We need to figure out a way to keep the NFC East away from prime-time television. I just can't take it anymore. Both the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles have maxed out their quota for night games in 2015, and the Dallas Cowboys have had five of them. Even Washington had four scheduled spotlight appearances, and they were terrible last year. What's the fascination here?
Personally, I hate the late time slot. I live in Ireland. Those games don't even kick off until 1.30 a.m. here. Monday night's game against the Miami Dolphins finished up close to 5 a.m. and because the Giants won, their Minnesota Vikings match-up got moved to Sunday Night Football. Guys, I can't do this. I can't keep staying up that late. Sure, it helps when the Giants win, but when they don't, and suddenly, it's morning already. Ugh. That's the worst feeling. Like imagine your worst possible New Year's Eve party and then add in emotional distress.
Thankfully, this week wasn't too bad. I may have woken up the neighbors shouting about certain receivers managing to stay in bounds for game winning touchdowns. Just may have.
On Monday night, Eli Manning threw as many touchdowns as he did incompletions. His 87.1 completion percentage was phenomenal, and ranked as the third-highest for a game by any quarterback in Giants history (minimum 10 pass attempts). Phil Simms owns both top spots on that list, with one of the two games being the 1986 Super Bowl beat down of the Denver Broncos.
But would you believe that this is just the second time in Manning's career that he threw with at least 80 percent efficiency? His other game came in Week 5 of 2009 when he completed a neat 8 out of 10 passes for 173 yards and two touchdowns against the Oakland Raiders.
Of course, his game this week was much more impressive that that outing. For starters, his first 80 percent game came for an offense that ran for 220 yards and three touchdowns. The 2015 Giants have only managed more than 100 yards twice this season. There really is no comparison.
Even outside of rushing help, this game was dramatically better than the first one. His completion percentage was seven points higher, he had twice the number of touchdowns, and twice the yardage. There's a strong chance this was Manning's single best game as a quarterback -- at least on paper. This isn't a detailed film study with opinionated grades. This is a simple look at the raw numbers. There have definitely been more important games -- comebacks, and playoffs, and Super Bowls -- but there may not be a stronger box score than this one in Manning's career.
With the Giants, Rashad Jennings has just two games where he achieved more than 100 yards from scrimmage. The first was a 176-yard thrashing of the Houston Texans in Week 3 of last year. The other game was Monday night, and he reached that target just barely when he gained 102 all purpose yards from 22 rushing attempts and two pass receptions.
Many saw it as a breakout night for a running back in a gang of underachievers, and this is a problem, because it really highlights the low expectations for this team's ground game. Jennings had 22 carries and for 81 yards. That's just 3.6 yards per attempt. That's actually lower than his season average (3.7). So, why have beat reports been piling praise on Jennings' performance?
Well, it may come down to the fact that while his yardage totals may be a result of volume rather than pure skill, it was refreshing to see the Giants actually trust one player with that many snaps. For the past two years, it's been running back by committee, and it hasn't worked. In this case, the volume rather than the production was enough to get people riled up.
It's possible that the coaching staff has finally seen what we've all known for weeks; that Andre Williams is not a good player. He adds nothing in terms of the passing game, he runs into the back of linemen, and was responsible for the Giants' lone turnover on Monday night -- a fumbled hand-off late in the second quarter. I jokingly tweeted out during the game that Williams might be in the bottom one percent of NFL running backs. I was joking. Just a joke. I knew this wasn't true. I mean, he's not that bad, right?
No, but it's very close. I took some criteria that I thought was fair and judged Williams according to the parameters I set (which are outlined just below), he lands in the bottom two percent. I did not know this going in to my test, and you can bet that I laughed upon seeing the result.
Here's how I came to my answer. The golden measurement of most running backs is yards-per-attempt. There are other factors that go into that number -- such as blocking, alignment, formation -- but for ease of comparison across the board, YPA is a handy signifier of running back success. To begin with, I excluded all other position groups because quarterbacks and wide-receivers do sometimes run with the ball, but usually as a distraction or trick play and would skew the overall YPA rankings heavily in favor of outlier statistics.
After excluding all but the running backs and sorting by YPA, I limited my results to players with more than 40 rushing attempts on the season. I took this number because it represents roughly two games of starting quality, three in a basic timeshare, and four in a heavy rotation. This should cover most running backs in the league, but potentially remove any low-level back-up who gets one or two big carries in garbage time against a tired defense and then ends up on the practice squad the following week.
At the end of all of our sorting and pruning, Williams' 2.77 YPA ranks 67th out of 68 eligible players. He lands in the 2nd percentile. My joke was wrong, but given that it was intending to utilize hyperbole for comedic effect, yet just barely misses a pinhead target, I'm pretty damn proud of myself.
The Downright Confusing
Somewhat amazingly, the Giants defense was good at defending deep passes despite giving up a 47-yard touchdown to Kenny Stills. On the night, Ryan Tannehill completed three of his 12 deep passes for 89 yards. Half of this yardage came on the Stills touchdown, so that's not so bad, but the interesting thing here is that the Dolphins were tearing apart the Giants with shorter underneath routes, yet opted for a far riskier strategy.
When targeting receivers less than 15 yards downfield, Tannehill was 22-of-28 for 147 yards. Combine this with a read-option run scheme that the Giants had no answer for, and it's clear that lobbing bombs and crossing your fingers was a bad gameplan for the Dolphins. It's no surprise that either the read-option or short passes were effective against the Giants, but it was surprising to see a team come in, have success with it, and then direct their attention elsewhere.
It didn't make sense, and the inability to capitalize on exposed flaws is the hallmark of an inexperienced coach. This Miami staff is entirely new to their duties as both coordinators and head honcho Dan Campbell were elevated to higher roles since the season started. For the most part, they have been better than their predecessors, but this week they let a potential win slip away to a slumping Giants team.
Odell Beckham Jr. He's like a tall guy with a small blanket. You just can't cover him, man. You're going to need a quilt. I love this guy— Jon Gruden (@Faux_Gruden) December 15, 2015
Odell Beckham Jr. is what I like to call a "primate receiver". This term is stolen from an old geography textbook I used in school that describes any city in a given country which contains at least twice the population of the next biggest city. For football, I'm using the term to describe a player whose statistics are double that of the next best player at his position for his team. When comparing Beckham with his running mate Rueben Randle, nobody is going to argue otherwise.
Here are some facts about the Giants' primate receiver.
- If the season ended today, Beckham would possess both first and second place in the franchise record for most yards per game in a season.
- Factoring in both his bad and good days, Beckham averages seven receptions per game for an average of 105 yards and a touchdown (Well, almost. 25 games and 24 touchdowns).
- Beckham needs 217 yards over the final three games to achieve the franchise record for most receiving yards in a season (Victor Cruz, 1536 yards, 2011).
- Beckham needs two touchdowns over the final three games to achieve the franchise record for most receiving touchdowns in a season (Homer Jones, 13 touchdowns, 1967).
- Beckham needs 17 catches over the final three games to achieve the franchise record for most receptions in a single season (Steve Smith, 107 receptions, 2009).
And here comes the fun part that will get everyone's knickers in a twist. Watch this. Are you ready for it? You're not going to like it. Beckham's success is a product of the system.
I told you. Hear me out though, because I'm talking about "system" in terms of era. Modern passing attacks have accelerated the statistics of a huge number of players. Beckham is not alone in this, and nor does it detract from his on-field accomplishments, but should he put together an extensive resume worthy of the Hall of Fame someday, this will be something that is discussed.
But he plays in a league that has averaged 22.6 and 21.9 completions for 245.2 and 236.8 yards per game. 2014-15 rank 1 and 2 in both stats.— Bryan Frye (@LaverneusDingle) December 15, 2015
Nobody is doubting that Beckham is a great player. Nobody is doubting that Beckham is a great player. That's not a typo. I typed that twice because I felt it needed to be said and said again. It's merely that when historians look back on two 1,300+ yard seasons to start his career, it may not look that impressive alongside the 2028 standard of 2,000 receiving yards for each team's top guy.
Beckham is a true stat-book warrior of our time, and there's no predicting the future, but the trend has been heading in one distinct direction for several decades now. It'll be interesting to see if history can remember the spectacle as well as it remembers the stats.