October 2006


I. 

This win was big for many reasons, which we’ll get to in a bit, but let me first indulge in some schedule-speculation. Right now, despite our uneven start against some of the league’s best teams, we’re 2-2, tied for second place in the NFC East with the Cowboys, and trailing the Eagles – a team that we beat on their home field – by a game and a half.

I’d love to say that the schedule eases up from this point on, but unfortunately, it kinda doesn’t. Nevertheless, of our remaining twelve games, there are four which I would consider easy, “slam-dunk” games that we should count on winning:

Tampa

Houston

at Tennessee

New Orleans

Yes, I know, New Orleans is 4-1, but 1) Let’s see them keep it up.  And 2) It’s a home game.  This puts us at six wins, with eight left over.

I figure that 10-6 will probably be enough to put us in the playoffs, either as a wild card or as the division winner, which means that we have to split these eight games to put us in a position to go to the playoffs. The remaining eight are:

at Atlanta

at Dallas

Chicago

at Jacksonville

Dallas

at Carolina

Philadelphia

at Washington

That’s a tough slate, but considering that we just split our first four, there’s really no reason to think that we can’t split these eight. And hopefully we’ll do even better. Today’s performance should convince us that we’re a legitimate Super Bowl contender, and that we’re capable of winning each of these games if we play well.  4-4 in these games, and 8-4 over our last twelve, is eminently doable. And that’s the minimum.  You’ve gotta think that 9-3 or 10-2 is within the realm of possibility.

II.

Was anyone else a little pissed that the G-Men were utterly slept-on amid the T.O. — Eagles soap opera? We kept on hearing about how that game was the NFC East showdown, but last I checked, it was the Giants and ‘Skins who made the playoffs last year, not the Cowboys and Eagles. After today, the Giants are the only team in the super-tough NFC East that is undefeated within the division: The Eagles and Cowboys are 1-1, and the ‘Skins are 0-2.

 

III.

Ok, the game itself. How good was our defense? We held a Redskin offense that had put up 36 points and over 400 yards against a Jacksonville D to 164 total yards on just 10 first downs.

Most impressive was our pass defense, which had been by far the weakest part of the team until Sunday. We held the ‘Skins to just 86 net passing yards (including sacks), and held Santana Moss, who had torched us for 160 yards last year and was coming off a 138 yard, 3 touchdown performance, to 39 yards on just three catches.

The pass rush finally showed up. Strahan and Osi each recorded a sack, and Fred Robbins continued his strong play; it seems like ages ago when he was considered a soft spot on the most vulnerable part of our defense.

Overall, it was an absolutely dominant performance against an offense that came into the game on a hot streak. Hopefully, it will be a sign of things to come. Remember, the D really, really struggled at the beginning of last year too before turning it around and becoming, for a six-week stretch, a dominant unit.

Because of the poor defensive performances down the stretch of last year, people tend to forget about this stretch of excellence that spanned week 5 (when we last trounced the ‘Skins at the Meadowlands) through week 13 (when we came out in red jerseys and earned a gritty win over the Cowboys). During this stretch, our defense posted DVOAs of -96.9%, -21.9%, -55.8%, 11.2%, -39.6%, and -32.6%. That means that over that six game stretch, we averaged a defensive DVOA of -39.3%.  Think about that.

When did that stretch come to an end? When Antonio Pierce suffered a season-ending knee injury against the Eagles the next week. After that, the dominoes kept falling, and our D ended the year as the depleted unit that looked forebodingly vulnerable against the Raiders before getting embarrased by the Panthers.

But in between the beginning of the year – when the new faces on defense were hadn’t yet coalesced — and the end of the year – when all our guys were hurt – we put together a stretch of dominant ball.

There is no reason to think that this year’s D can’t duplicate this, and with a little luck and a little health, perhaps maintain a high level through the post-season and all the way to Glendale.

IV.

The Giants and ‘Skins have always been bitter rivals, so despite LaVar taking the high road this week by refusing to indulge in any shit-talking, it’s good to see that there’s some animosity between the two teams.

Here’s an article that was in a few of the papers of Monday. According to Brandon Jacobs and Rich Seubert, the ‘Skins are a dirty team – they take cheap shots at the bottom of the pile and twist ankles.

We all saw their conduct in the game’s waning seconds when the G-Men were taking knees to run out the clock, when the ‘Skins defenders charged hard into our sedentary linemen. Eli even had to take a couple of frantic steps back to clear himself of any potentially falling 300 lb. bodies before kneeling down.

A classic bush move. High School teams are taught not to pull that childish shit.

V.

Here’s an excellent piece by John Clayton about how the Giants kept to basics and played the fundamental, dominant ball on both sides that they’re capable of playing.

Ok, big game. We’re not exactly done if we fall to 1-3, but it will certainly be an uphill climb. After this, we play at Atlanta and at Dallas, and if we lose to Washington, you wouldn’t really expect us to win both of those games. After that, we have a bit of a soft spot in the schedule as we host Tampa Bay and Houston. 

So if we lose this game and win three out of the next four, which is optimistic, but not unrealistic, we’ll be 4-4. Not exactly what we expected, but still probably on track to make a second half run. If we win, we can take three of the next four and move to 5-3, which would pretty much places us right on track to where we wanted to be at the beginning of the season, after the brutal opening 6 games. So, to state the completely obvious, it’s, uh… better if we win this game.  

Offense:

The past few years, the ‘Skins have boasted an excellent defense and a mediocre offense. This year, it’s more like the other way around. After a slow first couple of weeks in which they went 0-2 and threatened to get buried in the tough NFC East, the Redskins have turned it around on the strength of their offense, who have scored 31 and 36 points the past couple of games. This year, they rank 7th overall in the NFL with an 18.2% DVOA. The good offense is led by their passing game (26.3% DVOA), but their running attack is no slouch (8.5% DVOA).

This is a tough offense that has been playing great the past couple of games. And they are playing against a Giants defense that has not shown much, posting a 9.8% DVOA, 27th in the league. Obviously, it’s been the pass defense that’s killed us. Not that anyone needs a statistic to show this, but the G-Men have been really, really terrible in pass defense, with a 35.9% pass DVOA. The run defense has actually been very good, with a -19.4% DVOA – but it’s a little hard to judge the run DVOA because on a decent number of defensive plays this season, we’ve been getting blown out, whether it was during the Eagles game or the Seahawks game.

 

Quarterback:

Bill Simmons hits the Mark Brunnell enigma on the head in his weekly column: “The past few years, no athlete has vascillated from ‘completely horrendous and inept’ to ‘totally rejuvenated’ more times than Mark Brunnell. Do you think the rest of his life is like this? Like, he’s a fantastic husband one week, then the next week, he’s peeing on toilet seats and refusing to take out the trash, then he’s right back to being a good husband again?”

So who knows which Brunnell will show up. The one who was brutal and looked totally over-the-hill during the first two weeks, or the one who came back to complete 22 straight passes in week 3, and then went 18-30 for 329 yards and 3 touchdowns against the Jags’ excellent defense? The one who was 11-28, for 65(!) yards against the Giants last October? Or the one who came back with a respectable effort to lead an offense that put up 35 points on the Giants later in the year?

Nobody knows with Brunnell, but overall, the guy isn’t bad. Last year, he threw for 3,050 yards, 23 touchdowns, and only 10 picks. Of course, it helps to have Santana Moss and Chris Cooley.

He’s not as mobile as he used to be, but he can still break big first down runs, and he’s very good at throwing on the run. He has the tendencies to fumble and throw picks, so the Giants pass rush must show up.

 

Offensive Line:

A pretty good run-blocking unit that isn’t so good in pass protection. Last year, they finished 5th in the league in Adjusted Line Yards, a FootballOutsiders stat designed to separate running back performance from O-Line performance. And judging by their 8.5% rush DVOA this year, the run blocking is strong again this year.

Last year’s performance in pass blocking was another story, though. While the Redskins ranked a respectable 16 in Adjusted Sack Ratio, another FootballOutsiders stat that measures how many sack attempts an offense allows per passing play, Mark Brunnell was hurried a NFL-high 128 times.

This year, however, they’re doing a good job protecting Brunnell. He’s been sacked only 6 times in 4 games, tied for 8th fewest in the league.

 

Receivers:

A formidable group, led by Santana Moss, who absolutely lit the Giants up last December for 160 yards on 5 catches. Santana’s up to his old tricks again: He had 138 yards last week against Jacksonville, including the game-winning 68-yarder. According to the end of this Sean Lahman article, the Giants might stick Corey Webster on him and try to jam Moss at the line. Disrupting the timing of the routes and getting pressure on Brunnell might be the only way to neutralize the Skins’ potent passing attack.

Brandon Lloyd, their second receiver, has always had better talent than production. He makes some spectacular catches, but this year, he has only 75 yards on 6 catches.

Antwaan Randle-El is an excellent slot/third receiver. He’s a quick, tough, playmaker, who is good at getting through bump coverage. The Giants safeties and nicklebacks will have a tough time with him: He’s a guy that can get some big first downs. Randle-El is also an extremely dangerous punt returner, arguably the best in the NFL.

Finally, they boast an excellent Tight End in Chris Cooley, who is going to put pressure on our linebackers and safeties. Cooley catches everything thrown his way: last year, his 69% catch percentage was better than Antonio Gates, Jeremey Shockey, Tony Gonzalez, and Todd Heap, trailing only Jason Whitten among top-flight tight ends. A guy like Cooley means that blitzing linebackers and safeties becomes a very risky proposition, making it all the more important that we get pressure from our front four.

 

Running Backs:

It looks as though Clinton Portis is over the shoulder injury he suffered during the preseason. Two weeks ago, he rushed for 86 yards on just 16 carries, and last week, against a tough Jaguars defense, he carried the ball 27 times for 112 yards. Portis is a quick back who runs low and hard. He hits holes quickly and with authority, breaks arm-tackles, and can break big runs. The Giants defense will have its hands full.

 

 

Defense:

While the Skins’ offense has been good, the defense has been shaky. This is surprising: Four out of the last five years, the Redskins have boasted a defense in the top 10 of the NFL. But this year, because of a pass-defense that’s been almost as inept as the Giants pass-D (20.6% DVOA, 25 in the league), the once-vaunted defense has slipped.

Despite the bad pass defense, the Skins’ run defense has actually been really good: their -21.5 DVOA places them 8th in the league. They were very good against the run last year, too, ranking 9 in the league with a -14.5% DVOA.

 

Defensive Line:

The Redskins front four struggles rushing the passer – their down-linemen registered only half of the team’s sacks last year, the lowest percentage for teams that ran a 4-3 defense. This year hasn’t been much different. The ‘Skins have seven sacks this year, which places them in the bottom third of the league.

Andre Carter will line up on one end against Kareem McKenzie. Carter is a quick pass-rushing type, but his lack of strength makes him susceptible against the run. Nevertheless, he enjoys a substantial quickness advantage over McKenzie and could present problems with his speed-rush.

At the other end is Philip Daniels, a big, strong, physical end who is better against the run than the pass. He shouldn’t present too much of a problem for Petitgout in pass protection.

The tackles are former Giant Cornelius Griffin and John Salave’a.

 

Linebackers:

Outside linebacker Marcus Washington is one of the better outside linebackers in the league. He can do many things, including rushing the quarterback, and already has two forced fumbles this year.

Middle linebacker Lemar Marshall is a little undersized at 227 pounds, but he is a quick guy who is good in pass coverage.

The other outside ‘backer, Warrick Holdman, is solid. He’s a quick good player in space, but like the other linebackers, can be blocked.

Overall, this isn’t the most physical linebacking corps – the Giants could be able to power-run against these guys.

 

Defensive Backs:

This has been a real weakness for the ‘Skins because Shawn Springs, one of the best cover guys in the league last year, is still out with an abdominal tear that he suffered in August. In his place, Mike Rumph and Kenny Wright have been vulnerable. The ‘Skins 20.6% DVOA against the pass speaks for itself – they’ve been very bad (though not nearly as bad as the G-Men). In their last game, Byron Leftwich went 21-35 for 289 yards (for an average of 83 yards per attempt), and 3 touchdowns. They’ve been getting passed on all year in Springs’ absence.

The other corner, Carlos Rogers, is a good up-and-coming player. But at 5-11, 200 lbs, he’ll have a tough time with the 6-5, 232 lb. Plaxico.

The Redskins have a couple of intimidating hitters at the safeties in Sean Taylor and Adam Archuleta. Both of them are also good against the pass.

The key to the Giants success against this defense is giving Eli time to pick them apart, and then picking on the corner spot that’s been left vulnerable by Springs’ injury.

 

 

« Previous Page