Friday, December 24, 2010
Final Word: NFC East
By Matt Mosley
Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 16 games:
Can the Giants shake off last Sunday's devastating loss to the Eagles? Giants quarterback Eli Manning requested time alone with his teammates Monday, and coach Tom Coughlin was happy to oblige. His speech was short, but it grabbed everyone's attention. Defensive tackle Barry Cofield told me Thursday that he couldn't believe how much energy he saw in the locker room this week. The Giants have done a nice job of recognizing their obvious failure late in last Sunday's game and then moving on to Green Bay. Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride has tried to get his unit to come out with a sense of urgency in recent weeks, and I think you'll see that against the Packers on Sunday afternoon. New York will want to take the crowd out of the game as soon as possible.
Eli Manning held a players-only meeting on Monday to address the failures of Sunday's loss to Philadelphia and to get the team focused on Green Bay.
Can Eagles cornerback Dimitri Patterson bounce back from an embarrassing performance against the Giants? Patterson has played well at times this season, but the Giants' wide receivers made him look silly in the first half. The Vikings still have firepower at receiver, so it will be interesting to see what happens if Patterson gets matched up with Sidney Rice. "I'm looking forward to it," Patterson said Friday. "As far as I'm concerned, that was two quarters, three plays, however you want to look at it. I finished that game, I came back in the second half. And I will finish the rest of the season." I think Patterson will do a lot better this week because the Eagles will likely have a better pass rush against the Vikings' offensive line.
Jason Garrett needs this win to finalize his campaign to become permanent head coach. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones admitted last week that a loss to the Washington Redskins would've given him pause about Garrett's future. But the Cowboys pulled out a 33-30 win with a late field goal, so Jones didn't have to worry about that. Dallas should dominate the Cardinals, who are playing with a rookie quarterback. If the Cardinals somehow pull off a Christmas miracle and beat the Cowboys, fans will call for Jon Gruden and Jeff Fisher as the next head coach. But I'd be really surprised if the Cowboys found a way to lose this game.
Eli Manning needs to have a big-time game in Green Bay.As I wrote in Thursday's column, Manning has struggled in December throughout much of his career (14-16). He played well against the Eagles last week, but still has a good shot at leading the league in interceptions. The good news for Giants fans is that Manning has wonderful memories of Lambeau Field. He's said that he actually enjoyed winning the '07 NFC Championship Game (played in Jan. '08) more than the Super Bowl. Those wins helped define his career, and I think he'll draw on that experience from three seasons ago in beating the Packers on Sunday.
Can Mike Shanahan get something accomplished in Jacksonville? We learned Friday that Pro Bowl outside linebacker Brian Orakpo (hamstring, groin) will miss a game for the first time in his NFL career. Orakpo will be replaced by Rob Jackson, who will make the first start of his career. And there's also a chance that Kevin Barnes and Macho Harris could be the starting safeties. Reed Doughty is out with a concussion and Kareem Moore will be a game-time decision. I don't know if the Skins have much hope of winning, but Shanahan will have a chance to evaluate some young players. And it will be interesting to see how Rex Grossman performs following his excellent second half against the Dallas Cowboys. Shanahan will make massive roster changes this offseason, but a few players could help their cause with strong performances against Jacksonville.