New York Giants: Tony Romo

The New York Giants' lone Pro Bowl representative, rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., will play Sunday night on a team full of Dallas Cowboys.

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Beckham
Beckham was the No. 4 overall selection in Wednesday night's Pro Bowl draft -- the second pick of the team selected by former Cowboys wideout Michael Irvin. Irvin took Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo with his first pick after designating Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray one of his captains a day earlier. Later, he picked Cowboys tight end Jason Witten, tackle Tyron Smith, center Travis Frederick and rookie guard Zack Martin.

Team Irvin will be coached by Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, who'll be familiar with his roster. The only Cowboy selected by Team Cris Carter was long-snapper L.P. Ladouceur.

Beckham is (obviously) playing in his first Pro Bowl after a dazzling rookie season in which he missed the first four games due to a hamstring injury but still managed to catch 91 passes for 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns. The Pro Bowl is at 8 p.m. ET on Sunday in Glendale, Arizona, and will be broadcast on ESPN.
The New York Giants right now project to have about $14 million in salary cap space for 2015. That assumes a $140 million cap (which I think is a conservative projection) and accounts for the $1.3 million reduction once David Wilson's retirement becomes official. It does not take into account the additional $4.825 million they can save by cutting Mathias Kiwanuka (which I expect they will) or the additional $3.53 million they can save by cutting Jon Beason (which is possible).

So at this point assume something close to $19 million in cap room and expect them to push it over $20 million with roster cuts, pay cuts or other contract adjustments. That would give the Giants enough cap room to operate their offseason even if they don't extend the contract of quarterback Eli Manning.

[+] EnlargeEli Manning
Brad Penner/USA TODAY SportsThe Giants could extend Eli Maning's contract to gain cap space in the short term and keep the QB around for the long term.
But extending Manning would help make things even looser for the Giants under the cap this offseason. He has one year left on his deal at a salary of $17 million and a cap number of $19.75 million. By not extending him now, they run the risk of having to pay him more (or franchise him) in 2016 and beyond, or of losing him in free agency and having to start over with a new, likely far less reliable quarterback option.

If the Giants do extend Manning this offseason, what would that deal look like? He has averaged $16.25 million a year on the six-year, $97.5 million deal he signed just prior to the 2009 season. Given his production in recent years, it's easy to say they should just extend him for the same money. But given the way quarterback contracts have gone since then, with guys such as Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco averaging more than $20 million a year on new deals and Jay Cutler, Tony Romo and Matthew Stafford coming in around $18 million a year, it's legitimate for Manning to ask for more.

For the sake of argument (JUST AS AN EXAMPLE), let's give him Romo's deal -- six years, $108 million with a $25 million signing bonus. Takes him to age 40 if he plays it out, but we all know those last couple of years aren't guaranteed. If they structured it the way Dallas structured Romo's deal, they'd knock another $11 million off this year's cap by rolling this year's salary into the new deal and giving Manning a low base salary in 2015 in exchange for the signing bonus. They'd be on the hook for big guaranteed salaries in 2016 and 2017 but nothing after that, and the length of the deal would allow them to restructure that big guarantee in Year Two if they wanted to do it.

I don't know what the Giants' plans are for this. I know they're considering all options, and I know they'd like to keep Manning around for the rest of his career. I know the options on the market aren't any better than Manning, and I believe an extension for Manning is the right way for the Giants to go -- whether now or a year from now. As for the timing: Yes, they can operate their offseason with a fair amount of flexibility if they don't extend Manning this year. But they could have a much more effective and helpful offseason if they do.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants scored a touchdown to take a four-point lead on the Dallas Cowboys with three minutes left in the game Sunday night. The Cowboys didn't even need two of those minutes to take the lead right back.

Romo
The kickoff was a touchback, setting Dallas up at its own 20-yard line, and quarterback Tony Romo opened things up with a quick 4-yarder to Dez Bryant on the right sideline. He found tight end Jason Witten for 5 yards on the next play, and then on third-and-1, running back DeMarco Murray scooted through the middle for 9 yards to get the ball to the 38. That got the game to the two-minute warning and bought the Cowboys time to talk.

"You just have to get yourself going, you have to get yourself started," Romo said. "Once you do that, it usually flows, and you just have to stay calm, stay in the moment and play each play by itself."

First thing out of the break, Giants defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka was called for a neutral zone infraction, setting the Cowboys up with first-and-5 from the 43. Romo found slot receiver Cole Beasley for a 21-yard gain that for a second looked a little bit like the 45-yard catch-and-run touchdown Beasley had scored earlier. The Cowboys were in business at the Giants' 36-yard line with 1:30 left.

Romo took a shotgun snap and sat there in the pocket for what seemed like an eternity. The Giants were not blitzing, instead dropping seven into coverage and trying to get to Romo with only their front four. They could not, and he found Witten for 15 more yards. The next play went back to Bryant for 8 yards, and he went out of bounds at the 13 to stop the clock.

So on second-and-2 from the 13, Romo took another shotgun snap. This time, more than eight full seconds elapsed before Romo threw the ball. He did not have to leave the pocket. Kiwanuka explained after the game that part of the Giants' plan was to contain Romo in the pocket, since they consider him more dangerous outside of it than inside. But they still needed to find a way to get at least one pass-rusher through the Cowboys' offensive line, and they could not.

"Obviously, anytime you're afforded that amount of time with a couple of plays left at the end of the game, it's huge," Romo said.

Bryant got open in the back of the end zone and caught the game-winning touchdown. The Giants fell to 3-8 with their sixth loss in a row and were eliminated from the NFC East race with a week left to go in November.

Giants vs. Cowboys preview

November, 21, 2014
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When: 8:30 p.m. ET Sunday Where: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford TV: NBC

The 7-3 Dallas Cowboys have a chance to mathematically eliminate the 3-7 New York Giants from the NFC East race on Sunday night. ESPN Cowboys reporter Todd Archer and ESPN Giants reporter Dan Graziano hereby present your game preview:

Graziano: Hey, Todd, the Giants haven't won a game since the last time we did this, so I'm eager to see what questions you've come up with. But during their current five-game losing streak, the Giants' best offensive game was the loss in Dallas. It was the only game in the streak in which they've rushed for 100 yards and the only one in which the opponent didn't generate consistent, disruptive pressure on quarterback Eli Manning. How is that Dallas front seven looking these days?

Archer: The easy answer is not bad, but for those used to seeing DeMarcus Ware for close to a decade, he's not walking through that door again. The good news for the Cowboys is that they are getting healthier whereas last year they were signing guys on a Tuesday and playing them on Sunday. Tyrone Crawford did not play against Jacksonville, but he should be back. Rolando McClain didn't play against the Jaguars, but he will be back. Henry Melton has been much more active. Rookie defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence didn't play in the first meeting because of a foot injury but he is coming on. Josh Brent is eligible to play but I don't think he will be on the 46-man roster Sunday. They have been decent against the run but have had some breakdowns. The pass rush has been better but it's still not good enough. Like the defense as a whole, the front seven is getting by.

I'll keep it simple off the top: Is this the end for Tom Coughlin?

Graziano: Well, this game surely isn't. Coughlin will certainly coach out this season, and I honestly think his future as the Giants' coach will depend a lot on how the Giants do in their final six games. If they rally against a December schedule that includes games against Jacksonville, Tennessee, Washington and St. Louis and get back to 7-9 as they did last year, it'll be easier for Giants ownership to justify giving Coughlin another year of this rebuilding project. If they fall completely apart and finish, say, 4-12 or 3-13, I imagine all bets are off and no one is safe. A lot of people want a definitive answer on Coughlin's status, but I don't believe ownership has made one yet. They love him and love having him as their coach, and if he does decide to leave or if they decide to move on from him, they know they'll need a good plan in place for how to replace perhaps the best coach in franchise history (apologies to Bill Parcells). So it's no sure thing, but the way this team is playing and the inevitable fact that they'll miss the playoffs for the fifth time in six seasons does not work in his or any other coach's favor.

What's Jason Garrett's status these days? Has the Cowboys' surprisingly good season done anything to quiet those who perpetually call for his head?

Archer: A little bit it has, but if they don't make the playoffs then the calls for his job will be heard again. I've written that he deserves to be extended. I think the plan he has put in place has started to come together. But it will all be determined by what they do from now on. As you know, they have lost three straight winner-take-all season finales to the Giants, Redskins and Eagles. At least Garrett had them in position to win the division, but this year they have to get over the top. Jerry Jones has been patient with Garrett and often talks about wanting him to be the coach long term, but he hasn't backed those words up with a new deal. Along with the contractual statuses of Dez Bryant and DeMarco Murray, this one could get juicy here down the stretch.

How much of this Giants mess is on GM Jerry Reese? They have let guys go and not had replacements ready, especially on the offensive and defensive lines.

Graziano: I think it's almost all on Reese, Todd, and you've hit it right on the head. His drafts have been flat-out terrible from the standpoint of finding players who have turned out to be foundation pieces. Do you know that, since Reese became Giants GM in 2007, only three of his draft picks have signed second contracts with the team? And none of those three was a first-rounder? (They're Will Beatty, Ahmad Bradshaw and Zak DeOssie.) You're right that the Giants haven't done a good enough job of finding and developing players to replace those who have left, and the result was that last year's roster got so hollowed out that they had to sign more free agents than any other team in the league just to fill out a 53-man roster. That's why I say this is a rebuilding project that has to take more than one year, and why I blame Reese much more than I blame Coughlin or the coaching staff for the mess this team is in. The Giants don't fire GMs as a matter of policy. They've had only three of them in the past 38 years. But as I said when we were talking about Coughlin, if things get really ugly over these final six weeks, all bets are off.

Let's move the discussion to the field. When the Giants and Cowboys played in that Week 7 game, Murray have to leave for a while with an injury. He came back and seems to have been fine since, but are there any signs of his extreme workload wearing on him? And are they doing anything to keep him from wearing down?

Archer: There really hasn't been any drastic change in his production. He has had 100 yards in every game but one this season and even in that Arizona game he averaged 4.2 yards per carry. He had at least 22 carries in the first seven games of the season but has maxed out at 19 in each of the past three. I don't know if that is by design. Some of it has been dictated by the circumstances of the games. They are using Joseph Randle and Lance Dunbar earlier in games to spell Murray some. Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said he is not worried so much about the carries as he is the snaps Murray plays. He's a three-down back and has 36 catches. It's a tricky balancing act the Cowboys have to follow because Murray is so valuable to what they do. He said he felt refreshed after the bye week and largely stayed off his feet. Whatever the Cowboys do in their final six games will be with the same formula they used in their first 10 games: a lot of Murray.

When these teams met in October, it looked like Manning was feeling his way through the change in offense pretty well. Is this scheme a fit for what Manning does best or is he held back by what's around him?

Graziano: The group around Manning sure has taken a pounding. The Giants lost top wide receiver Victor Cruz to a season-ending knee injury in Week 6, and they were without starting running back Rashad Jennings for four games due to a knee sprain. Jennings was back last week, and I thought the offense would look better as a result, but then Manning went and threw five interceptions, nearly doubling his season total. (He'd thrown six in his first nine games.) You're right that Manning was looking comfortable in the new offense until last week, and I think all eyes are on him Sunday night and the rest of the way to see whether this last game was a fluke or whether it's a sign that "Bad Eli" is always potentially around the corner no matter what system they put him in. One thing he has dealt with is a lot of pass-rush pressure, and that crescendoed a bit last week against the 49ers. They may make some changes on the offensive line this week, and if those changes help protect him better, I think he gets back into that rhythm he was in earlier in the year.

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The drive that put away the Dallas Cowboys' 31-21 victory over the New York Giants on Sunday was notable not for the predictable way it ended (a 1-yard DeMarco Murray touchdown after a brilliant Dez Bryant sideline catch) but for the way it began.

The Giants were still in this very good game, trailing 21-14 with a little over 11 minutes left. They were deep in their own territory but moving the ball. On third-and-8 from his own 19-yard line, quarterback Eli Manning found tight end Larry Donnell over the middle for a reception that would have moved the chains and kept the drive alive ... but Donnell fumbled the ball.

Cowboys linebacker Justin Durant collected the ball at the Giants' 27-yard line and Dallas' extremely efficient offense was in business -- apparently assured of nothing less than a field goal from their outstanding kicker. A touchdown would put the game more or less out of reach.

Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, who would not throw a single incomplete pass in the second half of this game, found Murray for a 4-yard gain on first down. Murray, the NFL's rushing leader, was stuffed in the backfield by Giants linebacker Jameel McClain for a 2-yard loss on second down, setting up a third-and-8 from the Giants' 25.

But converting third downs is something the Cowboys do quite well. They would convert nine of 14 in this game and lead the league in third-down conversion percentage for the year. Bryant lined up wide left. Giants cornerback Prince Amukamara, who'd drawn the assignment of covering the Cowboys' best receiver due to the injury to fellow corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, tried to jam Bryant at the line -- an idea Amukamara himself later described as "a dumb move by me." Bryant got by him just enough, and made a dazzlingly athletic catch inside the 5-yard line.

Bryant reached for the end-zone pylon and the officials initially ruled the play a touchdown. A replay review showed that it was not, but Murray took care of things on the next play, plunging in from a yard out to extend the Dallas lead to 28-14 with 9:17 left in the game.

These Giants are clearly not contenders

October, 19, 2014
10/19/14
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- The two weeks that were going to tell us all about the 2014 New York Giants went about as poorly as they could have gone and told us everything we needed to know.

The Dallas Cowboys beat the Giants 31-21 on Sunday at AT&T Stadium to improve to 6-1. They lead the NFC East by a half-game over the idle Philadelphia Eagles, who are 5-1 and beat the Giants 27-0 last Sunday. The Giants are 3-4, well behind two teams that just beat them, and as they head into their bye week, they look absolutely nothing like a team with playoff hopes.

"This is our bye week, and when we come back, we want to be a great team," defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul said. "We have a good football team. When we get those kinks out of there, we'll be all right."

That is the right way for the players in the locker room to think, because their job is to take the field every week and give an honest effort to win games. But to those of us who stand on the outside and evaluate these teams against one another, it's clear that these Giants are not that good. They're not a terrible team, as they were this time last year, but they're not a contender either. They are a rebuilding team and clearly have been since they changed up the offense and blew out the free-agent budget in the offseason, signing more free agents than any other team.

And while the remainder of this year is likely to feature periods of encouraging progress, right now the Giants just don't have enough good players to hang with the top teams in the league.

"We've got to figure out a way to get better," quarterback Eli Manning said. "We have to eliminate the mistakes and the little things so we can execute better and find a way to sustain more drives."

The Giants were penalized six times for 40 yards, and the timing of the penalties was backbreaking. They lost two fumbles, the first of which came at a point when the game was still in question.

These are the mistakes to which Manning refers, and the Giants aren't a team that can overcome such mistakes. Given their significant personnel deficiencies relative to their division rivals, they need to be just about perfect to win games.

The Cowboys' offensive skill-position players Sunday around quarterback Tony Romo included Dez Bryant, DeMarco Murray, Terrance Williams, Jason Witten and emerging tight end Gavin Escobar. Their opposite numbers on the Giants were Rueben Randle, Andre Williams, Odell Beckham Jr., Larry Donnell and Daniel Fells. Size those groups up against each other and there's no reason to believe the game should have been close. That Giants' core has talent and promise, but no neutral observer could think it compares to the Cowboys' offensive personnel at this stage in the careers of the people on those lists.

Add in the fact that the Giants are missing top wide receiver Victor Cruz, starting running back Rashad Jennings, top cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and starting middle linebacker Jon Beason due to injury and lost starting defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins early in Sunday's game. These are significant losses to overcome, and the Giants at this stage in their roster rebuild don't have the depth to overcome them.

"We keep forgetting about that, because we have to come back and play next week," cornerback Prince Amukamara said. "But when you do lose key players, it definitely can hurt your team."

It's crippling the Giants, who needed everything possible to go right to contend this year. In the end, the best they can hope for this season is to be able to say at its end that they made progress in the new offensive scheme and have a plan for patching the remaining holes next offseason. Any talk of firing coaches is likely to be unjustified -- as it usually is -- because this is a roster-in-progress and a project that likely needs at least two years to bear fruit.

That's the reality of what the Giants are dealing with in 2014, and it always has been. Players like Beckham offer hope for the future, and this Giants team is likely to be better this time next year than it is right now. But right now, the simple fact is it's not good enough to be a contender. Not this year.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin shows his team the NFC East standings every week. He's not going to have a tough time getting his players' attention with them this week.

Winners of three games in a row, the Giants are nonetheless in third place in their division with a 3-2 record. The two teams in front of them are the Philadelphia Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys, both 4-1.

The Giants' next two games are on the road, the next two Sundays, in Philadelphia and then in Dallas.

"We know what's in front of us, but we need to keep focused on ourselves," defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul said. "We have a lot more work to do and we can get a lot better. If we do that, it doesn't matter who we play."

That's a perfectly appropriate frame of mind for the players to have. But the fact is, if the Giants win their next two games, they would enter their Week 8 bye in control of the division. They would be 5-2, with the Eagles' and Cowboys' records guaranteed to be no better than that, and they would be 3-0 in their division games, all three of which will have been road games.

[+] EnlargeLeSean McCoy
AP Photo/Matt RourkeLeSean McCoy is off to a slow start for the Eagles, but is coming off an 81-yard performance in Week 5.
If they lose their next two games, the Giants would be 3-4, with the Eagles and Cowboys each no worse than 5-2, and they'd be 1-2 in the division. They could also split the next two games, but if they do that, they'll obviously slip somewhat significantly behind whichever team beats them.

It's a critical stretch, and the Giants are in the right frame of mind to handle it. They followed a couple of easy victories with Sunday's tough, brawling comeback, and they believe their new system and personnel are working well together. So what are their chances to make the most of this opportunity?

The Eagles are first up. They're 4-1 and their only loss was in San Francisco, but things aren't going smoothly. Six of their 18 touchdowns have come on defense or special teams. Quarterback Nick Foles, who threw just two interceptions last year, has five interceptions and three lost fumbles in five games this year. They are allowing an average of 26.4 points per game. They fell behind in each of their first four games and came close to blowing a 34-7 third-quarter lead to St. Louis on Sunday. Last year's NFL rushing leader, LeSean McCoy, is averaging 54.6 yards per game, 2.9 yards per carry and has only one touchdown. They have suffered multiple injuries to starting offensive linemen, a problem they avoided throughout the 2013 season. As a result, their offense is not what it was as they rolled to a division title in the second half of 2013.

The Giants' newfound ability to milk the clock and operate their offense in rhythm while minimizing turnover risk could enable them to control the game against a still-wobbly defending champion. But McCoy did run for 81 yards and the team for 145 on Sunday, with right tackle Lane Johnson back from his drug suspension. And Foles' play-action passing game improved as a result (9-for-12 with an average of 9.3 yards per attempt). The Eagles remain dangerous with Darren Sproles complementing McCoy out of the backfield and Jeremy Maclin leading the downfield attack. They will be a tougher offense to get off the field on third down than any the Giants have faced since their opener in Detroit.

The Cowboys are dominating in the run game behind NFL rushing leader DeMarco Murray and a powerful offensive line that features three of their last four first-round draft picks. They have won four games in a row, though by the time the Giants get there, Dallas will be coming off a tough road game in Seattle. Obviously, if the Cowboys can run the ball against the defending Super Bowl champs and take a five-game winning streak into the Giants game, they will have everyone's attention. But so far, their formula has been effective. Murray was so effective on first down Sunday that Dallas quarterback Tony Romo was 15-for-20 for 185 yards on second-down throws.

Dallas' defense entered Week 5 ranked 26th against the pass and 14th against the run, but it hasn't been the crippling weakness it looked to be on paper before the season started. Part of the reason for that is substandard competition, but one of their four victories was an impressive throttling of Drew Brees and the Saints. The Cowboys' offense is so good at keeping the opposing offense on the sidelines that the defense isn't asked to do too much.

These will both be difficult games, and after they're over, the Giants will hit the bye week with a much better idea of how they stack up in the NFC East race.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin hasn't decided yet who will play -- or how much they'll play -- in Sunday night's preseason opener against the Buffalo Bills in Canton, Ohio. Coughlin said after Monday's practice that he'd wait until after Thursday's practice to decide. But you can expect to see quarterback Eli Manning out there for at least the start of the game, even though it's an extra preseason game for the team this year.

Manning
"I'll listen to what the coaches decide, obviously, but if you could you'd like to get out there for an extra series or so just to get your mechanics down, get into the rhythm of it," Manning said Monday. "The first preseason game, you don't really do a whole lot, but it'll be interesting to see the mechanics of everything, the game-planning and how it all works in this new offense."

New offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo, who's never been a coordinator or a game-day playcaller before, will coach from the sidelines. Manning said he's been practicing with the radio in his helmet to get used to hearing McAdoo's voice calling the plays.

The Hall of Fame Game means the Giants will get five preseason games this year instead of the usual four. Manning usually sits out the final game of the preseason and likely will again this year. So if he wanted to get in his usual three, he could skip Sunday's. Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo didn't play in the Hall of Fame Game last year, but Romo was coming off of back surgery and the Cowboys weren't installing a completely new offense. In this case, Manning will draw some benefit from playing an extra game.

"There are five games, and you approach it in different ways when you have five instead of four," Coughlin said. "But we are going to benefit from this, from more opportunities in the new offense."

Don't expect to see the first team at full strength Sunday night. First-round wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. still hasn't practiced in a week due to a hamstring injury, and it would be a huge surprise to see him on the field. Wide receiver Mario Manningham continues to be limited by a sore knee. And while left tackle Will Beatty has been taking the bulk of the snaps at left tackle in practice, the Giants may not be ready to expose him to game conditions just yet as he continues to recover from the broken leg he suffered in the 2013 season finale.
The New York Giants are pass rush, and pass rush is the New York Giants. So we have been told for decades, since the days of L.T. and Bill Parcells. When the Giants win, it's because they pressure quarterbacks. Pass rush is acknowledged as the single biggest reason the Giants have won four Super Bowls and the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick Patriots have only won three. Lawrence Taylor, Leonard Marshall, Michael Strahan, Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul ... these are the fearsome edge rushers who have delivered for the Giants in their greatest seasons.

And yet, this offseason has been about the smaller, faster guys who play on the back end of the defense. The Giants let 2013 sack leader Tuck leave via free agency and have not replaced him, instead signing three new cornerbacks and re-signing one of their own cornerbacks and their own safety. If you didn't know any better, you'd think some sort of broad organizational philosophy shift was in the works.

I doubt that's it, because the Giants aren't big into sudden, broad organizational philosophy shifts. But it's entirely possible that the commitment to a secondary that didn't seem to be one of the most pressing needs when the offseason began has something to do with the way offenses are trending in the NFL in general and in the NFC East in particular. The Chip Kelly Eagles get the ball out of their quarterback's hands before a pass rush can get there. Tony Romo is elusive and was picking apart the Giants with short, quick passes in two games last season. And while he didn't look it in that Dec. 1 game last year, Robert Griffin III was a nightmare for Giants pass-rushers the year before when healthy.

If the trend is toward mobile quarterbacks and up-tempo, quick-release passing games, it's entirely possible that devoting more resources to covering receivers is a smart way to go. I still think the best way to disrupt a passing offense is to pressure the quarterback into throwing (or not throwing) the ball. But if you're running a defense these days and you see the way offenses are trending, it's possible to come to the conclusion that you're just not going to be able to dictate that the way you used to. And if that's the case, locking things down on the back end and maybe trying to buy your pass-rushers some extra time that way is a reasonable counter-move.

John Mara said last week that the reason the Giants ended up devoting so many of their free-agent resources to defensive backs was because that's the way the market fell for them, and I believe him. The Giants were a team with many needs, and if the players they liked best for the prices all happened to play defensive back, there's no reason they shouldn't have leaned that way. But I'm interested to see whether beefing up on the back end of the defense rather than the front end is a formula that can work for a team that has, for so long, believed in doing things the other way.
This week, we'll be taking a look at five moments that shaped the New York Giants' disappointing 2013 season. I chose the word "moments" in order to be intentionally broad. For our purposes, a "moment" could be a play, a series of plays, an injury... any number of things. Vague is the way to go on these types of projects, and I think that's for the best. We'll also do them in reverse order, so No. 1 will be Friday. Now, without further ado...

No. 5: Tony Romo ends the dream

I resisted, but faithful Giants fans, the state of the division and actual math did in fact keep the Giants' hopes of reaching the playoffs alive in spite of their 0-6 start. They won four in a row to move within a game of the second-place Cowboys and a game and a half of the first-place Eagles. When Dallas rolled into MetLife Stadium on Nov. 24, the Giants had a legitimate opportunity to move within a game of first place with a win. And when they finished erasing a 15-point second-half deficit and tied the game with 4:45 to go, the frozen home crowd was as fired up as it would be at any point in the season.

But it was not to be. Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo led Dallas on a 14-play, 64-yard drive that sapped all of the remaining time off the clock and set reliable Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey up for a game-winning 35-yard field goal. Romo completed three third-down passes on the drive, the last one to Cole Beasley with 1:17 to go to move the ball from the Giants' 28 to the Giants' 15. Had that pass not been completed, Bailey's attempt to win the game would have been from a far less certain 45 yards and, even if successful, would have given the ball back to Eli Manning and the Giants with at least some time left on the clock to get themselves into range for a game-tying field goal.

Instead, the Giants fell to 4-7, two full games behind the eventual division champion Eagles and the Cowboys, against whom they were 0-2. With almost no chance to win any tiebreakers, trailing two teams by two games with five to play effectively ended the Giants' hopes for a miracle comeback. They would be officially eliminated from postseason contention two weeks later with a loss in San Diego.
You tweet, I answer. Or give you my best guess. Or something.

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

The news of the day: The game Sunday against the Redskins could be the final one in a Giants uniform for long-timers like Justin Tuck, Mathias Kiwanuka, David Diehl, Hakeem Nicks and others. Tuck says the fact is on his mind, even as he works to focus on trying to win the game. Nicks is a free agent too, and doesn't appear to have the support of the coaching staff anymore after playing as poorly as he has in his contract year. Nicks' possible replacement, if such a thing is on the roster, is Rueben Randle, who missed Thursday's practice with a knee injury.

Behind enemy lines: The quarterback for the Redskins on Sunday will be Kirk Cousins. But the quarterback of the Redskins' future is still Robert Griffin III. And whoever's coaching him next year, his current offensive coordinator believes he'll have plenty of success.

Around the division: The Cowboys appear to be playing games with their quarterback situation, refusing to admit that Tony Romo won't be able to play due to his back injury. Eagles coach Chip Kelly says his team won't be taken in by any attempts to confuse the situation.

Around the league: We'll go around the league today on "NFL Insiders" on ESPN at 3 p.m. ET. I'll also be on the 11 am ET SportsCenter, talking about league-wide issues including the Cowboys-Eagles game. Tune in, DVR it or whatever it is you do. Hope you enjoy.

Big Blue Morning: Good sign for Brown

December, 26, 2013
12/26/13
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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 held a "jog-thru" on Wednesday, as opposed to a full practice, so the injury report only projects the extent to which injured players would or would not have participated in a real practice. The report did list running backs Andre Brown and Peyton Hillis as limited participants, though, and that has to be counted as a good sign for their progress in recovery from their respective concussions and their chances to be available to play Sunday. The league's concussion protocol mandates various tests throughout the week, so it could be a few days before either is fully cleared to play. The Giants also placed safety Cooper Taylor on injured reserve with a hamstring injury and signed guard Eric Herman from their practice squad. Guard David Diehl was listed as a limited participant and guard Brandon Mosley did not practice due to a broken hand, so the Giants need coverage at that spot.

Behind enemy lines: Giants left tackle Will Beatty had a terrible time with Redskins pass-rusher Brian Orakpo in the Week 13 game in Washington. Beatty swore after that game that things would be different the next time he got a shot at Orakpo, but that may not come this week after all. Orakpo is dealing with a groin strain and may not play in Sunday's season finale at MetLife Stadium. He was listed as a limited participant on Washington's simulated injury report Wednesday.

Around the division: The Cowboys will need a miracle, or perhaps a series of them, to avoid losing their third straight Week 17 NFC East title game Sunday night. Already without quarterback Tony Romo due to a back injury, they're also going to continue to be without perpetually injured middle linebacker Sean Lee.

Around the league: In case you missed it, enjoy the final MVP Watch column of the 2013 season. I did have a blast writing it all year, and I hope it brought some non-Giants sunshine into your week every now and then.

Big Blue Morning: Holiday break

December, 24, 2013
12/24/13
8:00
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Your daily morning check-in on news and notes about and of interest to the New York Giants

The news of the day: Giants coach Tom Coughlin offered no concrete updates on any of the players who were injured in Sunday's game. He said running back Andre Brown, who had a concussion, seemed all right on the flight home but admitted "that doesn't mean anything." If Brown can't go and Peyton Hillis, who has his own concussion, is still out, Michael Cox would have to handle tailback responsibilities for the Giants in the season finale against the Redskins. Also hurt Sunday was guard Brandon Mosley, who has a broken hand and looks likely to miss Sunday's game, costing him a chance to show the coaching staff something for the future. There will be further updates on these players Wednesday, when the team practices but is not available to the media.

Behind enemy lines: Redskins coach Mike Shanahan continues to insist he wants to return to coach the team next year and that he expects to know his fate soon after the finale. By this time next week, this situation is likely to have been resolved one way or the other.

Around the division: The big news in the division and the league Monday was the news that Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo will miss the remainder of the season with a back injury. That obviously means the Cowboys will have to play their NFC East title game against the Eagles on Sunday night with Kyle Orton at quarterback, which puts them at a significant disadvantage against an Eagles offense that's really humming.

Around the league: Mike Sando ranks that NFC East game as the biggest of Week 17, but there are a ton of games Sunday with postseason implications, in case you don't feel like watching Giants-Redskins the whole way through.
Your daily morning check-in on news and notes about and of interest to the New York Giants.

The news of the day: Needing a roster spot so they could elevate a practice-squad receiver with Victor Cruz's status in doubt, the Giants put veteran cornerback Corey Webster on injured reserve Tuesday, ending his season and likely his time as a Giant. Webster's was a lost season, as he played the first two games, injured his groin, played parts of two other games, injured his ankle and has been out of action for more than a month. But for whatever it's worth, he becomes the seventh Giants starter to have been placed on IR this season.

Behind enemy lines: In the wake of Monday night's bitterly disappointing loss to the Ravens, Lions coach Jim Schwartz is facing questions about his job security. Schwartz is likely in big trouble unless the Lions pull off a miracle and win the NFC North in spite of losing four of their last five games. And they're going to need a huge pile of help in order for that to happen, in addition to winning some games themselves.

Around the division: Cowboys owner Jerry Jones continues to support quarterback Tony Romo, which isn't surprising given the size of the contract Jones gave him last offseason. And look, for all Romo's faults, that game Sunday is on a defense that couldn't keep Matt Flynn from coming back from a three-touchdown halftime deficit. But Romo's legacy in Dallas isn't changing much unless the Cowboys recover, win the division and make some noise in the playoffs.

Around the league: Tuesday was Power Rankings day. Click here to read about the Giants and the 25 teams that rank ahead of them this week in our poll.

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