Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Giants: Raiders review

Not much to analyze about the game itself, once again because of the level of competition, but there are some observations we can make about the league. These last three games have been like preseason games. Giants starters were on the bench in the second half and the greatest tension was whether the Giants would hold onto their shutout against Tampa Bay. Every year we have lived by the mantra of parity in the NFL and "on any given Sunday...". That doesn't seem to apply this year. The league seems to be much more stratified this year than in past years, almost like an unofficial caste system. There are a few very good teams, a bunch of average teams and several really awful teams; in fact there seem to be more awful teams in the league than there have been in the past. Tampa Bay, Kansas City, Oakland and St. Louis are just dreadful teams. Cleveland, Buffalo and Detroit are maybe a hair better than the worst group, but not by much. I can't figure out where to place the Titans who won 13 games last year, and are 0-5 this year without that much change in their roster, except for the notable departure of Haynseworth. Forgetting the Titans for a moment, it is really hard to evaluate the middle teams in the league, or even the superior teams in the league, at this early point in the season, because the record is so dependent on which teams they may have played. For example, the cumulative record of the teams the Giants have played is 6-19. However, the Giants have clubbed their opponents and it's pretty easy to say that they are good team, though it is hard to judge just how good they really are. However, where it's really hard to judge is the teams that are 2-3 or 3-2. Consider the Cowboys, who are 3-2, for example. At first glance, you might say that the Cowboys at 3-2 are a decent team with a decent record. However, the Cowboys lost their only two games against good teams and their 3 victories have come against the Chiefs (0-5), the Bucs (0-5) and the Panthers (1-3). The 2-3 Redskins only wins came in very close games against the awful Rams and Bucs and their losses are against Carolina, Detroit and the Giants. You are what your record says you are; I get that. But 2-3 against the lame opponents that they have played is revealing. Looking at it another way, the Redskins 4 opponents besides the Giants have not won a single game this year against another team. The record of the Redskins opponents is 2-17 and those two wins came against the Redskins themselves. So the Redskins opponents (except for Giants) are winless against the rest of the league. They must really stink. The Redskins even lost to the Lions and the Panthers, the only wins that those two teams have.

After each of these last 3 wins that the Giants have had against the "have-nots" in the league, the experts proclaimed that the new "worst team in the NFL" is the team that the Giants had just drubbed. These teams then went on to play almost-competitive games against their other opponents, so maybe the Giants are just really good and made them look awful.

This analysis makes my head hurt and it's really pointless. We will find out who the cream in the league is after a few more weeks when the teams with better records start playing each other.

I always try to be balanced and fair in my analysis and never automatically overestimate the worth or standing of players on the Giants. I will say this: there is no QB in the league that is playing at a higher level than Eli right now, with the possible exception of the other QB with the same last name. Eli was brilliant on Sunday. While the Raiders may be a bad team, their defense is actually quite good. They have a very strong DL with a pro-bowl player in Seymour. They have the consensus best CB in football and they have very athletic LBs. Their defense was around the middle of the league coming in to the game, which means that they are better than they really seem to be, because they get no help from their pitiful offense. So while winning the game was not a great accomplishment, scoring 44 points and getting nearly 500 yards of offense was good.

Here's how dominant the Giants defense was against the awful Raiders offense. Aside from the obvious stats that you know about - Raiders 124 yards in offense, 2.8 average yards per carry and 3 turnovers - the Giants had 6 sacks. That's a big number for one game, but you have to normalize it to the number of pass attempts. Raiders threw only 13 passes, which means that the Giants' 6 sacks came on only 19 called passing plays by the Raiders. Nearly 1/3 of the Raiders passing plays ended in sacks. Amazing.

Eli looked very loose and comfortable and was as sharp as he's been all year. The encouraging thing for me is that his heel loosened up and got better as the game went along. How do I know that, you may ask? I'll tell you. Eli's first 3 passes were a little high and wobbly because when he was planting, he was not putting all of his weight on that back foot and he was protecting it a little bit. Consequently his throws were too much arm and not enough body. Once he got secure with his foot and the pain subsided, he was able to put all his weight on the back foot, use the momentum of his weight coming forward for the speed on the ball, so that he could use his shoulder and arm to guide the ball and provide its accuracy. I know exactly how this feels, having had a case of plantar fasciitis myself. The 45 yard throw to Steve Smith was perfect as was the 30 yard TD to Manningham.

Darcy Johnson looked good catching a ball or two, but mostly blocking effectively for some of Bradshaw's runs. Bradshaw looked excellent and even though he seems to be making the big plays rather than Jacobs, the Giants have an excellent rotation at RB and they should not change it. Wait until Danny Ware gets back in the mix - the passing game will get even better.

Giants coaches are very positive on their young WR's and remain extremely high on Ramses Barden who has barely gotten on the field.

I think we have seen enough of Sinorice Moss on punt returns to know that he is not great. When are the Giants going to start putting Hixon back there?

Terrell Thomas is improving every week and has excellent cover skills.

This upcoming game against the Saints is going to be interesting. More about that later in the week.

A word or two about the Jets-Dolphins game Monday night: Sanchez looked really good, but Henne for the Dolphins looked like the superior QB. Better arm strength and more accuracy. Braylon Edwards looked outstanding for the Jets and while I am happy with the Giants WR situation, Edwards would have looked good in Giants blue. Rex Ryan probably learned his clock management skills from Herm Edwards. Perhaps he thinks that if you don't use your time outs in the 2nd half of one game, you can use 6 in the 1st half of the next game.

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