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Monday, January 9, 2012
Breakfast links: Eli's big run

By Dan Graziano
ESPN.com

Man, the NFL really sets this whole thing up nicely, doesn't it? Of course the NFC East is still alive for at least one more week. Every division is. Eight playoff teams remain, and there's one from each division. Almost as if they planned it that way.

Anyway, the NFC East champs looked as good as any team that played this weekend, and they of course lead off the Monday links.

New York Giants

The Giants rushed for a season-high 172 yards in their playoff victory over Atlanta, but Ian O'Connor writes that the run that got it all started was a 14-yard scamper by a very unlikely candidate -- quarterback Eli Manning. "Unlikely" is putting it mildly, since Manning only had 15 rush yards, total, during the regular season. But Ian's point is a good one -- that Manning has a knack for making the play the Giants need him to make when they need him to make it.

The Giants' players have done a lot of talking the past few weeks, and they clearly feel more confident in themselves than they have at any point this year. That all starts early this week. Before he even left the postgame locker room, defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul guaranteed a victory over the Packers next week at Lambeau Field. Pineapples for everyone!

Philadelphia Eagles

Les Bowen has been pretty consistent about pointing out a key, oft-ignored element of the Steve Spagnuolo situation: That even if the Eagles do want to make him their defensive coordinator, they're likely to have competition for his services.

We gave you the link to the Cowboys' "Stay or Go" post from ESPNDallas.com a few days ago. Philly.com is doing the same thing for the Eagles, allowing you to go on there and vote on which players you think should be back next year and which won't. Eagles management is not offering fans the same opportunity -- just the Philly.com web site. But it's a pretty complete list. Andy Reid's on there, even though we know he's coming back. Jeffrey Lurie's on there, even though there's no indication he's stopped wanting to own the team. And Swoop, the mascot, is on there, in case you think it's all Swoop's fault.

Dallas Cowboys

Jason Garrett has begun the process of meeting with his assistant coaches, many of whom he inherited when he took over as head coach from the fired Wade Phillips. Garrett flexed some muscle last offseason in making tough decisions about players he'd inherited and didn't want, and you wonder if he might want to put his own stamp on the coaching staff now that he's got a full season under his belt.

Cowboys linebacker and Penn State alum Sean Lee issued a statement over the weekend about new Penn State coach Bill O'Brien. I mean, I guess he's saying he supports the new coach, but it's not exactly a ringing endorsement from a former player who would have liked to see one of his former coaches get a shot at the top job. Feels like a lot of Penn State people taking this perspective are missing the point.

Washington Redskins

Mike Shanahan and the Redskins' coaching staff will coach the South team in the Senior Bowl later this month in Mobile, Ala. Not every draft prospect will be there, of course, as many are juniors. But coaches generally enjoy the Senior Bowl as an opportunity to get an up-close look at some guys who might be able to help them. The Redskins have several needs on both sides of the ball, and working closely with some of the top seniors could help them turn up a mid-round gem or two.

Lots of people have asked me about Adam Carriker, who is well liked by fans and teammates and coaches and says he wants to come back to the Redskins next year. But Carriker is going to be an unrestricted free agent, and his return is therefore uncertain. I'm not sure I agree with the idea that Jarvis Jenkins is the issue, since I think they planned to use both guys in a rotation last year and could fit both into their scheme. I think the issue has more to do with London Fletcher being a top priority and the decisions that need to be made at offensive line, safety, wide receiver and several other places. They could conceivably run out of room in the budget for Carriker, is all.