NFC East: Derek Anderson
Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 15
The Giants feel really good about their game plan for Michael Vick. A lot of teams fear Vick, but the Giants seem to relish the opportunity to play against him. Vick didn't account for a passing touchdown the last time they played, and the Giants battered him and caused him to fumble twice, losing one. Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell learned from that experience and he's added some new wrinkles to his approach. Look for safety Deon Grant to play a large role in Fewell's blitz packages. The Giants have the ability to generate pressure without the blitz, but Fewell will bring a safety or a cornerback at times. The Giants have been excellent against the run (see Adrian Peterson), so I think LeSean McCoy will have most of his success in the passing game. He has 70 receptions and the Eagles love the screen game.
Eli Manning has to find someone he trusts on third down. Manning has been really bad on third down this season, and a lot of that has to do with Steve Smith's being out with injuries. Since Smith's now been placed on injured reserve, Manning has to figure something out. Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham will need to concentrate more than ever because Manning can't afford any more deflections. (He's making enough mistakes on his own). This would be a good time for Derek Hagan to become a reliable third-down receiver. He's shown signs of being that player, but he's no Steve Smith. To me, Smith and the Eagles' Jason Avant are two of the best third-down receivers in the league.
Brian Orakpo loves playing against the Cowboys. The Washington Redskins' outside linebacker and former University of Texas star grew up in Houston hating the Cowboys. He's the player who drew the infamous holding penalty on the Cowboys' Alex Barron in the season opener. As former NFL scout Bryan Broaddus points out on ESPNDallas.com, Orakpo does a really nice job of not allowing much of a hitting surface to offensive tackles. The Skins had the good sense to move Orakpo to the left side to face Barron last time. There's a good chance they'll do the same thing against right tackle Marc Colombo. Orakpo draws a lot of holding calls, and the Redskins basically count those as sacks. He causes offensive tackles to panic, and that's about the highest compliment you can pay a pass-rusher.
The Giants will try to exploit Eagles rookie middle linebacker Jamar Chaney. With Stewart Bradley out for the rest of the regular season with a dislocated elbow, Chaney becomes the starter. He's a talented player, but you know that Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride will try to work him over.
You'll be able to tell early in this game how Chaney's going to play. It's a matchup the Giants will be looking at all afternoon. And if the Eagles' linebackers don't stay in their lanes against Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw, they'll be in for a long day.
Update: Wow, thanks for all the comments regarding Chaney. I went off the rails for a minute. Appreciate the feedback.
If I told you Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo had by far the best numbers against the blitz among NFC East quarterbacks, would you believe me? Well, that's exactly what the fine folks at ESPN's Stats & Information are telling me this morning.
Romo has the 10th best passer rating in the league (98.9) when teams bring at least one extra defender. Romo's thrown four touchdowns against the blitz and only one interception. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is the best in the league against the blitz with a 136.7 rating. He's an astounding 40-of-51 for 706 yards, four touchdowns and only one interception.
If not for the dreadful work against the blitz by Jake Delhomme and Derek Anderson, Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb would be the worst in the league with his 39.6 rating. He's 4-of-19 for 40 yards against the blitz. McNabb doesn't have nearly as many attempts against the blitz as other quarterbacks because he missed time with that rib injury. But he's about to make up for lost time when the Giants come to town Sunday. I think Bill Sheridan will send blitzes from all over the field. And Osi Umenyiora will be eager to face his old friend Winston Justice, the man who helped seal his first Pro Bowl appearance.
Giants quarterback Eli Manning is ranked 19th in the league with an 85.1 rating, but he's thrown for more touchdowns (7) against the blitz than any other quarterback. Only Tom Brady has attempted more passes against the blitz (98) than Manning's 96.
Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell checks in four spots behind Manning with a 77.9 passer rating. He's thrown for two touchdowns and three interceptions against the blitz. And by the way, Eagles backup quarterback Kevin Kolb checked in right behind Manning at No. 2o with an 83.7 rating. He threw for three touchdowns and three interceptions against the blitz.
Thanks once again to ESPN's Stats and Information group for passing this along. It's a tremendous resource for the Beast.
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
LANDOVER, Md. -- Almost everyone in the FedEx Field press box has stopped what they're doing to watch the St. Louis beat up on Dallas.
It's 31-7 Rams in the third quarter, and you get the feeling some Redskins officials (and fans) are enjoying this one. Of course, the Rams stopped by FedEx Field last Sunday and beat the Redskins, 19-17.
Anyway, the story from here is that cornerback Shawn Springs will miss the game, but Fred Smoot will be able to take his place. Carlos Rogers and Smoot are both banged up, so this could be a tough spot for the Redskins' secondary. Safety Chris Horton will start, but he's been slowed by an ankle injury.
The Redskins may get a lift from defensive end Jason Taylor, who has been fighting injuries throughout the season.
The most positive news for Browns fans is that tight end Kellen Winslow will play. I'm watching Derek Anderson warm up with Braylon Edwards at midfield as we speak. I think the Browns will try to take a couple of shots early in this one.
Keep your eye on how many carries Clinton Portis has today. He was listed as doubtful this week, but no one expected him to miss the game.
I think Shaun Alexander is simply an insurance policy in this game. Rock Cartwright will get the carries when Portis needs rest. Washington Post columnist Mike Wise thinks Alexander might have something left in the tank.
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
So much for the Giants running away with the NFC East. From the start, you could tell the Browns had more energy than the Giants. I thought the score late in the first half would give New York some momentum, but Eli Manning came back and threw an interception.
He'd done a superb job of limiting his mistakes in the first four games, but he had a miserable night against a pedestrian secondary. Even after all the mistakes, the Giants had a chance to get back in the game in the fourth quarter but the Browns' defense kept making big plays in the red zone.
Tom Coughlin said after the game that he didn't see this coming. The defense didn't put enough pressure on Derek Anderson, giving time to make plays downfield to Braylon Edwards. I was startled to see a graphic late in the game that the Giants didn't force a single punt in the game. This is one of the best defenses in football, but they were dominated by the Browns' offensive line Monday.
Cleveland did a great job of committing to the running game and Jamal Lewis finished with 88 yards on 21 carries. The running game opened up the play-action pass and Edwards finished with five catches and 154 yards.
The Giants thrive on sacks, but they were shut out Monday. The Browns used a lot of three-step drops in the first half to keep them off balance. The Browns couldn't afford to fall to 1-4, and they turned that desperation into a positive.
Overall, it was a pretty rough weekend for the NFC East. The Giants will host the 49ers next Sunday, so they should be able to improve to 5-1. Something tells me they won't get caught looking past San Francisco.