Monday, November 23, 2015

Cohen's Corner Week 11 Takeaways

It was not exactly the most exciting week of football we had this week; it certainly pales in comparison to Week 10 where we saw more than a half dozen games decided in the closing minutes, but there were still some major happenings in Week 11 that are shaping up the playoff picture.

1) The Green Bay Packers are alive and well: A week ago when the Packers spit the bit against the Detroit Lions at home, it was looking pretty sketchy for the Packers.Then again,when your quarterback is Aaron Rodgers, nothing should ever be in doubt. Remember this is the same quarterback who told the fans to relax when Green Bay got of to a 1-2 start last season. The Packers outlasted the Minnesota Vikings 30-13 on Sunday, with a second half surge proving to be the difference.

Rodgers first hit Randall Cobb on a 10-yard strike to push the Pack to a 16-9 halftime lead, completing 9-play, 80-yard drive. Then with Green Bay holding onto a 19-13 lead, Rodgers hit a perfect pass to the corner of the end zone to James Jones, who kept both feet in bounds for the score. Rodgers finally, faked out the Vikings defense on a nifty two-point conversion to Jones to make it 27-13. Game over.

As for the Vikings, without Adrian Peterson having a big day they got exposed. Teddy Bridgewater is pure game-manager, and is not a quarterback one can rely on to win a game against a big team like Green Bay. Sorry Vikes, looks like the North is going to Green Bay once again.

2) The Carolina Panthers surge into Turkey Day at 10-0: The Panthers remain as hot as a firecracker. Facing a pesky Redskins team just days before the take the field again on Thanksgiving in Dallas, the Panthers pulled away from Washington on Sunday. The turning point of the game came midway through the second quarter, when Greg Olsen had the ball knocked out of his hands by Chris Culliver, who grabbed the loose ball and dashed into the end zone for a touchdown to give the Redskins a 20-14 lead. However, the officials ruled that Culliver provided unnecessary roughness on Olsen (a ridiculous call), and erased the Skins touchdown.

Instead Carolina got the football at the Redskins 26-yard line after the penalty was enforced. The Panthers would score a touchdown thanks to the officials to take a 21-14 lead. The Panthers would go on to score the games next 23-points as they blew away Washington 44-16. While the Panthers are 10-0 they are probably the most Teflon unbeaten we have seen in the NFL in some time. Carolina has a rough six game stretch coming up, and there is no guarantee they will finish with even the NFC's number 1 seed.

3) The Dallas Cowboys with Romo still have a chance in the NFC East (believe it or not): How bad is the NFC East? So bad that the 3-7 Cowboys, mathematically, still have a shot at winning this god-awful division. The Cowboys won inspite of Tony Romo. Romo's much heralded return was created with two interceptions and the Cowboys had to rally late in order to beat the woeful Miami Dolphins. Now the Cowboys fans, those that are left, actually believe this team has a shot at the playoffs. Let's get real, the Cowboys are so far behind the eight ball that it is highly unlikely that they will have a run in them, even with Romo back in the lineup. The Cowboys would not only need to win out, but they need their rivals to lose key games as well. Not happening.

4) The Broncos can win without Payton Manning: See the Broncos can win with Brock
Osweiler at quarterback, especially when the opposing quarterback is Mr. Jay Cutler and the bumbling Bears. Osweiler didn't hurt the Broncos. He did just enough, completing 74 percent of his passes and throwing two touchdowns with no interceptions. While it was a good performance, let's not get too carried away. He does have to square off with Tom Brady next week, which is a totally different animal. Not to mention the Broncos defense not only had to be good, but had to get lucky as they found a way to hold off the Bears on a couple goal-line situations, including a stupid decision by the Bears to run it up the middle on a two-point conversion.  While it was a good first step for the Osweiler led Broncos, if Peyton Manning is fully healthy, he should be the quarterback, period.

5) 2015 can't end soon enough for the Ravens: The Ravens have had a nightmare season. Not only has the team lost all seven of their games by eight points or less, but lost their star quarterback Joe Flacco to a torn ACL and MCL in Sunday's 16-13 win over the Rams. The Ravens are already short handed defensively with all the injuries they have endured this year, now they have no quarterback. While Matt Schuab might be the best back-up in the NFL, let's be honest he's not saving the season anytime soon.

6) The AFC South now has two teams at .500! Holy Cow, we finally have two teams with a .500 record in the AFC's most miserable division. The Colts won on Sunday thanks in big part to the Falcons own incompetence, while the Texans played the Jets (that says it all). Hey and the Jaguars are in the mix as well.

7) The Falcons are the artists of the choke: Let's face it the Atlanta Falcons are masters at choking in a big spot. Whether it be the NFC Title game in 2012 where they blew a 17-0 lead against San Francisco, or Sunday's 24-21 debacle against the Colts it has been the same ole story for not-so-hotlanta. Maybe it wasn't all Mike Smith's fault after all. Matt Ryan was picked off three times on Sunday, and the defense couldn't stop a 40-year old Matt Hasselbeck. While the 6-4 Falcons are still in the drivers seat for a playoff spot, they are not as good as many once thought.

8) Are the Buccaneers serious playoff threats? Meanwhile, the team that is behind the Falcons in the NFC South may very be better than anyone ever thought. The Buccaneers sliced and diced Mark Buttfumble Sanchez and the Eagles to the tune of 45-17 on Sunday. Rookie quarterback Jameis Winston threw for five touchdown passes, while Doug Marton churned out 235 yards on the ground. The Bucs are now winners of four of their last six games, and find themselves at .500 (5-5). Suddenly Tampa is in the middle of the NFC wild card conversation. While Tampa Bay was an improving team, nobody expected it to come this quickly. The Bucs still have three games in the division on their schedule and match-ups with the awful Colts, Bears and Rams on the docket. Who knows? They might be the surprise team of 2015.

9) New coach, same drama for Jets: It's the same ole Jets! They trick their fans into thinking their good. It's the same ole Jets! Remember that 4-1 start for Gang Green? The Jets sure don't. New York has lost four of its last five and played probably their worst game of the year in Houston on Sunday. Not only were the Jets beat by a banged up Texans team, starting a third string quarterback, but they made T.J. Yates look like Tom Brady. Yates threw a couple of touchdowns, including a 61-yard bomb to DeAndre Hopkins. The Jets also left the game banged up with Nick Mangold suffering a laceration on his snapping hand, and corner Darrelle Revis with a concussion. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was underwhelming, threw two picks and may have knocked himself in the process when he dove head first into the end zone, all while taking two nasty head-on shots in the process. The 5-5 Jets are in major trouble.

10) The Bengals still can't win a big game even when they play well. Sunday night's 34-31 lose in the  Desert was not on Andy Dalton. Dalton threw for 315 yards and two scores, however the Bengals defense had no answer for Carson Palmer and the Cardinals. After the Bengals scored 17 unanswered points to tie the game at 31, the Bengals allowed the Arizona to march on down the field and get into position for a game-winning field goal. The Bengals D even helped the Cardinals make it a chip-shot, after they were flagged for mimicking the snap count. Great job Cincy.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Jets suffer embarrassing defeat in Houston


If the Jets season wasn't already on the brink after last week's 22-17 loss to Rex Ryan and the Buffalo Bills, it is surely on life-support now. The Jets played listless football for 60 minutes on Sunday in Houston. They looked like a team unmotivated and unprepared to take on a Texans team that sees an AFC South title in its sights.

If anyone should be blamed for Texans 24, Jets 17, it should rest at the feet of Head Coach Todd Bowles, who started an already injured quarterback and banged-up center, and whose defense was totaly overmatched for Sunday's smackdown. Bowles has wiggle room to figure things out in his first year as a head coach, but the Jets fall from grace after a 4-1 start is so discouraging that the bloom is clearly off the rose.

Right from the get-go the Jets looked overmatched against a Texans team that was starting its third quarterback this year in T.J. Yates, who wasn't even on the roster as recently as three weeks ago. In the opening quarter alone, the Texans held the football for nearly 11 minutes before settling for a field goal. The Jets, well, they were invisible in their response.

Yates had an incredible afternoon against a Jets defense that had no answer for him. Yates threw for 229 yards and two touchdowns, and enjoyed playing pitch-and-catch with receiver DeAndre Hopkins who schooled Revis Island in a bad way. With the game tied midway through the second quarter, Yates hit Hopkins, who beat Revis down the middle of the field for a 61-yard touchdown completion to put the Texans up 10-3.

After the Jets miraculously tied the game at ten, the Texans answered quickly on their next possession. Yates hit Cecil Shorts III for 35-yards to move the ball to the Jets 32-yard line. Three plays later, Yates lateraled the ball back to Shorts who then completed the half-back option play with a touchdown pass to a wide open Alfred Blue, who was standing all alone in the end zone.

Offensively the Jets played some pretty stupid football. Not only was the play-calling and decision making from the coaching staff awful, but the execution stunk. First Brandon Marshall and Devin Smith had, what is their weekly killer dropped pass in a crucial spot for the Jets. Smith had a couple of big drops on Sunday, including being the intended receiver on Ryan Fitzpatrick's final interception of the night.

Smith got grilled by Todd Bowles in the postgame news conference, stating that the rookie needs to pick up the slack.

In addition, the Jets were totally inept in the production department on offense. Five of their first six possessions ended in punts. The only successful possession they had early in the game resulted in a long field goal by Randy Bullock. Part of the problem was the fact that Chris Ivory was once again silenced, as he was held to just 36-yards on eight carries. Ivory is either injured or has hit a wall. The Jets have put a lot on his plate, and finally he is getting exposed as the third down back he once was in New Orleans.

And then there is Ryan Fitzpatrick! Fitzpatrick was totally inaccurate on Sunday, perhaps that sore thumb played a bigger role than any would like to let on. However, a sore thumb doesn't substitute for some poor decisions by the quarterback. He nearly got decked on one slide early in the game. In the fourth quarter, he dove head-first into the end zone for a touchdown and was smacked twice in the head in the process. Fitzpatrick looked woozy upon getting up. Some said it was a gutsy play by Fitzpatrick; truth is it was plain stupid. A quarterback he should know better than to put his season on the line like that.

It should be no coincidence that Fitzpatrick was picked off twice on the Jets final two possession after he was hit in the head. Don't be shocked if we hear about concussion and Ryan Fitzpatrick in the coming days.

The Jets not only have Fitzpatrick's health to worry about, but they lost Nick Mangold, again, this time with a laceration on his snapping hand and had to have stitches. He didn't return to action, and will have an MRI on Monday. This is second severe injury the All Pro center has   had this year. Three weeks ago he suffered a neck injury against the Raiders that cost him a game. In addition, the Jets lost Darrelle Revis in the third quarter after sustaining a concussion, and didn't return. Regis was having the worst game of his Jets career before the injury.

The Jets (5-5) now have lost tie breakers to the Bills, Raiders and Texans. All three teams are in the mix for potential wild card spots in the AFC playoffs when we get to late December. The numbers are starting to work against the Jets, and it is time for Todd Bowles to begin handling this crisis better than he has already.

Knicks fans NOW on Kristaps Prozingis bandwagon

Back in June after confetti had just fallen down on the Golden State Warriors, and with baseball season in full swing a franchise defining moment took place for the New York Knicks at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

With the sixth pick in the draft the Knicks drafted Kristaps Prozingis, a Latvian national who played basketball in Spain. In other words the Knicks drafted a guy who didn't play with a top college like Duke or Kentucky, and was a virtual unknown. And if you watched that draft that night you would have thought that Jets fans had invaded the Barclays Center dressed in Knicks blue and orange.

Knicks fans wanted a super star, they didn't want an unknown. As a result the fans vehemently booed Prozingis that night. They followed that up by bashing him at every single turn, calling him a bum and the worst draft pick in NBA history. Many even questioned the competency of Phil Jackson as General Manager of the franchise.

Now Prozingis is proving that Jackson was right to trust the 20-year old. He posted 24 points and 14 boards in a 107-102 thriller in Houston on Saturday. That performance made him only the fifth rookie  in the past 20 years to post 20 points, 10 rebounds and seven blocks in the same game. Not only that, but the kid has been a total revelation.

He's averaging 13.5 points per game, and 9.5 rebounds per game. He dropped 29 points on Charlotte last week, and almost beat the Hornets at the buzzer with a three pointer the week before that. Since November 11, Porzingis has shot better than 40 percent from the floor five times in the last six games.  The Knicks, by the way are 4-2 in that stretch. They are 8-6 overall -- a record nobody thought they would even sniff at this point in the season.

Porzingis has turned the jeers into cheers, taking all the bad mouthing that he received from his fickle Knicks fan base and shoved it right back in their faces.

Now Knicks fans are doing their best to act like they never bashed the kid. The hypocrisy is pathetic. Knicks fans are now seen chanting his name during games; have nick-named him Godzinis (Godzilla + Porzingis) and act like he's the best thing since sliced bread.

Ask any Knicks' fan now and they will either deny they ever said anything nasty about him, or admit they were wrong. Watch these phonies turn their backs to Porzingis when he hits the inevitable wall that all young players hit.

Perhaps Knicks' fans should take umbrage in knowing that Phil Jackson does indeed know more about basketball then they do. The guy played in the league and coached in the league, and has won 11 NBA titles for a reason. He is considered the Zen Master for a reason. But don't tell that to Knicks fans.

I feel good for Porzingis and bad for him at the same time. I am happy to see this young man succeed at such a high level. At the same time he has gone through more scrutiny than any young player I have ever seen come through New York.

Eli Manning didn't get bashed and praised back during his rookie campaign to the extents Porzingis has this year. Mark Sanchez got a pass by Jets fans until they took the blinders off and saw what we all knew by 2011. Matt Harvey has been the second coming to Mets fans since forever, inspite of his bad boy attitude. The Yankees haven't had any star rookies since some kid named Derek Jeter back in 1995.

While playing in New York brings great responsibility to any player, no player deserves to be as excoriated and praised to these extents. Porzingis is just 20; he has plenty of learning and growing to do in New York. Hopefully New York's fans aren't that ignorant to start bashing him again when the going gets tough.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Cohen's Corner NFL Week 10 Takeaways

So Week 10 in the NFL is in the books, (sort of as we still have a Monday night game to play) and for the second consecutive week we saw some truly whacky and bizarre finishes to ball games throughout the National Football League. As we start to head closer toward Thanksgiving, I can't help but start to reflect on the lingering impact today's game could have as we head down the stretch. Here a few talking points:

1) Peyton Manning is old, and the Broncos are in big Trouble: It doesn't get much worse for Peyton Manning than going 5-of-20 for 35 yards and 4 interceptions. On the same day he passed Brett Favre for the most career yards by a quarterback, Manning had one of the worst days he's ever had in an NFL regular season game. He looked old and beaten. He was so bad, Gary Kubiak pulled Manning for Brock Osweiler in the third quarter with Denver trailing the Chiefs 22-0.

Kubiak took the bullet for Manning, saying that he shouldn't have started Manning because of the rash of injuries he's endured lately.  According to reports, two weeks ago Manning was listed with a shoulder injury, and had a foot injury this week. In addition he's felt discomfort with a rib cage injury.

Whether it is fair or not for Kubiak to call himself out here are the cold hard facts: the Broncos are lucky to be 7-2. They are easily the most flawed 7-2 in the League in quite some time, and if the ball bounced differently a few times, they could easily be 2-7 or 3-6 right now. The marriage between Kubiak and Manning has not worked, as both want to run different offenses. It took a bye week three weeks ago for Manning and Kubiak to get on the 'same page' and it looked like things were turning around with a 29-10 win over Green Bay. Now Denver has lost two in a row, and are looking like a team destined for a first round playoff exit.

In addition there are reports early Monday morning that Manning has a torn painter fascia in his right foot, and there is legitimate question whether the quarterback will even finish the season. The Broncos 2015 season is quickly turning into a dumpster fire before our very eyes. While some have been hard on Manning, the guys who really deserve the blame are Kubiak and John Elway who have tried to put a square peg into a round hole all season long.

2) What is up with the Green Bay Packers? The Packers laid an egg at home against Detroit, losing to the Lions at Lambeau Field for the first time since 1991. Aaron Rodgers didn't look fluid at all as he struggled to get the Packers into the end zone against what is typically a bad Lions defense. Green Bay didn't score a TD until there was 5:55 to go in the game. Yet, Green Bay still had a chance to win, but the fact is they didn't and didn't deserve to win. The Lions deserved to win this game. Mike McCarthy has not been calling plays, and he needs to get back to that. Not to mention the Packers offense clearly miss the explosiveness and security of having Jordy Nelson on the field.

The Packers could still turn this season around, they have a bunch of divisional games in front of them, including two with the Vikings. The Pack is still the favorite to win the NFC North, but they gotta clean up their act.

3) Mark Sanchez still sucks at quarterback. Nothing makes this Jet fan more worm inside then seeing Mark Sanchez be Mark Sanchez. Sam Bradford left the Eagles-Dolphins game with an injury, forcing the butt-fumble king into the ball game with Philly down 20-16. Sanchez was awful. He almost got Jordan Matthews decapitated on a terrible throw that led to a field goal, the proceeded to throw a game killing interception in the end zone with Philly driving for the go-ahead score. Sanchez finished his disastrous afternoon guiding the Eagles to a turnover on downs at mid-field, icing it for the Fish. Remember when Philly fans fell in love with Sanchez last year? Yeah, he rewarded them by sinking their playoff hopes last season. If Sam Bradford should miss any time, the Eagles will be stuck with Sanchez down the stretch ... again.

4) The Jaguars are setting themselves up to be everyones trendy pick in 2016. The Jacksonville Jaguars pulled out a win in Baltimore on Sunday to improve to 3-6, and have now won two of their last three. Were it not for a fourth quarter meltdown against the Jets last week, the Jaguars would have a three game winning streak. Jacksonville is extremely young; they show it by the mistakes they make consistently from week to week. Yet the Jags have some talented young players that will make them a trendy pick in 2016 to make some ... wait a minute! The Jaguars are 3-6 and only a game out of the AFC South! They could make some noise now. Yes, I know. The Jaguars play the Titans (2-7) twice, Chargers (2-7) and Colts (4-5) over the next month. They could, dare I say, win some of these games and get themselves deeper in the playoff hunt THIS YEAR! Ok, I'm not going all in on the Jaguars, they probably aren't going any better than 6-10 this year. But the Jaguars are building something promising for the future. If they are smart and this team continues to show improvement, then Gus Bradley might deserve a chance to win with this team next year.

5) The Jets are in big trouble. Earlier this week, New York's green and white MetLife Stadium tenant had a true stinker against the Buffalo Bills and their old coach Rex Ryan. From poor coaching to poor execution, the Jets have regressed from that electric 4-1 start they had. The Jets have lost three of four, and now find themselves on the outside looking in. They already lost a tiebreaker to the Raiders, and trail in their tiebreaker to the Bills. The Jets are also 1-4 against teams who are potentially heading to the playoffs this year.

What is most disturbing is the Jets vaunted defense is missing tackles, and they can't get any push up front to inject a running attack. The Jets live on their front seven, defensively, and, they live on the running of Chris Ivory, offensively. Right now it's not happening. Injuries have not helped, and neither does the case of alligator arms on display by Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker in big spots. The Jets have a tough stretch run on tap with the Giants, Patriots, Bills, and Cowboys upcoming. Plus they play the Texans and Dolphins, both of whom believe they have a shot this year at a playoff spot. It's looking ugly.

6) The NFC East is still muddled. Let's see here, the Cowboys lost in excruciating fashion for the umpteenth time this season to drop to 2-7; the Eagles watched Mark Sanchez stink it up against the Dolphins; the Giants lost a heart-breaker to the Patriots, and the Redskins clobbered the Saints. I guess the Redskins are now the favorites in the NFC East. Only kidding. The fact this division is so poor, goes to show you how bad that loss to the Patriots was for the Giants. A win and New York would be 6-4 right now with a 1-1/2 game lead on everyone in the standings. The Giants enter their bye week at 5-5, and need everyone to lose next week just to remain in first place. By the way the Giants play those red hot Redskins on November 29 in Maryland.

7) The Minnesota Vikings, yes, the Minnesota Vikings are in first place! The Vikings are in first place in the NFC North. What? Yes! The Minnesota Vikings are in first place in the NFC North. The Vikings put a thorough whooping on the Raiders, who were a favorite to win this game on Sunday. The Vikes were led by Adrian Peterson, who dashed for 203-yards, only the sixth time he has ran for 200+ yards in a game in his career. Moreover, Teddy Bridgewater continues to manage the game and not make big mistakes for Minnesota, as he threw for 140 and a touchdown.

However, the biggest statement of the day came from the Vikings defense, which held the Raiders to 84 yards rushing and forced two Derek Carr interceptions. The Vikings have surrendered more than 20 points in a game only once this year (a 23-20 loss to Denver in early October) and have been lights out for much of the season. These guys are scary. They don't have a big time quarterback, but find ways to win the old school way with defense and a ground game. Even if the Vikings don't win the division, they are certainly a serious wild card contender.

8) The Patriots ARE beatable. While the Patriots won their game and improved to 9-0, the Giants once again proved to the world that the Patriots are beatable.  The G-men sacked Brady three times, and forced two fumbles from the Super Bowl MVP. In addition, the Giants exposed the Patriots leaky secondary, as Eli Manning torched that Patriots defense for 361 yards and two touchdowns. Had ODB held onto the football in the fourth quarter, Manning would have had three scores. The Giants and Jets are the only two teams this year to come close to beating the Patriots, or at the very least, have exposed their weaknesses. The Patriots will lose at least once in the regular season I predict. They are a great team, will probably win the Super Bowl again this year, but there is a blue-print for success against them.

9) The Arizona Cardinals are the NFC's best team. The Arizona Cardinals are indeed for real. It took me a while to come around to buying into these guys, but now I'm buying. The Cardinals jumped out to a 19-0 lead on Sunday night in Seattle, only to watch the Seahawks storm all the way back to take a 29-25 fourth quarter lead. The Cardinals would not be deterred as Carson Palmer led two huge scoring drives late to blow the game open, as Arizona went on to win 39-32. The Cardinals are in first place at 7-2, comfortably, might I add in a division that everyone thought belonged to Seattle.

They won in Seattle for the second time in three seasons, and have posted 30 or more points in a game for the sixth time this season. Carson Palmer has throw for 2300 yards, 23 touchdowns and just seven picks. Anyone waiting for the Carson Palmer who struggled in Cincinnati and Oakland better keep waiting, because Palmer continues to excel for Bruce Arians. Last season Palmer was 6-0 for the Cardinals before injuries derailed not only him, but the Cardinals as they struggled down the stretch. In the last two seasons combined the Cardinals are 13-2 when Palmer is their quarterback.

Not to mention, the Cardinals have a solid duel running attack with a rejuvenated Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington taking plenty of pressure off the veteran quarterback. While the Carolina Panthers might be 9-0, and the Green Bay Packers are still a sentimental favorite in the NFC, it is the Cardinals who might be the most realistic threat to represent the NFC in San Francisco come February. However they are getting it done, they are getting it done for Arians, who continues to showcase himself as one of the games smartest and innovative head coaches.

If the Playoffs started today?
1) Patriots (9-0)
2) Bengals (8-0)
3) Broncos (7-2)
4) Colts (4-5)
5) Steelers (6-4)
6) Bills (5-4)

1) Panthers (9-0)
2) Cardinals (7-2)
3) Vikings (7-2)
4) Giants (5-5)
5) Packers (6-3)
6) Falcons (6-3)

Super Bowl 50 is trending where? We got a very long way to go until the Super Bowl, anything can happen as we all know, but if the playoffs started today I'd have to say Patriots vs. Cardinals would be the match-up. I've been on the Packers vs. Patriots bandwagon for much of the season. That might still happen, but right now, 'Zona looks real good.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Gigantic effort not enough for Giants to get past Patriots


The Giants came into Sunday's action against the New England Patriots a heavy 7-point underdog to the undefeated New England Patriots. Nobody expected them to compete much at all against New England, considering Big Blue's defense has been so woeful this season, but that doesn't take away from the fact that this was a game the Giants should have won. New York played it's best game of the season, put a lot of pressure on Tom Brady and Eli Manning was on top of his game. Yet even with all of that it was not enough to pull out a victory as the Giants fell 27-26 thanks to a last second field goal by Stephen Goskowski.

The Giants had a great opportunity to finish the game the right way and didn't do it. They left too much time on the clock, which in the language of Tom Brady means he has an eternity to figure things out. The clock: 2:06 to go in the game. The situation: First and goal at the Patriots five yard line after Manning completed passes of 30 and 18 to Dwayne Harris.

All the Giants had to do was run the football here. The Patriots had only one time out remaining. Run the football and first and goal, and the clock ticks down to 2:00. Run the ball on second down and the Patriots are forced to kick a field goal. Now with third down, the Giants could open the playbook and pick a play to keep the ball in the center of the field and eat clock. That never happened.

Instead, Manning heaved the football into the back-corner of the end zone for Odell Beckham Jr., but Beckham never had full possession. He got both feet down, but the ball was bobbling in his hands and was knocked out by the Patriots. Now it was second and goal with 2:01 to go, so the Giants didn't even get to the two minute warning before another play had to be wasted.

After Manning threw another incompletion on second down to take the game to the two minute warning, Ben McAdoo had his MVP candidate roll out to his right only to find nobody and fall down for a sack. With 1:50 to go the Giants accomplished nothing in the red zone and had to settle for a kick to make it 26-24.

And to think the Giants almost got away with this series of horrible play-calling. Tom Brady's first pass of the eventual-game-winning drive was nearly intercepted by Landon Collins, who couldn't hold onto the football as he rolled to the ground. If Collins held onto it for another second the game would have been over. Instead Brady gets renewed life. He hits Danny Amendola for 12-yards on fourth down and 10 to move the chains. Brady later connects on three of his next four passes, including a fake spike pass to Amendolla to get the ball into Giants territory. Brady hit Amendola once more for nine yards, which was more than enough yards for Goskowski to make the winning kick.

In short this lose will sting. It was the fourth time this year where the Giants had a fourth quarter lead and blew it late. The sad part is this was the Giants best performance of the season.

The Giants rushed Brady all day. Until Brady's big fourth quarter that also included a 76-yard pitch and catch to Rob Gronkowski, the Super Bowl MVP was under 200 yards passing threw three quarters. He was sacked three times, and striped of the football twice.  Even Jason Pierre Paul, who didn't record a single tackle had an impact on the game, providing a steady rush at Brady which forced the quarterback to make some uncomfortable throws.

Offensively the Giants were clicking, especially in the first half. Eli Manning threw for 251 yards in the first half, a new career high for him; he threw for 361 for the game. Manning hit Odell Beckham Jr. in stride for an 87-yard touchdown that tied the game at seven in the first quarter. He later led the Giants on a seven play 74-yard drive for a touchdown to push the Big Blue lead to 17-10. The Giants would lead by as much as 20-10 at one point.  New York would out-gain the Patriots 422 to 406 on the night.

The Giants now have to lick their wounds from this loss for two whole weeks. Big Blue faces a bye week this week, and will play the Redskins on November 29.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Rex Ryan gets his revenge, beats Jets 22-17


Talk about an unmitigated disaster. The Jets had every opportunity to avoid watching their ex, Rex celebrate at MetLife Stadium, dancing on the Jets logo and sticking it to the Jets for firing him and his staff 10 months ago. The Jets had every opportunity to win this game and make a statement about the AFC wild card race, and, they let it slip by their fingers like one of the many dropped passes on Thursday night.

While 5-4 doesn't mean the Jets are eliminated. They are still very much in the thick of the AFC's wild card hunt, Thursday's 22-17 meltdown felt like an elimination game.

A week ago the Jets slipped past the Jaguars, using injuries as big excuse for a poor performance. There were no excuses this time. With the exception of not having Antonio Cromartie and Calvin Pryor, the Jets were as healthy as they could be. They simply didn't execute, and allowed the Buffalo Bills and Rex Ryan to sneak away with a win.

Where to begin with this laundry list? Start in the second quarter with New York holding a 3-0 lead. Ryan Fitzpatrick zips a pass right down the middle to Brandon Marshall and the wide receiver has the ball go right through his hands and into the waiting hands of Corey Graham. For as good a talent as Marshall is, he's had a lot of drops in big spots and this was another one. The turnover set up a Buffalo field goal, suddenly tying the game.

On the ensuing kick-off, Jets second round draft pick, Devin Smith fumbles the football at the Jets own 20-yard line. Duke Williams scooped it up and dashed into the end zone like Herman Edwards back in the day for the Eagles. It was the turning point of the game -- the air and momentum that New York had was totally sucked out. It didn't even matter that Buffalo missed the extra point, because the dye was cast.

How did Gang Green respond down 9-3? Three straight incomplete passes by Fitzpatrick, and a three-and-out. Buffalo got the football back, rumbled down field thanks to the legs of LeSean McCoy, and precise short passes by Tyrod Taylor and added another field goal to make it 12-3.

The mistakes didn't stop there. The Bill scored on their opening possession of the second half when Taylor let Karlos Williams loose down the sideline for a 26-yard touchdown pass, thanks in big part to the Jets hideous tackling. After Chris Ivory fumbled away the beginnings of the Jets opening third quarter drive, Buffalo tacked on three more to make it 22-3. It felt more like 42-3 with the way this game played out.

And to think the Jets actually had a chance. There was a small glimmer of hope in the third quarter when Fitzpatrick hit a running Brandon Marshall down the sideline for touchdown to cut the Bills lead to 22-10. Perhaps New York was setting everyone up for a Miracle of the Meadowlands II, and would steal this game away from their old head coach.

Remind me to be smarter than that.

What followed was some of the worst play calling the Jets have had in years. Twice the Jets had a chance to do the right thing, play some smart football and didn't do it. Late in the third quarter, Fitzpatrick and Chris Ivory had the Jets moving deep into Bills territory. Facing a third and two at Buffalo 20, Fitzpatrick threw short to Eric Decker who dropped the football. One of the many key drops on the night for New York.

At this point, logic would dictate to kick the field goal and make it a nine-point game, but, instead the Jets go for it on fourth and two with Fitzpatrick dumping it off to Brandon Marshall on a screen pass two years behind the line of scrimmage. Marshall was quickly tackled and the Jets turned it over on downs.

Later, with the score 22-17, the Jets get a huge break when the Bills botch the snap to the punter, giving the Jets the football at the Bills own 13. After Ivory pushed his way for eight yards to the Buffalo five yard, the Jets once again went into shell. Fitzpatrick, again, goes to Decker short and gets no where on third down. With 3:20 to go in the game, the Jets easily could have kicked a field goal to cut the deficit to just two points.

However, Todd Bowles and Chan Gailey gambled, went for it on fourth down and the Jets blew it. For whatever reason they called a play where third string tight end Kellen Davis would be on the receiving end of a back-corner fade, but the tight end never saw the ball coming his way as it sailed over his head. Turnover on downs.

The Bills would go on and run away with this one and Rex Ryan got his revenge. Ryan spent a week downplaying the significance of this game, but by the loos of this footage, one can tell this meant a lot to him. Stay classy, Rex.

Perhaps Rex shouldn't be celebrating like he won the Super Bowl, even though it's understandable since this win came against a team he poured his heart into for six years. Keep in mind these two teams will see each other again in Week 17. Perhaps a playoff spot will still be on the line.

As for Gang Green, they have a lot of issues. Not only was their play-calling and execution bad, but their tackling was poor once again, and they dropped way too many makable catches. The Jets have 10 days to fix it, in preparation for the Houston Texans on November 22.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Giants & JPP find a way to sneak past Tampa Bay


If only the final score were a real indication of how this game played out, because in retrospect the Giants are lucky Tampa Bay was scheduled between games against the Saints and Patriots. The Giants spent the entire evening struggling against the Buccaneers. New York had to rely on four field goals by Josh Brown, including two late field goals in the game, and a Trevin Wade fumble recovery for a touchdown, just to get out of Raymond James Stadium alive.

The Giants never really established themselves offensively; New York had only 213 yards passing on the night. Eli Manning had a his moments, but he also threw two interceptions, including one on the second play of the game that led to a Bucs field goal.

Yet through it all, the Giants never really beat themselves too much, because Tampa Bay doesn't have the teeth the make the Giants regret their mistakes. Manning led two first half scoring drives, that culminated in touchdowns to Ruben Randle and Shane Vereen to push New York to a 17-6 lead, which was really all the offense they would need on Sunday.

Manning finished 26-of-40 for 213 with the two touchdowns and two picks. Odell Beckham Jr. had a huge day, hauling in nine balls for 105 yards.

The Giants defense rebounded with a bend-but-don't-break effort against the Buccaneers, forcing three turnovers and making running back Doug Martin virtually useless to Tampa's execution. Jameis Winston wasn't horrible for Tampa Bay, but a rookie quarterback is not going to put up the numbers Drew Brees did against the Giants leaky secondary.

Jason Pierre-Paul, AKA the man with nine fingers, made his season debut for the Giants, wearing a heavily bandaged glove on his right hand that turned his damaged hand into a gigantic mitten. JPP played in 46 of the 63 defensive snaps for the Giants and recorded two tackles. He even got a couple pressures on Winston. So a good first test passed for JPP in his first game back since the Fourth of July fiasco that cost the lineman his index finger.

While the Giants succeeded in sneaking past the Buccaneers, they will not succeed at sneaking past their next opponent, the 8-0 New England Patriots. This will be a huge test for Big Blue. The Giants need an all world performance to come away with a win in that contest next Sunday at the Meadowlands.

Jaguars' mistakes propel Jets to victory


Sometime it takes an opponent to beat oneself in order to get a victory. For the Jets they have to thank the Jacksonville Jaguars for being the Jacksonville Jaguars in a 28-23 win at the Meadowlands on Sunday. New York had almost no energy, no offensive thunder power, and their defense was once again a sieve, yet against the Jaguars, a great effort wasn't needed.

If only the Jets could play the Jaguars, or the AFC South every week.

While the Jets didn't commit a number of crucial turnovers, the Jaguars did that for them, they allowed the Jaguars to hang around the entire day, and never made the bone crushing play to knock the Jaguars out of the game. Perhaps it was the blatant fact that the Jets are beaten up physically, as a supporting reason behind the Jets sluggish effort, or perhaps it is the fact that this Jets team is not really as deep as many thought coming into the season.

Whatever it might be, the Jets looked like the walking wounded on Sunday. Ryan Fitzpatrick was unspectacular as he played the entire game with a protective glove on his injured left thumb. Chris Ivory was a non factor for third straight game, and the offensive line was again banged up. Nick Mangold (knee) spent part of the game on the bench, and Willie Colon was inactive. In addition the team had to rely on Ryan Quigley to kick field goals. In short, it was ugly.

The Jets jumped out to a  14-3 lead thanks to two straight long touchdown drives by New York that culminated in touchdowns by Eric Decker and Chris Ivory, but soon after that the Jets offense went into a proverbial funk and never really came out of it.

As a team, New York managed only 33 yards of total offense in the second quarter, and wound up punting five times in the second half as the Jaguars hung around and made an attempted comeback.

A big reason for the Jets failure to do anything substantial offensively was the ineptitude of Ivory, who had only 26 yards on 23 carries. While the Jaguars have a very underrated rush defense, they aren't this good. The fact that the Jets beat up offensive line, and a beat up Ivory played a pivotal role in preventing the Jets from establishing any mental edge during the middle part of this contest.

Meanwhile the Jets defense allowed Blake Bortales to look brilliant at times for Jacksonville.  Just before the half, Bortles completed two huge passes, including a 30-yard touchdown to Allen Hurns to make it 14-10 Jets at the half.

In the third quarter, after an early Jets' three and out, Bortles hit Allen Robinson for 17 yards to the Jets 26 yard line for a first and ten. Three plays later the Jets caught a huge break when Bortles pass to Bryan Walters was called incomplete, even though it was obvious that the receiver had both feet in bounds. Instead of it being first and ten for the Jaguars, Jacksonville had to settle for three to cut the Jets lead to 14-13.

That turned out to be huge, because the Jets answered very quickly. Fitzpatrick hit a streaking Jeff Cumberland down the middle of the field for 44-yards to move the chains into Jacksonville territory. Fitzpatrick would then complete passes of 10 and 16 to Brandon Marshall and Ivory respectively to move the chains to the goal-line. Ivory would plunge in for six, handing the Jets a 21-13 lead.

However, it was the buffoonery of the Jaguars late in this game that helped the Jets the most. Jacksonville was in prime position to take the lead with the football at the Jets 10-yard line, but an offensive holding penalty pushed them back 10-yads. On the next play, Bortles was stripped of the football and Jets' defensive end, Calvin Pace fell on it to get the ball back to New York.

Later in the quarter, the Jaguars muffed a punt return that the Jets also recovered at the Jacksonville 25. Three plays later, Fitzpatrick found Brandon Marshall in the back of the end zone for a touchdown. It was lucky touchdown too, because it looked like Marshall trapped the football, as it was squirming around in his arms, yet the officials gave the wide-out the TD.

The Jets (5-3) are very fortunate to come away with a win against the Jaguars. They came into the game beaten up, and played like it as well. In addition, the emotion needs to be taken up a notch, as the Jets played slow the entire afternoon. The Jets need a much better performance next week if they want to have any shot at beating their old coach, Rex Ryan and the Buffalo Bills.