Winter has come prematurely to the Northeast, at least at has to upstate New York where I live. It is, however, all sunshine and blue skies lately for the New York Giants. With that in mind, let’s offer up “Five things I think I think” about Big Blue this week.
The Giants are a 7-3 team
As we noted on Monday, the streaking Giants have NFL analysts confused. Are they really this good? If so, how did that happen? How can they keep winning with that under-achieving offense? Will they fall flat on their faces when their schedule gets tougher? Should they really be considered a contender?
It’s easy to dismiss the success of the 7-3 New York Giants. The team ranks 23rd in scoring, tied with the 49ers, and is 11th in points allowed; overall, the Giants have outscored opponents by only 4 points all year. In fact, the Giants haven’t won a single game by more than 7 points. Meanwhile, they rank 20th in yards per game and 16th in yards allowed per game and have benefited from a favorable schedule: The team has played only three true road games this year.1
Ahead of Week 11’s games, the Giants ranked 16th in both ESPN’s NFL Power Rankings and Football Outsiders’ Defense-adjusted Value Over Average, and their 6-point home win against a bad Bears team is unlikely to move those needles. And even after Sunday’s win, the Giants rank only 17th in FiveThirtyEight’s NFL Elo ratings.
So the Giants are just an average team that has lucked into a good record, right? That’s an easy conclusion, but the Giants have a history of sneaking up on the rest of the NFL, as they did in 2007 and 2011.
All we know for sure is what Bill Parcells famously said: “You are what your record says you are.”
What the record says is that the Giants are 7-3. That only four teams in the league have fewer losses. That the Giants, flawed as they are, have to be taken seriously.
Yes, the Giants have taken advantage of a favorable schedule during their winning streak, with four games at home and one in London against the offensively-challenged Los Angeles Rams. Of the five teams the Giants defeated, the best records belong to the 5-5 Baltimore Ravens and Philadelphia Eagles. So, the competition hasn’t been overwhelming. Yes, each and every game has been a nail-biter. Yes, you can find fault in some aspect of the Giants’ play in each of those games.
Reality is, though, that they won those games. The NFL is a league where very little separates good teams from bad, winning from losing, and Sunday’s game against Chicago was an example. For five straight weeks, the Giants have made those plays, the ball has bounced their way. Winning isn’t easy, so let’s just give them credit.
For now, let’s just enjoy where the Giants are. They already have more wins than they did in either of the past two seasons. For the first time in a long time, we will spend the final weeks of the season discussing playoff ramifications rather than who should be fired, hired or drafted.
Thanksgiving is almost here. With that in mind, let’s be thankful that — for the first time in a while — the Giants are still playing meaningful games.
The offensive line is still a long-term concern
Eli Manning did not get sacked on Sunday. The Giants ran the ball for more than 100 yards for the second straight week. Down to using Marshall Newhouse and Adam Gettis at left guard, the Giants are managing to get the job done.
That, however, doesn’t mean there aren’t still long-term issues on the. Per Pro Football Focus, Ereck Flowers surrendered nine pressures on Sunday, most to rookie Leonard Floyd. There is still the long-term question of whether Flowers, who has improved this season, belongs at left or right tackle. Who is the right guard of the future? Does Bobby Hart, have a long-term place in the starting lineup?
Whenever the offseason comes I think I will be surprised if the offensive line is not a high priority.
You have to be happy for Jason Pierre-Paul
When Jason Pierre-Paul blew his hand apart in that July 4, 2015 fireworks accident no one could be sure he would ever lead a normal life again, much less play football in the NFL. Even when he returned, I was never certain Pierre-Paul would ever be as dominant as he was Sunday against the Chicago Bears.
JPP playing the way he did Sunday is obviously good for the Giants. They needed every play he and the rest of his teammates made. On a personal level, though, I’m happy for the guy. He seems to be at peace, he’s enjoying playing, and he’s playing well.
Good for him.
I was OK with fourth-quarter play-calling
Giants’ fans can’t seem to figure out if they love or hate coach Ben McAdoo. The Giants are headed toward their best season since 2011, and the rookie coach has a lot to do with it. He’s shown guts on fourth down, with going for it twice paying off Sunday vs. the Bears. Yet, the struggling offense and the conservative play-calling in the fourth quarter Sunday still have many screaming for his head.
The Giants had four fourth-quarter possessions against Chicago. They ran the ball on first and second down on nine of 10 plays and generated only one first down. I’m not going to jump all over McAdoo for the play calls, as some have.
I always look at it like this. Good play calls are ones that work, even if they seem odd at the time. Any play that doesn’t work can be considered a bad play call, even if it seemed right. McAdoo’s gotten criticized at times for passing too much. Now, fans are screaming because he ran too much. Would I have liked to have seen a little more play-action pass on first or second down? Maybe. Fact is, nobody would be complaining if Odell Beckham had managed one more yard on a pair of fourth-quarter third-down completions. Or, if the Giants had opened a couple of holes for Rashad Jennings to run through.
Sunday will be interesting
Yes, the Giants face the 0-11 Cleveland Browns in a game they should win. Still, take nothing for granted after Sunday’s lifeless first half against the Bears. Also, the fact that this one brings the Giants away from MetLife Stadium for the first time in a month adds a bit of intrigue.
A stumble against the woeful Browns would be devastating. Let’s see if they can avoid that.