2011 NFL Week 16: The Battle for New York — Giants vs. Jets: THE BREAKDOWN
FIRST OF ALL, HAARP IS AT IT AGAIN: They are predicting a Nor’easter for the I-95 corridor north of Washington this weekend.
At any rate, this is THE GAME. We have had this game circled since the schedules were released back in the Spring. One way or another, we were all saying that we would be in East Rutherford for this game. The hope was only that the game meant something for both teams. Thankfully, it does.
JUST NOT UNDER THE CIRCUMSTANCES THAT WE FIND THEM.
Most people felt that the Jets would be in the 9-5/10-4 range entering this game, and they’re not far off. However, not having that record, and being unable to win the AFC East, as the Patriots have it sewn, the game is a must-win for the Jets. Without the Wild Card, they cannot make the playoffs.
The Giants have slightly more margin for error, as they can still win the NFC East (no NFC East team can secure a Wild Card berth; Dallas could finish 10-6, but would thereby win the division outright in doing so, and any other scenario that they do not win the NFC East lands them outside of the playoff hunt, as either the Giants or Eagles would win the division, or the Cardinals or Lions would hold tiebreakers over them). The Giants can actually lose this game and, with help from the Eagles (of all teams; to win vs. DAL and lose in Week 17), could still win the NFC East with a win versus Dallas simultaneous to the Eagles’ Week 17 game.
Those are too many IF’s. The bottom line, both teams need to win the game. The Jets would be in more trouble if they lost, because all their tiebreakers are interdivisional. Everything for the Giants rests in the outcomes of Dallas’ and Philadelphia’s games in these final two weeks.
NEVERTHELESS, HERE’S MY BREAKDOWN FOR WEEK 16.
New York Football Giants vs. New York Jets
East Rutherford, New Jersey
Saturday, December 24, 2011
Game Time Expected Temperature: 39F.
My Call: NYG +3
NY Giants: 7-7.
NY Jets 8-6.
What I will do is break down each coaching position and then each offensive and defensive unit and spotlight matchups that will bear watching during the game.
I will also update injuries leading up until the Friday injury report. Guys just began practicing in lieu of the game, so we will not know about some of the guys who are “Questionable” or “Probable” on the injury report until Friday. My updates will come as information arises.
Tom Coughlin vs. Rex Ryan
Coughlin is more accomplished as a coach and has won a Super Bowl. However, for such a “disciplinarian”, the Giants lack the poise of a contending team and often play down to the ability of their competition, which precipitates the overblown and mostly unsubstantiated “annual swoon” talk from the media and, because they know no better, most fans. Rex Ryan talks a lot, but his teams rarely beat themselves. However, when they do, it gets ugly, as it has in a couple of games this year.
Tactically speaking, Coughlin has the edge, and overall he has an edge, although Ryan’s strength is defense and Coughlin’s is offense, Coughlin’s offense is handicapped by his offensive coordinator, Kevin Gilbride, while Ryan’s defense is headed by Mike Pettine, who is merely an extension of Ryan’s creative mind.
Kevin Gilbride vs. Brian Schottenheimer
Gilbride, for all the flak that he receives from Giants fans (deservedly so), is an excellent offensive coordinator on the surface. His offenses are always in the Top 10 yardage and points-wise, however he is a below-average situational play-caller, and has a penchant for being very predictable — to the point where Giants fans who have never played football a day in their lives can guess which play call is coming half of the time. His offense is very complex and relies upon option reads on the part of both the QB and the WRs and TEs. There is a huge margin for error, as there are not many timing routes in the offense. If the QB and receivers are not on the same page, the potential for deadly turnovers, wasted downs and curtailed drives increases exponentially. This is ultimately what Gilbride has been notorious for in over 20 years as an NFL Offensive Coordinator and/or Head Coach.
Brian Schottenheimer plays the game close to the vest. He has been attempting to protect QB Mark Sanchez since Sanchez’s arrival in the NFL in 2009. However, his playcalling is very vanilla and lacks variety. The few times that he calls plays out of the box, they are far too risque and the Jets simply do not have the personnel to execute such plays regularly. Schottenheimer is much like his father Marty, the creator of “Martyball” (that is, very conservative, predictable playcalling, relying upon the defense to do its job and exercising safe, ball-control philosophies on offense). When Schottenheimer has called good games, the Jets have been tough to beat. However, the way to beat the Giants’ defense is to run the ball right at them and set up play-action. Since the Jets do not feature a legitimate deep threat, this will be harder said than done.
***Nevertheless, Rex Grossman has fewer options at WR/TE than Sanchez currently does, so there is no real barometer with which to measure Sanchez’s potential effectiveness beyond avoiding fumbles and interceptions.
Gilbride has been doing it longer and has won a Super Bowl.
Perry Fewell vs. Mike Pettine
Fewell has been handicapped by a defense that lacks half its starters and three other key personnel. Several others have missed all or parts of multiple games. In short, Fewell has had to scale back his schematics almost wholly to the point of playing zone principles exclusively for entire games. This has made the Giants defense, which has been great for most of the nearly 90 years of the team’s existence, into the veritable sieve that it was in 2009. On the surface, to people who do not understand defense, it appears that Fewell is clueless and that the Giants could not stop even Tyler Palko or Caleb Hanie. And with the lack of effort at times by this defense, they might be right. With a full assortment of starters, Fewell’s defense was 1st or 2nd overall in total defense prior to the Week 15 debacle vs. Philadelphia in 2010. The season began with six starters and two key reserves either on IR or missing the first two weeks of the season. It has only gotten worse.
Mike Pettine is an extension of Rex Ryan, plain and simple. The Jets have been strong defensively since Ryan’s arrival, and has been with Ryan since Ryan’s days in Baltimore. There’s not much else to say here. Rex Ryan is a defensive guru and Pettine has not done anything to disprove that while at the controls.
SPECIAL TEAMS COORDINATORS
Tom Quinn vs. Mike Westhoff
Quinn has had a better year in 2011; actually the best that he’s had with the Giants — which isn’t saying MUCH — but 2010 was borderline disastrous. The Giants don’t yield tons of yards and good field position when guarding against returns and get decent returns themselves. They’ve been overall average to slightly above average all year. Solid, if not unspectacular.
Mike Westhoff is the absolute best Special Teams Coordinator in the NFL. Bar. None. And. Simple.
Overall, the Giants’ offensive gameplan is wide open, featuring 35-45 passes per game from Eli Manning and an assortment of receiving options ranging from WRs Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz, Mario Manningham and Ramses Barden, to TEs Jake Ballard and Travis Beckum, although the latter is rarely used. The Giants also feature RB Ahmad Bradshaw out of the backfield, along with RB Danny Ware. The Giants’ offensive line has blocked better on running plays over the past three weeks, and pass protection has been solid since LG Mitch Petrus and C Kevin Boothe have gotten the nods in that stretch. If the Giants can protect Manning and open a few holes for Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs (and inside handoffs for Ware — ha) they can move the ball at will, short, intermediate and deep.
The Jets’ defense is solid, but not as dynamic as it was in 2009 and 2010. They play sound football out of a base 3-4 alignment and bend — sometimes quite a bit — but rarely do they break. Led by LBs David Harris and Calvin Pace and LCB Darrelle Revis, the Jets have several important playmakers who make key plays all over the field. However, Revis can only cover one WR at a time and the Giants feature a half dozen receiving options. It will be incumbent upon the unit as a whole to keep everything in front of them, tackle well and not dig themselves into holes with penalties (Antonio Cromartie). Missing Jim Leonhard (out for season), could potentially be a huge loss in this game. They missed his leadership and key calling vs. PHI and they also missed him when he went down late in 2010 as well.
The Jets exercise ball control methods, with Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson in the running game and short passes in the flats, as they are often the second checkdowns for QB Mark Sanchez, who checks down more than almost every QB in the NFL (Tom Brady’s short dump offs are actually designed passes short, the Jets feature quick checkdowns). The Jets have talent on the outside. WR Santonio Holmes is a playmaker and can take any play to the house, and WR Plaxico Burress gives Sanchez a 6’6″ target. However, outside of TE Dustin Keller, the Jets really do not go even beyond the sticks in their passing game. However, if the Giants — who have played soft zones with ridiculous 10-yard cushions for entire games at a time lately — continue playing off WRs, even the Jets can have a huge day in the air on the Giants’ defense.
The Giants have been decimated by injury since the second day of training camp and on and on until even this week, as LB Mark Herzlich is still in a walking boot DE Justin Tuck is banged up with yet another injury after the Week 15 loss to Washington. The Giants look worse than any other Giants defense in history (other than the 2009 squad) and cannot stop even pedestrian offenses. They are statistically the worst in the NFL in getting off the field on 3rd downs and fail to convert them when their offensive counterparts are on the field — which is a deadly combination for any team. Injuries are key, but the gameplanning and lack of adjustments by Perry Fewell have all but doomed this team’s fate — a team that can score with anyone when Gilbride relaxes the playcalling (rare). However, with both coordinators in weeks-long funks, the Giants are in trouble if they are unable to get pressure on the QB from All-World DE Jason Pierre-Paul and struggling, but when-healthy All-World DE Justin Tuck. The LBs were once the major handicap of the Giants, and still are, however, the DT play has been awful of late and the secondary, which is already thin, is young, slow and responsible for covering WRs for long periods of time due to the lack of a pass rush in most games since the Giants’ win vs. New England in Week 9.
OFFENSE ADVANTAGE: GIANTS.
DEFENSE ADVANTAGE: JETS.
SPECIAL TEAMS ADVANTAGE: JETS.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
DE Justin Tuck vs. RT Wayne Hunter
DE Justin Pierre-Paul (about 10 snaps at LE) vs. RT Wayne Hunter
DE Muhammad Wilkerson vs. Dave Diehl
OLB Calvin Pace vs. RT Kareem McKenzie
WR Hakeem Nicks vs. LCB Darrelle Revis (80% of snaps)
WR Hakeem Nicks vs. RCB Antonio Cromartie
WR Victor Cruz vs. single coverage
TE Jake Ballard vs. _________
WR Mario Manningham vs. single/blown coverage
The Jets’ WRs are less dynamic than the Giants’, as each of the Giants’ top 3 WRs have several catches netting over 40 yards apiece. Most of the Jets’ WR’s yardage comes after the short pass. If the Jets cannot pressure Manning, they can be in store for a 350-yard performance by Manning. However, the Nicks vs. Revis matchup bears watching as Nicks is as strong as an ox, and Revis will have help short over the top whenever Nicks outmuscles him. The problem with Nicks is that he does not complete routes at times and does not work hard to come back for the ball when passes are off target or short. Revis feasts on these types of (usually) telegraphed passes; passes that Eli Manning throws once or twice per game that are stat-padding INTs in waiting for most CBs.
Wayne Hunter has his hands full whether it is Pierre-Paul, Tuck or Dave Tollefson lined up in front of him. He cannot block either of these DEs.
Jake Ballard will be free to run up the seams on the Jets, because they like to keep a safety close over the top for Revis while he plays his aggressive style at the line of scrimmage — for cases when he is beaten — in order to avoid the huge play. The downside defensively is that this opens up the seam for TEs to operate, and Ballard has been excellent at this all season.
This also opens up lanes for Mario Manningham to operate in space, confusing many defenses this year, as teams try to double Nicks, roll coverage to Cruz, contend with Ballard and still key on the running game. Manningham has been more than 10 yards open on virtually half of his catches this season because of this.
LT Dave Diehl had a brutal Week 15 overall. While he did not yield a sack until late in the game, he gave up hurries and those often lead to sacks just the same — or poor, rushed throws by Manning, which are much worse than a coverage sack. Wilkerson has had an outstanding rookie year. It could be a long day for Diehl.
WR Santonio Holmes and WR Plaxico Burress have attributes, but the Giants feel comfortable with putting LB Jacquian Williams or LB Michael Boley on Burress, if necessary — and when Dustin Keller is not in the game (who can also be covered at times by FS Deon Grant, FS Antrel Rolle or SS Kenny Phillips.
The Jets are going to miss FS Jim Leonhard tremendously.
SS Eric Smith is a liability in coverage against teams with dynamic WRs, but he can be a force in run support. The Jets will need that as the Giants will undoubtedly come out to establish the run early.
NY Giants 24
NY Jets 17