I am going with the Coughlin company line: Respect everyone. Fear no one. To build up the Dolphins, I guess you would have to look at their last two weeks and say: (1) they were ahead of the Broncos on the road 15-0 with 4 minutes left in the game, and (2) against the Jets, they were ahead in the first quarter and played good defense against them, until the second half. Wow, I even feel like a coach now. Best thing to say to motivate the Giants is: remember the Seahawks.
Best line I read from a sports writer about this week's game was this: With the new collective bargaining agreement, players are required to get four days off during their bye week. This year, with that rule in place, players have a vacation, travel back to their home and stop paying attention to football. As such, the record of teams coming off the bye this year is 3-9. (Now here's the line I like:) As such, it was real nice of the NFL to schedule the Giants game after their bye against a high school team so they would have a good chance of winning while easing back into the NFL routine.
I was surprised to hear bye-week comments from Gilbride taking Cruz to task. He didn't say much about the plays he has made and the good things he has done, but spoke mostly of his inconsistency, his taking 1 1/2 steps back after he takes two steps forward. Not exactly a motivational uplift for Cruz.
Gilbride, as is everyone on the Giants, is absolutely glowing about the contribution by Jake Ballard. Giants are being honest and not saying that they knew he had it all along, rather saying that he has been a big and pleasant surprise. He is not as fast as Boss, but runs great routes, has a high football IQ, can make YAC yards and NEVER drops a ball. Boss had quite a few drops, despite his productivity. Rumors out of Oakland are that Boss has suffered another concussion.
Speaking of Boss and FA losses by the Giants, anybody still wringing their hands and regretting the loss of Steve Smith? He has 5 catches for 63 yards over the first 6 games. He looks done. Maybe he will come back strong eventually, but it certainly does not look like it's going to be this year. I think Eagles signed Smith more to put a bee in Giants bonnet and create some turmoil and dissension than they did because they thought he could be productive in their offense.
The Giants are not a great team, let's be realistic about that. The defense is in the bottom half of the league and the offense can't run the ball. But I will say this: the Giants have the ingredients, the raw materials to grow and get better as the year goes along. The pass rush is second to none. The DL is strong enough to stop the run. The QB is at the top of his game and he has some dangerous receivers to throw to. The weaknesses on the team: lack of depth at CB, missed assignments by the OL, inexperienced LBs are all things that can be worked on and can get better as the season goes along. Looking down the barrel of a very rough second half schedule, you might say that the NFL schedule maker did the Giants no favors this year. However, with so many changes and the likelihood that the young players and position shifts would require some time to settle in, perhaps it was good that the Giants soft part of the schedule was the first half of the year.
But the statistics don't lie, the schedule is brutal in the second half. Right now,the cumulative record of the teams the Giants will have played through week 8 (including upcoming game against Miami) is 12-30. By contrast the cumulative record of the teams the Giants will be playing over the last 9 games of the year stands now at 34-17. Yikes.
To make the playoffs, in my opinion, Giants need to beat Miami this week, then have to win 3 out of 4 of their remaining division games. That would get them to 8 wins. Of the remaining 5 games, against the Packers (home), Patriots (road), Saints (road), 49ers (road) and Jets (road, sort of), Giants would have to win 2 of those games to get to 10 wins. That total would give them a decent chance of making the playoffs. If they can't win 2 out of those 5 games against playoff teams, I don't want them to make the playoffs anyway, because those are the teams they would be playing in the playoffs. Nobody wants to see the Giants squeeze into the playoffs on some tiebreaker and get spanked in the first round.