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Dublin: 9°C Monday 26 October 2020

The Redzone: Eli becoming a Giant among men

Steven O’Rourke is over his Peyton man-crush and has found his love for the younger Manning brother. Here’s this week’s NFL preview column.

Image: Don Feria/AP/Press Association Images

TOM BRADY MAY attract more advertisers. Aaron Rodgers might have a more accurate arm. Drew Brees will probably throw for more yards. Guess what though? Eli Manning doesn’t care. All Eli does is win.

Now, it’s fair to say I haven’t always been the younger Manning’s biggest fan. Indeed, just calling him the younger Manning is probably further proof my obsession with Peyton had somewhat blinded me to Eli’s ability.

But the facts speak for themselves. Two time Pro-Bowler. Two time Super Bowl Champion. Two time Super Bowl Most Valuable Player.

What really separates Eli Manning from his peers though, is his fourth-quarter production. Not only did the New York Giants trigger man set the NFL record for the most fourth-quarter touchdowns in a single season (15) last year, but he also set the record for most fourth-quarter comebacks (eight).

Indeed, Manning has led the Giants to no fewer than 23 fourth quarter comebacks and 27 game-winning drives since 2004. Only Tom Brady (26) and older brother Peyton (37) have more fourth-quarter comebacks in their careers and they’ve played for four and six years longer than Eli respectively.

New York Giants @ Dallas Cowboys

Eli’s latest comeback came just last week, of course, when he found Victor Cruz on a 77-yard bomb to beat their divisional rivals, the Washington Redskins. This week, they face another NFC East opponent in the Dallas Cowboys who beat the Giants in this season’s opening game.

However, the Cowboys are without key players on offence and defence with the loss of linebacker Sean Lee for the year and possibly both DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones at running back for this encounter. With no running game to take the pressure off Tony Romo, this could be a day to select the New York Giants as your defence in fantasy football. Romo, remarkably, is on course for 24 interceptions this year and just 21 touchdowns.

The Giants need the win to avoid slipping to 1-3 in the division though and will hope the offensive line can do a better job protecting Manning than they did in their week one encounter. When Manning was comfortable in the pocket his completion rate was 75% in the first game. However, it dropped to 50% when pressured and just 33.3% when blitzed by the Cowboys. If Rob Ryan can get creative with his defensive packages, the Cowboys might stand a chance.

Verdict: Divisional match-ups are always hard to call (look at the Patriots/Jets last weekend) but my gut tells me the Cowboys will go into this game too one-dimensional to sweep the Giants this year. New York by 6+.

Atlanta Falcons @ Philadelphia Eagles

The Falcons, it would seem, do not enjoy their time in the city of brotherly love. Indeed, since 2000, Atlanta are 0-7 in Philadelphia, including a loss in the 2005 NFC Championship game. This year, they enter Philly as the last undefeated team in the NFL but, despite dominating their first three fixtures of the season, could easily be 3-3 having escaped tricky ties with Carolina, Washington and Oakland with narrow wins.

The key for the Falcons in this game will be establishing the run early, specifically through Michael Turner, in order to set up the screen pass that works so well at destroying over aggressive defences like the Eagles’.

For Philadelphia, this game has emerged as a must-win not just in terms of this season, but also for the careers for Michael Vick and Andy Reid. It’s all about play calling for the home team. Ask Vick to do too much work, and the Eagles will lose. Give the ball to LeSean McCoy and they’ve every chance of causing the upset here. It’s not rocket science either; three times this season McCoy has carried the ball fewer than 20 times and the Eagles have lost all three games.

Verdict: The bye week will have helped the Falcons re-discover what made them so good in the first three weeks of the season and so I expect them to pull out a narrow win and break their Philly hoodoo. Atlanta by 3.

New England Patriots @ St. Louis Rams (in London)

For the second week in a row the NFL has given us a pretty poor schedule of matches. Indeed, with the exception of the divisional implications of the late games on Sunday and Monday night, there’s not a huge incentive – other than, you know, it’s my job – to stay awake for them.

The Patriots have been so Jekyll and Hyde this season, it’s impossible to know what type of performance they’ll put in on any given Sunday. They developed a run game this year, which is just as well as the Rams pass defence, led by Cortland Finnegan, can pick off a pass or two.

The Patriots have not really shown a deep threat so far in 2012 and, instead, continue to rely on short, accurate throws to the likes of Wes Welker who leads the team with 54 receptions despite management’s efforts to freeze him out of the playbook in the first two weeks of the season.

Verdict: Normally this season, the Rams at home are an automatic pick for me. However, giving up a dome game for the soggy conditions of Wembley isn’t ideal. Old England will feel like home for New England. Patriots by 7+.

All fixtures and predictions

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Minnesota Vikings – Vikings
  • Carolina Panthers @ Chicago Bears – Bears
  • San Diego Chargers @ Cleveland Browns – Chargers
  • Seattle Seahawks @ Detroit Lions – Seahawks
  • Jacksonville Jaguars @ Green Bay Packers – Packers
  • Washington Redskins @ Pittsburgh Steelers – Redskins
  • Indianapolis Colts @ Tennessee Titans – Titans
  • Miami Dolphins @ New York Jets
  • Oakland Raiders @ Kansas City Chiefs – Raiders
  • New Orleans Saints @ Denver Broncos – Broncos
  • San Francisco 49ers @ Arizona Cardinals – 49ers

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World Series: Sandoval powers Giants past Tigers

About the author:

Steven O'Rourke

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