New York Giants: Aaron Rodgers

Your daily morning check-in on news and notes about and of interest to the New York Giants

The news of the day: The Giants are always professionals in the locker room, so while they were glum and disappointed Monday, they came out and spoke openly about their circumstances. "We have to deal with reality," coach Tom Coughlin said. "We are what we are. We've created this situation for ourselves." They're not waving any white flags, and you can count on them to play the remaining games on their schedule with a hard and honest effort to win them. But the situation to which Coughlin refers is the extremely uncomfortable one in which the Giants can't afford any more mistakes at all... and would still need a mountain of help even if they managed to be perfect the rest of the way. Coughlin did say he wasn't happy to hear about all the chirping his players did last week and would address it in a meeting Wednesday. And he seemed rather aggravated about the Hakeem Nicks situation, which continues to remain one of the weird mysteries of this season. He also said Jason Pierre-Paul is playing hurt, which it seems as though he'll be doing the rest of the year at this point. Pierre-Paul played fewer than half of the Giants' defensive plays Sunday due to his shoulder injury.

Behind enemy lines: Impressions from "Monday Night Football": If the Giants can generate a pass rush with their front four, which has been a trouble spot for them for much of this year due in part to Pierre-Paul's health problems, they should be able to cause problems for the Redskins' offense Sunday night. Robert Griffin III just looks horrible. And while he's making more than his share of poor throws and decisions, a huge part of his problem in Monday's loss to the 49ers was a seemingly complete lack of protection. Don't get me wrong: The Giants would still have to score enough points to win, which is no sure thing. Just saying they won't be the only team on the field with big problems Sunday night in Landover, is all.

Around the division: The Cowboys won the big game against the Giants on Sunday and move into a tie for first place with the Eagles, but that doesn't mean they think all their problems are solved. They want DeMarco Murray to be more aggressive in the way he finishes his runs. And they'd like Dez Bryant to be a little bit less greedy about the yards he's trying to pick up after the catch. These are contrasting sentiments, but both problems were on display Sunday.

Around the league: The NFC East has taken a lot of well-deserved abuse for the overall lack of quality it's put on display this season. But as John Clayton pointed out in the wake of Sunday's games, no one seems to want the NFC North either. What an opportunity the Lions have blown with Aaron Rodgers injured and the Packers weakened.

Big Blue Morning: A JPP revival?

November, 7, 2013
Your daily morning check-in on news and notes about and of interest to the New York Giants

The news of the day: Two weeks after saying he believed he'd need a full offseason to get back to full strength following back surgery, an ebullient Jason Pierre-Paul said Wednesday that he's feeling real good and is primed for a big second half. We shall see. Dude still has just one sack in his last 15 games and is correct when he says he hasn't looked like his old self. As we have discussed here before, a return to elite form by Pierre-Paul is the kind of thing that could really elevate the Giants and make them not just a competitive team but a very difficult team to play the rest of the season. And no, that doesn't mean "playoff contender," because they're not and it would still take a string of miracles to make them one. But if you yearn for the days when the Giants justifiably felt they could beat any team on any given week, a full-strength JPP could help restore that.

Behind enemy lines: On the other side of the defensive line, Justin Tuck could be lining up Sunday against a rookie right tackle, as injuries may be pushing Menelik Watson into his first NFL start. Banged-up at tackle and without starting running back Darren McFadden, the Raiders will have to rely an awful lot on young, speedy quarterback Terrell Pryor and a defense that just got absolutely torched by the Eagles at home last week.

Around the division: The Eagles are getting set to play a Green Bay Packers team they believe to be "at a significant disadvantage" due to the injury to star quarterback Aaron Rodgers. This is relevant to the Giants because they get the Packers a week later and Rodgers is likely to still be out for that game as well. Rodgers' absence unquestionably makes these games tougher for Green Bay to win, but I'd caution against assuming sub-.500 teams like the Eagles and Giants have already won them. Mike McCarthy will come up with some sort of effective game plan for Seneca Wallace, and it's not as though there aren't areas of weakness for even the undermanned Packers to attack when they play the NFC East's teams.

Around the league: Permit me a shameless plug for this week's MVP Watch, which continues to include no Giants but does include a cameo by their quarterback in his brother's blurb. Enjoy it in good fun.
Aaron Rodgers and Jason Pierre-PaulAP Photo/Bill KostrounJason Pierre-Paul likely won't have to chase Aaron Rodgers on Nov. 17.
You're forgiven if, as a New York Giants fan, your reaction to Aaron Rodgers' injury Monday night was excitement over the suddenly improved winnability of the Giants' Week 11 game against the Green Bay Packers. Rooting for injuries is an ugly thing, but you weren't rooting for it; you were reacting to it. And the sports fan's forgivable first instinct is to think of everything that happens in terms of how it affects his or her favorite team.

So in light of the news that Rodgers could miss three weeks with an injured collarbone, go right ahead. Yes, if Seneca Wallace is the starter for Green Bay, that's a much more winnable game -- and it would also continue a potentially remarkable run of opposing-quarterback luck for the Giants.

The Vikings started a clearly unprepared Josh Freeman against the Giants in Week 7 and the Eagles went with an obviously injured Michael Vick and a woefully inexperienced Matt Barkley in Week 8. These are the two biggest reasons the Giants have their two wins, and it's possible this run could continue. Oakland Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor left his game Sunday with a knee injury, so the Giants could face a gimpy Pryor or backup Matt McGloin this Sunday at home. And then possibly Wallace a week later.

If you want to look at all of this and imagine the Giants at 4-6 and on a four-game winning streak going into their Nov. 24 game against the NFC East-leading Cowboys, go right ahead. I can't tell you not to dream.

My only reminder is this: More important than whatever opportunity is presented to the Giants by their schedule or their division rivals or their opponents' quarterback woes is the ability of the Giants to take advantage of those opportunities. And while the victories over the Vikings and Eagles were real, legitimate victories that can't be taken away, they didn't do much to inspire confidence that all is suddenly well with Big Blue.

Eli Manning hit Minnesota defenders in the hands multiple times, and if the Vikings' defensive backs had been able to catch, that game may have gone differently. In Philadelphia six days later, the Giants didn't score a touchdown. This is still a team with significant problems, and assuming the Giants will beat the Raiders or the Wallace-led Packers would be an error. Could they win those games? Sure. Do the injuries to the opposing quarterbacks make it more likely? Of course. But I think a lot of people are imagining these 2013 Giants in an outdated way -- as a good team built to take advantage of other teams' misfortune.

They are not that. They have one of the worst offensive lines in the league. They have no running game to speak of. They have the fewest quarterback sacks of any team in the league, even after getting four in their last game. Their best receiver is in a season-long funk. Their quarterback still leads the league in interceptions, even though he hasn't thrown one in more than three weeks.

The Giants have won two games ugly and are coming off a bye. They have players and coaches in their building who know how to win important games in which they are not favored. But they are also 2-6, and even if they do win these next two -- heck, even if they do that and then beat Dallas to really make it a race -- they still face a December schedule that includes trips to Detroit and San Diego, a home game against Seattle and two games against the division-rival Redskins.

The long-term reality of the Giants' opportunity is less exciting than the Rodgers injury makes the short term look. And regardless, this is a team that has to play considerably better than it has -- yes, even in its victories -- if it's to take advantage of any opportunity at all.

Keep an eye on Manning and Rodgers

November, 24, 2012
Trevor Ebaugh, ESPN Stats & InformationAaron Rodgers has outperformed Eli Manning in a variety of categories over their last five games.

A few weeks ago, Eli Manning was on top of the football world and Aaron Rodgers was struggling. But when the two meet on Sunday night, they'll enter heading in directions opposite how their seasons started.

Manning has struggled, failing to throw a touchdown pass in three straight games for the first time since he was a rookie.

Rodgers has been returning to his MVP form, nearly tripling his PAA (Points Above Average; the number of points above what an average quarterback with a 50.0 QBR would be expected to score against an average defense on a neutral field) from 7.7 in his first five games to 21.9 during his last five.

Let's take a look at how each quarterback has gotten to where they are and give you one key stat to keep an eye on for each throughout the game

Eli Manning
The bye week may have been just what Manning needed. Manning recently said his arm felt much better and that his ball had a little more "pop," which is a good sign for Giants fans as Manning's throws have been uncharacteristically erratic lately.

Off-target percentage measures how many of a quarterback's attempts, not including throwaways, are either over- or underthrown. Manning's off-target percentage jumped from 14 percent in his first five games to 24 percent during his last five, the fifth-highest in the league.

What does that translate to for a game? It would be the difference between throwing four passes off-target and seven passes off-target in a game in which Manning threw 30 times.

Manning has been trending downward during his last five games, but his 27.1 QBR during his last three games is the performance expected from a replacement-level quarterback, not a two-time Super Bowl MVP.

A big reason for Eli's struggles is the fact that he has not been able to adapt to defenses sending a standard pass rush against the Giants more often.

The standard pressure against Manning has also been much more effective in recent weeks. During his first seven games, Manning was sacked an NFL-low once by a pass rush of four or fewer.

Since then, his protection has collapsed, allowing him to be sacked five times in three games. Each of Manning's last three opponents sent four or fewer pass rushers against him at a higher rate than their season averages.

Manning's QBR ranks 21st in the league when he has two seconds in the pocket or less. He's eighth-best when he has more than two seconds to settle in the pocket.

Aaron Rodgers
Unlike Manning, Rodgers has thrived over his last five games, leading the Packers to five straight wins and a tie with the Bears atop the NFC North. Rodgers' 80.3 QBR is the fifth-best in the NFL since the start of Week 6 and his plus-15 touchdown-to-interception differential is the best in the NFL during that span.

In his MVP season last year, Rodgers was dominant when throwing along the sidelines, posting an NFL-best 94.7 QBR on such throws outside the painted numbers and he led the league with a 16 percent off-target rate.

During his first five games this year, Rodgers was terrible on those throws, posting a 54.8 QBR with a 27 percent off-target rate.

Rodgers found his stride in Week 6, completing five touchdown passes outside the numbers against the Texans, the most in a game in the last five seasons, and he has not looked back.

During his last five games, Rodgers has a 89.9 QBR on outside throws with a plus-10 touchdown-to-interception differential, the best in the league. His off-target rate has also dropped to 21 percent and has been under 12 percent in three of those contests.

Tuck notebook: Super Bowl talk

January, 23, 2012
The comparisons to the 2007 Giants are nice.

The comparisons to the 2010 Packers may be more accurate.

As the Giants have gone on another run to the Super Bowl, defensive end Justin Tuck said on WFAN Radio on Monday that he believes there are plenty of comparisons between the Giants and last year's Super Bowl champion.

"There are some teams that didn't get in the playoffs and have the talent and if they could have found that one little switch to turn on, they could have been in the same situation we're in," Tuck said. "It's all about the team that figures it out.

"I think Green Bay is a great example of that last year and I think they're kind of similar to how we were this year. The injuries they had, a lot of injuries we had. Going into the game against us down there, they didn't know if they were going to make the playoffs but once they figured it out, I told Aaron Rodgers, after they beat us, 'Go win a Super Bowl', because I felt it, I felt like that team was starting to click like Super Bowl teams do.

"We're starting to get that way and we have been that way the last couple week and it's magical to watch it and be a part of it and you don't have the words to explain."

The Packers were ravaged with injuries last year and were just 8-6 before beating the Giants and Bears to clinch a playoff spot. Once they got in the playoffs, they took down the top three seeds before beating Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl.

This season, the Giants were 7-7 before beating the Jets and Cowboys to win their division and have now taken down the top two seeds to advance to the Super Bowl. In less than two weeks, we'll find out if they can fully mirror the Packers run.

TIME TO RELISH: In his third year with the Giants, Tuck played in a Super Bowl, winning the title with the Giants in their 17-14 win over the Patriots. The defensive end admits to thinking back then a trip to the biggest game of the year might become a regular occurrence.

"The first time I did it, you feel like we're going to be back next year," Tuck said. "I'm going to probably see five or six Super Bowls in my career. Now, you realize that it just doesn't come around every year. It's a great opportunity but it's not promised to you in your career."

With that in mind, Tuck said he's not going to take this Super Bowl trip, the second of his career, as much as he did the first time. He said he's going to enjoy some more of the pageantry of the week and might even be recording on video the week's happenings.

"I'm blessed and very lucky to be in my second and who knows, this may be my last. You have to relish the opportunity and make the memories, I guess," he added.

EPIC REMATCH: The Giants will face the Patriots once again in the Super Bowl and Tuck is hoping the game can be as titanic a clash as the first game was.

"It doesn't really matter who the opponent is but it's going to be fun because I always say the best will bring out your best so it should bring out your best," Tuck said. "You talk about the likes of Tom Brady and (Bill) Belichick and what they've done in this league. A lot of respect goes to those guys and they've been playing awesome as of late and that football team has been playing awesome as of late. I'm thinking and hoping it will be another one of those epic Super Bowl games but we're going to have to play our best game to beat those guys and it's going to be fun."

FanSpeak: A Giant conversation

January, 18, 2012

A quick riff on the hottest topic on The New York Football Giants.

From the Rapid Reaction:

"Final Score: Giants 37, Refs 14, Packers 6. If the NFL has a shred of respect for themselves they better investigate why the Giants got the short end of the stick from the refs in their last 2 games with the Packers. Blatant blown calls, attempting to get the Packers back in the game. What happened, the refs got a paycheck from State Farm Insurance?"

"I said it before the playoffs to my friends. The old saying that defense wins championships is NOT outdated."

Ed.'s note -- San Francisco allowed the second-fewest points in the regular season (229) and Baltimore allowed the third-fewest (266). New England is average with 15th fewest and the Giants allowed 400 points (25th in the league).

From Manning does it again vs. Packers:

"The bigger question is: Will Eli one day be considered a shoe-in for the Hall of Fame? Seeing how he's grown as a leader, a passer, and as a person, I think one day it will be a unequivocal yes."

Ed.'s note -- Not so fast, Matt. I’m not sold that Eli can ever really be a shoo-in. At least not without a few more rings. His career completion percentage is only 58.4% and his career passer rating is 82.1 and given that he is 31 he needs to get those numbers up quick.

"HEY RODGERS........Discount Double check your recievers!"

Ed.'s note -- Someone had to say it.

From Eli entertains idea of Peyton as a neighbor:

"New York is Eli's city. If Peyton comes to the Jets he would have to get used to playing in Eli's shadow for the little brother franchise."

Ed.'s note -- That would take sibling rivalry to a new level.

From our Facebook page:

"Packers went from mozzarella to limburger in the span of 60 minutes."
-Lee Ron Coleman Ray

Ed.'s note -- It’s funny because it’s true.

We'll run FanSpeak in this space on a regular basis, so keep commenting and make your voices heard! (Hey, at least now you know we're paying attention.)

Air Eli? Giants are a passing team now

December, 8, 2011
Eli Manning John David Mercer/US PresswireLed by quarterback Eli Manning, the once-rugged Giants have changed their personality this season.
The New York Giants are supposed to be one of the furniture franchises of the NFL. You know where you stand with them. There's a reliable consistency to the way they conduct themselves, operate their franchise and play the game. When you think about the Giants, you think about tough defense and gritty offense. You think about running backs grinding out yards -- three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust-type stuff that works no matter the era, no matter the windy, cold late-season weather in northern New Jersey.

Which is why it's a little jarring to see that this Giants team -- the one that heads to Dallas on Sunday for a critical NFC East showdown with the Dallas Cowboys -- bears so little resemblance to its run-focused forebears. The 2011 Giants are a passing team, plain and simple. And with Eli Manning as their quarterback, they've become one of the best passing teams in the league.

"They're explosive at all of the skill positions," Cowboys safety Abram Elam said in a phone interview this week. "You've got a lot of guys to account for, and you always have to be aware that they can beat you with the big play in the passing game."

That sounds like the Patriots, and it sounds like the Saints and the Packers and maybe the Peyton Manning Colts. But it's still a little bit surprising, given what we thought we always knew about the Giants and their place in the NFL establishment, that such a description could apply to Big Blue. This year's Giants still wish they could run, and they still open the game trying to run. But there they sit at the very bottom of the stat sheet -- 32nd in the league at 3.3 yards per carry and 83.8 rush yards per game. If a team that really considered itself a running team put up numbers like that, it wouldn't win any games at all.

Fortunately for the Giants, they've turned into a high-octane passing offense. They rank fourth in the league in passing yards, behind only the Saints, Patriots and Packers. They have one wide receiver, Victor Cruz, who's already cracked 1,000 receiving yards and another, Hakeem Nicks, who's only 140 yards away. Manning is fourth in the league in passing yards and fifth in attempts, and he's 295 yards away from 4,000 for the season. That would be the fifth 4,000-yard passing season in Giants' team history. It would also be Manning's third in a row.

"Everybody last week was talking about Aaron Rodgers being a Super Bowl MVP, and he is a great quarterback and having an unbelievable year, but we have the same thing on our side behind us," Giants left tackle David Diehl said. "At the beginning of the season when he compared himself in the same caliber, he got a lot of heat for that and people said 'how can he do that?' But Eli's having an incredible year."

When the Giants need a play, Manning throws the ball. He has shrugged off the departure of Steve Smith and the injuries to Mario Manningham and helped turn Cruz into a superstar wide receiver on the opposite side of the field from the brilliant Nicks. He found tight end Jake Ballard in key situations on a game-winning drive this season in New England. He hooked up with tight end Travis Beckum for a long touchdown pass last week. Running back Ahmad Bradshaw returned after four missed games because of injury, and Manning started last week's game with a screen pass to him.

"The way he's playing, everybody's going to be looking to him," Nicks said of Manning. "He's leading our offense. He's staying confident until the last minute, motivating guys in the huddle, making sure everybody knows when the play could come to them. He's got that energy and that confidence in himself and in everybody else, and everyone on our offense feeds off of him."

They can resist it all they want, and preach the importance of balance on offense. But it doesn't look like this year's Giants, with a banged-up Bradshaw, a faded Brandon Jacobs and all of the offensive line problems they have had (not to mention their injury-riddled defense), can really make good on that.

The Giants are poised to make a run and, in spite of their current four-game losing streak, win the NFC East and get into the playoffs. They have four games left, two against first-place Dallas, and their fate is in their hands. They've had a chance to win every game they've played this season except the one two weeks ago in New Orleans, and there's little reason to think they can't or won't have chances to win these last four. But when they do get that chance, this season's Giants are going to do something the Giants of years past weren't known for doing. They're going to ask their quarterback to air it out. Because that's what this year's Giants do best.

'D' can't defend sideline

December, 4, 2011
The Giants secondary struggled to defend sideline routes on Sunday and allowed too many big pass plays to Aaron Rodgers (join the club).

But Eli Manning had his fair share against the Packers' secondary as well.

Here is a deeper look at the quarterback play on both sides in the Packers' 38-35 win over the Giants, courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information.

Rodgers controls the sidelines

The Packers’ receivers dropped four passes over the middle on Sunday, but shined along the sidelines. Aaron Rodgers completed just a third of his throws inside the field numbers Sunday against the Giants after completing 74.9 percent of such throws entering the week. However, Rodgers completed a season-high 21 passes outside the painted field numbers, going 4 for 4 on the final drive.

Aaron Rodgers by Throw Location Sunday vs Giants
Inside Numbers Outside Numbers
Comp-Att 7-21 21-25<<
Comp pct 33.3 84.0
Yds/att 5.0 10.6
TD-Int 1-1 3-0
>>Most completions by a QB this season

Rodgers finds his touch stretching the field

Rodgers attempted 13 passes of at least 15 air yards Sunday against the Giants, tied for his most in a game in his career. Rodgers was 4 for 7 on such throws in the second half, including a touchdown and the completion to Jordy Nelson with 51 seconds remaining, after going 2 of 6 with an interception in the first half.

Manning hits the deep ball

Manning exploited the Packers’ secondary Sunday afternoon as he threw a long touchdown pass to Travis Beckum on the Giants’ first drive of the game and completed three of his four attempts 31 or more yards downfield. Coming into this week, the Packers had only allowed five such completions all season long.

Eli Manning Passing 31+ Yards Downfield 2011 Season
Weeks 1-12 Sunday
Comp pct 31.3 75.0
Yds/att 17.3 40.0
TD 2 1

Packers 3-4 not as tough without Hawk, Bishop

Manning took advantage of a Packers’ defense that was missing Desmond Bishop and A.J. Hawk with all three of his touchdown passes coming against the base 3-4 defense, his first such passes of the year. The Packers had allowed just two passing touchdowns when in their 3-4 entering Sunday.

Manning overcomes the blitz on the final drive

Manning went 3 for 5 for 39 yards and a touchdown on the Giants’ final drive when the Packers brought five or more pass rushers. Prior to the drive, Manning was 6 of 14 for 53 yards and an interception against such pressure.

- Compiled by Kim Meyer and John McTigue

Giants out to slow down Rodgers

December, 3, 2011

Eleven teams have tried and all 11 have failed.

As the Packers have steamrolled the competition to their 11-0 start, no team in the NFL has found a way to stop Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers has thrown 33 touchdowns to four interceptions and is the league's highest-rated passer.

Sunday, coming off their worst loss, the Giants will try and see if they have an answer for how to slow down Rodgers and the Packers offense.

"We have to find ways to get after him," defensive tackle Chris Canty said. "We have to find ways to disrupt him. Hands in the passing lanes, bodies in front of him just do anything we can do to make him uncomfortable."

Rodgers has been nothing short of brilliant this season as he sets his eyes on several NFL marks. The Super Bowl MVP has posted a quarterback rating in each game of at least 110 and has tossed at least two touchdowns in each game this season.

In his last four games, he has 13 touchdowns to just one interception as the Packers have scored 152 points. For the year, he's competing 71. 8 percent of his passes. Those are numbers that are seen in Madden—not in the pros.

"If he wants the ball to be by your ear, he's going to put it by your ear. If he wants it on your shoestrings, he's going to put it on your shoestrings," safety Antrel Rolle said. "He's very accurate in what he does and his play speaks for itself."

Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell vowed on Thursday that his team would get after Rodgers and that seems to be how the Giants hope to be able to stop to Rodgers. With his mobility and ability to extend a play, Rodgers can leave himself vulnerable to sacks as he has been sacked 27 times this season.

To sack Rodgers, the Giants must find their pass rush The team has just three sacks in its last three games and has struggled to consistently get pressure on quarterbacks as it has dropped three straight. The team, like its defensive coordinator, is confident that will happen.

"We're going to get after him," defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. "We're tired of losing. It's frustrating so we just have to go out and play as one."

On the back end of the defense, the Giants are going to be presented with numerous challenges, as the Packers possess possibly the most talented group of pass catchers in the NFL. It's a sure-handed group that rarely drops passes and can make plays out of nowhere with back-shoulder throws that capitalize against the tightest coverage.

"It's all about winning that one-on-one battle at the end of the day," Rolle said. "They create a lot of those and have a lot of different receivers and a lot of different guys that touch the ball. At the same time, everyone is going to play a factor and everyone is going to have to do their job and play their part and make sure that they're the best they can be at that position at that particular moment and everything else will take care of itself."

Giants quiet about Fewell ripping defense

December, 2, 2011
Perry Fewell left the Giants speechless.

For the most part, including head coach Tom Coughlin, the Giants did not say much about their defensive coordinator publicly ripping the defense's effort and saying some players stopped short on plays against New Orleans in the 49-24 loss on Monday. Fewell also insisted that the Giants were going to get after Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

"Those were his thoughts," Coughlin said.

After yielding 577 yards against New Orleans Monday night, Fewell was as animated on Thursday as he has been in his two seasons as his Giants defensive coordinator. He said he was "pissed" and there was no doubt that some players gave up on plays.

Safety Antrel Rolle said he would not respond to Fewell's claim that players gave up on some plays but did address the general dissatisfaction of his defensive coordinator.

"If he's frustrated, I'm frustrated, we're all frustrated," Rolle said. "We're going to take that frustration and turn it into a positive thing come Sunday and get on the same page and make sure we come into battle and make sure we're all on the same page at the same time and have that attitude and that determination and that dog in us because that's the only way we're going to be able to win."

Linebacker Michael Boley, who did not play Monday, wasn't so sure that his teammates gave up on plays but wouldn't elaborate.

"I didn't really see it but I really don't have any thoughts about it," Boley said. "Right now, we hit a tough patch. We're being very critical of ourselves right now and that's across the board."

Fewell also was adamant that the Giants would rediscover their pass rush against Green Bay after failing to record a single sack against the Saints on Monday. The Giants pass rush has struggled as of late and will even be without defensive end Osi Umenyiora.

Coughlin said that Fewell told him some of the things that he said to the media on Thursday but the head coach did not think his defensive coordinator was taunting Green Bay with his comments about getting after Rodgers.

"I think it was more because he was upset with what happened the last couple of weeks and would like to see us play harder," Coughlin said.

Second-year defensive lineman Jason Pierre-Paul and Linval Joseph both seemed to respond positively to Fewell's message. Pierre-Paul echoed his defensive coordinator's message that the team will pressure the league's highest-rated quarterback.

"We're going to get after him," Pierre-Paul said. "We're tired of losing. It's frustrating so we just have to go out and play as one."

Joseph, while not knowing the full extent of what Fewell said, looked it as a positive. He said Fewell told the defense how he felt at the beginning of the week.

"I think by him saying that it gave us a challenge. We all didn't take it a bad way," Joseph said. "That motivates us to come out next week and give him something good to say. We need to use that as tackling fuel and play small ball and get after Aaron Rodgers and come out with a win."

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.
Eli ManningDebby Wong/US PresswireEli Manning's 102.1 passer rating ranks third in the NFL behind only Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers.
Mike Sando, the outstanding proprietor of our NFC West blog, has a weekly feature called "MVP Watch" in which he rates the top 10 candidates for that award on a week-to-week basis. Each week, Mike solicits input on this before putting it together, and while I've thrown a couple of names at him here and there (including Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy), the NFC East has largely been shut out in MVP Watch this year. There just haven't been that many strong candidates.

That has changed, however, and when that email comes in from Mike this week I plan to direct him right here. Because New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning belongs in the NFL's MVP discussion right now.

"He's playing awesome," Giants defensive end Justin Tuck said after Manning engineered a comeback victory against the Dolphins on Sunday. "He told you all, I don't know how long ago, at the beginning of this year, that he was elite. I feel like he's proving that right now."

Manning did cause a stir when he went on 1050 ESPN Radio in New York before the start of the season and said that he considered himself among the elite quarterback's in the league -- in the class of New England's Tom Brady. But the way he's played in the Giants' first seven games has made that boast sound far less silly than it did at the time.

Manning ranks a middling ninth in Total QBR at 64.9 this season, his ranking apparently dragged down by the 15 sacks he's taken. Using the old traditional passer rating stat, he ranks third, at 102.1, behind only Brady and the incomparable Aaron Rodgers. He is fifth in the league in completion percentage, fourth in passing yards per game and second behind only Rodgers in yards per attempt. He's thrown 13 touchdown passes and, more importantly, only five interceptions.

The 25 interceptions Manning threw last season were a black mark on his career record, a big problem for the Giants and a main reason people were reluctant to accept his assertion that he should rank among the best quarterbacks in the league. Three of this season's five came in one game -- the ugly home loss to Seattle -- and he's had four games in which he didn't throw any.

"We threw the ball a lot today," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said after Manning put 45 passes in the air and completed 31 of them Sunday. "No turnovers, no interceptions and big plays when we had to have them. He once again did a very good job."

And once again, he had to. An MVP award is about more than stats, as we all know, and so Manning has been this season. The Giants are 5-2 despite quite a number of flaws from which Manning's play has managed to save them. Many of the traditional elements on which the Giants have long been able to rely are failing them this season. They are a terrible running team, their 85.6 rush yards per game ranking ahead of only Seattle and Tennessee. They are poor at stopping the run, as only four teams -- Carolina, Detroit, Indianapolis and St. Louis -- have allowed more yards per game on the ground. They have scored only 10 more points this season than they have allowed, which makes the 5-2 record almost impossible. There are 13 teams in the league with better point differentials, and each of the other 10 teams that has at least five wins has a point differential of +40 or better.

Yet the Giants sit at 5-2 and comfortably in first place in the NFC East. What have they done that's legitimately exceptional? At what position or positions do they excel, week in and week out, at a level beyond that of their opponents? I can come up with two -- defensive line, where their deep rotation of pass rushers makes the lives of quarterbacks miserable, and quarterback, where Manning is winning games by himself on offense. The offensive line has been awful and the run game absent. (Those two things are closely connected, by the way.) In training camp, Manning watched two of his favorite targets sign with other teams and has responded by helping make Victor Cruz and Jake Ballard into reliable passing-game options. Sure, those guys deserve a share of their own credit, but they're not having the seasons they're having if Manning isn't doing a great job of getting them the ball.

The argument against all of this is that the Giants have, to this point, played one of the softest schedules in the league. From here on out, as we've been discussing for weeks, the Giants' schedule turns hairy. If Manning can navigate the New Englands and the Green Bays and the San Franciscos and the New Orleanses the way he's handled things through the first seven games, this point of view is going to catch fire and become conventional wisdom. But so far we can only judge based on what we've seen. And what I've seen so far from Manning is an MVP-caliber performance in 2011.