Tag Archives: Giants

The Giants: In An Awkward Place

Last week, I spoke with Earnest Christian on his “EJ Talks Football” podcast and in our ramblings concerning NFL free agency, we discussed the current position of the New York Giants.  It was a difficult spot for me because I have a hatred for this franchise that goes longer than a quarter of a century. I will not get into why I loathe this franchise so much, but I will say, the reasons have scarred me since a young boy till now.

As a fan who roots against the Giants, last year was a great season.  The Giants looked pitiful, the fans were frustrated and the season was over from the start.  But if one is to really step back and analyze where the Giants are at right  now, it  is a really, really awkward place to be.

The Giants are a team that sit with the number two pick in the NFL draft.  The Giants also have a terrible offensive line (one of the NFL’s worse), an aging quarterback in Eli Manning (whose talents have been diminishing for years and may be at a “rock-bottom” point) and a contract negotiation with stud wide-receiver Odell Beckham.

Source: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images North America

When it comes to the offensive line, there are already talks that free agent guard Andrew Norwell signing with the New York Giants is already a “done-deal.”  If this is so, this is the Giants moving in the right direction in the off-season, but it certainly cannot stop there.  Maybe the Giants look to free-agent tackle Nate Solder to help solidify a rebuild of the offensive line, or they look in the draft.  In this year’s draft, quite possibly the best player in it is Notre Dame guard Quentin Nelson.  The Giants taking Nelson number-two overall though would be doubtful, and if this was the course of action they’d want to take they would likely trade down a few spots. . .just a few.

When it comes to Eli Manning and the quarterback situation of the New York Giants, new general manager Dave Gettleman, has told the New York fans and media that Eli Manning will remain as the team’s quarterback.  This was unexpected by many considering how Eli Manning has played in the last few seasons, and also considering that this seemed like a good time to just break free, and draft a new quarterback for the future with the number-two overall pick.  Instead, the Giants have given the cringe-worthy statement of keeping the decrepit QB under-center.  If this is true this means the Giants have no interest in Josh Rosen, Josh Allen or Sam Darnold.  This doesn’t mean other teams don’t though.  The Giants can easily trade out of this spot for a mini-ransom of sorts, which is ideal for a team in their position.  Also, keeping Eli Manning in there for another year, really does no damage to the rebuilding model – if the model includes acquiring pieces to an offense that would be better for a new quarterback to control.

Source: Al Bello/Getty Images North America

Finally, we come to the Odell Beckham drama.  With a heavy emphasis on the word “drama” because that’s all Odell is.  Well to be fair, he’s also a top five wide receiver in the league, and one of the two biggest play makers in football (next to Antonio Brown).  With that being said, Odell wants to be the highest paid receiver in the league.  Oh sorry, the highest paid player in the league.  Yeah, no thanks.  This comes at a terrible time for the Giants, but this is a business.  Odell is playing his hand correctly and you can’t blame him.  The truth is, Odell is a star.  A star in New York.  That equates to bigger things than just the football field.  But in the same breath, Odell is someone who came into the league with injury issues, and last year started the season missing week one with an ankle injury and then had his season cut off due to a left ankle fracture in week five.  Odell also has the reputation of being a petulant child and a general pest.  He has a huge target on him from defenders all over the league because he tends to show boat and talk trash — BUT he is the best player on this roster. . . by far.  The question here is, do you really pay a receiver that much (we’re talking in the ball park of ($17 million a year) while rebuilding?  Even if Odell signs a deal of a realistic $14-$15 million a year – where does the sense come in for all of this?  Teams that have the wide-outs with big contracts only make noise if the rest of the team is solid – like the Steelers or the Falcons — but even then – no championships.

This is a very awkward time indeed for the New York Giants.  If I said I feel bad for them, I’d be lying through my teeth.  The petty little demon inside of me is grinning ear to ear.

By the way, we only discussed their offense and how they should go about fixing that. . .this defense gave up the second most yards in the NFL last year as well. . .so uh. . .Good Luck out there with the rebuild G-Men.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Beating Vegas: NFL Week 1

The “sharps” at Vegas play the NFL lines differently from the college lines.  A lot of what is determined is based off what the “public” leans towards.  Don’t fall for the “sucker-bets” and the “traps” – just beat, Vegas.

Arizona Cardinals -1.5 at Detroit Lions

Last season was a disappointing one for the Cardinals who finished 7-8-1 (yes and ONE).  Coach Bruce Arians is still regarded as one of the best in the NFL but his team as a whole just didn’t seem to max out their potential. In what may be a “make it or break it season” for veteran quarterback Carson Palmer, opening weekend means a lot.  Detroit on the other hand, surprised the masses last season.  As well as over-achieved.  .  . They rewarded their quarterback Matthew Stafford with a five year $135 million contract.  It’s been brought to the light that Stafford has a record of 5-46 when playing against teams with a winning record, and although I’m not big on putting wins and losses on a QB, that stat is just mind blowing.  Lucky for him it’s the first game of the season and the Cardinals are 0-0.  Even then, the Lions (since dating back to 2006) have lost six straight to the Arizona Cardinals.  The public will jump on the Lions being a playoff team home dog to the Cardinals, but the Cardinals have weapons on offense, including the best player in the NFL, David Johnson and a healthy defense that can cause trouble for Detroit.

 

The Pick: Cardinals +1.5

Los Angeles Chargers +3 at Denver Broncos

Let’s just call it for what it is when it comes to the Broncos: Good defense that picks up the slack for an average vanilla offense.  John Elway really thought he could sway a QB to come here, or at least expect last year’s first round pick Paxton Lynch to step up and assume the starting position, but nope – we’re here once again to see another season of Trevor Siemian.  Not that Siemian is “terrible” – 18 touchdowns, 10 interceptions and 3400 yards passing last year – but he won’t “wow” you either.  On the other side of the field, the Chargers have one of the more underappreciated starting quarterbacks in NFL history in Philip Rivers.  Rivers, was average at best in two games against the Broncos defense last year but running back Melvin Gordon was able to run for 111 and 94 yards in both games.  An added bonus for the Chargers this time around is that they have a healthy receiving core (minus rookie Mike Williams) which includes Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams and Travis Benjamin.  The Chargers defense is one of my “sleepers” this year and against this very limited and predictable offense, the Chargers win this one in a low scoring affair.

The Pick: Chargers +3

Oakland Raiders +1.5 at Tennessee Titans

The Raiders won five games last year by 5 or less points.  Sure that’s a result of good coaching and focus by the players – but lets not kid ourselves – you need a lot of LUCK for that to happen as well.   Quarterback Derek Carr is the leader of Raider Nation and he enters the home of a Titans defense that finished third worst against the pass last year letting up 7.2 yards an attempt.   One could easily say that number was that high because teams were forced to throw against a defense that was stingy against the run last year ( allowing 4 yards a rush).  The Raiders allowed 4.5 yards on the ground and even more yards per pass last year than the Titans at 7.9.  Bottom line is, the Raiders can’t get “lucky” with this bad play by their defense.  That line should actually be 6 or 7 in favor of the Titans.

The Pick: Titans -3

New York Giants +4 at Dallas Cowboys

Two rules that I have when it comes to sports wagering:  1) Never bet on or against your favorite team and 2) Never bet on or against the team you despise.  The Giants are the team I despise, while the rest of the world either hates the Cowboys, or can’t get enough of them.  Last season the Giants beat the Cowboys in both meetings 20-19 and 10-7 respectively. This is a rivalry in which both teams know each other well and with another tight race expected in the NFC East this season, the importance of this rivalry is multiplied by fifty.  The Cowboys have their running back Ezekiel Elliot (at least for week one)  who had a 50 and 100 yard game against the G-Men defense last season which was only allowing an impressive 3.6 yards a rush.  The Cowboys defense was just as impressive against the run last year but it was their pass defense that was gross allowing quarterbacks to complete 67.1% of their passes last year (second worse behind Detroit).  Although Eli Manning isn’t the most accurate of passers in the NFL, his receiving options are plentiful.  As long as Eli can get rid of the ball quickly, the Giants should not only cover the spread but win outright over the Cowboys. So much for my “rules.”

The Pick: Giants +4

Only if you must: Pittsburgh Steelers are a 9 point favorite in Cleveland against the Browns.

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

NFC East: First Round Mock

The NFC East is usually a crap-shoot when it comes to guessing which of these four teams will finish the season on top.  The Redskins have the roster – but are a mess of a franchise; the Eagles are always a popular pick but usually fizzle out; the Giants get a pass on average seasons because of their recent history in the playoffs and the Cowboys – well, you either love ’em or hate ’em.

Philadelphia Eagles

Finished with a  7-9  record

Def Yards: 13th   Off Yards: 22nd

The Eagles started off 5-0 and were a train wreck the rest of the season.  They had a horrific record away from home 1-6 and rookie quarterback Carson Wentz had a terrific start and was sent right back down to the Land of Humble Pie by year’s end.  They spent the off-season getting offensive line help and more depth at the wide-out position and although they could use a new look at running back, chances are they will address the defense with the 14th pick in the first round.   Tennessee’s Derek Barnett is a defensive end who can help out the Eagles pass rush.  They finished in the middle of the NFL with 34 sacks last year and a pass-rusher of this caliber will help put them in the upper tier of that category and as we all know.  In a division where the Cowboys and Redskins both finished in the top five of total offenses next year – this would help the Eagles tremendously.

New York Giants

Finished with a 11-5 record

Def Yards: 10th    Off Yards: 25th

My least favorite team to talk about.  Ever.  They went out and signed Brandon Marshall at wide-out giving them a three headed monster at the position along with Odell and Sterling but they lack a punch with the offensive line, Eli seems to be regressing and zero-talent at the running back position.  Defensively they over-achieved playing against a lot of back up quarterbacks last season so it’ll be interesting where they go.  Jerry Reese usually just goes with the “best player on the board” concept during the draft.  Their might be two linebackers in that spot and two offensive linemen in that spot.  The Giants need to address the offensive line if they ever intend to have a running game and expect to keep Eli upright.  Wisconsin’s Ryan Ramczyk is a tough tackle who worked to get where he is.  He worked through the FBS ranks to find himself starting at left tackle for Wisconsin.  Wisconsin plays a brand of “tough” football so he’s no stranger in mixing it up at the line of scrimmage.  Could be a very, very good pick for the Giants.

Dallas Cowboys

Finished with a 13-3 record

Def Yards:14th    Off Yards: 5th

The Cowboys are turning the page in the franchise and it’s clear that the future is now, with quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliot.  Losing safety Barry Church in free-agency might’ve been a blessing in disguise because he was a perennial under-achiever who “just happened” to play well in a contract year.  Knowing who the Dallas Cowboys are, they will fill in that safety spot with the biggest grin on their faces as they take Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers.   Peppers is one of the true first-round-wildcards because people love his versatility and athleticism but wonder how well it will translate in the pros.  If Peppers is there at the 28th pick, you better believe the Cowboys are wasting no time and going with the flashy pick that may end up being well worth it.

Washington Redskins

Finished a 8-7-1 record

Def Yards:28th    Off Yards: 3rd

Oh man.  Why won’t they just give Kirk Cousins the contract he wants?  Why?  The stupid, stubborn Redskins finally have a good thing going and they are going to watch it blow up in their faces.  Cousins is primed to have another good year.  He’s seemingly mastered Jay Gruden’s system and is in a contract year.  The Redskins, aside from their average record, really have a nice roster.  They could go cornerback at this spot, and help out Brashad Breeland (who really disappointed me last season – get it together Breeland, I still believe in ya’!) or go draft a running back – I mean that’s what Dallas did and it worked for them right?! (that’s me imitating the Washington brass. . .)  Florida State running back Dalvin Cook makes the most sense just because it is a guarantee that Cousins won’t be here next season, so having all the pieces on the offense around a new quarterback might be exciting for a free agent or draft pick in 2018.  The Redskins are going to look flashy from time to time this year and Cook has all the tools to be a big play maker for them in the backfield.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

2016 NFC East Preview

  1. Washington Redskins – The “Washington Football Team” surprised some folks last  year, but if you look at their roster – it’s pretty legit.  Kirk Cousins is playing for a mega-contract this year, last year he showed the composure needed to run head-coach Jay Gruden’s offense.  Cousins isn’t great but the truth is, if you’re a quarterback that can master the system you’re in, that’s all that matters.  Cousins may not have much in the backfield this year, but the Redskins will probably work their offense in reverse.  What that means is, while most set up the pass with the running game, the Skins can open up the run game with the pass – get it?  The receiving core is a fantastic group.  Jordan Reed proved to be the the second best tight end in the league last year (behind New England’s Rob Gronkowski) when healthy and the receiving core goes four-deep with Desean Jackson, Jamison Crowder, Pierre Garcon and rookie Josh Doctson. This is a group that supplies a nice blend of size and speed that can and will wreck havoc on NFL secondaries.  Defensively, while everyone is high on the Josh Norman signing, the truth is, he isn’t even the best corner on his team.  Seriously.  Bashaud Breeland proved last year he can be a number one corner and now moving him to number two just means, the oppositions number two receiver becomes non-existent.   Second rounder Su’a Cravens out of USC is a defensive Swiss army-knife who can morph from safety to linebacker in a second and the Skins have already talked about exploiting his versatility.  Games against Dallas will determine this division – as they should.Prediction: 10-6

    Buffalo+Bills+v+Washington+Redskins+3UWNqgE9g4Ol

  2. Dallas Cowboys –  This piece was originally written predicting Dallas to finish in first place.   Naturally, I jinxed things and Romo will miss a chunk to the start of the season.  It may be over for Romo as he just can’t take a hit anymore.  This makes way for rookie QB, Dak Prescott.   In front of him is arguably the best offensive line in football, although last year their pass-protection seemed a bit too relaxed, the unit still provided holes for the run game.   The additions of former Redskins running back Alfred Morris and first round rookie Ezekiel Elliot will make this a very aggressive and versatile back-field.  Dez Bryant is still one of the league’s premier playmakers at the wide receiver position and it’s because of his presence, things open up for the very average Terrence Williams on the other side of the field.  Cole Beasley is actually a better wide out but he can’t be moved out of the slot because of his miniature stature.  .  . The Cowboys didn’t do much to help themselves out on defense, but the fourth round pick out of Oklahoma, Charles Tapper is an interesting piece to keep an eye on.  He needs to get over his lower back issues in this pre-season though because the Cowboys need all the help they can get.  When you’re defense enters the season with three of it’s players serving a suspension, every little bit helps.   With Romo, the points come a bit easier – Prescott will have a leash on him but they should be able to control the line of scrimmage with their rush attack.

Ezekiel+Elliott+Miami+Dolphins+v+Dallas+Cowboys+uKrvZwSpaeol

Prediction: 9-7

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3. New York Giants – The Giants offensive line will hamper a lot of what this team can do.  There is not much of a rushing threat in the form of Rashard Jennings, and although Giants fans are excited about Odell Beckham Jr being joined in the receiving core by rookie Sterling Shepard – Eli may not have time to deliver the deep ball much.   General manager Jerry Reese is on the hot seat and the way he threw money around this off-season proves it.  Reese shelled out a five year eighty-five million dollar contract to ensure the services of defensive end Olivier Vernon.  Reese also tried to shore up the secondary by signing Janoris Jenkins to a five year, sixty-two million dollar contract.  The issue with Jenkins is that he is not as good as advertised and already has shown struggle in training camps.   The Giants always seem to have Lady-Luck on their side although last year she seemed to stray away a little.   The Giants need to do what they can to court that dame back into their lives if they want to compete for the NFC East.

Prediction: 8-8

4.  Philadelphia Eagles – The Eagles wanted to rid themselves of anything having to do with the Chip Kelly era after ONE bad year and now they are primed to be a bottom feeder in the league.  The Eagles had a below average draft this year in which they selected quarterback Carson Wentz out of North Dakota State.  They hope that Wentz’ raw talents will carry him to become the franchise player this team needs at quarterback.  Hard to imagine a guy who’s toughest opponent in college was either Jacksonville State or Northern Iowa – to become some great quarterback in the NFL, but . . .whatever. . .  Jordan Matthews is the team’s best receiver option, but he isn’t the type of number-one option that secondary’s lose sleep over.   The tight end tandem of Zach Ertz and Brent Celek is pretty impressive but this isn’t exactly Rob Gronkowski and “he who shall not be named. . .”    Ryan Matthews was been a disappointment in San Diego, probably a disappointment to his parents and will continue this pattern here in Philly.

Carson+Wentz+Reese+Senior+Bowl+nlCoi9cDQi7l

Prediction: 3-13

 

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Three Potential First-Round Busts

It’s never nice to predict which of these kids will become a “bust.”  It’s a harsh title to bequeath upon a youngster who has his entire future/career ahead of him, BUT – it happens.  Some are noticeably horrendous like Jamarcus Russell, while others suffer injuries and personal setbacks like Brian Bosworth.  Whatever happens in the future, let’s just make it clear – I’m not wishing for the worse, just predicting it.

DeForest Buckner, DE,49ers, Seventh Overall Pick:

DeForest+Buckner+Oregon+v+Ohio+State+duAaYh_rk4Ol

This isn’t even Buckner’s fault as much as it where he came from (Oregon) and where he landed (San Francisco).   There are only two names that come to mind when one thinks of successful Oregon Ducks selected in the first round, Haloti Ngata and Kyle Long (and Long, at the time, was a real reach for Chicago in the first round. . .).  Dion Jordan proved to be a bust in Miami and the 49ers drafted Arik Armstead out of Oregon last year . . .  it’s apparent they were so impressed by Armstead’s mediocrity that they decided to roll the dice on another Oregon Duck in DeForest Buckner.  Buckner is a “stiff” player with very little fluidity in his game.  He lacks that aggressive nature you’d want from the edge and his instincts are a second too slow or just wrong altogether.  His potential will rot away on a team that is currently a sinking ship.

Eli Apple, CB, New York Giants, Tenth Pick Overall:

Eli+Apple+NFL+Draft+gckO4GwLDrol

The Giants appeared to be a mess on the first day of the draft.  They acted as if they didn’t have time to plan, or the date just “snuck up on them.”  The Bears jumped in front of the Giants and took OLB Leonard Floyd from Georgia, who was someone the Giants had their eyes on and then something weird happened.  The Giants decided to draft a corner back and instead of going for Florida’s Vernon Hargreaves, they went with Ohio State’s Eli Apple.  I get it, from a public relations standpoint it’s cute to say things like “Another Eli in the Big Apple” but in the football world, this was a confusing pick.  Eli Apple was second-team all conference.  He plays in the Big Ten.  He went up against maybe 3 good quarterbacks all year and plays on one of the best defensive units in college football. . . and with all that, this first round pick was “second-team” all conference.   He has slow reaction times, and gets beat a lot.  He’ll have his hands full with the Redskins and Cowboys receiving cores — he’ll even struggle with the likes of Jordan Matthews of Philadelphia.  This is a situation where the Giants went for need and not best player available.  Although the best player available was probably Vernon Hargreaves who plays the same position.  There is a good chance that on the night of the draft, general manager Jerry Reese was drunk.

Jared Goff, QB, Los Angeles Rams, First Pick Overall:

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First pick overall Jared Goff has some interesting foot-notes on his resume: In the 2015 season he struggled against Washington, struggled against USC and looked pitiful against Utah.  What do those three teams have in common?  They all have athletic, talented defenses with NFL-ready guys on them.  Something else that hits a nerve when looking at Goff’s resume – he never beat Stanford.  Now, I’m far from the guy who puts wins and losses on a quarterback, but the bottom line is, Stanford is a very blue collar and aggressive team – and he couldn’t figure them out.  He holds the ball for too long if you watch his tape;  and he benefited from the world of college football where you can zip a pass right off the snap from the shotgun/pistol.  He has “the look”, has the strong arm and talks a good game but the Rams didn’t draft their franchise quarterback this time around.  They drafted a guy who can “fill in” at best – until a better option comes along.  Having Todd Gurley in the backfield should help him out, but teams are going to stack the box all year and force him to come out from under center and deliver passes to, what is, a below average receiving core in Los Angeles.  Truth be told, his best option may be fellow rookie Tyler Higabee out of Western Kentucky – but he’s a rookie, who’s off the field decision making is a huge question and will have to prove himself against veteran tight end Lance Hendricks.

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

 

 

NFC East Team Needs

Philadelphia Eagles: OL, DE, LB, CB,QB

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Philly just seems like the most interesting place to start because, well – in all honesty, they are a complete mess.  They have holes all over the place and are shedding themselves of anything that reminds them of former head coach, Chip Kelly.   They might have to go offensive line in the first round of the draft to at least show a dedication to reconstructing something in the positive direction.  They signed former Houston Texans guard Brandon Brooks, to a five year deal which will pretty much wrap up the 26 year old guard in the prime of his career.  In the first round Ohio State’s tackle Taylor Decker should be available for them at pick number fourteen.  There are some pretty good prospects at guard that might’ve been available to them in the second round, but the Eagles’ next pick is in round three of the draft.  Since this is the case, they may want to grab what they can at the corner position here.  If they are lucky they’d be able to grab Miami’s Artie Burns – but Burns is an intriguing man with a strong story behind him and may go earlier than expected – but Minnesota’s Eric Murray might prove to be a strong pick in the third.  A physical corner with a nice feel for zone coverage.  With their second pick in the third round, they should look at  in-state favorite Carl Nassib, defensive end out of Penn State – or they may want to go with the better athlete in the third round like Charles Tapper out of Oklahoma.  Tapper forces turnovers and can get to the ball quickly – might be able to transition from defensive end to linebacker if need be . . .  No matter the guaranteed money or what coaches say, Sam Bradford has had his time to do something in this league and it’s evident he is not the “future” for any team.  Taking a quarterback late is never a promising look for a future “team leader,” but if the Eagles take a shot at Bowling Green’s Matt Johnson either late or as an undrafted free agent – it might turn out better than starting Bradford.  He’s got some mobility and a strong arm.   The Eagles really can go anywhere in the draft so it’s difficult to pin point exactly what they should do – best player available might be the way they go – this year and next year.

 

Washington Redskins: CB, RB, QB

Right off the bat, people will see “QB” in there and say “Why would they need a quarterback?  Especially after retaining the services of Kirk Cousins?!”  Well for starters, they franchised Cousins which means they are paying him a lot of money to see if he is worth the big time contract and secondly – before the season started, we were all questioning the abilities of Cousins.  With that being said – Cousins could’ve just gotten “lucky” last year or maybe just “figured out how to play above average in this league.”  Whichever it is, the Skins need some kind of insurance at that position next season. Colt McCoy is still there as a back up and that might be just as good as the names that are currently available like T.J. Yates and Tavaris Jackson.  If they want to take a gamble in the third round, NC State’s Jacoby Brisset could be a nice look and if they wait later – maybe a wild card like Oregon’s small – yet strong armed and athletic quarterback – Vernon Adams Jr might deserve some consideration.  The Skins have  a quality corner in Brashard Breeland, but they need to give him help on the opposite side of the field.  William Jackson, the corner back out of Houston ran a 4.37 at the combine, and even beforehand was considered to be a steal, even at the late first round spots. If Cousins plays as well as he did last year, the Redskins have more than enough talent to win the NFC East in back to back seasons.  .  .Do the Skins really have enough trust in running back Matt Jones to be “the guy” though?  Much like Cousins at quarterback, it wouldn’t hurt the skins to get some kind of “insurance” at that position.  There are always decent names in free agency at that position like Ronnie Hillman or Bobby Rainey.  It would be interesting to see the price tag that comes with Arian Foster though.  If healthy (that’s a big “IF”) he could be a huge impact on this roster as a whole and it might be worth it for the Skins to make that kind of play right now.

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New York Giants:RB, DE, LB, CB, WR

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The Giants are a team reeking of the word “desperate” right now.  General manager Jerry Reese hasn’t been too impressive with his mid to late round draft picks and he’s spending money left and right trying to rectify those mistakes.  The Giants have given a little over $100 million  in guaranteed money to Olivier Vernon, Janoris Jenkins and Damon Harrison.  All three got five year deals and all three have expectations to hit that they never had to measure up to previously.  With that said, when a team breaks bank like that in free agency it almost always is a recipe for disaster.   With the tenth pick overall the Giants may have a shot at the best running back in the draft in Ezekiel Elliot.  Elliot would be the dynamo half back they’ve been looking for for nearly a decade.  The combo backfield of Shane Vereen and Rashard Jennings was less-than-amusing to watch and Elliot would actually fit in perfectly with this offense.  Afterwards, the Giants should be looking to stock up on defensive talent wherever they can get it.  Yannick Ngakoue of Maryland is an outside linbacker/defensive end hybrid that is going mostly under the radar but he could be an instant starter and that kind of quality on a bad defense is worth the second round pick.  He’s got length, speed and size – three things that most the Giants defensive players don’t have a combination of. . . Jaylon Smith of Notre Dame is scaring teams off because of his medical issues and slow recovery – but before this was being touted as a sure fire first-round pick.  The Giants usually have luck with players of this talent falling to them and if he’s there in the third they will definitely not pass on him.   The Giants’ secondary needs help in a big way.  Landon Collins played well as the physical safety they needed him to be and them paying Janoris Jenkins the big bucks, proves that they need help in a big way.  Maurice Canady out of Virginia is a pretty physical corner who might be a nice compliment on the outside – while a later round pick (fifth-round maybe) would be Florida’s Brian Poole, who might be able to rotate as a fill in spot-number-two corner while being a mainstay in the nickel spot.  Victor Cruz came back at a discount to be the number two wide-out but the truth is, he’s garbage now and won’t go over the middle.  A veteran free agent signing like Marques Colston might be a nice way to try to mentor the young hot head wide-out Odell Beckham Jr.  Beckham seemingly answers to nobody and although his talents conceal his mental lapses – it’s becoming a tired act that should finally be controlled by this team.

 

Dallas Cowboys: LB, DE, QB, RB

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The Cowboys have the fourth pick overall in this year’s draft.  Not bad for a team many projected to be one of the NFL’s best in 2015 and failed miserably at achieving that.  The Cowboys are in a tough spot though.  When quarterback Tony Romo plays – he looks like an MVP candidate and everyone loves the Cowboys, BUT when Romo goes out with an injury, they play horribly and become the butt of everyone’s jokes.  The Cowboys won’t be spending a first round pick on a quarterback but maybe the second round wouldn’t (and shouldn’t) be that far fetched.  Ohio State’s Cardalle Jones might fit in well here.  Behind a strong offensive line and a capable receiving group, the athletic Jones, won’t have to “do too much” but learn how to be coach-able through it all.  Dak Prescott out of Mississippi State may be the more polished version of Cardalle Jones and in a time of “Greg Hardy and Dez Bryant” in the Cowboys’ locker room, a natural leader with a level head, might help out as a building block for Dallas’ future.  Back to the fourth overall pick though. . . The Cowboys should have their choice between some great linebacker prospects: UCLA Myles Jack, Georgia’s Leonard Floyd and Alabama’s Reggie Ragland.  Ragland might be a reach at number four as he is mainly projected to go in the “teens” of the first round and the choice of Floyd or Jack depends on how well Dallas can trust Jack coming off of a knee injury that ended his 2015 campaign.  Floyd on the other hand is a 6’6″ 244 pound man-child who played extremely well this year and enters the draft as one who can start right away and impact the game right away.  The Cowboys need an answer behind Romo so they can utilize their best strength which is running behind the offensive line.  While folks were enamored with Alabama’s Derrick Henry running the ball, it may be Kenyan Drake who turns out to be a  steal for any team in the third or fourth round.  He has decent hands and is a strong runner who is more elusive than advertised.   Drake would easily beat out the backfield on the Cowboys as is, and would be a rookie of the year candidate behind this offensive line.

Kenyan+Drake+CFP+National+Championship+Alabama+M-2i2x0zy4ol

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

NY Sports Today, Pt.2: The NFL

Can NGSCSports.Com be the first website that recognizes the Buffalo Bills as a New York sports franchise?  Why is it that the Bills, the only football team that actually plays football in the state of New York is forgotten, while the Giants and Jets play in New Jersey and that’s all one hears about?  New York is weird when it comes to football.  The Giants are the main attraction, the Jets are the freak show and the Bills are somewhere between forgotten and disrespected.  Here is a look at New York’s football squads right now.

The New  York Giants:

Eli+Manning+New+York+Giants+v+Minnesota+Vikings+hZ-CTJUkXkLl

Definitely a top five when in comes to spoiled and obnoxious fan bases.  They go toe to toe with their rivals, the Philadelphia Eagles fans and their feeling of self-entitlement is nauseating.   Currently the Giants are in a “flux” as they have parted ways with head coach Tom Coughlin who coached this franchise to two (ridiculously lucky) Super Bowl wins.  The Giants have a super star in Odell Beckham Jr. at wide receiver.  He is no doubt explosive and one of the best play-makers in the league, but he is also an overly emotional moron, who puts his “gimmick” ahead of the team more times than not.  With the emergence of Beckham, the Giants should and will probably cut ties with fan favorite Victor Cruz, who just can’t stay healthy anymore so it makes no sense to cut him a big check.  Eli Manning is entering his thirteenth season as quarterback of the New York Giants and his “mystique” in New York is greater than the actual performance.  He has a career touchdown to interception ratio of 3:2 but that stat seems to be ignored by the masses for whatever reason (that reason being his last name).  New Yorkers don’t want to acknowledge the truth which is the Giants are quietly rebuilding and a mediocre rate, which is a shame because as the NFC East has proven recently, it’s anybody’s division. . . minus the Giants.

The New York Jets:

Ryan+Fitzpatrick+New+York+Jets+v+Buffalo+Bills+INom2WcUAdjl

Just when you think the Jets got something cooking, they drop the frying pan.  On their foot.  If there is any team in the league with a small window and the “win now” mentality, it should be the New York Jets.  The Jets have a perfect blend of veterans, talent and youth to win games in this league.  Funny thing with the Jets is that they find themselves currently in a very “Jets-like, situation.”  Ryan Fitzpatrick quarterbacked the Jets last year over failed 2013 draft pick Geno Smith.  This was Fitzpatrick’s sixth team since 2005 and he excelled under rookie head coach Todd Bowles.  Fitzpatrick often was looked upon as a guy who can flash incredible consistency but then quickly turn into a “limited talent.”  With that being said, he broke the franchise record for most touchdowns in a season with 31.  So how is this situation “Jets-like,” you ask?  Because, Fitzy is turning 34 in November and because of the current quarterback market, his price range has gone from “bargain-basement” to somewhere in the $10 million a year ballpark.   The Jets are kind of hand-cuffed and need to figure out a way to make their cap space work but that’s because they are in “win-now” mode.  Did you catch that?  Ryan Fitzpatrick puts the Jets “back” in “win-now” mode.  Only the Jets, folks!

The Buffalo Bills:

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Speaking of the Jets, you had to love the narrative last season.  The Jets fire Rex Ryan as head coach, Ryan goes to Buffalo, Ryan beats the Jets twice by the same score of 22-17.  Ultimately destroying the Jets chances of a playoff birth.  But this is no longer about “Gang Green” this is about the only real New York NFL franchise, the Buffalo Bills.  The Bills were disappointed last year, but for a franchise that’s claim to fame is going to four straight Super Bowls and losing all four – it’s safe to say, being disappointed is the norm for upstate New York. The Bills are already making moves in the off-season and have released defensive end Mario Williams, which frees up about $13 million in cap space and they’ll be looking to spread that money around on the defense (expect Cromartie to get with Rex Ryan).  The Bills offense really isn’t too bad, and it’s safe to say Tyrod Taylor impressed some folks last year (albeit, expectations for him weren’t so great anyway).   The Bills are an average team, which their 8-8 record shows, but lost 5 of those eight by single digits, proving one less mistake here or an extra yard there, might have made a world of difference for this squad.  This is the NFL though, where nobody will cry for you if you lose, especially if your head coach is Rex Ryan, who most folks just don’t take serious anyway. . .

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Beating Vegas: Entry Thirteen

Every week during the football season, “The Heartthrob” G.W. Gras will be giving out his college and professional football “best bets” against the spread.  The wise guys in Vegas live comfortably – it’s time we all get on their level.

Judging Last Week: If it wasn’t for a nonsensical Hail Mary-like Florida touchdown that did nothing to change the course of the game – the picks would’ve been a respectable 3 out of 5 instead of 2 out of 5.  The games were all close and could’ve went either way, but hopefully you evened yourself up (and kept the faith in me) to lay it all on the Jets on Sunday afternoon.  This week’s Beating Vegas is the unlucky number 13th entry.  And with only one college game to really keep an eye out for, we might be playing against the odds, but let’s take a crack at this week.

Oakland (+7.5) at Denver

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The Broncos have ushered in the era of Brock Osweiler and what it’s brought to this offense is a sense of “calm.”  And that’s right where this offense should be right now.  Coach Gary Kubiak is all about time of possession and minimizing turnovers – this goes against everything Peyton Manning was displaying this year as the veteran quarterback’s reaction time could not keep up with his instincts.  Broke knows that he has tools to move the chains and keep his defense rested.  Although he does tend to hold the ball a little too long at times, he is still not turning it over.  On the other side of the ball is the blossoming of a future franchise quarterback in Derek Carr.  The Raiders fan base has been waiting on a franchise QB for a while and Derek Carr seems to be playing the role of one as his 26 touchdown passes paired with a 63% completion percentage show.  Unfortunately for Carr, he is going up against a Denver defense that allows only 195 passing yards a game and has accumulated 41 sacks so far this year (both NFL’s current best).  Carr has fumbled the ball 7 times this year already and he’ll have to be aware of edge rushers all game long.  The Raiders only put up 10 points in their last meeting at that was in the comforts of their own home, this time around, expect more of the same.

The Pick: Denver -7.5

New England (-3.5) at Houston

This one is pretty simple.  It may seem cheesy, or it may seem like a terrible way of reasoning but it’s simple in my mind:  The Patriots will NOT lose three games in a row.  It’s something we just will not see.  They especially wont lose to a team quarterbacked by Brian Hoyer.   Yes, they did just lose to Sam Bradford, but that makes it even more impossible to lose to a quarterback of the same caliber.  Truth is, the game against Philadelphia included a blocked punt for a touchdown, returned a punt for a touchdown and a Tom Brady interception for a touchdown.  Indeed it takes skill to do those things, but for all of them to happen in the same game and against the Patriots – takes a lot of luck as well.  The Patriots biggest issue (besides not having Gronkowski who CBS Sports said was “iffy” against the Texans) was the dropped passes – especially on their final drive.  Amendola, Lafell and the rest of this group need to get it together especially against this formidable Houston Texans pass defense.  New England will go back to utilizing their running backs, like the good ol’ days, and work their way into the heart of this Texans defense that is allowing nearly 4.5 yards a carry.   Bottom line, the Patriots are not losing three in a row and at 3.5 points, that’s almost a “pick ’em” in the era of Tom Brady.

The Pick: New England -3.5

Army (+24) at Navy

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The annual Army/Navy game is one of the best traditions in American sports.  This will be the 116th meeting between the two military academies and Navy leads this series 59-49-7.   Navy has actually won thirteen in a row and looking to continue that streak this weekend.  For some reason as better as Navy has looked in recent years, Army gets up for this game.  In the last four victories Navy took home, they only won by a margin of 7 points or less.   Both academies rely on their running attacks and Navy has been stellar this year on the ground.  Navy ranked in the top tens with yards per carry and finished third in the nation in total rushing yards (ahead of offensive big shots, Baylor and Oregon).  And although Army runs for about 80 yards less than Navy does a game, they are still running for 254 yards a game at 4.9 a clip —  very far from being “shabby.”   Navy is 9-2 and Army is 2-9, Navy has had a tougher schedule and their losses came by the hands of two ranked teams in Notre Dame and Houston.  Their most notable wins came against Memphis and Air Force, of whom statistically has a better rushing attack than Navy and for the most part were shut down.  Army’s wins came against Eastern Michigan and Bucknell, but losses to teams like Wake Forest and Fordham really make you shake your head at the direction this program has taken (quick note, Army had success against Air Force’s rushing attack as well by ultimately lost by 20-3).  There is a lot of respect in this rivalry and the times Navy has blown out Army it’s usually because they can’t help themselves, they’re just that much better.   The over/under is set at 54.5 and the last time these two teams combined to get over that number was back in 2005 when Navy won 42-23.

The Pick:  Army +24 and the Under at 54.5

If You Must:  The Giants versus the Dolphins on Monday Night Football will make it three weeks in a row of teams nobody really cares to watch on prime time.  This games puts to defenses up against each other that can give up thirty a night easily.  Take the over at 46.5 points and root for nothing else but the scoreboard.

Tease of the week: (four gamer) Jets +5,  Patriots +8.5, Army/Navy Under 66 and Steelers/Bengals Over 36.5

 

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

 

Beating Vegas: Entry Twelve

Every week during the football season, “The Heartthrob” G.W. Gras will be giving out his college and professional football “best bets” against the spread.  The wise guys in Vegas live comfortably – it’s time we all get on their level.

Judging Last Week: Consider yourself lucky to  have an even split in rivalry week, this week it doesn’t get much easier.   During championship week, the games are played at “neutral” destinations, and some teams are playing for their playoff lives.

North Carolina (+4) vs Clemson (game to be played at Bank of America Stadium)

To get into the College Football Playoff, North Carolina would need a win against #1 ranked Clemson, and a ton of teams in front of them to completely fall apart.  First things first though for the Tar Heels, and that’s a chance to knock off the best team in the country, Clemson.  There are two things that separate the two teams, and only two things: 1. Clemson is undefeated while UNC has one loss to South Carolina; and 2. UNC’s one real weakness comes with their run defense.  The Tar Heels give up 208 yards a game on the ground to the opposition but at least have a pass defense that is formidable and they will have to be at their best against quarterback Deshaun Watson.  Watson throws at a 70% completion percentage and has thrown for 27 touchdowns on the year.  He is not in a class all by himself though.  UNC’s Marquise Williams throws at a 65% completion rate and is just as much a dual threat as Watson.  Week to week, Clemson looks like a team that plays down to the level of their competition and the next week they seem like they’re playing on a whole other level.  This week, they are playing against a tough and aggressive Tar Heels squad that knows even a bowl game after beating Clemson, won’t be as exciting as actually beating Clemson.

The Pick: North Carolina +4

 

Michigan State (-3) vs  Iowa (game to be played at Lucas Oil Stadium)

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The knocks against Iowa all year is that they haven’t “played anybody good” and the knock against Michigan State is that they haven’t played “up to their expectations.”  For whatever faults these teams possess, they did enough to find themselves in the Big 10 Championship Game.  It’s simple enough, whoever wins becomes Big 10 Champ and earns a birth in the college football playoff.  Michigan State has had a problem “putting teams away” and it’s quite baffling.  The only assumption one can make is that they take their opponents lightly and basically sleep walk during games.  There is NFL talent throughout the roster, most notably at quarterback with Connor Cook.   Cook is expected to be a first round pick in the upcoming draft and games like these is when he’ll need to shine the most.   He has 24 touchdowns to only 4 interceptions but his 57.6 completion percentage shows, he tends to be inconsistent at times.   Iowa’s defense has been good this year, but once again – considering the level of competition, it’s to be taken with a grain of salt.  They won by single digit margins against the two better offenses they faced in Indiana and Nebraska.  This Michigan State team knows that the talent in the Big 10 is on the rise, and with things not looking to get any easier with rivals Michigan and Ohio State in the near future, their time is now.

 

The Pick: Michigan State -3

 

Florida (+17) vs Alabama (game to be played in the Georgia Dome)

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The Florida Gator defense has been the talk of the town.  They allow only  15.5 points per game and have speed in their secondary that goes almost unmatched.  The Gator offense has been more reliant on their defense then themselves as they muster 25 points a game, but haven’t gone over the 30 point mark since that early win in October against Ole Miss.  Quarterback Will Grier’s suspension has really put his team in a bad position on the offensive side of things, as Treon Harris has minimalized the chance for the Gators to display a balanced offense.  Harris’ 53% completion percentage forces the Gators to stick to the ground.  Harris’ athleticism is over-rated as well, because as the team’s second leading rusher the QB is averaging less than three yards a carry. . . Honestly, as good as the Gators are on defense, the Crimson Tide are just better. They allow one fewer point than Florida does on defense and  running against ‘Bama has been nearly impossible as teams average 2.5 yards a carry and less than 80 yards a game against them.  This is the team that held LSU’s Leornard Fournette to  31 yards and less than 2 yards a carry in their 30-16 victory over the Tigers.  And unlike Florida, ‘Bama has a very balanced offense that gets it done through the air and also by ways of the ground with their running back, Heisman hopeful, Derrick Henry.   Most will see the big number and go with the team getting the points, but in truth, Alabama is primed for a big win going into the College Football playoff.  Florida will struggle getting first downs, let alone touchdowns, while Alabama will find a way.

The Pick: Alabama -17

 

If you must: When looking at the Baylor vs Texas line, the +21 going to the Longhorns is too juicy to pass up.  The Baylor Bears are going into this game with their third string quarterback and that’s the least of their woes.  This is a team that was destroying everything in it’s path and looking forward to a Championship run – that is all gone.  For the Longhorns though, this is their championship game.  They may not win, but they’ll put up a tough fight to not be blown out.

BONUS pick:  This one is just too easy to lay off of.  Take the Jets at -2 against their hometown rival New York Giants.  The Jets are a team that are becoming scarier and scarier as the playoffs approach.  At full health this is one of the tougher teams on both sides of the ball, and they seem to be rolling right now.  Fitzpatrick is the only wildcard here, but he has weapons around him – too many for the Giants to handle.  Eli will be under pressure the entire game and this is a secondary that is loving the opportunity to play against Odell Beckum Jr.  This one could get ugly and could be the easiest win of the week.

Brandon+Marshall+Miami+Dolphins+v+New+York+7L8oJcha5Dtl

Teaser of the Week: (Four Gamer) Bowling Green +1, Jets +10, Patriots +2.5, Michigan State +9

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

New York Giants 2015 Preview

The New York Giants finished 6-10 last season, but Giants fans will tell you it’s because of their slow start.  Quarterback Eli Manning seemed lost in a the new west-coast offense system implemented by offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo and the offense’s timing seemed off on nearly every snap.  Also, the Giants were without their first round pick for the first four games of the season, O’Dell Beckham Jr (we’ll get to him in a few minutes).  This Giants team needs to be just as explosive on offense as their division rivals, the Eagles and the Cowboys – and also must find a way to stop those opposing offenses.

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Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul wanted a contract extension this season.  The Giants were cautious of doing so because J.P.P’s production has gone below expectations.  Good thing the Giants didn’t rush into things, because Pierre-Paul lost a finger while playing with fireworks on July 4th.  Pierre-Paul has been the butt of many jokes in the aftermath of that event, but in all seriousness nobody knows if he’ll be ready by week one, and even if he is, nobody knows how effective he will be.  The Giants still are willing to sign him to a franchise tag, but J.P.P – even in all of his nine fingered glory – isn’t thrilled about the franchise tag.   J.P.P’s former college teammate George Selvie, has been the lesser pro-player of the two, since they both came out of USF, while the Giants will depend on the likes of Kendrick Ellis to help out the middle of the defensive line.  The Giants used a third-round pick on UCLA defensive end, Owa Odighizuwa.  Odighizuwa has had some injuries including a hip surgery which has somewhat limited his side-to-side quickness.  He makes up for a lack of lateral movement with brute strength.  The Giants need somebody to be a pass rusher and it may fall on the rookie.

Veteran Jon Beason is the only linebacker worth talking about on the Giants, but has been struggling to stay healthy and there is no telling what kind of player he’ll be from snap-to-snap.  There is no speed at the line backer position from the Giants which will make it hard for them to cover the more athletic tight ends or add much to this pass-rush.

Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo was brought back onto head coach Tom Coughlin’s staff trying to recreate the defenses that the Giants had in the late 2000’s.   He has his work cut out for him this year, with not much up front and at the moment, working with as little help from the safety position as possible.  The pre-season has not been kind to the Giant’s safeties as they keep dropping like flies, including second-round pick Landon Collins out of Alabama.   The Houston Texans have just released safety Stevie Brown, so it makes sense that Brown, the former Giant, finds himself back in New York in no-time.  Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and the often injured Prince Amukamara are a pretty solid corner combo that has nothing behind them in the depth chart.  Without a solid pass rush, these two will most likely find themselves in bad spots often.

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The Giants knew they needed to work on their offensive line this season and they did their best this off-season.  They signed former CFL star, Brett Jones, who played center (and at times played guard) for the Calgary Stampede.  Jones was the CFL’s best offensive lineman and his versatility on the line will help the Giants out.  It’s a step up in the level of competition for Jones, but it’s a step in the right direction for the Giants offensive line.   The Giants also used a first-round pick on Miami Hurricane  Ereck Flowers.  The tackle came into the draft with noted character issues, but unless he has a nervous breakdown before the start of the season – the Giants have no reason to keep him off the starting roster.

Running behind this offensive line is running back Rashad Jennings.  The former seventh-round pick has been a back up for most of his career and last year as a starter he seemed to flourish at times.  Jennings has an injury history which caught up with him last year and gave time to running back Andre Williams.  Williams was coming off of a monster year where he ran for over 2,000 yards at Boston College, but he could not get his legs going last season.   The Giants are hoping that it was just ‘runner’s fatigue’ and this season the sophomore back can show more promise.  The Giants are expecting former Patriots running back Shane Vereen to be the receiving back needed in this west-coast attack, but the success rate of running backs after leaving New England’s offense is very low.  .  .  Like most Patriot’s players, Vereen is more a product of that system than anything else.

Eli Manning still holds the reigns at the quarterback position and that won’t change anytime soon.  He cut his interceptions down last year (from twenty-seven in 2013, to fourteen in 2014) but still has an issue with fumbling (having seven last season).   He’s a perennial “over-thrower” but his confidence never leaves him.   He was having a miserable start to last season until Odell Beckham Jr. returned from injury, but for this offense to work, Eli is going to have to utilize everything around him.  The problem is, there really isn’t much.

Odell+Beckham+Jr+Washington+Redskins+v+New+gaiRIcFz3JFl

In the twelve games he played last season, wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. recorded ninety-one receptions, twelve touchdowns, over 1,300 yards and at least one sports-show highlight a week.  Beckham’s small stature doesn’t help out much when he’s asked to block on the outside for running backs, but at least his intensity doesn’t let him quit at it.   Odell’s “over-the-top” enthusiasm keeps fans entertained, but has also made him a “marked man” of sorts throughout the league. . . The return of Victor Cruz is just about as exciting as the thought of “Pepsi Blue.”    Cruz seems to refuse to run routes over the middle and has a lost a step in the deep-attack.  His dancing days are behind him.  It would be nice if Rueben Randle would grow into his potential already.  Randle had his best season last year with 938 receiving yards and at this point, should be the number two receiver on the Giants roster.  If Cruz would be willing to accept his true role, which is a slot receiver, the Giants would have a formidable trio out there – but nobody has ever heard of a slot receiver who won’t run routes over the middle, so there goes that idea. . .

Projected Record: 7-9

Projected Pro Bowlers: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio