Thursday, September 27, 2012

Better late than never for the Zebras

It is official, the NFL and NFLRA have agreed on an eight year deal, and will bring the regular referees back to the field this week. After all of the controversy regarding the replacement referees and their ability to officiate a game, fans and players can rest easy this week knowing they will have the regular referees wearing the black and white stripes this week.

Last Monday nights Hail Mary debacle in Seattle seemed to be the last straw for the replacement refs, and put the NFL on the hot seat to get the normal refs back onto the field. As much as we berated the replacement refs for their poor officiating, we also owe them a thank you for giving us the first three weeks of the season, no matter how ugly it looked at times.

With the regular refs back, players and coaches now have to tone down their aggression towards the men in stripes. The replacement refs did not do an efficient job controlling the game, and the players and coaches knew that. The players and coaches crossed the line on occasion and took an unprofessional approach toward the refs, but now with the regular refs returning, there is no room for any behavior that we saw in the first three weeks.

As for the New York Giants, they are excited the refs got back just in time for their Sunday night game in Philadelphia. There have been a number of roughing the passer calls made by the replacement refs that were brought into question, look at the final drive this past Monday night that set up the final Hail Mary. The Giants know Michael Vick is a running quarterback, and the way to get to a quarterback like Vick? Hit him hard and hit him often, and do it legally of course.

So fans, take a deep breathe, make sure your fantasy team is set for week four, and get ready for some football, without the replacement refs. Now instead of complaining about replacement refs calls, fans can complain about the refs they have known and "loved" for so many seasons.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Giants Team Grades: Week 3 vs. Carolina Panthers

Thursday, September 20 2012
Final Score: New York Giants: 36 Carolina Panthers: 7
Giants Team Grades

The Giants went into Carolina being doubted by a large number of people and left showing them once again that they are not a team to be looked down upon.  Even with injuries to starters Hakeem Nicks, Ahmad Bradshaw and David Diehl and rotation players in Domenik Hixon and Michael Coe, the Giants were still able to pull of a convincing victory against a dynamic Panthers squad.  The grades for the Giants this week would even make an honors student envious.

Passing Game: Grade A
Eli Manning did not duplicate his 510 yard performance he had against Tampa Bay just four days earlier but it was not needed this time around.  Manning was efficient and effect right from the start, opening the game with two completed passes to set the tempo for the Giants offense that was running like a well oiled machine the whole game. 

Manning completed 27 of 35 passes overall and could have done more damage if called upon to do so.  Part of Manning’s success was the play of the offense line; Manning was barely touched, only being sacked once late in the third quarter.

Ramses Barden had a breakout, career night, reeling in nine balls for 138 yards.  The nine catches matches the amount of receptions he had all of last season.  Barden stepped up as he was filling in for the injured Hakeem Nicks.  Martellus Bennett picked up some slack as well, scoring a touchdown for the third game in a row, a first in Giants franchise history for a player in his first three games with the team.

The only negative for the offense was the settling for field goals, as they ended up attempting and knocking through five of them.

Running Game: Grade A
This one is all on Andre Brown.  Making his first career start in front of hundreds of friends and family, Brown dominated the Panthers.  He rushed for 113 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries, also adding three receptions for 17 yards. 

Brown is providing a spark to a running game that has been lackluster for more than a season now.  General manager Jerry Reese compared Brown to Derrick Ward, just a bigger version and it shows with the versatility Brown has the spark he is giving the offense just like Ward did in 2008.

Brown finished his runs with toughness and tenacity, evident by the 71 yards he rain for after making contact with a defender.  According to ESPN stats and info that is the most by any Giant player since Brandon Jacobs in 2010 when he ran for 72 yards after contact. 

The offensive line opened up gapping holes for Brown, who trucked right through and dominated the Panthers front seven. The only negative for the Giants rushing game was rookie David Wilson, who only got one carry for -2 yards.

Passing Defense: Grade A
The Giants were able to keep Cam Newton and the Panthers offense off balance all night, never allowing Newton to get into a rhythm and bothering him all night. The Giants were able to get to Newton on two occasions for sacks and intercepted him three times.  He finished the game 16 of 30 for 242 yards.

Steve Smith had only for receptions for 86 yards, most of which came after the game was already in hand.  One thing that sticks out is that Panthers tight end Greg Olsen had seven receptions, but the Giants were able to reduce the big plays and when your targeted at such a high volume, 14 times to be exact, your going to make some catches.

Prince Amukamara, Jayron Hosley and Corey Webster all stepped up for a razor thin Giants secondary.  Keep and eye on the injury report as the week goes on though, as Hosley was forced from the game in the fourth quarter with a hamstring injury and Webster broke a bone in his hand but was able to continue in the game.  Michael Boley also added another interception to his season total, giving him one in every game thus far this season.

Rushing Defense: Grade A
At first, it looked like it was going to be another one of those here we go again type nights for the Giants coaching staff and fans alike.  DeAngelo Williams started the game off strong but overall the Giants run defense stepped up.  They held the dangerous Panthers read option offense to 60 yards on 20 carries. 

Newton was able to find the end zone, but was not the destructive force he is capable of being, as he only gained six yards on six carries.  The Giants came into the game prepared as they did not want to be embarrassed like the Saints defense was by Newton and company in week 2.

Special Teams: Grade A
Lawrence Tynes was outstanding, nailing all five of his field goal attempts, staying perfect on the season.  Tynes made from 47, 49, 30, 36, and 27 yards.  The makes were huge by Tynes because it kept the momentum on the Giants side.  If he had missed any of those field goals, the Panther crowd would have gotten into the game, giving Newton and the Panthers offense something to feed off of as the Giants sucked the life out of the crowd right from the start. 

Weatherford was not used often but when called upon he did his job.  He landed both his punts inside the 20 yard line, averaging 38 yards per punt with a long of 41 yards.

Coaching Staff: Grade A+
The Giants coaching staff did an amazing job in preparing for this week.  Not only were they without Nicks, Bradshaw, Diehl, Hixon and Coe, they also had a short week playing on Thursday night.  Even with so many things up against them, they were still able to get the Giants prepared enough to dominate the younger and seemingly overwhelmed Panthers.

The Giants have played three road games in the last two seasons with less than seven days of rest and are a perfect 3 and 0 in those games, outscoring opponents by 22 points total according to ESPN Stats and Info.  That is a testament to Tom Coughlin and the Giants staff as a whole, as they are able to get their squad prepared in even the most difficult of scenarios.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Raymond Felton Looking For Bounce Back Season

Playing for the New York Knicks is something that only a select few individuals get an opportunity to do.  Rarely do players get a chance at multiple runs with the Knicks, but Raymond Felton is a player that has a second chance.

When Raymond Felton signed with the team as a free agent before the 2010-2011 season he was living out a dream of being a Knick.  Felton went on to build a great relationship with newly acquired Amar’e Stoudemire, putting up career high numbers in nearly every statistic, averaging 19 points, nine assists, 3.6 rebounds and 1.8 steals in 38.4 minutes per game.  He was becoming the leader of a young Knicks roster looking for leadership, proving to be more than capable of playing Mike D’Antoni’s up temp, fast paced type of basketball.

Felton only played 54 games with the Knicks in his first go-round as he got traded to Denver as part of the blockbuster trade that bought Carmelo Anthony to New York.  Felton was disappointed by the trade and his numbers reflected that as he became a backup to young gun Ty Lawson in Denver.

Following the 2011 playoffs, Felton was again on the move in another three-team trade, this time landing in Portland.  The trade happened before the lockout was put in place and Felton suffered.

Felton struggled mightily in his season in Portland, coming in overweight and out of shape.  His stats plummeted, as his work ethic and conditioning were questioned throughout the season and he was used as a scapegoat for the underachieving Trail Blazers. 

Felton did not seem to be engaged since leaving the Knicks, disappointed that he was traded after showing such willingness to play for the organization and with how well he performed.  New York is where he wanted to be and luckily for him, the Knicks wanted him back as well.

This off-season, Felton was reacquired by the Knicks in a sign-and-trade the Trail Blazers in which the Knicks also landed former Knick Kurt Thomas.  Thomas was quoted as saying, “He’s definitely motivated, he’s definitely excited, he definitely wants to come back to New York. He’s looking forward to this season.”

After hearing about the trade, Carmelo Anthony offered his opinion on Felton, who has been playing against for most of his basketball life.  “He wants to prove everybody wrong,” Anthony said.  “He loves to win.”  That competitiveness is something that Anthony loves about Felton, adding, “When (Felton) was here in New York, they were rolling.  He was having an All-Star year when he was here.  So, to bring him back (to New York is) an extra incentive for him.”

“I am hearing from everybody, ‘He wasn’t in shape last year,’” Felton said.  “I played in the league seven years, about to be eight, came in out of shape one year and that’s all everybody wants to talk about. … I look forward to this year and shutting up everybody’s mouth.”

Felton has a lot to prove this season in New York and is motivated to get it done.  He will be under the microscope and under immense pressure from the start.  The Mecca of basketball is not an easy place to play, but Felton already has experience playing here and knows what winning can do for the fan base
The pressure does not stop there for Felton, as he is the person being asked to replace the sensation that was “Linsanity”.  If Felton struggles at all, the fans will be calling for his head and further question the front office’s decision to let Jeremy Lin walk in favor of Felton.  Replacing Lin is the easy part if you ask Felton himself, as he said that he is a competitor and better player than Lin is. 

Felton has a full plate this season with the Knicks, as the fan base and organization is expecting to take a step forward with him at the helm after what Lin did last season.  Felton will be given the responsibility of running the first team offense, as Felton is expected to be named the starting point guard in a lineup that will also include Anthony, Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler. 

I am a believer in Felton, as the intangibles he brings to table is a great fit for this team.  For one, he runs the pick-and-roll game very well.  The chemistry he developed with Stoudemire his first run with the team will hopefully carry over and turn Stoudemire back into the dominant force that he was and not the shell of himself he looked like at times last season.
Felton also adds another tenacious defender in the backcourt, something the Knicks lacked from the point guard spot.  Felton will take pressure off the big men like Chandler and Marcus Camby because he is not the revolving door at the head of the defense that Lin was last season.  The competitiveness that Anthony was so excited about from Felton really comes out on the defensive end.

Head coach Mike Woodson will look for Felton to be a leader on the court as he has been thrown into one of the toughest situations in the NBA.  Felton has to figure out a way to get both Anthony and Stoudemire playing their best on the offensive end while both on the court, not taking turns with one or the other on the bench.  No other player has seemed to be able to do so yet, but Felton is more than ready for the challenge and he will take it head on to prove everyone wrong about him once again.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Giants De-Claw Panthers in Rout

Thursday, September 20 2012
Post Game Recap
Final Score: New York Giants: 36 Carolina Panthers: 7
Giants De-Claw Panthers in Rout
The underdog, down and out team is what the Giants make a living off of and Thursday was no different.  Facing and up and coming Carolina Panthers squad on short rest and decimated by injuries, the Giants rallied together and hammered the Panthers 36-7.  The Giants dominated every facet of the game, putting on an impressive display even faced with the challenge of overcoming so many injuries.

Heading in the game, the Giants were without Hakeem Nicks, Ahmad Bradshaw, David Diehl, Domenik Hixon and Michael Coe, all major contributors so far this season.  That did not matter Thursday night, as the Giants were able to get out to a quick start and had their replacements step up and fill the voids left.

Unlike the first two games of the season, the Giants were able to get off to a fast start that fired up the whole team.  The Giants trailed for most, if not all, of their first two games of the season, being down 14-3 against Dallas in the opener and 24-13 at the half against Tampa Bay; Thursday was a different story as the Giants scored on their first four possessions putting their opponent in the early hole for a change.

Eli Manning was the driving force in scoring on the first four possessions, as he led methodical drives that just sapped all of the energy out of the Panthers defense and the crowd.  With the help of a suddenly lively ground game thanks to Bradshaw’s replacement Andre Brown, Manning was able to pick apart the Panthers secondary with doctor like precision. 

The 25 point fourth quarter against the Buccaneers from Sunday seemed to fuel the Giants Thursday night, as they carried over all the momentum and stunned what was expected to be a game Carolina Panthers squad.

The offense had the added dimension of a running game tonight thanks to Bradshaw replacement Brown.  Making his first career start in front of family and friends, as Brown is from North Carolina, the results were outstanding.  Brown ran for 96 yards in the first half alone, hitting the hole hard and finishing off runs by running through and over Panther defenders.
Brown also excelled around the goal line, a place the Giants have been struggling.  Brown scored two touchdowns, finishing with 113 yards on 20 carries on the night.  He also added three receptions for 17 yards.  Brown gives the Giants a very nice change of pace back once Bradshaw returns and a reliable option it would seem if Bradshaw is out for an extended period of time.

Ramses Barden got the call in replacing Nicks and stepped up big time.  The 6’6” former third round pick has never been able to show what he can do on the field, but tonight showed glimpses of the abilities that he has.
Barden had struggled to get on the field because of injuries and an inability to break press coverage, but he took full advantage of the opportunity placed before him and had a monster game in place of Nicks.  Barden finished with nine receptions for 138 yards, seven of which came in a break out first half in which the Giants took control.

The effort put forth by Barden was huge, as he gave Manning another option behind Victor Cruz.  The performance will also benefit Barden in the long run, as he showed tonight that he is a capable performer and can handle more playing time in the case another injury happens and while Hixon is still recovering from his concussion.

The offense was able to click and run so smoothly because of the play of the offensive line.  Manning was virtually untouched outside of a late third quarter sack and the running game hasn’t seen holes opened up like that in quite some time.  Will Beatty started at left tackle with Sean Locklear at right tackle with the injury to Diehl and were able to keep Manning up right and get the running game going.

Jayron Hosley stepped up again, as his progression and playing time have had to be accelerated because of injuries in the secondary. 

Hosley put pressure on Cam Newton with corner blitzes and had an impressive interception of Newton after a pass went of wide receiver Brandon LaFell’s hand.
Unfortunately, Hosley was forced to leave the game in the fourth quarter with a hamstring injury, just adding to the injury list for the Giants.  Hosley was not the only defensive back to get injured, as Antrel Rolle had to be taken to the locker room in the fourth quarter after banging his knee on a camera and Corey Webster broke a bone in his left hand but as able to return.  The Giants can not afford any more injuries in the secondary even with Prince Amukamara having made his debut this week.

Not to be lost in the shuffle was the performance of Martellus Bennett, as he had six receptions for 73 yards and another touchdown.  Bennett has scored a touchdown in his first three games as a Giant, the first time a player has accomplished such a feat in Giants franchise history.
Lawrence Tynes also had a strong game for the Giants, as he continued his perfect season going 5 for 5 on field goals and knocking all three of his extra points in as well.  Tynes performance will be overlooked by many people, but he played a key part in the victory as he was able to keep adding points on the board for the Giants and keep the pressure on the Panthers, never allowing them to build any momentum.

The Giants will get some much needed rest heading into their next game against Mike Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday Night Football September 30th