Following their bye week, the New York Giants (4-3, T-2nd NFC East) return to action in this weekend against the Philadelphia Eagles (4-3, T-2nd NFC East) in an important division matchup. This will be a 1 pm Eastern start at MetLife Stadium and can be seen regionally on FOX and also on DirecTV CH 710. Joe Buck will return from the World Series to be on the call, supported by his long-time partner Troy Aikman, and their sideline reporter, Erin Andrews. The Eagles come off a disappointing 29-23 OT road loss to the Dallas Cowboys, a game where they relinquished a 10-point fourth quarter lead. That defeat dropped the Eagles two games behind NFC-East leading Dallas (6-1), with a 0-2 record within the division (Philadelphia lost 27-20 at Washington in Week 6). After a fast 3-0 start, Philadelphia has lost three of four, rookie QB Carson Wentz and the Eagle offense has slowed, and their strong defense has had recent late game lapses.
At midseason, this is a pivotal stretch for the Giants. As we reach November, Big Blue is home for three consecutive home games starting this week, followed by a post-Thanksgiving road game in Cleveland (all times Eastern):
• Sun, Nov 6th vs. Philadelphia, (Salute to Service), 1 pm
• Mon, Nov 14th vs. Cincinnati (Monday Night Football), 8:30 pm
• Sun, Nov 20th vs. Chicago, 1 pm
• Sun, Nov 27th at Cleveland, 1 pm
The Giants could climb their way into the football pennant race, or at least stay right in the NFC Wild Card hunt, by at least taking two of the next three. But, that’s a tall order for a team whose offense underachieved the entire first half of the season, averaging only 19.0 points per game (T-25th in the NFL). New York ranks 20th in total offense (345.3 yards/game), 26th in third down conversion efficiency (34.9%), and 29th in turnovers (14). The Giants – as has been the case since 2013 – cannot effectively run the ball; they are last in the NFL in rushing, with only 70.3 yards/game, averaging an anemic 3.3 yards/carry. This routinely forces the team into predictable passing situations with long down-and-distances. The Giant offensive line struggles to protect QB Eli Manning, who is consistently under duress; Manning’s numbers reflect it, as he has thrown only 8 TDs to go with 6 INTs. Manning is completing 64.8% of his passes, and the Giants are 6th in the NFL with 275.4 passing yards/game, but the constant pressure he has faced has resulted in a passer rating that is 22nd in the NFL (87.3).
The Giants also rank at the bottom of the league in turnover margin (-7), sacks for (9), and red zone percentage (42%). With that, look for the Eagles defense to get pressure on Manning and make some big plays late in the game. Big Blue returns from the bye with a matchup that is always exciting, but the Eagles get the important division win, Philadelphia 27-23.
Elsewhere in NY football:
• New York Jets (3-5, 4th AFC East). After winning their second consecutive game in a 31-28 victory at Cleveland, the Jets travel down to Miami in an AFC East matchup against the Dolphins (3-4, 3rd AFC East). This game, at 1 pm Eastern at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, can be viewed regionally on CBS and on DirecTV CH 707. Greg Gumbel will have the call, with former NFL QB Trent Green serving as his analyst, and Jamie Erdahl supporting from the team down on the sidelines. Down thirteen points to the Browns at halftime, Head Coach Todd Bowles gave his team a well-deserved blast in the locker room, and his words helped spark the Jets in the second half. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, who had a miserable first half, going only 3-for-14 for 30 yards, came to life in the third quarter. He guided the Jets on scoring drives of 78, 84, and 81 yards, going 13-for-20 for 198 yards and 1 TD. RBs Matt Forte and Bilal Powell combined for 158 yards and 3 TDs. Second-year WR Quincy Enunwa continues to step up in Eric Decker’s absence, catching 4 passes for 93 yards and a TD, while S Marcus Gilchrist and LB Lorenzo Maudlin had second-half interceptions.
The Dolphins return from their bye, after consecutive Week 6 and 7 home wins against Pittsburgh (30-15) and Buffalo (28-25). The brilliant play of RB Jay Ajayi sparked the Dolphins’ season to life against the Steelers and Bills, as the second-year RB became the 4th player in NFL history to register back-to-back 200-yard rush games. First-year Head Coach Adam Gase has been able to utilize Ajayi and the play of an improving offensive line to help balance the offense, making QB Ryan Tannehill and his talented young receivers more effective. This matchup of Ajayi and the Jets front seven should be entertaining, as the Jets are the best against the run in the NFL, only permitting 74 yards/game. Meanwhile, the Jet defense, and most notably their secondary, allow the league’s most yards/game against the pass. Something is going to give here, and it’s going to be Miami. Look for the Jets to continue their good play against the Dolphins in this series (they have won 4 of 5); 28-24 New York.
• Buffalo Bills (4-4, T-2nd AFC East). After winning four straight games to surge back into contention, the Bills have now lost consecutive intra-division games at Miami (28-25), and last week at home vs. New England (41-25). With recent hamstring injuries to top RB LeSean McCoy and pass rusher Lorenzo Alexander (9 sacks), the Bills limp out to Seattle for a Monday Night Football game against the Seahawks (4-2-1, 1st NFC West). This game will be played at 8:30 pm Eastern on ESPN with Sean McDonough on the call with Jon Gruden, and Lisa Salters on the sideline.
Like the Bills, the Seahawks are struggling as well, after a frustrating 6-6 OT tie at Arizona, and then a 25-20 loss last week in New Orleans. QB Russell Wilson has been hobbled of late, relegating him to the pocket, and, in a sub-standard defensive performance, the Seahawks played the Saints without S Kam Chancellor and DE Michael Bennett. Look for either Chancellor, Bennett, or both to return against Buffalo, and with another day to rest, for Wilson to start to regain more of his mobility. Bills’ Head Coach Rex Ryan and several of his coaches attended Game 7 of the World Series in Cleveland on Wednesday night, but they LEFT during the 17-minute rain delay at the end of the ninth, and consequently, Ryan – a long time Cubs fan – did not see his team win it. He won’t see it on Monday night either, Seahawks 30-20.
Welcome to the Hot Stove. We’ll talk offseason baseball at length in the weeks ahead, but first off, congratulations to baseball on a phenomenal World Series. It was a great nine days for MLB, as the Chicago Cubs ended their 108-year title drought, beating the Cleveland Indians in an all-time classic Game 7. On top of it, baseball’s rating surged, with over 40 million viewers for Game 7 (most since 1991), and the Cubs-Indians Game 5 last Sunday night, beat the Cowboys-Eagles Sunday night football game by a healthy 6 million viewers.
Teams have already made a number of decisions on their own players, picking up or declining options. Locally, on Thursday, the Mets picked up OF Jay Bruce’s option ($13M) for 2017, as well as INF Jose Reyes’ (MLB minimum, which in ’16 was $507,000). The Mets declined LHP Jonathon Niese’s option ($10M) and will him a $500,000 buyout, making him a free agent. Down I-95, the Washington Nationals picked up their team option on LHP Gio Gonzalez ($12M); teams around MLB have expressed interest in Gonzalez, who at $12M for one year from the portside, does possess trade value. The most notable trade so far occurred on Thursday, as the California Angels acquired OF Cameron Maybin from the Detroit Tigers for minor league RHP Victor Alcantara. Normally a CF, Maybin will fill a hole for the Halos in LF with perennial All-Star and MVP candidate Mike Trout anchored in CF. Limited last year to only 94 games with the Tigers in ’16 due to a broken wrist and sprained thumb, Maybin, 29, hit .315 with 14 doubles, 5 triples, 4 HRs, 43 RBIs and 15 SBs.
The Stove is now on, and we’ll keep it stoked for you all winter long, talking some baseball. Have a great week out there.