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.
Will the Cowboys be able to slow down Rex Grossman? The stunning news came down Friday morning that a healthy Donovan McNabb would once again be benched. The Cowboys have prepared for McNabb, but I don't think the prospect of facing Grossman is all that intimidating. At this point, it almost seems like the Shanahans get a kick out of shaking things up. I believe that Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan has always been more comfortable with Grossman than McNabb. There have been reports that Kyle wanted to make this move about 13 weeks ago. Now his father will finally give him the chance. So much for that lucrative contract extension for McNabb. At this rate, it's hard to imagine his starting for the Redskins again. And while the Eagles respect McNabb too much to laugh about this, they certainly have to feel good about their decision. I sat down and watched a few plays from that loss to the Bucs. McNabb did have some awful throws that short-hopped receivers. He can normally play through those bad stretches, but the Shanahans are tired of waiting for him.
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. I think Vick will try to find tight end Brent Celek down the seam early in this game. He's an incredibly tough matchup for a linebacker -- especially one who doesn't have much experience. 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.