We'll do a double dip because it is Friday's Divisional Round Preview, but also because the Gmen have a new defensive coordinator. 1) Perry Fewell. Ex-defensive coordinator and interim head coach of the Buffalo Bills. NFL.com and NJ.com recapped his past experience and provide a few observations from people like Kawika Mitchell.
The skinny from Wonder is this: Fewell is not the sharpest schemes guy. He relates to the players well, he can motivate them. They will work hard and play hard for him. The Giants defense needs motivation (obviously from what we saw at the end) but they also need the schemes. Fewell is not an innovator in the mold of Spagnuolo. The problem is that Coughlin does not put his hands on with the defense.. what you get with Fewell is what you get. Contrast this with Rex Ryan and what he does. He motivates and he schemes. The Jets do not have a pass rush yet they are extremely successful vs the pass...why? Because of Ryan's schemes. The Jets blitz 54% of the time, #1 in the NFL, and the second highest team for blitz rate is ~36%, so it is not even close. Ryan is able to make lemonade out of lemons because he is adopting the Fran Tarkenton Rule (soon to be initiated into 'The Rules.')
2) This is the best weekend of the year for football fans. This is the weekend of the Immaculate Reception, when the Raiders and Steelers were going out at it, toe to toe. This is where my love of football was born. This one never gets old (let it buffer if it does not load fast enough). Some of the greatest football is ALWAYS played on divisional weekend. 4 contests. John Facenda. The Voice of God. 4th and hopeless. The Giants were ALWAYS out of it for the playoffs when I was a kid growing up. It wasn't until I was a freshman at college that Carpenter and Taylor put us over the top and got us to the playoffs for the first time. So watching football without the gmen this weekend is about honoring the rest of the league and respecting the next championship.
Wonder offers his preview for all 4 games. Unfortunately he was not on record here last weekend because I was too buried to get out his picks. He was 4-0. Is there any proof? You can read his comments about the 12 teams going into the playoffs last Thursday. BAL: "Don't overlook the Ravens. No penalties + no turnovers = victory this weekend." or Green Bay: "GB- Cardinals not done yet." Wonder can be 2-2 this weekend, but if his Jets win he won't care. He likes all the chalk.
Game 1: AZ vs NO. NO comes out smoking. AZ will have a critical turnover and NO will win it from there. NO's secondary is banged up. No Charles Grant. But they should still win the game. I have more faith in Gregg Williams than I do for the AZ DC.
Game 2: BAL vs IND. The Ravens can keep this close but IND will win it.
Game 3: DAL vs MIN. This game is about Tony Romo, not Brett Favre. If Dallas can run the ball and not turn over the ball they will win this game. But Dallas will turnover the ball. It is very easy to see Dallas slip up. Why? Because it is one thing to see them play a good game at home, it is another when the crowd noise is so bad that Flozell Adams doesn't hear the snap count and false starts, when Romo will get strip sacked by Allen. Barber or Jones will cough up the ball. Minnesota pushes the pocket. It is all about the dome. If the game was played on a neutral field I would like Dallas. Wrong field for them. Wrong time. From Minnesota's perspective, all they have to do is have Adrian Peterson not fumble the ball and they will win.
There is one scheme that is great for Dallas. Dallas has to run a version(/and variations) of this multiple times to win the game. 3 WRs line up on the right side. Miles Austin in the slot. Ogletree and Williams are the two other WRs. Witten split out about 4 yards off the left tackle. Felix Jones is the single back. The 3 WRs run a fly, square out and a post. Witten runs a 15 yd square in. Romo does quick reads of TWO people, Witten's IN and Austin's POST. If neither are there, then Jones will go for 40 yards and possible TD on a LEFT FLARE. Minnesota does not have a good Weak Safety for coverage of all of those routes. And all Jones has to do is break one tackle on the left side and he is gone. This play does a great job of getting Jones into space...
Dallas needs to slow that pass rush of the Williams guys and Allen. FELIX JONES IS THE WILD CARD IN THIS GAME> you have to get him out in the flat. If I were coaching and gameplanning, that would be my #1 priority, getting Jones out in space. He is so special and just needs that space. A few TDS by Jones, take that crowd noise out of the game. But Dallas does not do that, they underutilize Jones and with the dome and the crowd I see Minnesota winning the game.
Game 4: NYJ vs SD. SD to win a tight game. But the Jets have one chance (which echoes exactly what Francesa said, but you know Wonder's philosophy from the Giants-Saints game earlier this year).. put Rivers on his a**. I do not care if they beat me with 70 yard pass plays. I do not want to be nickeled and dimed. Send the house. Pressure Rivers and disrupt him ALL GAME. GO AFTER RIVERS. I said this about Marino, I'll say it about Rivers, you cannot let him be comfortable back there, he'll kill us. The Tarkenton Rule. The Wonder Rule. Sacks are a bonus, hurries and knockdowns are a must.
Ultimatenyg here. Wonder forces me to go neutral and give up the Dallas prediction. I still really respect the Dallas DL pressure from Ratliff, Spencer and Ware. I still think they will win, but I can also see Wonder's scenario where a couple of mental mistakes on the road cost the Boys. Those Romo mistakes, or Adams mistakes, or Jones mistakes... it is Wade Phillips. Dallas is the better team. But the better team does not always win. It should be a great game.