The NFC Will Go Through the Meadowlands

For the first time since 2000, the Giants will be the #1 seed in the NFC playoffs, earning a first-round bye and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs in the process.  What a game last night.  If you missed the Giants/Carolina battle at the Meadowlands Sunday night, you missed a helluva football game.  Here are a couple quick hit thoughts on that and Big Blue:

  • The Giants are a much different, much better team with Brandon Jacobs in the lineup.  He provides a pretty serious change of pace from the quickness of Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw and can just wear down defenses.  By wearing down the D, he enables Ward and Bradshaw to run for some long gains (see Ward’s 51 yard run in OT to start the game-winning drive) and he opens up the passing game.  I didn’t know he’s a free agent at the end of the year, but they better re-sign him.  I love Jacobs fire and his strength.  After the game when asked about how he changes the team’s philosophy, Jacobs responded “I just come in and run into people.”  What he meant to say, of course, is that he runs through people.
  • I’d like to see Ahmad Bradshaw more.  He’s been mostly on kick return duty lately and spells Ward late in the game, but he was a dynamic rusher last season (ask the Buffalo Bills) and I’d like to see the Giants utilize him more.  I know he’s cut from the same mold as Ward, but he’s got a quick first few steps and could spring for a couple big gains.
  • The Offense still has problems.  Correction, the passing game has problems.  With over 300 yards on the ground against a good defense, I’m satisfied with the running game.  However, without Plaxico “Property of the D.O.C.” Burress, the Giants don’t have a go-to receiver.  On a few occasions last night, Eli Manning and Domenik Hixon looked out of sync and while I like Hixon, he’s nowhere near the receiver that Plax is.  Burress and Manning just clicked and Burress had an intuitive connection with his QB that enabled him to make some key grabs (many of which were no look, Burress just knew where to be).  Because of this, I fully expect Eli and the first team to play at least the first half against Minnesota to try to get more in sync before the playoffs.  The bye can be used to rest the starters.
  • The O-Line Dictates the Team’s Success. I think this is tied to the first two bullets, I’ve discussed so far.  With the O-Line playing well and cohesively, Big Blue can run over just about anyone.  Without the O-Line playing well, though, the Giants are in trouble.
  • Eli Manning Doesn’t Make Mistakes Anymore. For pretty much his entire career, except last year’s playoffs, the NY Media hasn’t left Eli Manning alone.  Funny how after he wins the Super Bowl, no one really says a word about him.  Here’s a guy who has become an excellent game manager on the field and one that – get ready – doesn’t kill you with mistakes.  This year, he has a career-high 60% completion percentage, 21 TDs and a career-low 10 picks (shattering his previous best of 17).  With all the attention that other NY Quarterback gets, he makes a ton of mistakes and throws a ton of interceptions.  Eli has quietly settled down and become one of the top Quarterbacks in the league.  Listen, I get that he doesn’t put up gaudy numbers, but neither did Tom Brady until Randy Moss arrived, he just won ball games.  People always respected Brady because he didn’t make mistakes and he could make a big play when necessary.  Eli has quietly matured into that, himself.  He won’t lose you a game anymore, like he used to.  Seriously, though, until Moss came to town and Brady threw 50 touchdowns, his career-high was 28, close to Manning’s best.  Like Eli, Brady just completed 60% of his passes and limited his interceptions.  Unlike baseball, the NFL is about winning – and that’s it.  There is less of an emphasis on statistics and more of an emphasis on rings.  To be a great quarterback, all you have to is win games and rings and Eli is showing he can do just that.

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