It wasn't ideal or perfect by any means, but the New York Giants got their first win of the season last Thursday. With a 32-21 victory over division rival Washington, Big Blue notched one in the win column and put themselves firmly in the race for the NFC East. It took a while, but Tom Coughlin's boys managed one of their better outings in recent years to take home a dub'ya that wasn't as close as the scoreline indicated.
Many say the only number that matters is the number of wins, but in order to see how those come about, we need to look a little deeper.
For the first two weeks, this graph has ended up in the 'Downright Confusing' section, and that was mostly down to the Giants blowing fourth quarter leads, but this week, well, they freakin' won. Just look at that beautiful win probability line. If that represented stocks, we'd all be rich right now.
Entering the fourth quarter on Thursday, the Giants had a 99.3 percent chance of winning. The only thing worth noting is that New York did crumble down the stretch, but this didn't really affect their win probability. They were only up by 12 entering the fourth quarter, though this was quickly followed by a 30-yard strike to Odell Beckham Jr. which made that a 19-point lead.
0_0 In his last 16 games, Eli Manning has just 10 interceptions... with five coming in one game against SF. 0_0— Football Perspective (@fbgchase) September 25, 2015
Eli Manning has flourished in Ben McAdoo's ultra-conservative offense. Like these game plans are borderline Republican, but whatever, they're working. McAdoo is terrified of Bad Eli, and Manning is a simple player who succeeds when he doesn't have to overthink things.
That five-interception game against the San Francisco 49ers wasn't even that bad. The team was in it right until the end, and that defense was considered one of the best units in the league. Two of those interceptions weren't really that bad either; a deep shot to Rueben Randle on third down, and another on fourth down in the red zone. All interceptions are bad, but some are a bit more forgivable. Either way, that 49ers game was an outlier.
Only 3.3 percent of Giants' drives in 2015 have ended in a turnover, second only to the Green Bay Packers, and excellence in this area can be traced to the fact that Manning is one of only three starting quarterbacks to not have thrown an interception. He's in good company with Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady.
The Giants manage to be a top-10 scoring team despite having the ball less times than any other team because they are the third-best in scoring drives, registering points on exactly half of all possessions, including a league-high nine field goals in 2015. The positive turnover margin certainly helps, but this isn't a one-dimensional achievement, and it's integral in factoring how the Giants fare going forward.
The Giants have led in games for 117 minutes and 14 seconds out of a possible 180 minutes in 2015. This means they have been ahead of their opponent 65.1 percent of the time, yet have only emerged with a 1-2 record.
In 2014, they allowed just three games of 300+ yards passing. Through three games in 2015, the Giants have already equaled this number. It comes as no surprise that, as a result of this, the team is the league-worst pass defense both in terms of yardage (1,007) and completed passes allowed (96). That's an average of 32 completions per game, and that's embarrassing.
This week was a little different because New York was winning comfortably, but it's still disconcerting to see the defense shift to "prevent" looks towards the end of the game. If you found a way to win at the beginning, don't change it at the end. If you have to, bench your starters and have the backups go full-throttle.
The Downright Confusing
The Coughlin Giants are 4-2 on Thursday night games, while their opening day record is 4-8 under that same period. It's difficult to understand how a team could be better with only four days preparation as opposed to the huge amount of time afforded to study a team in the off-season. You expect good coaches to prepare their teams for season openers, and could perhaps forgive them for not being able to get a win on a short week. Somehow, those positions are reversed for Coughlin.
32nd / 3rd
The 2015 defense is polarized. On the one hand, they boast a strong run defense. Heading into Thursday's game, Washington lead the league in rushing yardage, yet the Giants defense allowed just 88 yards on 20 rushing attempts. On the other, their pass defense is atrocious and permitted yet another poor fourth quarter to sneak into the record books.
Right now, the Giants defense is league-worst in terms of first-downs allowed by passing (56), yet assembled a rushing defense that has allowed just 12 first downs -- good for third-best in the league. Teams are likely wise to this, and are forgoing the ground game in favor of an aerial attack. Let's hope the Giants are able to adjust. The division is wide open. They cannot let another season slip away.