26 touches for #26 is right where this team needs to be down the stretch, at least. One thing I want to see more is him getting the ball on screens or splitting him out wide and moving him on cross-routes.

-Matt Breida and Gary Brightwell barely saw the field. Breida gained 9 yards on 2 carries and Brightwell lost a yard on his lone touch. The 91% snap share that Barkley had in this game was the most we have seen since Week 4. All chips are being used now and there is no more pacing the race. I expect to see this again against IND.


-Isaiah Hodgins: 8 rec / 89 yards / 1 TD

Hodgins came up with several underneath receptions that displayed his ideal blend of quality route-running and contact-strength. He then added the best catch we have seen all year out of a NYG receiver up the sideline for 29 yards. When you want to see if a receiver is capable of extending himself to the limit while moving at his top rate of speed, this is the kind of tape you use as the barometer. Hodgins has never been and will never be a deep threat. He simply is not fast enough. But the ball skills are there in every sense of the term. Hands, concentration, timing, and coordination. He is playing his way into a 2023 roster spot and has elevated the entire passing game. What a good find!

-Richie James, a week after I discussed how reliable his hands have been this season (top 10 in NFL), had one of the biggest gaffes of the game. A third-down drop where no defender was near him on a simple, short, slant route and pass. He did catch 8 balls for a team-high 90 yards including a season-high 33 yarder. I was curious how he would respond following the big drop. He dropped another ball two drives later. These are the facts that will come up when the decision makers decide his fate with NYG in a few months, especially considering he is a slot-only target.

-Darius Slayton had a drop early (a difficult catch, I will say) but responded with a couple of big plays later on. He had 4 catches for 79 yards, continuing to be the team’s top playmaker at the position. On a scaled version, this receiver room is put together in a balanced manner. Slayton is the big play guy, James is the slot, and Hodgins is the possession/underneath safety blanket. If this passing game is going to stay at the level we saw in this game, Slayton needs to continue his solid play. 478 yards / 28 catches (17.1 per, way above his career average) since Week 10. Just one touchdown over that span and just two on the year. I think we are right on the brink of seeing a big score on a big play here. He is 41 yards away from a career-high for a single season.


-Daniel Bellinger caught both of his targets and they totaled 27 yards. The glaring issue was the fumble in the red zone at the start of the second quarter that would have resulted in a first down had he held onto it. While any turnover hurts, this one had a little extra bite to it. Like Jones, NYG was heading toward a score and this mistake took the wind out of the sails. Bellinger continues his steady performance as a blocker. That is not necessarily a complement as I am still seeing too many losses. But he has not regressed, and he is showing enough quality there to maintain the positive long-term outlook I have on him.

-Nick Vannett saw just five snaps as NYG spent almost the entire game in 11 personnel (3 WR + 1 RB + 1 TE).


-The MIN pass rush is one of the best seven in football over the last 5-6 weeks. As Danielle Hunter heats up (I think he is a top 5 edge defender when healthy), the group overall is brought to an even higher level. Hunter got the best out of Evan Neal for most of the game. The rookie right tackle allowed 4 pressures and 1.5 sacks. The half-sack was hard to peg on him because of the movement in the pocket. The lone-sack and a couple of his pressures were almost as bad as you are going to find when it comes to one-on-one pass rushing. I try not to compare him to Andrew Thomas too much, but I know some have asked about looking at Neal’s rookie year and putting it next to Thomas’ rookie year. To me, they both struggled, but it isn’t close. Thomas had more hand-placement and timing issues. Neal’s footwork is a complete mess, his balance isn’t getting any better, and I don’t see the “learn from mistakes” progress. It is early and nobody can write him off or bring up the “move to OG” talk yet. But in relation to NYG and their 2022 season, his play is mightily hurting this passing game. His saving grace is the above-average run blocking he provides. All in-line roles have been quality. I still see issues in space, though.

-Andrew Thomas allowed a pressure that led to an eventual sack and then a half-sack himself. Safe to say his play has fallen off over the past month. Still a very good left tackle in a league that does not have many of them but no, not an All-Pro. Not yet.

-Mark Glowinski allowed two pressures and a TFL to former NYG second rounder Dalvin Tomlinson. That is a guy I miss seeing in blue, but it was likely the right call to let him walk. Anyway, Glowinski played better after a rough start but the lack of explosion off the ball prevents him from winning at the point- of-attack when lined up across from a strong and fast defender. If he can get some space to build up his movement and power, he does well. We saw that on the combo blocks and then when he peeled off to the second level. He had a couple key blocks on big runs.

-Ben Bredeson and Nick Gates continue to split snaps. Hard to tell who the better player is, to be honest. Bredeson got walked back by the bull rush a couple times, but he does a better job of staying on his man. Gates has been struggling there a bit. Bredeson did allow a sack and a pressure. Gates was flagged for a huge false start on 2nd-and-6, which killed the drive. He was also flagged for a hold but upon second look, I believe the ref got the wrong number. It was center Jon Feliciano. The center played a poor game. Three pressures from a center are too many. MIN went with a stunt-heavy approach and his tracking + body control was all over the place. That said, like Glowinski, he came up with a couple key blocks in the running game including Barkley’s touchdown.


-Azeez Ojulari went down again with an injury. He had a sack in the first half, and they could have used him in those big moments of the second half. The lower body injuries with this kid are piling up and it does concern me. Rookie Kayvon Thibodeaux, coming off NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors, had 2 pressures and 6 tackles. Another good pursuit-game for him but he did get caught out of position on the screen pass to Justin Jefferson that set up MIN for the game-winning field goal. Over-committing is the glaring issue in his game right now.

-Jihad Ward had 4 tackles, 2 pressures, and a pass break up. Solid game for him as they kept him out of space-situations for nearly the entire game. Oshane Ximines saw his playing time tick up in the second half after the Ojulari injury, but he did not impact the game much. He was almost in on a sack, but Leonard Williams got there first a second before.


-Dexter Lawrence returned to his dominant ways despite playing just 75% of the snaps. Three straight weeks he is at that percentage or lower. He led the team with 5 pressures, one of which caused a sack. Lawrence is also showing outstanding awareness against middle screens. He sniffed two of them out and immediately broke on the play. Amazing to see a player this big move this fast.

-Leonard Williams aggravated a neck/shoulder injury on a missed tackle in the third quarter. He was having a disruptive game up until then with 4 tackles, 1 sack, a half-TFL, and 1 pressure. This defense is going to be dependent on this front four taking over against the porous IND offensive line next week. The question will be, if he plays, how much do you play him? 50% of the snaps getting the most out of him? Or 80+% of the snaps and risk injury in addition to a scaled back version of him. Tough call.

-Rookie Ryder Anderson can help answer the question. He had 2 tackles and a half-TFL. This marks the third-straight week the undrafted free agent has made a play behind the line of scrimmage. While he still plays like a weak link against the power-run game, it is an encouraging sign to see him make plays like this.

-Justin Ellis and Henry Mondeaux did not see the field much, and when they did, they weren’t very effective.


-MIN went pass-heavy on offense, but the inside running game gashed the NYG defense a few times. While I am not in the meeting rooms, these big running plays appear to be on the shoulders of linebackers Micah McFadden and Jaylon Smith. They are dancing with the blockers 4-5 yards from the line of scrimmage and a back like Dalvin Cook can toy with those creases all day. They did combine for 18 tackles, and both made plays at or behind the line of scrimmage. It was not a complete washout for them, but quality running games are going to eat these two up. In coverage, McFadden was abused on the first T.J. Hockenson touchdown. He simply cannot be relied on in space when dropping back. No feel, no length, no downfield speed.

-Landon Collins is becoming a more consistent presence on the defense. He had 4 tackles, 1 sack, and a third down pass break up as he played more than 25 snaps for the second week in a row. There are issues that come from him playing more and more, but I do think he is the lesser of two evils when looking at him and McFadden.


-Justin Jefferson is the best wide receiver in football. It is hard to look down on Fabian Moreau for getting torched by him, but it is the truth. You can see these two are not even in the same class when it comes to movement traits. He allowed almost all of the 10 targets thrown his way to be completed and was penalized for pass interference on a play where he intercepted a pass at the end of the second half.

-Cor’Dale Flott is improving every week. This is a good sign and exactly what many were hopeful for down the stretch of his rookie season. His 41 snaps tied a career high, and he added 2 tackles along with a pass break-up. That break-up was originally ruled an interception, but after reviewing it was clear the ball hit the ground. His movement traits are a step ahead of everyone else in this corner group.

-Nick McCloud and Darnay Holmes both walk away with positive grades for different reasons. McCloud’s was more coverage-based. While Adam Thielen has lost a step, McCloud blanketed him for most of the game. Excellent anticipation and feel. Holmes was beat multiple times, but his physical play made a difference in key moments down the stretch. Late in the game, he had a high-level third-down tackle and then a fourth-down pass break up on the next play. This was in the fourth quarter right before the NYG drive where Richie James dropped the third-down conversion pass, but NYG still put up three points to pull within one. As I said last week, teams are attacking him in key moments. The success rate overall is still low, but Holmes has the play-making potential, and he remains aggressive. That will end up making a positive difference at times.


-Julian Love and Jason Pinnock both played every snap. Both played a solid game, but between the two they did not make any game-changing plays. The defense could have used something here. Tall ask, I know. But in the league right now, we are seeing safeties make outcome-altering, or at least momentum-altering, plays at some point. While these two are more-than solid, that will need to be the next step for both. We need to see turnovers and/or plays behind the line of scrimmage at some point. Love allowed a touchdown on a play where tight end T.J. Hockenson made a catch that could not be defended. A brilliant play by him. That play also shows something you will hear me talk about often come draft time. Length matters, a lot. If his radius was just another 2-3 inches, I bet that pass is broken up. But he stands under 5’11” and his arms are under 32”. That brings us to 3 inches below average for league safeties when it comes to overall reach.

-Dane Belton played just one snap and Tony Jefferson had 1 tackle and 1 miss.


-K Graham Gano: 3/3 (Made 44, 44, 55)
-P Jamie Gillian: 3 punts / 43.0 avg; 30.5 net (1 punt blocked)


-WR Isaiah Hodgins, DT Dexter Lawrence, K Graham Gano


-LB Micah McFadden, OT Evan Neal, TE Daniel Bellinger


(1) MIN is now 11-0 in one-score games. There are two ways of looking at this. One, they aren’t head-and-shoulders above most teams they play against. They’re just +5 points in scoring differential. For comparison sake, the other first place teams in the league are: +157, +85, +22, +`106, +137, -38 (TB), and +145. Two, it means they are battle-tested in tight situations. They have more experience in tight-margin contests. And I do believe it helps in the playoffs. What is the conclusion here? This team is very beatable if NYG cross paths with them again. Very.

(2) Does anyone see how the MIN template relates to NYG? Especially on offense. A highly-paid quarterback who nobody is going to mistake for a top tier guy, but he is “good enough.” A high-quality running back who they locked into a long-term deal. Multiple first round picks along the offensive line. What is next for NYG if you are viewing this as the route to go? Drafting a first-round wide receiver (remember Jefferson was a #22 overall pick), quality depth behind him (veterans and picks), and constant day 1-2 draft picks used on the line. MIN’s entire offensive line is homegrown. They’re all 1st or 2nd rounders. And they’ve all been taken in the past five drafts.

(3) In the same breath, all of those resources put into the offense caused a lack of resources put into the defensive backfield. They’re overly reliant on Patrick Peterson and mid-to-late round picks in the secondary. If/when this team runs into a quality passing attack, it will do them in. It is not a coincidence the NYG passing game looked good against them.


(1) Win and in. NYG is right where a lot of teams want to be. Fortunately because of losses by WAS, DET, and SEA, they are in the best possible spot heading into a match-up against IND. I watched every snap of the IND game last night against LAC and I don’t think there are any teams in the NFL worse than IND. Things could not be lined up better for their final home game of the year. They have not won there since November 13 (vs HOU). Get the crowd in it, play clean football, and win the damn game. All hands on desk, you can rest Week 18. No questions asked. No excuses allowed.

(2) Watching Justin Jefferson run routes, track the ball, and create after the catch is such a bar setter. He is the top WR in football when looking at the combination of his traits. It also shows how far the gap is between what NYG has at corner and what exists out there at receiver. We will have plenty of time to discuss this once the season is over, but trying to up the quality at corner is a must-get for this team. Whether you believe in Adoree’ Jackson or not is irrelevant. NYG needs such a boost in quality at corner. Trust me, I know, it is a hard position to accurately project. That said, the 2022 rookie class at corner is having an enormous impact on the league right now.

(3) What does NYG have a tight end? I may have anticipated too much from Daniel Bellinger when he came back from the eye injury. At the end of the day, he is a rookie fourth-rounder who I knew would not provide above-average play right away. That is a tall ask for someone at that position. Because of how little depth they had at tight end when he went down, I simply thought we would see more. The blocking has been below average, but he did add an element to the passing game prior to the injury. We haven’t seen it come back yet. It is a subtle but important element to the offense.

Dec 232022
Daniel Jones, New York Giants (December 18, 2022)

Daniel Jones – © USA TODAY Sports

A talent-deficient New York Giants team has far surpassed preseason expectations. Following up on consecutive losing seasons 3-13, 5-11, 4-12, 6-10, and 4-13, with teams with arguably equal or better in talent, the Giants were supposed to be vying for another top-10 pick. Yet with three regular-season games remaining, the Giants find themselves with an 8-5-1 record and a decent shot at a playoff spot. In terms of the big picture, the most discouraging thing to come out of this year was losing five members of the 2022 draft class to season-ending injuries as well as the Kenny Golladay/Kadarius Toney fiascos.

The victory against the Washington Commanders was the most important game this franchise has played in since 2016. Not only did it keep their playoff aspirations alive, but it had been a long time since the Giants had won a prime time, nationally-televised game. It also prevented the Giants from the ignominy of potentially going winless in the NFC East. Entering that game, the New York was fading and Washington was surging. The Giants reversed that in dramatic fashion in hostile territory.

It’s quite possible that the game against the Commanders will be the final high note of the 2022 campaign. If it is, that’s OK. The Giants have two road games remaining, one against the 11-3 Minnesota Vikings and another against the 13-1 Philadelphia Eagles. The Giants are favored to lose both. The team’s playoff aspirations may come down to the New Year’s Day home game against the Indianapolis Colts. That contest is not a gimme. None are for the 2022 New York Giants.

The most realistic, best-case scenario for the Giants moving forward would probably be similar to their 1984 season. That was another Giants team that was supposed to finish dead last in the NFC East. They hung around .500, won three critical games in a row, but faded down the stretch, losing their last two games, including a 10-3 stinker against a bad New Orleans Saints team. The Giants backed into the playoffs on the next day when the Miami Dolphins beat the Dallas Cowboys. No one gave the Giants a chance in the Wild Card round as they had to travel to Anaheim to play a Los Angeles Rams team that crushed them during the regular season. The Giants pulled off a 16-13 upset. The loss the following week to the eventual Super Bowl Champion San Francisco 49ers did not hurt so much because most knew this Giants team had pretty much gone as far as it could given its talent level at the time.

The reason I bring this all up is I am curious to see how this all ends. Is the good stuff already over? Or do the Giants have a little more magic left in them? Can they pull off an upset in Minnesota or Philadelphia? Can they clinch a playoff spot with a win over the Colts? Do we dare to dream that they can even pull off one upset in the playoffs? That’s the storyline for the final few games.


  • TE Nick Vannett (shoulder – probable)
  • OT Evan Neal (shoulder – probable)
  • OG Shane Lemieux (toe – out)
  • DL Leonard Williams (neck – probable)
  • OLB Kayvon Thibodeaux (elbow – probable)
  • CB Adoree’ Jackson (knee – out)

Giants fans are pretty giddy this week because of the key win against Washington. The offensive highlight of that game was the 18-play, 97-yard drive that ended with a touchdown and a 14-3 lead. However, the same basic problem that has haunted the New York offense for years now remains: an inability to score sufficient points. Take away the defensive score, and the Giants scored 13 offensive points against Washington, and six of those came on two 50-yard field goals. Not good. Despite their winning record, the Giants are -25 in point differential this season and have average only 20.5 points per game. The fewest points the team has scored is 13, the most it has scored is 27. But if you went into each game predicting the Giants would score only 20 points, there is a good chance you would hit the nail on the head, just like in three of the last four games.

The problem for the Giants is they are facing a Minnesota Vikings team that is 8th in scoring (averaging 25 points per game). The Giants are going to have to score more than 20 points to win this game. The good news is they are facing a Minnesota defense that is dead last in yards allowed (399 yards per game), being 31st against the pass and 18th against the run. They are also 28th in scoring defense, allowing almost 25 points per game. That’s why their point differential is only +2 despite their impressive 11-3 record. Of course, the 40-3 drubbing they received by the Dallas Cowboys have skewed that number a bit.

Long story short is this: if the anemic New York Giants passing offense can’t make some plays against this defense, then we will know it is as bad as it has looked all season against far better defenses. The Vikings are not the Eagles (2nd overall, 1st against the pass), Commanders (3rd, 8th), Cowboys (8th, 3rd), etc.

That said, the Vikings do have some defensive players to worry about. Edge rusher Za’Darius Smith, who moves around all over the defensive front, is one of the top pass rushers in the league with 9 sacks and the second-highest pressure rate (76). Fellow edge defender Danielle Hunter leads Minnesota with 9.5 sacks. Left corner Patrick Peterson may be on the wrong side of 30, but he’s still a good player and can shut down anyone who the Giants line up against him. Safety Harrison Smith is an instinctive, wily veteran who makes plays on the football and has five interceptions. The left defensive end is our old friend Dalvin Tomlinson. Inside linebackers Eric Kendricks and Jordan Hicks have over 230 tackles between the two of them.

The Vikings will challenge Evan Neal in pass protection as well the interior of the line with Za’Darius Smith. Since the Vikings have given up so many passing yards, the temptation will be for Brian Daboll and Mike Kakfa to open up the passing game a bit more. That might be a bit dicey with Smith and Hunter prowling around. The short-passing game that gets the ball out of Jones’ hand quickly, preventing negative plays seems to be preventing the big mistake. In addition, Saquon Barkley is coming off a strong performance and the Vikings’ run defense, while stronger than their pass defense, is still mediocre. A few more deep shots off of play action may be justified, but it may be wise to largely stick with what the team does well at this point. Keep in mind, the big reason the Giants won last weekend was they won the turnover battle. The Giants will also want to maintain long drives to keep Minnesota’s offense off of the field as much as possible.

Big picture time. Of course winning or losing this game matters. But what is more important is this game will give the Giants’ brass yet another late-season read on Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley. Monumental contract decisions are about to be made.

As mentioned above, the Vikings are 8th in scoring. They are 13th overall in yards gained, 7th in passing and 28th in rushing. That does not bode well for a New York secondary that is still without two of its top three players in safety Xavier McKinney and cornerback Adoree’ Jackson.

There are five targets to worry about in the passing game: WR Justin Jefferson (111 catches, 1,623 yards, 7 touchdowns), WR Adam Thielen (66 catches, 686 yards, 5 touchdowns), WR K.J. Osborn (45 catches, 457 yards, 4 touchdowns), TE T.J. Hockenson (39 catches, 335 yards, 1 touchdown), and RB Dalvin Cook (33 catches, 265 yards, 2 touchdowns). For comparison, the top two targets on the Giants are Barkley (47 catches, 294 yards, 0 touchdowns) and WR Richie James (42 catches, 403 yards, 3 touchdowns).

The issues with the Minnesota passing game are twofold. First, Jefferson is a monster who is “open” even when he is double-covered. He’s arguably the game’s best receiver and no cornerback on the Giants right now is going to be able to handle him on a consistent basis. The best the Giants can hope and pray for is to limit the damage he does. Second, the Vikings have the ability to spread the ball around not only to two other receivers, but also their tight end and running back. Cook is really dangerous on screen passes. The Viking offense can effectively take what the defense gives them. This is what the New York offense is missing. Barkley and Bellinger can be used in the passing game, but the Giants simply don’t have three starting-caliber wideouts to threaten defenses down the field.

The 28th in rushing stat can also be a bit misleading. Cook has over 1,000 rushing yards, had scored eight rushing touchdowns (one less than Barkley), and is averaging 4.5 yards per carry (slightly better than Barkley). That said, expect Wink Martindale to once again play more defensive backs and take his chances with a lighter defensive front against the run (one of the key reasons why the Giants are 30th in run defense). In a nutshell, Wink has to pick his poison. He just doesn’t have the defensive backs to play it straight up.

Many eyes will be on “Defensive Player of the Week” Kayvon Thibodeaux, but Kayvon and Azeez Ojulari will be facing two good tackles in LT Christian Darrisaw and RT Brian O’Neill. Darrisaw is playing outstanding football in particular. The good news for the Giants is starting center Garrett Bradbury is out and the two guards have struggled in pass protection. This is game where Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence both could make a lot of noise.

QB Kirk Cousins has thrown for 24 touchdowns. He will likely go over 4,000 yards in this game. But he also has thrown 11 interceptions and fumbled five times (losing two). At times, he has had issues dealing with the blitz. I would expect some exotic looks from Martindale in this one.

Graham Gano is a big reason why the Giants are still alive. Jamie Gillan has also been punting better, including his kicks being downed inside the 20. The return game is still dicey however. For the Vikings, Kene Nwangwu has returned one kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown this year. On the flip side, the Vikings have had three kicks blocked this year (two by the kicker and one by the punter).

Head Coach Brian Daboll on Justin Jefferson: “Teams have him double teamed and a safety over the top of him, and Cousins is still throwing it to him. And you tell the quarterback, ‘Hey, there’s two guys there and a safety over there,’ but he trusts him. He’s an exceptional player. He’s tough to defend… They move him everywhere. So, obviously, he’s smart… He played in the slot; he played outside. Again, he’s a fun guy to watch when you’re not getting ready to play him. I’ve got a lot of respect for his game and what he’s done in the early part of his career.”

Both teams are coming off emotional wins, but the Vikings had one more day to prepare and did not lose a day to travel. Minnesota is also 7-1 at home. Without McKinney and Jackson, it’s tough to see how the Giants are going to match-up against the Minnesota passing game. Cook is also very capable of running wild. In addition, unless the Giants win the turnover margin again by +2 or more, it’s also tough to see the Giants scoring more than 20-24 points. That all said, if the Giants keep this close, or somehow manage to pull off the upset, this would be another statement win late in the season on par with the Commanders game.