Right Place/Wrong Team

The Giants making the playoffs after a four-year absence is a wonderful thing. The problem is, they are running into the worst possible first round matchup they could have drawn.

Yes, they have beaten Green Bay in Green Bay before in the playoffs. In fact, the last two Super Bowl victories went through Green Bay. And yes, in both of those seasons they lost to Green Bay in the regular season, just like they did this year. But tell me, what does that have to do with the 2016 Giants? There are five players still on the entire roster from the 2011 team, and one of them, JPP, is not playing Sunday. Eli Manning looks a lot more like the 2007 version of himself than the 2011 version and Green Bay is the hottest team in the league right now, winning six-straight to make the playoffs.

I’m not saying the Giants can’t win. They can, but they will need a lot of things to break their way. They will need to fluster Aaron Rodgers, no easy task. They will need to hold up in their protection of Manning, again no easy task. They will need to run the ball in very cold conditions, something they haven’t shown a consistent ability to do. Add it all up, and I don’t see the Giants walking away with a win on Sunday, no matter what “history” says will happen.

Hopefully, I am wrong.

Here’s to 2017!

My 2016 predictions were mostly very wrong,  but I did predict a Cubs World Series, a change of scheduling for the CFB playoffs,  and the Giants making the playoffs, so there’s that. Here’s what I see sports wise in 2017

January

A record seven players get elected to the Hall of Fame-Bagwell, Bonds, Clemens, Guerrero, Hoffman, Raines and Ivan Rodriguez.

Ohio State beats Alabama to win the CFB playoffs

The Raiders beat New England on a snowy field in the AFC Championship and advance to the Super Bowl where they meet the Cowboys.  The Giants lose their first round playoff game.

February

The Cowboys win the Super Bowl and Donald Trump takes the credit.for making the Cowboys great again

A-Rod shows up at Marlins camp in “phenomenal shape”and ready to compete for a job.

March

Duke and UNC both secure #1 seeds along with Villanova and UCLA in the tournament.

A-Rod retires again.

April

UCLA cuts down the nets after beating Kansas in the championship game

Tiger Woods actually plays in the Masters but misses the cut  Bubba Watson wins his third title

MLB sees two major stars get suspended for PEDs.

The Knicks and Rangers make the playoffs. The Knicks get eliminated in the first round

May

The Rangers lose in the conference finals to Montreal. Canada closes down for the Stanley Cup.

Cleveland and Golden State make quick work of the other NBA teams and head for their third-straight Finals matchup.

June

Durant is the difference as Golden State takes the crown.

Chicago wins another Stanley Cup over Montreal.

Jordan Speith wins the U.S. Open

July

Despite no longer “counting” MLB’s All-Star Game ratings actually improve over last year.

Phil Mickleson wins his last major at the British Open

August

Clint Frazier makes his Yankee debut while Aaron Judge gets optioned back to AAA.

September

Yankees finish the year at 83-79

October

Cubs make it two-straight with a sweep of the Astros.

November

The Knicks open the year 4-0

The 49ers are the surprise of the NFL, finishing November in first.

December

Florida State, Alabama, Michigan, and USC face off in the CFB playoffs

A blogger vows to do better in 2018 than he did with his predictions in 2017.

Happy New Year!!

 

 

 

That Was Ugly

The Giants played a clunker last night, one that should calm all the best team in the NFC talk for awhile. The good news is, they are almost guaranteed to make the playoffs. In fact, it would be quite an upset if they didn’t.

Do I sound too confident? I don’t mean to, but consider what has to happen for the Giants to miss the playoffs.

1- They need to lose to Washington next week. Win and they are in.

2- The Packers beat Minnesota this week and Detroit next week.

3- Detroit beats Dallas Monday and then loses to Green Bay.

4- Tampa beats New Orleans and then Carolina.

5- The Falcons need to beat Carolina and New Orleans.

In that scenario, the Giants end up in a three-way tie for the wild card and lose on tiebreakers. Again, every one of those things, a total of 9 different outcomes, needs to happen or the Giants make the playoffs. The way things have gone the past few years around here you would be crazy not to think there is a chance, but it is a pretty small one. So relax, enjoy Christmas weekend and get enjoy the nine days off before the next game. We have all earned it.

 

Vereen Is Done

Shane Vereen is now really out for the season. He missed nine weeks, came back and lasted parts of two games. Tough year for him. Ryan Nassib is also out for the season with an elbow injury. I would assume, that this will be the end of Nassib’s career in blue as he is a free agent after the season and I would guess that the Giants might draft Eli’s replacement this offseason.

The Nassib injury is of no concern, if he was playing the Giants were in trouble, but Vereen’s injury could be a problem. They can’t run the ball, so using Vereen’s receiving ability gave them the option to try short swing passes instead of running.  Since none of their other running backs have shown the ability to catch the ball, that option is dead. If you are a NFL team looking to defend the Giants, I would force them to try to run the ball as much as possible. Unless Paul Perkins can develop at a quicker pace, I wouldn’t expect much success.

The critical injury is to Janoris Jenkins, who isn’t practicing. The Giants head to Philly on Thursday and while Jenkins may play, he would probably be limited. Apple and DRC have been very good this year, but Jenkins may be the best corner in the league right now. He simply shuts down the opposition’s best receiver. The Giants have an interesting dilemma with him. Do they rush him back this week if it could aggravate his injury? Or do they let him rest, knowing that a win in either of their last two games gets them into the playoffs? (And yes, I am not expecting a NFC East title because I don’t think Dallas loses their final 2 and that is the only way it could happen.)

It’s a tough call because as much as you want to win Thursday and get into the playoffs, you do have the fallback of the following Sunday in Washington plus the fact that Tampa and Green Bay would need to both win out for the Giants to be eliminated. We’ll see what happens under the lights Thursday.

Now Comes The Hard Part

Give the Giants credit. They are 8-3, winners of six-straight. We can point out a lot of flaws, but they are doing something right, and it isn’t just a fortuitous schedule. The problem is, the schedule turns really ugly now.

The final five games are brutal: @Pitt, Dallas (Sunday Night Football), Detroit, @Philly (Thursday Night Football), @Washington. When I picked games before the season started, I had the Giants sitting currently at 7-4, and finishing 1-4 to go 8-8. I still think a 1-4 finish might be all they manage. I don’t see them beating Pittsburgh or Dallas. Detroit looks really good recently. Washington will be problematic. They could and really should beat Philly even on the road.

That would leave them at 9-7 which might get them into the playoffs, but would also leave them with little momentum and a probable first round exit. A good team has to come out of this stretch at 10-6 or better. Are the Giants that kind of team? I still say no, but this is the reason you play the games.

Not Buying It

Yes, the Giants are 6-3. And yes, I think they might be 8-3 in two weeks. But no, I’m not ready to say this is anything more than a mediocre team.

Start with some stats. The Giants are a minus-8 in the takeaway/giveaway department. They have scored two fewer points than they have allowed. They are 24th in yards gained and 15th in yards allowed. Does anything strike you as above-average there?

They can’t run the ball, ranked 31st in the league at that. They can’t pressure the QB, ranked 30th in sacks. And they don’t convert 3rd downs very often, ranked 25th in that. The one thing they do really well is protect Eli, allowing the second-fewest sacks in the league.

Yet they are 6-3 and would be a playoff team if the season ended today.  And as I mentioned earlier, with a home game this week against Chicago, and a road game the next week in Cleveland, 8-3 is a distinct possibility.

The problem is, after that they could crash and burn to 8-8. Look at the schedule. Home against Dallas, road game in Pittsburgh, home against Detroit, finish on the road in Washington and Philly. They might be favored in the Detroit game, but as of right now, that’s going to be it.

So enjoy this. Admire the standings for th next few weeks. The pain is coming. This is a 4-4 team at best masquerading as a playoff team. It won’t last.

Predicting The Giants Season

Ok, here I go, a game-by-game guess at how the Giants end up.

Game 1- @Dallas- Two weeks ago, I would have said loss, but that was before Romo got hurt, and a rookie QB stepped in. Add in a rookie RB and I think the Giants will play enough defense to win this game.

Game 2- New Orleans- While I would bet less points are scored than last time, I don’t think the Giants can beat Drew Brees.

Game 3- Washington- Giants win this one, go to 2-1 and then the pain comes.

Game 4- @Vikings- Could have been the same situation as Week 1, but the Vikings brought in Bradford, who beat the Giants twice last year. Make it three-straight.

Game 5- @Green Bay- Not even close to winning this one.

Game 6- Ravens- I think these two teams are about equal, so I give it to the home team Giants to get back to .500.

Game 7- @Rams (London)- I think the Giants can win this and will to enter their bye week at 4-3

Game 8- Philly- They can beat these guys and will.

Game 9-Bengals- Nope, they can’t beat these guys.

Game 10- Bears- Back to the win column.

Game 11- @Cleveland- Closer than it should be, but another win to get to 7-4.

Game 12- @Pittsburgh- Not even close, a big loss.

Game 13- Dallas- Romo’s probably back or the rookie has thrived. Either way, the Giants lose this at home.

Game 14- Lions- I think Detroit could be a really good team this year, chalk it up as a loss.

Game 15- @Philly- This team is a mess and I think they win this.

Game 16- @Washington- I think they lose this to finish 8-8. The crazy thing is 8-8 could win the NFC East, especially if the Giants are 4-2 in the division as I predicted.

For comparison sake, I had them at 6-10 last year which was dead right and means I will be dead wrong this year.

 

The Anti Decision

I’m having a hard time understanding the anger directed at Kevin Durant for signing with Golden State. For one thing, he did it the right way. He didn’t go out and embarrass his former club, just the opposite, writing this piece in the Players Tribune.  Second, can you blame him for the move?

Durant is a nine-year veteran at this point in his career. He has done everything except win a title so he is joining a team that gives him a great shot to do it. What’s wrong with that?

Sure if you are an OKC fan this hurts a lot, but if you are not why are you upset? An immensely talented player used his free agency to find a place he wanted to play. He didn’t force his way out of OKC, he left after nine years.

Its funny how people forget certain things like the fact John Elway was drafted by the Colts, or Eli Manning was drafted by the Chargers. We forget those things because neither of them ever played a snap for those teams. Instead they forced their way out of those teams without even trying to play in the city that drafted them. Or how about Carmelo forcing his way out of Denver a few months before he hit free agency so he could get a bigger contract from the Knicks?

Durant didn’t do any of those things. He made the choice free agency allowed him to make. All the people howling about it should remember that.

Another Way To Go

I didn’t mind the Derrick Rose trade because the commitment was for one year. If Rose rediscovered his greatness, the Knicks would have an incredibly valuable asset on their hands at the next trade deadline. If not, he gets erased from the cap next offseason. And, if Rose makes Carmelo better, the Knicks could get more for him in a trade as well. But I was worried that the Knicks were going to turn around and sign Dwight Howard, an aging malcontent. That doesn’t sound like it will happen, but it does sounds like the Knicks are going to give Jokim Noah a four-year deal for something around $70-million. It’s not the money that bothers me, Timothy Mozgrov just got only a little less from LA, its what it means. It means that the Knicks are trying to win right now and that is stupid.

Noah can be a really good player when he is healthy, but he is 31 and on the downside of his career. Adding him to this team means the Knicks are keeping Rose and Anthony and they are going to try to be a playoff team next year which is good in the short term, but really dumb in the long term if you believe in Porzingis. Because the goal should be to surround Porzingis with enough talent in a few years to compete for a title. That means acquiring draft picks and other future assets, not guys who will be washed up or retired in a few years. Consider a team with Rose, Anthony, Noah, Porzingis, and someone TBD at shooting guard. Are they good enough to make the playoffs? Absolutely, but what are they going to do when they get there? I would say winning a first round matchup is about their ceiling. Are they good enough to beat Cleveland? Not unless that TBD shooting guard is Kevin Durant. And that’s the ultimate thing. I don’t care about the Knicks being in the playoffs again. I have suffered through two terrible eras of Knicks basketball, this one, and the 80’s, and I am still here. But, I remember the 1990’s. Those teams never won, but they had enough talent that they had a chance almost every year. That’s what I want, a team that is a legitimate title contender like what the Rangers have been these past few years, or the Yankees were from 1994 to 2012. That’s a team I can enjoy watching, and while I will suffer if they come up short, at least I will have gotten the chance to see them compete at the highest level.

Instead we will probably get a team that will finish above .500, make the playoffs and maybe win a series. They will then get crushed by someone in the second round and head home with a mediocre draft pick as their consolation prize. I would rather blow it all up, trade away everyone except Porzingis and build for the future. It’s too bad Phil Jackson doesn’t agree.

 

Now What?

In a vacuum, the trade for Derrick Rose is a good one for the Knicks. They didn’t overpay. They got a player who could be great next year, but is only signed through next year, so the risk is minimal. And when was the last time the Knicks actually acquired a draft pick in a trade instead of sending one away? The problem is, the Knicks do not operate in a vacuum and I am now terrified that the Knicks will take a serious run at Dwight Howard.

And that would be a huge mistake. Howard isn’t the player he once was, and he clearly has attitude issues. In short, he is someone the Knicks should stay far, far away from. But these are the Knicks where floor seats are expensive and need superstar names to entice customers to buy. Smart fans would prefer almost anyone, and especially Hassan Whiteside, in the pivot next year. Hopefully, Phil Jackson agrees with that.