New York Giants: John Beck

Final Word: NFC East

November, 25, 2011
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 12:

Redskins will have to (gulp) throw. The Seattle Seahawks are allowing 100 rushing yards a game (the eighth-lowest figure in the league) and only 3.5 yards a carry (the fourth-best figure in the league). Meanwhile, the Washington Redskins, for whom the running game was such a big key in their early-season success, have become one of the worst rushing teams in the league. Their 83 rushing yards a game ranks better than only two teams -- the New York Giants and the Tennessee Titans -- and their 3.7 yards a carry ranks 27th. They're also not committing to the run the way they intended to, as only two teams in the league -- the Colts and the Buccaneers -- have had fewer rushing attempts. This is clearly not the week for the Redskins to get their run game back on track, which means the passing game and Rex Grossman. The good news there is that, according to ESPN Stats & Information, the Redskins are averaging 10.6 more pass yards per game and 8.1 more points per game with Grossman as the quarterback than they were when John Beck was the quarterback.

Weird, likely irrelevant historical note. The game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the New England Patriots is the 13th matchup this season between teams that have played each other in the Super Bowl. That bodes ill for the Eagles, who lost to the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX, because only three of the previous 12 rematches have gone to the team that lost the Super Bowl matchup. The Packers beat the Broncos this year, and the Bills and Dolphins both beat the Redskins, though the Dolphins-Redskins game gets an asterisk because they met in two Super Bowls and split them. Either way, if you're the Eagles, Terrell Owens isn't walking through that door. And Tom Brady is.

[+] EnlargeLeSean McCoy
Dale Zanine/US PresswireLeSean McCoy's 3.61 rush yards per attempt before contact is the third-best figure in the league this season among runners with at least 50 attempts.
Eagles should get some push. Eagles running back LeSean McCoy is thriving with the help of one of the best run-blocking offensive lines in the league this season. ESPN Stats & Info says McCoy's 3.61 rush yards per attempt before contact is the third-best figure in the league this season among runners with at least 50 attempts. The good news this week is that the Patriots give up 2.74 yards per contact to opposing runners, which is the sixth-highest number in the league. So if the Eagles commit to the run, they have a chance against Brady and the Pats. Of course, that's a fairly big "if"...

Jacobs not toughing it out. I've said many times here, and still believe, that the Giants' run-game problems are thanks to the poor performance of their offensive line and that people have been too hard on Brandon Jacobs and the running backs. However, there is some proof, courtesy of ESPN Stats & Info, that Jacobs could be doing more to help his own cause. Jacobs is averaging just 1.61 rushing yards per carry after contact, which is the fourth-lowest figure in the league among running backs with at least 90 carries. Each of the three backs behind him on that list -- Cedric Benson, Rashard Mendenhall and Chris Johnson -- weighs at least 37 pounds less than Jacobs, whose size used to be among his greatest assets as a running back. It's possible he has slowed down as he's gotten older. It's possible that he is so discouraged by the lack of running room that he doesn't push through first contact the way he used to. It'd be understandable, given that no one likes to get hit. But it also would feed into the perceptions about him that the booing home fans have developed.

Eli against the blitz. The Saints love to blitz, and Giants quarterback Eli Manning surely will face extra pass-rushers on Monday night. But in spite of the injury to running back Ahmad Bradshaw, who's one of the best backs in the league at picking up the blitz, Manning has fared well this season against five or more rushers. In fact, over the past two years, Manning ranks among the best quarterbacks in the league when teams send five or more pass-rushers. His 74.6 Total QBR in those situations is fifth-best; his 8.4 yards per attempt and his touchdown-to-interception ratio of plus-16 are third-best; and only Aaron Rodgers has thrown more touchdown passes than the 26 Manning has thrown over the past two years when teams send five or more.

Final Word: NFC East

November, 11, 2011
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 10:

DeMarco tough to bring down: One of the things that's made Dallas Cowboys rookie running back DeMarco Murray a success in his past three NFL games is his ability to break tackles. According to the ESPN Stats & Information Group, Murray is averaging 3.1 yards per rush after contact, which is the best figure in the league among players with at least 40 rush attempts. The Saints' Darren Sproles and the Texans' Ben Tate are tied for second on that list at 2.8 yards per carry after contact. It doesn't appear as though Felix Jones will play this week, so Murray has the Cowboys' backfield duties all to himself for another game and should retain the lion's share of the carries even once Jones returns.

[+] EnlargeDeMarco Murray
Tim Heitman/US PresswireDallas rookie DeMarco Murray has rushed for 466 yards in his past three games.
Redskins' O is a no-go: The Washington Redskins have scored a total of 11 points over their past two games. They've also punted 11 times. That's not a good ratio of points to punts, 1-to-1. You want that ratio to come up a little bit if you're going to do something like win. The Redskins have five turnovers, four failed fourth-down conversions, a missed field goal, a made field goal and a touchdown over those two games. And of course you know that John Beck is 0-7 in his career as an NFL starting quarterback. The first 0-4 of that came with Miami in 2007. He's hoping his first career win can come in his return to South Beach.

Taking the fourth: If NFL games had just three 15-minute periods, the Philadelphia Eagles would be among the best teams in the league. They have outscored their opponents by 57 points in the first three quarters of games this year, which is the fourth-best figure in the NFL. But in fourth quarters, they've been outscored by a total of 36 points. They've held fourth-quarter leads in four of their five losses, making them the third team in league history to blow fourth-quarter leads and lose in at least four of their first eight games. The others were the 1954 Packers and the 1999 Saints. So if the Eagles go into the fourth quarter with a lead Sunday against the Cardinals... you know... don't change the channel.

Comeback kids: Speaking of fourth quarters, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning leads the NFL with five game-winning drives in the fourth quarter this year. 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, the Giants' opponent this week, is second in the league with three of them. So whichever team takes a lead into the fourth quarter Sunday in San Francisco... you know... don't change the channel.

Second half start: The Giants are in first place with a 6-2 record at the midpoint of their season. But as every Giants' fan can tell you, the second half of the season is where things get interesting. Since Tom Coughlin took over as their head coach in 2004, the Giants' second-half record is 24-32, which ranks 24th in the league. The Giants would love to get the second half kicked off the right way with a big win over a potential playoff opponent in San Francisco.

Final Word: NFC East

November, 4, 2011
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 9:

From the Dept. of Sore Subjects: The Dallas Cowboys and Seattle Seahawks have met twice since the famous 2006 playoff game that Tony Romo blew with a botched hold on a field goal, and I'm sure it comes as little comfort to Cowboys fans to know that Dallas has won both. Even if the Cowboys win and improve to 4-4, this will be the second straight season in which they made it through the first half with a non-winning record. According to ESPN Stats & Info, the last time that happened was 2001-02. They were 2-6 after eight games in 2001 and 3-5 in 2002. Last season, you might remember, they were 1-7.

[+] EnlargeJohn Beck
Luc Leclerc/US PresswireRedskins QB John Beck needs better protection from his offensive line.
Timing John Beck: Is the Washington Redskins quarterback to blame for the 10 sacks he took last week? ESPN Stats & Information has a "next level" number that indicates the issues might lie up front with the offensive line. According to S&I, Beck takes an average of 2.57 seconds to release the ball after it is snapped, which is a league-average figure. Last week, six of the 10 sacks the Bills recorded against Beck and the Redskins happened before that 2.57-mark. So while it was nice of Beck to come out and take responsibility for some of the sacks, the overall problem is, I believe, that banged-up offensive line in front of him. The good news is that offensive lines tend to improve as they play together, so maybe it'll be better this week?

Manning protecting the ball: New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning has been interception-free in four of his past five games. He had only four games all of last season in which he didn't throw at least one interception. After throwing a league-leading 25 interceptions in 2010, Manning has just five so far this season through seven games. Additionally, according to ESPN Stats & Information, Manning in 2010 had 14.1 percent of his passes either picked off or tipped by a defensive player, which was the sixth highest such figure among qualifying quarterbacks. This season, he's had only 9.1 percent of his passes intercepted or tipped by a defender, which is the 33rd highest such figure among qualifying quarterbacks.

Shady finds the end zone: Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy has scored a touchdown in each of his team's first seven games this season. That's the sixth time since the merger that a running back has accomplished that feat. Four running backs -- Dallas' Emmitt Smith in 1999, Washington's George Rogers in 1986, Washington's John Riggins in 1983 and Buffalo's O.J. Simpson in 1975 -- have scored touchdowns in each of their team's first eight games. Also, incidentally, since rookie Danny Watkins took over at right guard for the Eagles in Week 5, Philadelphia is gaining 6.3 yards per carry as opposed to the 5.4 it was gaining with Kyle DeVan as the starter at that spot.

Rematch fun: The Giants-Patriots game is the ninth game this season that has been a rematch of a Super Bowl. The team that won the Super Bowl in question is 6-2 in those games, including the Giants' victory against the Bills in Week 6. The only two that have gone the way the Super Bowl didn't go were the Bills' victory last week against the Redskins and the Packers' Week 4 victory against the Broncos.