Full Disclosure- I do not like Bleacher Report. So I am biased. I feel they are 'the rag' of blogs, putting together any story to catch eyeballs. I was forwarded one of their posts by a friend, which lists "9 reasons the Giants will make the playoffs." After walking through their 9 reasons, I whittle it down to 3. The motivation for discussing this is not to undermine Bleacher Report (they do a good enough job of that on their own), but to objectively look at where this Giants team is at the bye.
Here are the "9 BR reasons" and our responses.
1. Eli is an elite QB. No he is not. Eli had a great game going into the bye. He took care of the ball. But look who he did that against- the Buffalo Bills. The Bills defense, as we noted in last Thursday's post, is 31st in the league. The Bills pass defense is #30 in the league. The Bills are dead last in the league in sacks, so when Eli is comfortable back there he'll pick you apart, and he did. The only saving grace for Buffalo is that they lead the league in INTs (how else are you 4-2?), so once again, Eli deserves credit for protecting the ball.
We do not want to turn this post into yet another Eli debate. Let's agree on a few things. (a) Eli is a good QB. Not great. Good. (b) Eli is inconsistent, throws the ball high, and is inaccurate at times. (c) Eli has tremendous poise and is very good at reading defenses. And this one is most important- (d) Eli does not lift and carry the rest of the team to victories the way an "Elite QB" can and routinely does in the NFL. So Eli can help this team to the playoffs, but he is not elite. I'll give this one a 1/2 point.
2. Young targets will continue to improve. Hey, at Week 1, the very first game of the season, this is what we said in the NYG-WAS recap:
Ballard at TE was able to run up the seam and make some impressive catches. This is huge for the offense, as I was extremely concerned the offense would not have this kind of threat. If Ballard can continue to do the things he did for the Giants today, this is incrementally one of the most significantly positive notes for the team in 2011 and beyond.
And when Manningham went down, we were extremely quick to recognize the contributions of Victor Cruz. What has to be recognized is that there are 32 teams out there that are trying to get better each week also. If you are not moving forward and improving, you are falling behind. This is the difference between the objectivity of this site and the homerdome of others. We are thrilled that Cruz and Ballard are going to get better, but they are rookies who will make mistakes too. Ballard and Cruz made mistakes that cost the Giants in the loss vs SEA. In short, this reason will help the Giants in 2012 and 2013, but in 2011 it is marginal. We will give this one a 1/2 point.
3. Running Game can't get any worse. Well, sorry, but this one is blog drivel. This "reason" is why blogs get bad names. If anything, it is a problem for when the weather gets worse, what will the Giants have when they "need" to run the ball. 0 points.
4. Healthier Defense. Justin Tuck? Yes. Amukamara? No. Amukamara we have slated as a '3' solid starter, so we do not expect miracles from him in an aborted rookie campaign. Whatever we get in 2011 is gravy. Now as for Tuck, that will hopefully be huge. 1/2 point.
5. Getting Seasoned. Will the on the job experience afforded Jacquian Williams vault his level of play? Well, if the Bills 80 yard TD run is any evidence, he has a long way to go. We like his speed. In the words of Jesse Armstead, not ours, let's see where we can get this kid to in 3 years. Translation: not in 2011. 0 points.
6. Corey Webster's play. Well, this blog loves Corey Webster. We have opined plenty of times before that all he needs is the proper coach to allow him to maximize his skills. We noted a few days after the Bills game how Fewell had let Corey be Corey, letting him lock up the best WR in single coverage the way Spags has done with him in the past. In complete agreement here. Do not stop this scheme, Fewell. 1 point.
7. Takeaway Kings. This blog pointedly dismantled the "Fool's Gold" that is Perry Fewell's turnover record. Fewell creates feast vs weaker teams and famine vs the stronger teams. So now we go into the heart of the schedule where the defense plays against the better offenses. We do not believe a leopard changes his spots. We are not holding our breath and thinking Fewell has figured out that your secondary can look into the better QB's eyes and prey upon them the same way you can against weaker QBs. Or that the better QBs/OCs will just as easily let JPP and Osi strip sack them the way they have done in the first 6 contests.
Hey, the Giants play against Romo and Vick a total of 3 times, and those QBs are charitable when it comes to turnovers. Those contests will likely get decided by whether or not the defense can make that takeaway happen. We will focus on this as objectively as we can: the remaining teams the Giants play (not counting MIA, which is not what we stated was the real start of the second half) have a NET takeaway ratio of exactly 0. SF+8, GB+8, NYJ+3, NE+1, DAL-1, DAL-1, NO-4, WAS-6, PHL-8. We will give this a 1/2 point.
8. Second Half Schedule Not As Terrible As It Looks. We have to keep this as simple as possible. In the middle of August, a full month before the season began, we stated that the first 7 gameswere going to be much easier than the last 9. The record of the first 7 teams: 12-30. The record of the last 9 teams: 37-20. So maybe you can argue that the Jets are nowhere near as good as they were the past two seasons, or that NE, GB and NO do not play very good defense, etc... but what does that mean then about the 12-30 piece of TERDs we played against the first 7 games? No, the Giants had no control over their schedule. But let's be fair and objective here- we could have been beat by the Rams and the Cardinals.. and were beat by the Seahawks, and these teams are collectively 3-15!! So no matter how you slice it, the competition is going up come November 6th. 0 points.
9. Division Not As Strong As Anticipated. Just look at the Dallas Cowboys. They choked it big vs Detroit and the Jets. They could have and arguably should have beaten the Patriots. Yet they are still 3-3 and their schedule is much softer the rest of the way. The Giants and Cowboys overlap on 4 games; the Giants play NO, GB, NE, NYJ and SF while DAL plays BUF, AZ, TB, PHL, SEA Just my take, but the Giants need to sweep Dallas to have a decent shot. Could two teams from the NFC East make the playoffs? Possibly. But it is shaping up to be just 1 at the moment. 0 points.
So there you have it, a total of 3 reasons for why the Giants "can" get to the playoffs. Oh, by the way, what Bleacher Report misses which bolsters their argument? How about the fact that the Giants are leading the league with 21 sacks. Sacks kill drives. I can buy that one.
We have had enough fun looking at some big picture macro views of the Gmen at the bye. Tomorrow it is back to one-game-at-a-time, the Miami Dolphins.