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04.04.2019 08:59
The fight for a shot at a conference championship continues into Sund Antworten

ay with a pair of Divisional Round NFL playoff games. Hereís what you need to know to stay caught up on the action. Los Angeles Chargers (12-4) at New England Patriots (11-5)Game time: 1:05 PM ETWhere: Gillette StadiumTV Channel: CBSAnnouncers:Jim Nantz Kyle Lauletta Color Rush Jersey , Tony Romo, Tracy Wolfson, Jay Feely, Gene SteratoreRadio: WESTWOOD ONE: Ian Eagle, Tony Boselli, Hub Arkush | SIRIUS: 88 (WW1), 82 (LAC), 83 (NE) | XM: 88 (WW1), 226 (LAC), 225 (NE)Referee: Ron TorbertOdds: Patriots -4SB Nation Websites: Chargers: Bolts From The Blue | Patriots: Pats Pulpit The Los Angeles Chargers narrowly escaped the Baltimore Ravens last weekend, beating them 23-17. Veteran quarterback Philip Rivers returned to form in 2018, throwing for 4,308 yards and 32 touchdowns. Rivers is supported by his arsenal of young offensive weapons in Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, and Melvin Gordon. Their defense is led by Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate Derwin James, who led the team with 105 tackles.Bill Belichick and Tom Brady seek to add to their legacy, by making their seventh straight AFC Championship game. The Patriots boast one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL, but most of the emphasis will be on their defense. While they have struggled defensively at times in 2018, they will need to have a strong performance in order to beat the Chargers.Philadelphia Eagles (9-7) at New Orleans Saints (13-3)Game time: 4:40 PM ET Where: Mercedes-Benz SuperdomeTV Channel: FOXAnnouncers:Kevin Burkhardt, Charles Davis, Pam Oliver, Peter SchragerRadio: WESTWOOD ONE: Kevin Harlan, James Lofton, Ross Tucker | SIRIUS: 88 (WW1), 82 (Phi), 83 (NO) | XM: 88 (WW1), 226 (Phi) Alec Ogletree Color Rush Jersey , 225 (NO)Referee: Carl CheffersOdds: Saints -8SB Nation Websites: Eagles: Bleeding Green Nation | Saints: Canal Street ChroniclesAfter being blessed with one of the biggest kicking gaffs in playoff history, the Eagles seek to build on their 16-15 win over the Bears. Philadelphia is led by their formidable defensive line, headed by Pro Bowler Fletcher Cox. Nick Foles is eyeing another Super Bowl run in place of star quarterback Carson Wentz. Future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees finished this season as the most efficient quarterback in 2018. He looks to flex his offensive fire power against a team that barely qualified for the playoffs. Itís a couple of days before Thanksgiving, and thankfully your New York Giants are actually still playing games that matter. Their season may still be on life support, but itís alive. Letís offer some thoughts on where the Giants are as they head into a Week 12 game against the Philadelphia Eagles.Shurmur deserves creditFans are going to complain no matter what. The Giants have won two straight games and Evan Engram has made big plays in both, yet I have people in my Twitter timeline either a) bashing the kid or b) bashing the way the Giants are using him. Eli Manning completed 17-of-18 passes on Sunday and got booed by the MetLife Stadium crowd for the one he missed. Shoot, I have people in my timeline complaining about punter Riley Dixon? Why? Other than the fact that they canít come up with anything to complain about, I have no idea. Which bring me to head coach Pat Shurmur. You can find whatever you want to complain about when it comes to Shurmurís personnel decisions or in-game management. Why didnít he kick a field goal here or go for it there? Why did he pick Player A over Player B? Why did he have a couple of games early in the year where he strayed from using the running game? Shurmur, though, has been consistent in his message. And you can see from both the recent results on the field and the positive attitudes of players in the locker room that players are buying what he is selling. When you are trying to turn around a franchise that went 3-13 a year ago, had a fractured locker room and has done a whole lot more losing than winning over the preceding six seasons, those are the truly important things. Those are the ones that make you think Shurmur might just end up being the right coach at the right time for the Giants.The message?ďI keep answering the same questions about it, you keep playing and you keep improving. You never know what happens. You can never tell whatís going to happen, and thatís why you keep playing and thatís why itís important for our locker room not to get ill,Ē Shurmur said on Monday. ďIf you lose a game and you battle, youíve got to find a way to come back and make the corrections, and move on to the next one. You canít let that game create an illness on your team, and I think our guys have listened to that message. ďI think the leadership in our locker room is good, and weíre just going to try to battle this thing all the way to the end because thatís what we do. Thatís what we do as coaches and players, thatís why weíre in this for the competitive spirit of this with the goal of winning each game, and then weíll let everyone that does the math add it up at the end. It is no coincidence that Shurmur talked about ďillnessĒ in the locker room, and that many of the players the Giants brought in this season are high-character veterans. When the Giants started 0-5 a year ago, the locker room fractured with Ben McAdoo at the helm. Many of the players didnít truly respect the coach, and from his words the coach made it apparent the opposite was also true. Consequently, the Giants were rife with disciplinary issues, the locker room was a toxic place and the product was a hopeless one.Not so in 2018. The results havenít been great, but two victories in a row have brought a sense of optimism. Regardless of what happens Jonathan Stewart Color Rush Jersey , it feels like there is progress being made.Starting center Spencer Pulley, who arrived Week 1 after a waiver claim, talked about the attitude in the locker room.ďItís kind of a unique situation for me getting here Week 1, but I think from Week 1 on thereís been progress every week. The way this team works, even when we hadnít won a game for a while, the team kept working the same way,Ē Pulley said. ďGuys werenít checking out and thatís a really special thing. Iíve seen it the other way around.ĒCredit for the fact that things havenít gone sideways goes to Shurmur. I think back to 2013, when the Giants started 0-6 and finished the year 7-9. Tom Coughlin won two Super Bowls as Giants head coach, but I always thought of that as perhaps his finest coaching job. Right now, it feels like this has the potential to turn out the same way.Can the Giants really pull this off?BBV Radio Can the Giants really win eight straight games? Can they really go from 1-7 to 9-7 and make the playoffs?The Giants are one quarter of the way there, but a single stumble or unfortunate bounce of a ball at the wrong time could kill the dream that Odell Beckham Jr. put voice to. Still ...ďItís really only crazy until you do it,Ē Beckham said Sunday after the Giants defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.Realistically, though, the chance of a miracle finish are slim. Both FiveThirtyEight and Team Rankings continue to give the Giants a less than 1 percent chance of making the playoffs. FiveThirtyEight predicts 4.9 victories and Team Rankings 5.4.They just scratched out victories over two bad teams. That doesnít mean that with a leaky defense and a still-suspect offensive line they are suddenly good enough to win their next six games, even though there doesnít appear to be a dominant team left on their schedule.It just means they have a chance. And, to be honest, itís more fun to talk about this stuff to simply be sitting around for a few months waiting for free agency and the draft.A little math. At this point, the path to the playoffs has to be winning the NFC East. The first problem is the Giants are in last place, three games behind the 6-4 Washington Redskins. They are 0-3 in the division. The 6-4 Redskins, now without Alex Smith, are 2-0 in the NFC East with four division games to go. The defending champion Eagles are 4-6 (1-1 in the division). Will they ever look, or play, like the defending champs for more than a game here and there? If so, the division is still probably theirs. The Dallas Cowboys. They are 5-5 (2-1 in the division). It would be a dream to have the Dec. 30 game at MetLife Stadium mean something in terms of the standings, but the reality is that for the Giants it probably wonít.It is certainly reasonable to hope. To believe. To feel good that the Giants are making progress. If only Graham Gano hadnít made that 63-yard field goal the path might be a little easier to see.This is what the Giants envisionedOver the past two games, the Giantsí offense has resembled what they had to hope it would look like at the beginning of the season. The Giants have run the ball well (53 carries, 248 yards Ray-Ray Armstrong Color Rush Jersey , 4.7 yards per carry). The offensive line has been better, opening holes in the run game and making Eli Manning more comfortable in a pocket that has often been cleaner than what he has seen most of the season. Manning has taken advantage. His 17-of-18, two-touchdown performance on Sunday made him 36-of-49 (73.4 percent completions) for 419 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions over those two games. Manning has been getting the ball down the field, not checking it down with the frequency he had been earlier in the season. Big plays in the passing game have come from Odell Beckham Jr., Evan Engram, Saquon Barkley and Sterling Shepard.The Giants have averaged 32.5 points in those two games.There is only the tiniest chance the Giants can make a run to the playoffs, as we already discussed. There is no guarantee they can continue to play well on offense over the remainder of the season.What, though, if the offense continues to make progress? If the Giants continue to run the ball well. If the offense continues to protect Manning, he continues to play efficiently and the Giants continue to score points at a rate we havenít seen since 2015? What if the Giants go, say, 5-3 over the second half of the season?What do the Giants do about the quarterback position in 2019? Those who long ago checked out on Manning thought I was nuts when I suggested a couple of weeks ago that it might be possible for Manning, who is under contract for next season, to show during the second half of the season that he could still be a viable option for the Giants in 2019.If the Giants continue to get the kind of production on offense they have gotten the past two weeks itís not difficult to imagine GM Dave Gettleman and coach Pat Shurmur concluding that they made enough progress and saw enough good things to continue with Manning for another year. That doesnít mean the Giants would once again bypass the top quarterbacks in the 2019 NFL Draft. They simply canít keep kicking the quarterback can down the road. It just means that there is a chance Manning could be part of the plan for another year if things continue trending in this upward direction.What about Kyle Lauletta?Even as the Giants have been winning and the offense has been playing well, there have some in the comments and in the @BigBlueView Twitter timeline wondering when the Giants would yank Manning and get rookie fourth-round pick Kyle Lauletta on the field.The view here is, despite whatever you may have read into remarks by Shurmur, that was never happening until the Giants were eliminated from playoff contention. Itís still not. Shurmur has sold the players on the idea of just continuing to work, continuing to grind, continuing to try and get better and win each week. They are buying in. If he yanks the starting quarterback now, while they still have some semblance of a chance and are actually performing well, and throws up the white flag he undercuts his own message. He probably loses some of the support he has in the locker room. He makes it harder for players to fully buy in to whatever message he tries to impart going forward.Simply put, in my view he makes it harder to successfully coach the football team going forward. When the math officially says the Giants have no chance to make the playoffs they might consider giving the kid some snaps. Until then, itís not happening.

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