Tavern talk: Giants struggle to fix issues

Week 9 of the NFL season features several big games, none bigger than the battle for supremacy of the NFC East. With the Giants playing like they can’t get lined up correctly or handle their opponents’ pressure packages or play a game without mental mistakes, the Eagles and Cowboys seem to have the inside track in the East. The problem with the Giants is that they’re just not executing with their normal precision, nor are they playing like they know what they’re doing once they hit the field. Mental mistakes, combined with some backup players not playing well, have made the G-Men vulnerable. They have much to prove in the coming weeks if they expect to contend for the NFC East title. They must improve their game before they worry about anything else.

I’ve spent most of this week analyzing and answering questions about what’s wrong with the G-Men. And based on the tape I’ve watched, they look nothing like the Giants of old. Yes, they look slower at linebacker, and when the Birds made them defend the field from a horizontal perspective, it showed their lack of ability to close from the backer spot. One of the dangers of being a size/speed team like the Giants is that you have linebackers who time fast in the 40 but don’t play the game with explosive quickness. The Giants have size at backer, but they lack someone who can close it down on nickel downs, and when you play the Eagles, every down is a nickel down. They miss too many tackles in their secondary, and losing Kenny Phillips has crippled them because C.C. Brown can’t make plays in space. And guess what? All the plays against the Eagles are space plays.

And Eli Manning is not the same player he once was. He may claim his foot isn’t bothering him, but to me, he’s throwing the ball off his toes and doesn’t look to be able to spin it smoothly, which is causing him accuracy problems. Plus, playing so many different receivers makes their offense look a hockey team learning how to play with new players on their line shifts. They’re not in sync. The Giants have so many players on offense who have plays that make them effective, they seem to be losing their identity. The Giants need a bye week to decide what they want to be as an offense.

As for the Cowboys, they won’t need any more motivation than to put on last year’s game and watch how horribly they played. In the final game of the season, they gave the wild card to the Birds. Their level of play that day was shameful, and all head coach Wade Phillips has to do is show the tape – that should get 53 very angry players ready to play Sunday.

The Cowboys’ first nine possessions of the game ended with three punts, four fumbles (in a row) an interception and a field goal. That has to be a very painful tape to watch this week. And you know what? They need to watch it because it’s the only relevant tape to study. It only matters how the Eagles attack the Cowboys, not how the Eagles attacked other teams. Because of their familiarity with each other, the battles between them are crucial for game planning.

Both teams are playing well now after enduring some minor bumps in their seasons. But which team is playing the best? For me, the Eagles were so impressive in their ability to play fast on offense. Their offense is much quicker and more explosive than the Giants. And that offense can be a matchup problem for the Cowboys, especially if Eagles left tackle Jason Peters plays at a very high level.

Peters has been very inconsistent all season, and last week he had moments of brilliance mixed with moments of despair. He must have his best game against DeMarcus Ware for the Birds to win.

More on this game as the week progresses.

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