Lots to talk about with Ernie Palladino this week. Our common set of questions this time around deal with Eli Manning, Antonio Pierce's successor and the New York Giants' playoff chances.
As usual, Ernie's answers are below. Mine can be found over at Ernie's Giants Beat.
1. Eli Manning said the Giants have had a few team meetings in recent weeks. Do you think these things are overrated?
Ernie's Answer: Judging by the results they've had lately, yeah, hugely. But I'm really being more sarcastic than serious there. Seriously, uh, yeah, I still think they're overrated. It's funny that you only hear about these things when a team wins. Somehow, a team leader gets up there and reminds his guys that, "Hey, we've lost 11 of the last 12, and that's kind of sucky," and his guys get all charged up and go out and kill somebody. I think, in the long run, they're okay to have. But the value just isn't there unless it shows up on the field, immediately. If I was a Giants player right now, I'd rely less on Justin Tuck or Eli or anybody else orating in the middle of the room and more on my own study habits and work ethic. So, yeah, I think they're overrated.
2. Now that Antonio Pierce is on the IR, do you think his Giants career is done, and who will man the MLB spot next season?
Ernie's Answer: Boy. Tough question. In my heart, I'd love to see Chase Blackburn there. He's a tough, gritty kid who'll do just about anything for playing time. No dummy, either. But he's not what you'd call a dynamic player. Since we won't know anything about Jonathan Goff until he makes his first start Sunday, we have to eliminate him for now. So my head is telling me that next year's starting middle linebacker isn't on the team yet. It won't be a rookie -- the way Jerry Reese drafts linebackers, that'd be a hell of a reach -- but there surely will be somebody on the free agent market able to play the middle. Unless the NFL comes to an agreement with the players association on a new contract, 2010 will be an uncapped year. So the Giants had better put aside a lot of money if a quality guy comes loose, because he'll probably be the starter in the middle.
3. Do you believe Manning when he says the newly-discovered "stress reaction" in his right foot is not bothering him, and why?
Ernie's Answer: Yes, I do. Oh, I'm sure there's some pain there and all. But look at it this way. They discovered this thing around the week of the bye. He's practiced through it, and he's played through it. More than that, he played San Diego and Atlanta with it, and executed the offense in two very different manners. Against San Diego, he was able to step into his short throws and put them on a line to his receivers. Against Atlanta, he got off a bunch of big passes without apparently favoring the foot. And in both cases, he either moved in the pocket to buy time or outright scrambled away from pressure. He didn't look like a hurting quarterback to me. Let's just not talk about Denver, where he was given little chance to do anything. It hurt just watching that game, let alone playing in it. But that goes for everybody on that team. I'm just not convinced that his foot is so bad that he can't operate.
4. We'll ask the question again. Can this team make the playoffs?
Ernie's Answer: Yes. But that's not saying they will. They have to pull themselves together first, and I'm not sure that can happen with their current injury situation. The defensive and offensive lines have to find whatever they've lacked the last six games, and they need a middle defense. But if they can find that, and beat Dallas and Philadelphia to get to 8-5, then anything is possible. I say that because neither Dallas, Philly, or any of the wildcard candidates have convinced me they're going to run away and hide from anybody. You think Dallas isn't capable of going into a slide? Philadelphia, who lost to Oakland earlier this year? Certainly Green Bay can take a few losses. And the Giants already have a tiebreaker advantage over Atlanta. So, sure, it can happen. But the Giants need to fix up their own house first, and at this point that's kind of like turning an outhouse into a mansion. Not an easy job.
(E-mail Ed at email@example.com)