NFC East: Visanthe Shiancoe

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Good morning, as the NFC East blog is now coming to you live from the training camp home of the Super Bowl champion Giants. I hope that, wherever you are reading this, the storms missed you and you're OK. I present your Friday links in order of my training camp itinerary.

New York Giants

Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, who had foot surgery in late May, will start training camp on the physically unable to perform list. So will defensive tackle Chris Canty, tight end Travis Beckum and linebacker Clint Sintim. No surprises among that group, and nothing new on Nicks, which is good news. The Giants initially expected him to be ready around mid-August and that remains the timetable. He's had no setbacks and still expects to play in the season opener 40 days from today.

On the day players reported to training camp, Tom Coughlin said his question was "Which team are we?" Meaning, are they the team that was 7-7 in its first 14 games last year or the team that won the next six after that, including the Super Bowl? The Giants' mission is to improve on last year's 9-7 regular-season record with the help of the confidence they gained from playing like the best team in the league once the playoffs began. It's clear Coughlin wants the team to remember the tough times, too.

Washington Redskins

Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall says rookie Robert Griffin III is "probably the worst quarterback in our division" because "he hasn't taken a snap." Fair enough. Hall's keeping it real. The Redskins have high hopes for Griffin, and Hall likes him a lot. The point is that he's a rookie, the division's other three quarterbacks are very good and accomplished, and everyone needs to remember that Griffin is at the beginning of something, no matter how great they may expect it to ultimately be.

John Keim's practice report from Thursday is exhaustive, which is no surprise if you're a regular reader of John's. He says Tyler Polumbus got first-team snaps at right tackle with Jammal Brown out, but I imagine there'll be a competition at that spot if Brown can't get health. There's lots of stuff in there about almost everyone on the roster. Enjoy.

Philadelphia Eagles

Tight end Brent Celek has a sprained knee and had to miss part of Thursday's practice. He says it's not a problem, and Celek has earned the benefit of the doubt on his ability to handle pain and injury. Right after last season ended, he had hip surgery and sports hernia surgery. Still, all of that would seem to at least be part of the reason they were looking at Visanthe Shiancoe last week before he signed with the Patriots.

And if the president of the United States wants Michael Vick to slide, Vick says, he'll slide.

Dallas Cowboys

Jean-Jacques Taylor isn't buying the Cowboys as contenders in 2012, but he is buying into Jason Garrett's program. He says Garrett is patiently and methodically building something he believes can sustain itself for a long time. It's an interesting perspective. You want your leaders to have vision, and there's no doubting what kind of team Garrett wants to have. He may not have it yet, but JJT thinks he's moving in the right direction. If the Cowboys miss the playoffs again, there will be people calling for heads to roll. But if they show improvement on defense and on the offensive line, it's likely to be seen inside the organization as progress.

Jerry Jones believes the improvements in the secondary and on the offensive line will help the Cowboys specifically in their NFC East matchups. Dallas beat the Redskins twice last year in very close games but went a combined 0-4 against the Eagles and the Giants.

Five things to watch: Vikings at Eagles

December, 28, 2010
Are you ready for some Tuesday night football? For the first time in 64 years, the NFL will hold a game on a Tuesday. The Minnesota Vikings have been hanging out in Philadelphia since Saturday, and they'll likely be starting rookie quarterback Joe Webb unless Brett Favre has a little more drama up his sleeve. Here are five thoughts on tonight's battle between the Philadelphia Eagles and Vikings:

1. Which team does the 48-hour delay help more? I've enjoyed all the rhetoric coming out of the Pennsylvania governor's office. Gov. Ed Rendell, an unabashed Eagles fan who appears on Eagles postgame shows, thinks the postponement was un-American and that China wouldn't have considered delaying a game because of a little blizzard. But Rendell should actually be pleased that the Eagles will play on a relatively dry field tonight. The Eagles may have the fastest offense in the league, so the snow could have neutralized that advantage over the Vikings. I know Philadelphia will have to play the Dallas Cowboys on short rest on Sunday, but I don't think it'll be intimidated by the prospect of facing young Stephen McGee at the Linc. In the big picture, perhaps it will hurt the Eagles that they could end up playing three games in a 12-day span, but it won't be an issue against a Vikings team led by a rookie quarterback. Even the great Adrian Peterson can't bail this team out at this point.

2. The Eagles must shut down the Vikings' running game early. The delay may have allowed Peterson (knee, ankle) to be able to play. His backup is Toby Gerhart, a powerful inside runner who's not really a home-run threat. The Eagles have been excellent against the run since defensive tackle Antonio Dixon took over as the starter in Week 5. The Eagles allow only 89.1 rushing yards per game. If Philadelphia can keep Peterson and Gerhart down early, it will put a lot of pressure on Webb. Peterson has had only one 100-yard rushing day in his past seven outings, so it's hard to imagine him going off Tuesday night.

3. Andy Reid may want to consider a few handoffs early in the game. The Eagles will invariably try to go up top with a deep ball to DeSean Jackson or Jeremy Maclin early in this game. Every team in the league should know what's coming on that first possession, but most of them can't do anything about it. Vikings interim coach Leslie Frazier has a ton of respect for Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. He'll try to emulate what the Bears did against the Vikings, but I don't think he has the personnel to get it done. The Vikings have an All-Pro defensive end in Jared Allen, but I think the Eagles could actually run the ball at him. If LeSean McCoy can rip off a couple of nice runs early in this game, it will make Michael Vick even more effective in the play-action game. The Vikings will do everything they can to make him roll right, but that's easier said than done.

4. The Eagles will be vulnerable to big plays by the Vikings' tight ends. The Vikings have an excellent tight end in Visanthe Shiancoe. I believe Minnesota will try to get Shiancoe matched up on Eagles rookie middle linebacker Jamar Chaney. The rookie played really well against the Giants last week (16 tackles), but Shiancoe is a tough cover down the seam. The Vikings are at their best when they can get their big targets (Shiancoe and Sidney Rice) the ball in the middle of the field. The Eagles must make sure they tackle in the secondary in this game. Cornerback Dimitri Patterson had an awful game against the Giants, so look for the Vikings to take some shots to his side.

5. The Eagles must win this game in the first 10 minutes. Philadelphia has been prolific in the first quarter this season. Reid and Mornhinweg do a tremendous job scripting those first 15 plays, and we've seen teams (Redskins, Cowboys) get overwhelmed against them from the opening snap. If the Eagles can grab a comfortable lead in the first quarter, it will put the Vikings in a really bad spot. The best-case scenario for Reid is if Vick and several other starters are hanging out on the sideline midway through the third quarter. The Eagles have the firepower to cause that scenario. If that happens, this whole 48-hour delay can sort of be mitigated.

And for those of us who watched that Yanks-Giants game 64 years ago, we know how exciting Tuesday night football can be. Enjoy the show. And the Beast will be available for postgame comments.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Tempers flared Sunday at the Metrodome after Minnesota’s final touchdown of a 34-3 playoff victory over Dallas. Cowboys linebacker Keith Brooking sprinted toward the Vikings’ sideline, taunting coach Brad Childress and later calling the late score “classless.”

Vikings nose tackle Pat Williams, meanwhile, said Brooking was lucky to escape the Minnesota sideline in one piece.

“We don’t care what Keith Brooking says,” Williams said. “He was about to get his ass whupped on our sideline over there. It don’t matter. Nobody said anything when they blew out the Eagles [the past two weeks]. It’s the playoffs. It ain’t no regular-season game. If you lose, you go home. We take no pity on them. Do they expect us to? I don’t care about no Brooking. He can say whatever he wants to say.”

To recap: Ahead 27-3 late in the fourth quarter, Childress left his starters in the game. The Cowboys gave up the ball on downs at their 37-yard line with 5:26 remaining, and the Vikings threw three passes on their ensuing six-play drive. The final one was an 11-yard touchdown pass to tight end Visanthe Shiancoe on fourth-and-3 with 1:55 remaining.

Cowboys coach Wade Phillips said the Vikings ran up the score. Said Brooking: “I thought it was classless. I thought it was B.S. Granted, we get paid to stop them, but we had zero timeouts left. I didn’t think there was any call for that.”

Told of Brooking’s comments, Shiancoe laughed and said: “OK, we apologize. I’m sorry. Better?”

The Vikings certainly didn’t need that score to win the game, and I stand by what I wrote after the game. But do the Cowboys have a right to be upset? Did they run it up the past two weeks on Philadelphia? Don’t forget that Childress and Eagles coach Andy Reid remain close friends.

Feel free to weigh in both this post and over at SportsNation.

The Beast prediction: Cowboys own Vikes

January, 15, 2010
It's that time of the week when I finally release my prediction to America. Folks are huddled around their fireplaces tonight waiting for my Cowboys-Vikings pick, unless they live on the West Coast. Obviously, there's a ton of pressure riding on this prediction since we've added so many readers from the NFC North blog this week. But before we get to the main feature, let's look at what the real experts in Bristol thought about this game.

Six of our esteemed panelists picked the Cowboys to win on the road, but former Eagles Eric Allen and Ron Jaworski picked the Vikings. Interestingly, Accuscore and SportsNation both went with the Vikings.

The Beast Prediction: Cowboys 24, Vikings 16. I have to go with the hot team theory, and the Cowboys are definitely in a better place than the Vikings. I don't think the Vikings' offensive line can hold off Anthony Spencer and DeMarcus Ware long enough for Brett Favre to get the ball downfield. And let's stop all this talk about Adrian Peterson. No one runs on the Cowboys, and Peterson hasn't been all that effective late in the season -- by his ridiculous standards. I think the Cowboys could struggle a little bit covering tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, but it won't be a fatal flaw. I'll be catching a plane to Minneapolis on Saturday, so the NFC East blog will be at the Metrodome to bring you all the action.

Please continue to refresh your screens for constant updates -- on Sunday. All my best.