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Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Major questions in the Beast

By Dan Graziano
ESPN.com

Our friends from Football Insiders are doing an excellent offseason series called "Plugging the Holes." Today Aaron Schatz, a man who Jim Schwartz once swore by, tackles a major issue for each team in the NFC East. This is for ESPN Insiders only, but I'm willing to violate several of our polices to give you a peek at this exclusive information.

Schatz took a look at Terence Newman's future with the Cowboys and he examined the quarterback situations with the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins. I was most interested, though, in what he had to say about why Tom Coughlin's teams always seem to fade in the second half of the season:

"Big Blue have been 30-10 through their first eight games over the past five years and 18-22 over the final eight," writes Schatz. "That 12-game decline is the largest for any team since the 1996-2000 Pittsburgh Steelers, and that team wasn't facing the possibility of an 18-game regular season going forward. So what gives?

"One problem is out of their control: Their schedule has been much more difficult in the second half over that timeframe. The average winning percentage of their opponents during the first eight games is 44 percent, equivalent to a 7-9 team. Over the final eight games, that rises to an average winning percentage of 57 percent, or a 9-7 team. Even after adjusting for the quality of opposition by using DVOA, New York declines in every aspect of the game."

For whatever reason, the Giants' pass defense always seems to go to hell in the second half of the season. And surely there's a better explanation than simply facing better quarterbacks later in the season. I will continue to work with the Football Outsiders to get to the bottom of this.