NFC East and NFC West

NFC EAST GAME OF THE WEEK: Packers 38     Giants 35

The Packers have bolstered their record to 12-0 with their late victory over the Giants.  The Giants were probably their toughest opponent in Green Bay’s remaining five games.  They still have to face the Raiders, Chiefs, Bears and Lions.

This win means one thing for the Packers and another for the Giants.

The Packers have proved that they can take on a team’s best shot on the road.  The Giants had their backs against the wall after losing three straight and being in danger of losing the division and being further away from a wild-card berth.  Quarterback Aaron Rodgers drove the Packers offense 68 yards down the field in the final :58 seconds to set up a 31-yard field goal to win the game as time expired.

The Giants, on the other hand, are desperate for a win standing at 6-6.  To win the NFC East division title they are going to need to sweep the Dallas Cowboys, who they play next week as well as the last game of the season.  The Giants have lost games on the last drive in three of their last four games, so winning is not out of the question for them.  They just need to overcome their injuries and have players step up on defense to make big plays late in games.

Despite the magnitude of this win for the Packers, this game will not go unnoticed with questionable calls from the referees.  In the first quarter, Eli Manning threw a perfect ball to his tight end Jake Ballard in the corner of the end zone.  It was caught and Ballard came down with one knee, but it was ruled incomplete.  Giants’ head coach Tom Coughlin challenged the ruling on the field, but it was upheld despite relatively clear video evidence that it was a touchdown.

In the third quarter, another questionable call was made.  Aaron Rodgers threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Greg Jennings, but it appeared that he did not possess control of the ball all the way through the end zone.  As he was attempting to gain control, Giants cornerback Prince Amukamara smacked the ball out of his hands.  The play was looked at again by officials due to the new rule that all scoring plays must be reviewed.  They did not overturn the call despite clear evidence that Jennings had no control of the ball.

What’s done is done.  The Giants move on to face the Cowboys and will attempt to keep their playoff hopes alive whereas the Packers move on to face the Raiders to continue their 18-game win streak as well as their campaign for an undefeated 16-0 season.  If these teams find a way to meet in the playoffs it will surely be a very interesting matchup.

Here is a video for the game’s recap:

Packers-Giants Highlights

NFC WEST/EAST GAMES OF THE WEEK

This week features games in which the NFC West and the NFC East faced off in week 10 of the NFL season.  The games were the Giants at the 49ers and the Cardinals at the Eagles.  Both NFC West teams were victorious.  First, let’s handle the New York Giants at the San Francisco 49ers.

49ers 27     Giants 20

The Giants visited the 49ers in week 10 to begin the second matchup of their brutal six-game stretch.  The 49ers entered the game atop the NFC with a 7-1 record with the Giants only trailing them by one game at 6-2.  The first half of this contest was a field goal fest, ending with a 9-6 score.  The second half featured more scoring, however.

To open the second half, Eli Manning continued his air attack by hitting Mario Manningham on a 13-yard pass to take the lead at 13-12.  The 49ers responded at the beginning of the fourth quarter when Alex Smith hit Vernon Davis on a 31-yard pass.  Smith then completed the two-point conversion to Michael Crabtree to take a 20-13 lead.  The Giants got the ball back, but their offensive series did not end well.  Eli Manning dropped back at his own 20-yard line and looked to hit Manningham on a 15-yard dig route.  For some reason, Manningham cut the route short and Manning’s pass was intercepted at the 30-yard line.  Two plays later, San Francisco scored again on a 17-yard touchdown run by their backup running back.  The score read 27-13 with twelve minutes remaining in the game.

Eli Manning drove the Giants down the field in less than four minutes to respond with a touchdown.  He threw a perfect 32-yard strike to Hakeem Nicks with 8:37 left in regulation, so it was now up to the defense to stop San Francisco in order to get the ball back in Manning’s hands.

The defense did just that and got the ball back to the New York offense with 6:35 left.  Manning began the drive on the Giants’ 20-yard line and converted two crucial fourth down conversions to get the G-Men to the San Francisco 10-yard line.  With :34 seconds left, Manning and the Giants’ offense faced a 4th and 2 deep in San Francisco territory.  Manning was unable to convert the Giants’ third fourth-down conversion of the game as the pass was batted down by Justin Smith.  The 49ers came out victorious with a 27-20 victory.

Despite having game leaders in passing, rushing and receiving, the Giants were unable to close the game with a win.  The key to the Giants’ past six victories was the efficiency of Eli Manning and his ability to keep the offense going without turning the ball over.  In this game he threw two interceptions, in which one led to a touchdown that decided the outcome of the game.  However, all of the blame should not be attributed to the offense.

The defense had one key miscue that led to a San Francisco touchdown that should have never happened.  Alex Smith’s pass to Vernon Davis was able to result in a 31-yard touchdown because of a blown coverage.  It is obviously unknown, but either linebacker Greg Jones or safety Antrel Rolle should have been covering Davis.  The game film shows both players picking up the same receiver, leaving Davis wide open on an untouched score.

If the Giants want to survive this difficult six game stretch, they need to minimize mistakes on both sides of the ball.  There is no room for error when playing disciplined teams such as the 49ers, Saints and Packers.  The Giants will face the New Orleans Saints on Monday Night Football on Nov. 28; a game that could decide the Giants’ playoff hopes in the NFC.

Cardinals 21     Eagles 17

What does this loss mean for the Eagles?  Probably the fact that they will officially miss the playoffs this season.  Michael Vick now has broken ribs, which means he will probably miss a game or two, and without him the Eagles are highly unlikely to go 7-0 for the rest of the season with games remaining against the Patriots, Giants and Cowboys.

LeSean McCoy only had 14 carries throughout the game despite running the ball successfully averaging 5.8 yards per carry.  With DeSean Jackson having been inactive for this game for missing a meeting, the Eagles main playmaker on the field was McCoy and he was not used as much as he should have been.

Vick passed the ball 34 times and had less than a 50 percent completion percentage.  The coaches should have realized he was banged up from taking so many hits and they should have put the ball in McCoy’s hands more often.  If there is one strong aspect of the Cardinals’ defense, it is the secondary and the Eagles were wrong by trying to exploit them.  Going after the Cardinals’ front seven would have been more effective because it would have opened up more deep pass plays.

John Skelton, the backup quarterback for the Cardinals, had a tremendous game passing for 315 yards and three touchdowns.  The Eagles defense did not help their stagnant offense by allowing a backup to pass all over them.  They were able to stop the run, but they could not handle Larry Fitzgerald who had seven receptions for 146 yards and two touchdowns.  So by dropping this game, the only possible shot the Eagles have at making the postseason is to win their final seven games.

Very, very unlikely.

NFC WEST GAME OF THE WEEK: Cardinals 19 Rams 13

This game ended like you wouldn’t believe.  After the Cardinals saved the day at the end of regulation by blocking a Rams’ field goal which would have solidified the win, their defense forced the Rams to punt them the ball in overtime.  Patrick Peterson, the Cardinals’ first round draft choice last year, fielded the punt at the one yard line and took it 99 yards for a touchdown and a walk-off win.

This was a big leap for the Cardinals because they have struggled in late game situations, surrendering losses in the fourth quarter to the Giants, Ravens and Redskins.  This win also made a statement because the Cardinals were without their starting quarterback Kevin Kolb.  However, the Cardinals should not worry about their poor 2-6 record for a few reasons.  They are a young team, with new receivers, such as Early Doucet and Andre Roberts, backing star player Larry Fitzgerald.  Beanie Wells, their starting running back, is also only in his third year.  On the defensive side, Patrick Peterson, the promising young cornerback, is in his first year and is showing signs of great potential as a corner and as a punt returner.  Cornerback A.J Jefferson is also showing good skills in his second year and defensive end Calais Campbell has been performing very well into his fourth year.

Don’t worry Cardinals fans, once newly acquired Kevin Kolb is able to create more team chemistry, the team will be in good shape and will probably be able to compete with the division rival San Francisco 49ers.

NFC EAST GAME OF THE WEEK: Giants 24 Patriots 20

Eli Manning could not have picked a better game to help prove and bolster his “elite” quarterback status.  After a scoreless first half, Eli was able to lead the Giants to two touchdown scoring drives late in the fourth quarter, including the game winner with :15 seconds remaining.  It was the Patriots’ first home loss in 31 regular season games; a game that brought back old memories from Super Bowl XLII.

Not only did Eli play a great game, passing for 250 yards and two touchdowns, but Brandon Jacobs ran the ball fairly well and the defense forced three turnovers against the powerhouse Patriots offense.  But most of all, Jake Ballard, the Giants’ tight end, had the most crucial and clutch catches.  On the final game winning drive, Ballard had two receptions; a 28-yard one handed catch on third down and a one-yard touchdown receptions with :15 seconds left.  An exceptional performance from a player who the Giants thought may not contribute much to the offense after Kevin Boss left for the Oakland Raiders via free agency.

Now here come the critics to strengthen their “Eli isn’t elite” argument.  I already know what you are going to say; “He threw an interception in the end zone with a chance to ice the game and put the Giants up 17-0” and “He faced the worst defense in the NFL.”  Well despite those two arguments, Eli has been playing at a high level all year.  Yes, he did throw an irresponsible interception in the end zone which switched momentum, but the fact that he was able to rebound from his mistakes proves that he is worthy of elite status.  And yes, he did face the worst defense in the NFL based on statistics, but there is no free win in the NFL.  Not only that, he performed in a hostile Gilette Stadium, where Tom Brady and the Patriots have been victorious in their previous 31 regular season games (most news outlets say 20 games, but they lost one game at home when Matt Cassel was playing quarterback).

So for all the critics, Eli and the Giants are 6-2 and Eli Manning is only behind Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady in QBR, the new quarterback rating.

NFC WEST GAME OF THE WEEK: Rams 31 Saints 21

The week 8 game of the week from the NFC West was the New Orleans Saints at the St. Louis Rams.  The Rams entered the game with an 0-6 record almost looking hopeless against the Saints’ high powered offense and well coached defense.  However, Steven Jackson had other ideas by rushing for 159 yards and two touchdowns, leading the Rams to their first victory of the 2011 season.

The Rams jumped out to a 24-0 lead and held it over the Saints through nearly three quarters.  The Saints never came close to making it a tight game, allowing the city of St. Louis to celebrate even more after following the Cardinals’ World Series victory over the Texas Rangers.

Despite being last in the NFC West, the Rams needed this win to preserve the coaching personnel because they may be on the hot seat if there is another terrible season, like the 1-15 record they posted two years ago.  Their upcoming schedule features winnable games against Arizona, Cleveland, Seattle and Arizona again.  If they can win those games, they can hover around .500 and see what happens after that.  But for now, St. Louis just needs to concentrate on each game on a weekly basis.

NFC EAST GAME OF THE WEEK: Giants 20 Dolphins 17

The week 8 game of the week from the NFC East was the Miami Dolphins at the New York Giants.  The New York Giants came off a bye week following week 7 to face the Miami Dolphins.  The Dolphins had an 0-6 record coming into the game, not equally comparable to the Giants’ 4-2 record.  However, the Dolphins gameplay did not reflect their record in this matchup because they were desperate for a win.

The Giants trailed the Dolphins up until late in the fourth quarter.  Reggie Bush was the game’s leading rusher, gaining 103 yards on 15 carries, helping the Dolphins control the ball for most of the game.  But Dolphin’s quarterback Matt Moore had a poor game, only throwing for 138 yards including an interception.  Perhaps if the Dolphins were able to move the ball through the air they may have been able to come out with a victory.

Eli Manning stole the show, bolstering his case for MVP status, passing for 349 yards and 2 touchdowns, including the game winning 25 yard pass to wide receiver Victor Cruz with 5:15 remaining to go up 20-17.  That was the Giants first lead of the game; it stayed that way until time expired.  The Giants running game, accumulating 58 yards, was virtually non-existent.  However, that aspect of their offense need to improve if they want to win more games down the stretch.

The game officially ended after Giants cornerback Corey Webster intercepted a pass intended for Brandon Marshall from Matt Moore.  The Giants knelt the ball until time expired, improving to 5-2.

The Giants allowed their fans to let out a big sigh of relief after this much needed victory.  The Giants next six games include road trips to New England, San Francisco, New Orleans and Dallas as well as home games against Philadelphia and Green Bay.  The Giants needed as many wins as possible going into this six game stretch because they may not be able to come out victorious in a majority of those games.  If Eli Manning keeps playing this well and the Giants run game comes back to life, they could potentially hold onto their two game lead in the NFC East and control their destiny for the rest of the season.

-Tom Carannante

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