Monday, October 21, 2013
Big Blue Morning: Monday desperation
By Dan Graziano
Your daily morning check-in on news and notes about the New York Giants
The news of the day: After 10 days off since they fell to 0-6 that Thursday night in Chicago, the Giants return to action tonight with a "Monday Night Football" matchup against the 1-4 Vikings on ESPN. Many people are pointing to this game as the Giants' best chance yet for a win. But it's important to remember that, based on the way the Giants have played this year, this looks like one of the Vikings' better chances for a win as well.
Minnesota will start Josh Freeman at quarterback, their third different starter at the position in their last four games. The Giants always know who their quarterback is going to be, of course, but there is mystery once again this week about running back due to the fact that Brandon Jacobs and his injured hamstring missed Saturday's practice. Regardless of who gets the carries, though, the game is going to come down to Eli Manning's ability to protect the ball better than he has so far this year and the ability of the Giants' "pass-rushers" to make Freeman uncomfortable. Much more on this game to come today and of course tonight from East Rutherford.
Behind enemy lines: Ben Goessling writes that the very good injury luck the Vikings had as they made their way to the playoffs last year appears to be running out. The injury to safety Harrison Smith is of particular interest if your team has -- just to throw out a random example -- a quarterback who's thrown 15 interceptions already. Smith is the only Vikings defensive back who has an interception so far this season. He has two of the team's seven. Four have come from linebackers and one from a defensive lineman. So with Smith out, if Manning gets picked off tonight by a Vikings defensive back, it'll be that player's first pick of the year.
Around the division: The Cowboys' defense, missing three of the four starting linemen with which it made its offseason plans, throttled the Eagles 17-3 and Dallas took over sole possession of first place in the NFC East. Dallas was my pick to win the division before the season started, and nothing that's happened this year has led me to consider changing that pick. The Cowboys have beaten every other team in the division once, and two of their three losses are by a combined four points to the Chiefs and the Broncos. The Redskins' offense looked much better in beating the Bears, but allowing 41 in a game in which the opposing team's starting quarterback got knocked out in the first half is obviously an indication that the defense still has a few things to work on.
Around the league: I'm all for controversy, don't get me wrong. And I totally get the point of view of those who wonder how "pushing" can be a penalty in the NFL. But the rule that cost the Patriots the game against the Jets is, in fact, a rule, and if a player breaks it there should be a penalty. Seems pretty cut and dried. Oddly, it's the second of the Jets' four victories this year that was straight-up handed to them by an opponent's penalty at a critical time in the game. The first came in Week 1, when Greg Schiano's ultra-disciplined Tampa Bay Buccaneers had the Jets beaten before a late-hit, out-of-bounds penalty in the final minutes. Not that the Jets have anything to be ashamed of or should give the games back. Their defense is legitimate, and Geno Smith looks as though he will be as well. My point is that every year, there's a team or two that turns out to be much better that people thought they'd be, and those teams often have a lot of things go their way.