Ed: I asked my readers this one earlier in the week, so I will toss it to you as well. Giants are 6-3, tied for the top spot in the NFC East. Would you call yourself optimistic that the next seven games will go well and the Giants are playoff-bound, or pessimistic that they are headed for another second half of the season fall?
Pat: I don't like to look too far ahead because as we saw last week, there's no such thing as a "gimme" win. I think a more important question to ask is why are the same fundamental mistakes happening week after week (penalties at critical times, turnovers, mental errors, etc.) and why can't this team clean it all up once and for all? We've seen now two instances where these recurring mistakes have bitten them hard, and I believe they were lucky in a few other games (such as the first Dallas game, which they should have lost given all the miscues they had in that one.) If they can finally clean all these little bugaboos up and get some of these injured guys back healthy, then I can see them being a playoff team, though how far they go would remain to be determined depending on the final seeding.
Ed: Eli Manning passed for an impressive 373 yards last week, so on the face of it the Giants did not miss Steve Smith. To my eyes, though, there were some subtle issues with guys running routes too short and not getting first downs, too long and causing incompletions, etc. Did you see the same thing, and how much trouble is the offense in without Smith, and now Ramses Barden?
Pat: I did see the same thing. Mario Manningham, to our eyes at Inside Football, was sloppy with his route running at time and dare I say it, sometimes I had flashbacks of Sinorice Moss - a guy with wonderful track speed, but not much else. So yes, Smith is a huge loss to that offense because I think he runs the most difficult routes and does a good job with it.
Ed: I have been a little concerned that people have over-estimated the one-on-one coverage skills of both Terrell Thomas and Corey Webster, who each had pretty rough games against Dallas. What are you seeing from these guys, and how do you feel the secondary holds up against DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin?
Pat: Right now, Thomas concerns me more so than Webster (who in retrospect might have been dealing with a turf toe that limited him in practice this week, which might be why he had a rough outing against Dallas). Thomas is someone who sometimes I can't figure out. Sometimes he looks like a top cornerback, but then the consistency isn't always there. I asked him once if he perhaps put too much on his shoulders and that maybe it was weighing him down a bit. He admitted that might have been the case, but then added that he's always been that way. Well sometimes you have to walk before you run, and in this league, consistency is key. Thomas has the skills and the talent; he just needs to bring it EVERY play, and I think he knows that.
Ed: Everyone loves Perry Fewell, and for the most part the Giants defensive coordinator has done a great job. There was, however, the very odd game plan against Indianapolis and there was some confusion last week in the defense and a lack of pressure. What I'm seeing, I think, is that Fewell seems to get stuck on his "plan" sometimes and doesn't make great in-game adjustments. Agree or disagree?
Pat: Agree. Sometimes I think Fewell tries to outsmart himself. One player told me that on both occasions you mentioned, they tried something new that didn't work. I've always prescribed to what the late Vince Lombardi used to preach about sticking with what works until your opponent finds a way to stop it. The Giants defense needs to play into their strengths and the rest will take care of itself.
Ed: With Michael Vick's devastating ability to run the ball do you expect to see the Giants send 5-6 guys on the pass rush regularly, or to rush four, try to contain the edges the best they can and play zone behind it so the linebackers and DBs can see Vick when he takes off?
Pat: I think the latter. If you send 5-6 guys at Vick, then you're potentially creating mismatches in your coverage - and the Eagles have perhaps the best receivers of any team the Giants have faced so far this year, in my opinion.