Landon Collins’ INT return was the best play by a Giant since “The Catch” by Odell Beckham Jr.
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction – I can’t go with the Collins return, only because the interception itself was a relatively easy catch off a deflection right off of Tavon Austin’s body. The catch was gift-wrapped. The run back was certainly impressive but I would rate it behind Odell Beckham’s one-handed catch against the Redskins last year. The Rashad Jennings catch on the screen pass was good last year, but I think Collins’ run was more impressive. You also have Dwayne Harris’ two returns for touchdowns last year, which were terrific. The one thing to note about the Collins run, and all defensive returns for touchdowns, is that six of the players trying to tackle him are offensive linemen and the quarterback. They are not good tacklers making the return easier by its very nature. Great play just not the best in the last season-plus.
DAN SALOMONE: Fact – Not only was it the best Giants play of the last few years, it was the best Skycam maneuvering I’ve ever seen. That operator needs to win an award. Just watch the replay of the overhead angle, and you’ll never see Landon Collins out of frame. And that’s remarkable given all the changes of direction from the former two-way star at Dutchtown High School in Louisiana.
LANCE MEDOW: Fact – Landon Collins put his athleticism on full display last Sunday in London. While running all the way to right side of the field and then back to the left side, he wound up forcing three missed tackles and then somehow found a way to spin through a lot of traffic to get into the end zone. When you take all of that into consideration, plus the fact he’s a safety and not a running back or wide receiver, it moves right behind “The Catch.” However, I was very, very close to going fiction on this one after re-watching Rashad Jennings’ 51-yard catch-and-run touchdown in Buffalo in Week 4 last season. Jennings shed one tackle after a short catch, used a high step to avoid another tackle and then relied on a stiff arm to push one other defender away before heading into the end zone. The only reason I give Collins the edge is because he’s not an offensive player, but I suggest you go back and watch the Jennings’ touchdown. It’s one of the most underrated plays in recent seasons.
The toughest two-game stretch left on the schedule is Pittsburgh and Dallas.
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fact – I don’t think this is a slam dunk, but I will go with fact because it appears as though Ben Roethlisberger will be back from his knee injury by the time the Giants play the Steelers on December 4th in Pittsburgh. The Cowboys are an elite offensive team and will be looking for payback after losing to the Giants in their home opener. Both of those teams will likely be in the playoffs this year. A close second is the final two games of the season on the road against the Eagles and Redskins. Both those teams could still be in the mix for a playoff spot and are always tough matchups for the Giants, especially on the road.
DAN SALOMONE: Fiction – It’s all about the final two weeks when they cap the season with back-to-back road games in the NFC East. That begins with a Thursday night trip to Lincoln Financial Field, where the Giants have not won since 2013 and have lost their last two games by a combined score of 54-7. They then head to Landover to play the reigning division champion Washington Redskins on New Year’s Day.
LANCE MEDOW: Fact – Of the eight remaining opponents (Eagles twice) on the Giants’ schedule, four teams showcase offenses that rank in the top ten overall: Cowboys, Bengals, Redskins, Steelers. Pittsburgh-Dallas is by far the toughest two-game stretch left on the schedule. Both teams have strong run games and plenty of depth in the receiving corps plus Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will be back from his knee injury by Week 13. Whether Dallas has Dak Prescott or Tony Romo under center in Week 14 makes no difference. Both quarterbacks have proven they can efficiently run the Cowboys offense. Philadelphia-Cincinnati or Philadelphia-Washington would be the next toughest two-game stretches but the edge goes to Pittsburgh-Dallas given the offensive firepower.
The Cowboys are the biggest threat to the Giants winning the NFC East.
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fact – Hard to say otherwise given Dallas only has one loss (Philly has two, Washington has three). We’ll know more about the division after the Cowboys plays the Eagles on Sunday Night Football this week. Giants fans should be rooting for Philly (as painful as that might be) to bring Dallas back to the pack a little bit. The Cowboys are not without their flaws (lack of a pass rush being the biggest) but they know how they want to play and they do it well. They use their offensive line to run the ball with an elite back in Ezekiel Elliott, and use play action off of it to make things easy for a talented but still inexperienced rookie quarterback. I look forward to seeing how the Giants’ rather impressive run defense will catch up with the Cowboys on December 11th.
DAN SALOMONE: Fact – You are what your record says you are, and the Cowboys are 5-1 atop the division. Behind one of the best rookie tandems in quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott, the Cowboys continue to build confidence and momentum. Since their season-opening loss to the Giants, they have won five in a row, including road wins at Green Bay and Washington and a home win over the Bengals.
LANCE MEDOW: Fact – I think all three teams in the NFC East pose a challenge, but as of Week 8, the Cowboys are the most balanced team. Despite being just a rookie, Dak Prescott has impressed since Week 1 with his decision making and poise. Thanks to their offensive line and rookie Ezekiel Elliott, the run game has set the tone, just like 2014, and the defense has played above expectations. The most important stat of note regarding Dallas is turnover differential. Last season, the Cowboys finished dead last at minus-22. This season, they’re plus four. The Redskins have recovered nicely following a 0-2 start and the Eagles are coming off an impressive win over the Vikings. Those two teams are just as dangerous.
The toughest home game remaining is vs. Philadelphia.
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction – If I went fact on the last question, I have to go fiction here. Since I think Dallas is the biggest threat in the NFC East, I would have to rate the home game against them as being more difficult than the game against the Eagles. I do think the Giants’ strengths match up better against Dallas, but I still think they are a better overall team that the Eagles. Dak Prescott looks to be slightly ahead of Carson Wentz, mostly because he has better players around him, especially on the offensive line. The Eagles, however, will give the Giants’ offensive tackles toruble with their wide nine scheme and ability to rush the quarterback. The best way to beat a team playing that way is to run the ball, something the Giants have struggled at this year. The Eagles defense forces a ton of takeaways and they are one of the better units in the league. The game right out of the bye will be one of the toughest and most important games of the year, just not THE HARDEST.
LANCE MEDOW: Fact – It won’t only be the toughest against Philadelphia’s top-three defense, but it is also the most important. Every game is a must-win in the only division with all four teams above .500. The Giants need to keep pace coming off the bye week and set the tone for the second half of the year.
LANCE MEDOW: Fiction – Since I said the Cowboys pose the biggest threat to the Giants winning the NFC East, then it only makes sense for that match-up to be labeled the toughest home game remaining. With the Eagles game in Week 9, the Giants are coming off the bye so they’ll at least be well rested compared to the Cowboys game which comes right after a tough trip to Pittsburgh and before back-to-back road games in Philly and Washington to close out the season.