Giants’ Judge: ‘We are paid to win games’

After losing to the Buccaneers in Week 8, the Giants were 1-7, and many thought they would be in the Trevor Lawrence sweepstakes. Then, the team went on a four-game winning streak, including going into Seattle and beating the NFC West champion Seahawks, and at that point, the Giants were in first place in the NFC East, but since that win, New York is on a three-game losing streak after losing on the road to Baltimore 27-13 on Sunday.

However, even in a loss, the Giants still have an opportunity to win the NFC East. If New York(5-10) defeats the Cowboys and The Washington Football Team loses to the Eagles next Sunday night, the Giants win the division.

No one expected the Giants to have much success this season, but after the Ravens’ loss, Giants head coach Joe Judge believes the team needs to do more. 

“I am not trying to take shortcuts, but we are trying to do it the right way,” Judge said after the game. “The results of the last three games are what they are. We are paid to win games. That is what it is, professional football. We have to do a better job coaching, better job playing, we have to do more things to help us win the games. Ultimately, in terms of the character of the team, the work ethic of the team, the toughness of the team, we have the right start to who we are working with, and the direction we are going right now. We just need to make sure we do more on the field to get the tangible results.”

What will happen next week? Washington is clearly struggling at the quarterback position after Alex Smith went down with a calf injury. Washington QB Dwayne Haskins struggled mightily in the team’s loss against Carolina on Sunday. The second-year quarterback threw for only 154 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions and was benched in the fourth quarter, but they will play an Eagles team that will have nothing to play for, so it should be interesting to see how Philadelphia handles this game.

The Cowboys are playing well offensively and have been over 30 points in the past three weeks, but defensively the Cowboys(31st in points allowed) are not the best. However, the Giants are having a hard time scoring(31st in points), so we’ll see if they can take advantage of the Cowboys’ defense.

No matter what happens next Sunday, a very mediocre football team will be representing the NFC East in the playoffs.

Report: Ezekiel Elliott tests positive for COVID-19

 One thing we have learned about COVID-19 is that it does not discriminate. Rich, poor, young, or old, COVID-19 has impacted many people, including Ezekiel Elliott. 

According to the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero, Elliott, along with other members of the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans, have tested positive for COVID-19. 

At this point, Elliott, whose agent confirmed with Rapoport that Zeke has COVID-19 but is ‘feeling good,’ is the only player from the Texans and Cowboys that has been confirmed to have tested positive for COVID-19.

Back in April, the 24-year-old Elliott attended a party at his teammate, Dak Prescott’s house, which, according to reports, had as many as 30 people in attendance. However, according to Prescott, ‘fewer than ten people’ attended the party. 

You wonder how this will impact the NFL, which, at this point, is scheduled to start on time, but reportedly may have a shortened preseason. In the end, hopefully, Elliott and others will fully recover.

Giants claim former Cowboys QB Cooper Rush off waivers

The Giants today added a fourth quarterback to their roster when they were awarded Cooper Rush off waivers from the Dallas Cowboys.

The transaction is contingent on Rush passing a physical after travel restrictions are lifted.

In a corresponding move, the Giants waived wide receiver Reggie White to remain at the NFL-maximum 90 players on their roster.

Rush, 6-3 and 225 pounds, will join starter Daniel Jones and veteran reserves Colt McCoy and Alex Tanney in the Giants’ quarterback room.

Rush spent the previous three seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, where he worked under coach Jason Garrett, now the Giants’ offensive coordinator. He appeared in five games, including two last year. Rush threw three passes – all in 2017 – and completed one, a two-yarder at San Francisco on Oct. 22. That year, he joined the Cowboys as a rookie free agent from Central Michigan.

White was originally signed by the Giants as an undrafted free agent on May 3, 2019, from Monmouth University. He was waived on August 30 and was on the Giants’ practice squad from Sept. 1-Nov. 12 and again from Nov. 27 through the end of the season. White signed a reserve/futures contract with the Giants on Dec. 30.

Michael Eisen/NY Giants

Joe Judge on Garrett: ‘He does a fantastic job of making in-game adjustments’

Giants coach Joe Judge today announced the three most significant members of his coaching staff: coordinators Jason Garrett (offense), Patrick Graham (defense) and Thomas McGaughey (special teams). Graham will also serve as assistant head coach.

“We’re setting out to develop a smart, tough and really sound football team and that’s going to start with the coordinators setting the tone in each room,” Judge said. “Each one has experience, each one has the ability to run multiples (schemes), put the pressure on the opponent, and each one is an excellent teacher.

“All these guys were priorities to add to our staff. You have a short list when you come into this and you make sure you go ahead and take your time and get those guys in with whatever it takes. The priority is to put the best teachers and the best people around your players so you can form a strong locker room and make them fundamentally sound and situational. And I think all three of these guys bring that to the team.”

Garrett is a former Giants backup quarterback who recently completed a 10-year stint as the Dallas Cowboys’ head coach. He was Dallas’ offensive coordinator from 2007 until his appointment as head coach midway through the 2010 season.

The Cowboys consistently had one of the NFL’s most productive offenses under Garrett. In 2019, Dallas had league-high averages of 431.5 yards a game and 6.5 yards per play. The Cowboys were second in the NFL in passing yardage (296.9 a game), fifth in rushing (134.6), tied for second in third-down conversion percentage (47.1 with 96 success in 204 opportunities) and sixth with an average of 27.1 points a game.

That continued a trend of offensive excellence by Dallas during Garrett’s tenure. The top-rated offense in the recently-concluded season marked the eighth time the Cowboys finished in the top 10 with Garrett as either coordinator or head coach. They were second in 2007 and 2009, 10th in 2010 and 2013, sixth in 2012, seventh in 2014 and fifth in 2016.

“I’ve known about Jason for a long time, not only through the general public as well-known as he is as head coach of the Cowboys,” Judge said. “There were guys I worked with that I came across in my career at both Alabama and at the New England Patriots that worked with Jason through their time in Miami with him. They consistently all reflected on how smart he is, how great a teacher he is and how his perspective of the game was through a different lens than most coaches. And when he sees it, he’s able to communicate it and paint that mental image to the players. And he does a fantastic job of making in-game adjustments.”

Garrett visited the Quest Diagnostics Training Center this week and spent much of the day meeting with Judge.

“We had some great conversations when we were able to bring him in here,” Judge said. “It was a great opportunity to get to know each other a little better than we had before. It was a great opportunity to sit there and talk ball and share philosophies and views on the game. It’s a great system he brings with great teaching that will allow our players to go out there and play aggressively.”

Under Garrett’s tutelage, quarterbacks Tony Romo and Dak Prescott, running backs DeMarco Murray and Ezekiel Elliott, wide receivers Miles Austin, Dez Bryant and Amari Cooper, tight end Jason Witten and numerous offensive linemen became Pro Bowl players.

Garrett’s teams were 85-67 in the regular season and won NFC East titles in 2014, 2016 and 2018. He was selected the NFL Coach of the Year in 2016.

The new coordinator will take over an offense that includes two players chosen in the top six in the last two NFL drafts, running back Saquon Barkley (the 2018 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year who was taken second overall, and quarterback Daniel Jones, the No. 6 selection in 2019, who threw for 3,027 yards and 24 touchdowns in 13 games (12 starts) as a rookie. The Giants finished 23rd in the NFL in total yardage (338.5 per game) and were tied for 18th in points (21.3 a game).

Garrett began his coaching career as the Miami Dolphins’ quarterbacks coach from 2004-06. He was named the Cowboys’ offensive coordinator in 2007. Three years later, he was elevated to head coach after Dallas started 1-7. His first game was a 33-20 victory against the Giants in MetLife Stadium. Garrett guided the Cowboys to a 5-3 record in the second half of that season. His 2015 team was the only one that finished with a losing record.

As a quarterback, Garrett played in 41 games with nine starts in a career that spanned from 1993-2004. He made all of his starts with the Cowboys from 1993-99. His career totals included 165 completions in 295 attempts for 2,042 yards, 11 touchdowns and five interceptions. Garrett played on two Super Bowl-winning teams in Dallas.

In 2000, Garrett joined the Giants and spent four seasons as a backup, primarily to Kerry Collins. He spent the 2004 season with Tampa Bay and Miami without appearing in a game. Garrett began coaching with the Dolphins the following year.

As a senior at Princeton University in 1988, Garrett was named the Ivy League’s Player of the Year and honorable mention All-American. He earned his degree in history in 1989 and moved on to the NFL as an un drafted rookie free agent with the New Orleans Saints’ developmental squad. After being released prior to the 1990 season, he spent the fall of 1990 as an assistant coach at Princeton. In 1991, Garrett played in the World League and the Canadian Football League before joining the Cowboys’ practice squad in 1992.

Garrett’s father, Jim, spent more than 30 years in the NFL as a coach and scout. His brother, John, is the head coach at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania.

Graham, who turns 41 on Jan. 24, joins the Giants with 11 years of NFL coaching experience with four teams. He has coached in the playoffs in eight of those seasons and has been part of teams that have won seven division titles, two conference championships and one Super Bowl (XLIX).

A former Giants assistant coach, Graham was the Miami Dolphins’ defensive coordinator in 2019. He led a unit that had a constantly-changing cast of available players because of roster transactions and injuries. The change was particularly pronounced in the secondary, where only one of the training camp starters – safety Eric Rowe – played in all 16 games. The unit’s best player, former first-round draft choice Minkah Fitzpatrick, was traded to Pittsburgh on Sept. 17. Cornerback Xavien Howard played in five games before going on injured reserve with a knee injury. Safeties Reshad Jones, a two-time Pro Bowler, and Bobby McCain appeared in four and nine games, respectively, before they were placed on I.R. on the same day.

Two linemen released by the Giants on Aug. 31 – Avery Moss and John Jenkins – started a total of eight games.

Despite the changes, the defense helped Miami win five of its last nine games after an 0-7 start (one of the losses was to the Giants). In the season finale on Dec. 29, the Dolphins earned a 27-24 victory at New England that cost the Patriots – who won the first meeting 43-0 – a first-round bye. Graham’s defense limited the Pats to 352 yards, 18 first downs and three third-down conversions.

Numerous young defenders in Miami improved significantly under Graham’s tutelage. They included linebackers Jerome Baker, who led the team with 124 tackles (74 solo), Raekwon McMillan and Vince Biegel (who was acquired in a trade for Kiko Alonso), and tackle Christian Wilkins, Miami’s first-round draft choice last year.

“We’ve had a lot of discussions, both before he came here as well as since he’s been here, in terms of what he would want to do with the scheme,” Judge said. “We share the same vision to be able to run multiples and use the players on our roster to the best of their ability to match up against the opponent.”

Prior to joining the Dolphins, Graham spent the 2018 season as the Green Bay Packers’ inside linebackers coach and defensive run game coordinator. He helped linebacker Blake Martinez have the best year of his career to date, totaling 144 tackles (91 solo) and a career-high 5.0 sacks.

Graham spent the 2016 and 2017 seasons as the Giants’ defensive line coach. In 2017, he helped Jason Pierre-Paul lead the team with 8.5 sacks and Damon Harrison post 76 tackles (51 solo), which was second on the team and led all NFL defensive tackles.

The previous year, Graham helped the Giants’ defense become the most improved in the NFL. The team allowed 158 fewer points and 1,290 fewer yards than it did in 2015. Their 17.8 points per game allowed was second in the NFL and the team’s best since 2002.

Graham began his NFL coaching career in New England, where he spent seven seasons (2009-15). He began as a coaching assistant in 2009 before being promoted to defensive assistant in 2010 and linebackers coach in 2011. He moved to defensive line from 2012-13 before going back to linebackers in 2014-15.

During his tenure with New England, the Patriots won the division all seven seasons, the AFC twice and Super Bowl XLIX. In his five seasons as a position coach (2011-15), New England led the NFL in takeaways (150) and was tied for fourth in sacks (214).

Graham came to New England following two seasons (2007-08) as a graduate assistant at Notre Dame, where he worked with the defense. He spent three seasons (2004-06) as an assistant coach at Richmond, mentoring tight ends from 2005-06 and the defensive line in 2004.

Graham began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Wagner (2002-03), while he pursued an MBA with a concentration in finance. He coached the junior-varsity team to an undefeated season and also served as strength and conditioning coach and academic coordinator.

Graham played collegiately at Yale, where he was a defensive lineman for the 1999 team that shared an Ivy League title with Brown. He earned his bachelor’s degree in sociology with a concentration in economics and African-American studies.

McGaughey recently completed his second season as the Giants’ special teams coordinator. He was previously a coordinator for three other teams and was the Giants’ assistant special teams coach from 2007-10.

“I’ve known T-Mac from going against him as well as being in the business and I have a good relationship with him professionally and personally,” Judge said. “I have a lot of respect for him as a coach and I have a tremendous amount of respect for him as a person. He gets the most out of his players. I’ve competed against him and I knew it was always going to be tough sledding in the game there. From the perspective of having to go against him, you understand you don’t want to get him out of the building; you want to hold onto guys like that. They’re definitely key assets. He and (assistant former coordinator) Tom Quinn do an outstanding job of working together, coaching the players in techniques and coming up with schemes for game plans that allow them to apply pressure on the opponents.”

The special teams have consistently been among the NFL’s best under McGaughey.

In 2019, the Giants’ kickoff coverage team led the league by allowing an average return of 18.1 yards. The punt coverage team was tied for fifth as opponents averaged just 5.7 yards a return. Conversely, the Giants were fourth and 10th, respectively, in the NFL in punt (9.8 yards) and kickoff (23.5 yards) return average. Punter Riley Dixon was ninth in the league with a franchise-record 42.3-yard net average. He set the previous mark of 41.8 yards, set in 2018.

The special teams performed impressively in McGaughey’s first season as coordinator in 2018. Aldrick Rosas had one of the finest seasons by a kicker in Giants history as he was selected to his first Pro Bowl and named second-team All-Pro after making 32 of 33 field goal attempts and 31 of 32 extra point tries. The 32 field goals were the fifth-highest total in Giants history.

Rosas’ .970 field goal percentage was a Giants record and was just 1/100th of a percentage point behind NFL leader Robbie Gould. Rosas’ 127 points tied Ali Haji-Sheikh (1983) for the fifth-highest total in Giants history. He hit his final 19 field goal attempts, including a team-record 57-yarder against Chicago in MetLife Stadium.

Michael Thomas led the Giants with nine special teams tackles (six solo) and was the NFC special teams player in the Pro Bowl.

The Giants finished second in the NFL in kickoff coverage, limiting opponents to an average return of 20.4 yards, and seventh in punt coverage with a 6.6-yard average. The team’s kickoff return rose from 19.6 to 24.4 yards, and their average punt return improved from 5.5 to 6.2 yards.

McGaughey was the special teams coordinator at LSU from 2011-13 and for the Jets (2014), San Francisco 49ers (2015) and Carolina Panthers (2016-17) before returning to the Giants.

Courtesy: Michael Eisen

NFL Playoff Scenarios for Week 17

We have played 16 weeks of football, and it all comes down this. 

In the NFC, five out of the six playoff teams have clinched, but two divisions are up for grabs. In the NFC East, if the Eagles defeat the Giants, they win the NFC East; however, if they lose and the Cowboys beat the Redskins, Dallas wins the division. And in the NFC West, Seattle and San Francisco battle it out on Sunday Night Football. The winner grabs the NFC West, and the loser gets the first wild card spot.

In the AFC, five out of the six playoff teams have also clinched, but the sixth and final spot involves three teams(Raiders, Titans, Steelers) with the Titans controlling their own destiny. 

Here are all the playoff scenarios for Week 17:

AFC

CLINCHED:

Baltimore Ravens – AFC North division and homefield advantage throughout AFC playoffs

Houston Texans – AFC South division

Kansas City Chiefs – AFC West division

New England Patriots – AFC East division

Buffalo Bills – playoff berth

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (11-4) (vs. L.A. Chargers (5-10), 1:00 PM ET, CBS)

Kansas City clinches a first-round bye with:

  1. KC win + NE loss

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (12-3) (vs. Miami (4-11); 1:00 PM ET, CBS)

New England clinches a first-round bye with:

  1. NE win or tie OR

  2. KC loss or tie

OAKLAND RAIDERS (7-8) (at Denver (6-9); 4:25 PM ET, CBS)

Oakland clinches a playoff berth with:

  1. OAK win + PIT loss + TEN loss + IND win + OAK clinches strength-of-victory tiebreaker over PIT*

 *OAK clinches strength-of-victory tiebreaker over PIT if ONE of the following teams win or tie:

CHI, DET, LAC OR NE

PITTSBURGH STEELERS (8-7) (at Baltimore (13-2); 4:25 PM ET, CBS)

Pittsburgh clinches a playoff berth with:

  1. PIT win + TEN loss or tie OR

  2. PIT tie + TEN loss OR

  3. TEN loss + IND win + OAK loss or tie OR

  4. TEN loss + IND win + PIT ties OAK in strength-of-victory tiebreaker*

*PIT ties OAK in strength-of-victory tiebreaker if ALL of the following teams win:

MIN, GB, KC AND MIA

TENNESSEE TITANS (8-7) (at Houston (10-5); 4:25 PM ET, CBS)

Tennessee clinches a playoff berth with:

  1. TEN win OR

  2. TEN tie + PIT loss or tie OR

  3. PIT loss + IND loss or tie

NFC

CLINCHED:

Green Bay – NFC North division

New Orleans – NFC South division

Minnesota — playoff berth

San Francisco — playoff berth

Seattle — playoff berth

DALLAS COWBOYS (7-8) (vs. Washington (3-12); 4:25 PM ET, FOX)

Dallas clinches NFC East division with:

  1. DAL win + PHI loss

GREEN BAY PACKERS (12-3) (at Detroit (3-11-1); 1:00 PM ET, FOX)

Green Bay clinches a first-round bye with:

  1. GB win OR

  2. NO loss OR

  3. GB tie + SF loss OR

  4. GB tie + NO tie

Green Bay clinches homefield advantage throughout NFC playoffs with:

  1. GB win + SF loss or tie OR

  2. GB tie + SF loss + NO loss or tie

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (12-3) (at Carolina (5-10); 1:00 PM ET, FOX)

New Orleans clinches a first-round bye with:

  1. NO win + GB loss or tie OR

  2. NO win + SF loss or tie OR

  3. NO tie + GB loss OR

  4. NO tie + SF loss OR

  5. SF loss + GB win or tie

New Orleans clinches homefield advantage throughout NFC playoffs with:

  1. NO win + GB loss or tie + SF loss or tie OR

  2. NO tie + GB loss + SF loss

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (8-7) (at N.Y. Giants (4-11); 4:25 PM ET, FOX)

Philadelphia clinches NFC East division with:

  1. PHI win or tie OR

  2. DAL loss or tie

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (12-3) (at Seattle (11-4); 8:20 PM ET, NBC)

San Francisco clinches NFC West division title with:

  1. SF win or tie

San Francisco clinches a first-round bye with:

  1. SF win OR

  2. SF tie + GB loss or tie OR

  3. SF tie + NO loss or tie

San Francisco clinches homefield advantage throughout NFC playoffs with:

  1. SF win OR

  2. SF tie + GB loss or tie + NO loss or tie

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (11-4) (vs. San Francisco (12-3); 8:20 ET, NBC)

Seattle clinches NFC West division with:

  1. SEA win

Seattle clinches a first-round bye with:

  1. SEA win + GB loss

Seattle clinches homefield advantage throughout NFC playoffs with:

  1. SEA win + GB loss + NO loss

Wentz: ‘The crowd was electric tonight; it felt like a playoff atmosphere’

On Sunday in Philadelphia, it was win or go home for the Eagles, and they rose to the challenge. Behind Carson Wentz, who threw for 319 yards and one touchdown, and a stifling Eagles’ defense, Philadelphia was able to defeat the Cowboys 17-9. 

The Eagles now control their own destiny and have to beat the Giants on the road in Week 17 to win the NFC East.  

“That was a big win for us,’ Wentz said after the game. ‘The crowd was electric tonight; it felt like a playoff atmosphere. Just like we said the last few weeks, our backs were against the wall. Guys made plays. Defense played great. Offensively, we definitely left some plays and some points out there, but man, it feels good to get this victory.”

Throughout this season, injuries have had an impact on this Eagles’ team, and on Sunday, it was no different. Early in the second quarter, Eagles corner Ronald Darby left the game and did not return after re-injuring his hip, and Pro Bowl TE Zach Ertz left the game with a rib injury, but he would return. However, those things did not stop Philadelphia from winning this game,  and according to Wentz, this team knows what it takes to fight through adversity.

“I think just the resiliency that I’ve seen, it’s been the next-man-up mentality from really the moment I got here in Philadelphia,” Wentz said. “You see it over and over, and it’s exciting to see these guys come to work with a sense of belief and the pride they take in their work and to get it done out here on Sundays.”

This might have been the biggest win in Wentz’s career, but the Eagles still have to win one more game to make the playoffs, so they have to avoid a letdown against the Giants.

“[We have to] just get back on and prepare the same way we always do and have no letdowns,” Wentz said about playing the Giants. “It’s going to take the leaders to make sure we’re emphasizing that point. But at the same time, even just talking to a lot of the guys in the locker room, I can already feel that. I can already feel that no one’s complacent now or feels like we won anything. We have to go prove it again, and we’re excited for it.”

The Giants enter this game against Philadelphia on a two-game winning streak, including Sunday’s 41-35 victory over the Redskins in OT. The Eagles have a few days to worry about that, but for now, they get to enjoy Christmas and their win over the Cowboys.

NFL announces changes to Week 17 schedule

NFL ANNOUNCES WEEK 17 SCHEDULE (DECEMBER 29)

The NFL today finalized the schedule for Week 17 on Sunday, December 29 (all times ET):

Sunday, December 29

New York Jets at Buffalo Bills

1:00 PM

CBS

New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers

1:00 PM

FOX

Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals

1:00 PM

FOX

Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions

1:00 PM

FOX

Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs

1:00 PM

CBS

Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings

1:00 PM

FOX

Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots

1:00 PM

CBS

Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

1:00 PM

FOX

Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens

4:25 PM

CBS

Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys

4:25 PM

FOX

Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans

4:25 PM

CBS

Indianapolis Colts at Jacksonville Jaguars

4:25 PM

CBS

Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants

4:25 PM

FOX

Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos

4:25 PM

CBS

Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams

4:25 PM

FOX

San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks

8:20 PM

NBC​​

  • Cleveland at Cincinnati has moved from 1:00 PM on CBS to 1:00 PM on FOX.

  • Pittsburgh at Baltimore has moved from 1:00 PM ET on CBS to 4:25 PM ET on CBS.

  • Washington at Dallas has moved from 1:00 PM on FOX to 4:25 PM on FOX.

  • Tennessee at Houston has moved from 1:00 PM ET on CBS to 4:25 PM ET on CBS.

  • Indianapolis at Jacksonville has moved from 1:00 PM ET on CBS to 4:25 ET on CBS.

  • Philadelphia at the New York Giants has moved from 1:00 PM ET on FOX to 4:25 PM ET on FOX.

  • San Francisco at Seattle has moved from 4:25 PM ET on FOX to 8:20 PM ET on NBC.

Texans, Cowboys, Vikings, can clinch playoff spots in Week 16

It’s crunch time in the NFL. With two games left, the Ravens, Chiefs, Bills, and Patriots have clinched playoff spots in the AFC, and in the NFC, the Saints, Packers, Seahawks, and 49ers are in the playoffs. There are four spots left to be filled(two in each conference) and a lot of meaningful football to be played.

Here are the playoff scenarios for Week 16 in the NFL:

AFC

CLINCHED:

Baltimore Ravens – AFC North division

Kansas City Chiefs – AFC West division

Buffalo Bills – playoff berth

New England Patriots – playoff berth

BALTIMORE RAVENS (12-2) (at Cleveland (6-8), Sunday, 1:00 PM ET, CBS)

Baltimore clinches a first-round bye with:

  1. BAL win or tie OR

  2. KC loss or tie OR

  3. NE loss

Baltimore clinches homefield advantage throughout AFC playoffs with:

  1. BAL win OR

  2. BAL tie + NE loss or tie OR

  3. KC loss or tie + NE loss

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (11-3) (vs. Buffalo (10-4), Saturday, 4:30 PM ET, NFL Network)

New England clinches AFC East division with:

  1. NE win or tie

New England clinches a first-round bye with:

  1. NE win + KC loss or tie OR

  2. NE tie + KC loss

HOUSTON TEXANS (9-5) (at Tampa Bay (7-7), Saturday, 1:00 PM ET, NFL Network)

Houston clinches AFC South division with:

  1. HOU win OR

  2. HOU tie + TEN tie OR

  3. TEN loss

Houston clinches a playoff berth with:

  1. HOU tie + PIT tie OR

  2. PIT loss

NFC

CLINCHED:

New Orleans Saints – NFC South division

Green Bay Packers – playoff berth

San Francisco 49ers – playoff berth

Seattle Seahawks – playoff berth

GREEN BAY PACKERS (11-3) (at Minnesota (10-4), Monday, 8:15 PM ET, ESPN)

Green Bay clinches NFC North division with:

  1. GB win or tie

DALLAS COWBOYS (7-7) (at Philadelphia (7-7), Sunday, 4:25 PM ET, FOX)

Dallas clinches NFC East division with:

  1. DAL win

MINNESOTA VIKINGS (10-4) (vs. Green Bay (11-3), Monday, 8:15 PM ET, ESPN)

Minnesota clinches a playoff berth with:​

  1. MIN win or tie OR

  2. LAR loss or tie

Bills’ Allen on Cowboys: ‘Our defense is going to have their hands full, so we have to do our part on offense’

The Buffalo Bills’ offense seems to be peaking at the right time. In their previous two games against Miami and Denver, Buffalo is averaging over 28 points per game and 424 yards of total offense. Their QB Josh Allen is playing well, and the running game has been very effective. The Bills had 168 yards on the ground against the Dolphins, and 244 yards rushing against the Broncos on Sunday.

On Thursday, the Bills travel to Dallas to face the Cowboys on Thanksgiving, and while the Cowboys’ offense struggled against the Patriots last Sunday, they have a lot of weapons, including QB Dak Prescott, RB Ezekiel Elliott, and WR Amari Cooper. With those weapons, the Bills’ offense may have to put up a good amount of points against Dallas.

“Obviously, they have some really good pieces on the offense over there,” Bills QB Josh Allen said on Tuesday. “I know Dak [Prescott] is playing extremely well, and they have a couple of receivers. They have the running back there too that’s an All-Pro guy. Our defense is going to have their hands full, so we have to do our part on offense. It’s a complimentary football game. We all have to execute in all three phases of the game.”

This is a big game for the Bills(8-3) for many reasons. Currently, Buffalo is the fifth-seeded team in the AFC, which is two games ahead of the sixth-seeded Steelers. A win against the Cowboys would put them in a good spot in terms of making the playoffs. Also, it’s a nationally televised game; however, according to Allen, he is not going to treat this game any differently.

“I don’t really think it’s different from any other game that we’ve played,” Allen said. “I really don’t know the logistics of what makes it a prime-time game or whatever. We’re going out there, and we’re playing football how we know how to play. I’m going to trust the game plan that we put in, and just try to play like we’ve been playing the last few weeks.

“They’re a tough defense, and they’re going to be doing some things that we have to look at and continue to game plan for. We’ll have to make some in-game adjustments, no doubt. It’s going to be a four-quarter battle with these guys, and we just have to stay on track and go out there and execute as best we can.”

Defeating the Cowboys on Thursday won’t be easy, especially with Dallas coming off a loss. Allen and the Bills will have their hands full, but based on the way the offense is playing right now, Buffalo might have the confidence to get it done. 

 

Giants’ Jones on playing Cowboys: ‘It’s a divisional game, it’s an important game, it’s a big game’

Daniel Jones’ debut season will take an unusual twist on Monday night with a first that will also be a second.

The Giants’ rookie quarterback will make his initial start against the Dallas Cowboys in MetLife Stadium. But it will be his first second appearance against a single opponent. His regular-season unveiling was in the Giants’ final series in their opening 35-17 loss in Dallas on Sept. 8. Jones completed three of four passes for 17 yards but lost a fumble on the Giants’ last offensive snap (after a review).

Jones said that brief introduction might provide some benefit on Monday.

“Maybe just a little bit of experience against those guys,” Jones said.  “I think just being able to watch that game, the second time we play them, the second time we’ll run our offense against what they do, it’s helpful to be able to see that and learn from it.”

Asked a follow-up moments later, Jones said, “just seeing our stuff, our offense against them and kind of how we match up and what certain looks look like against them. I think all that stuff helps in being able to prepare the second time against a team.”

The Giants’ 24-3 defeat of Washington on Sept. 29 gave Jones a 1-0 start in NFC East games.

“He’s played against the Redskins, a division foe, and he’s played against some really outstanding defenses along the way here,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “He’s played on the road, he’s played at home. He’s just clicking them all off. This just happens to be the first time he’s playing against the Cowboys, who happen to be a division foe and an outstanding defense.”

Jones will be the first Giants quarterback other than Eli Manning to start a game vs. Dallas since Oct. 10, 2004, when Kurt Warner led the team to a 26-10 victory in Texas Stadium. Manning has started the Giants’ last 31 games vs. the Cowboys, including one in the playoffs. He is 14-17 against Dallas and his 1,047 passes, 655 completions, 7,560 yards and 53 touchdown passes are all regular-season records for one opponent against the Cowboys.

Monday could be the dawn of another long-term rivalry between a Giants quarterback and the Cowboys’ defense.

“I don’t know if I necessarily think of it that way, but it is a rivalry, these two teams,” Jones said. “It’s a divisional game, it’s an important game, it’s a big game, and I realize that there’s a rivalry element to the two teams playing, just in that they’ve been in the division and played for a long time. So, I’m excited to be part of that, and yeah, I think I realize it’s a big game.”

Shurmur didn’t minimize the significance of a quarterback matching up against a division opponent.

“I think it’s important,” Shurmur said. “As you go along and you play the team multiple times, then you get a feel for them, they get a feel for you. But this is the first time they’re playing against Daniel as our quarterback. He actually did take a couple snaps, but nothing of note in the first matchup. But he’s on tape having played the games he’s played, so I’m sure that’s what they’re looking to try to defend.”

Far more critical to the Giants’ hopes of ending their four-game losing streak is that this could finally be the first game in which Jones has all of the team’s top offensive weapons at his disposal. Sterling Shepard, who missed the last three games while in the NFL concussion protocol, has not yet been cleared to play. But he is practicing fully, an indication he is heading in that direction.

Shepard, Golden Tate, Evan Engram and Saquon Barkley have all been out of uniform for one or more games since the beginning of the season. Jones became the starter in Week 3 and he would be the biggest beneficiary of an offense in which all key contributors are in uniform.

“I think it’ll help us,” Jones said. “Those are all really good players. When you put them all together there’s a lot of different things that we can do, a lot of different ways to attack. I think the guys who stepped in have played well throughout the season. But yeah, getting Shep back this week will help.”

“I think we all need to go out and play well together,” Shurmur said. “This is probably the first time they’ll all sort of be out there together. Our new version of things. It’s important that they just go out and play, do their jobs and try to execute. If the ball is thrown your way, catch it. If you’re supposed to block somebody, block him. If we hand it to you and you run with it, make yards. I don’t mean to try to minimize it or boil it down too much for you, but they just need to do their jobs.”

That would certainly help Jones succeed no matter who the opponent is.

*Aside from Shepard, the only two players to appear on the Giants’ injury report were cornerbacks Corey Ballentine (concussion) and Grant Haley (knee) who both practiced fully.

*The Giants signed punter Sean Smith to their practice squad. Smith is a lefty and will help the Giants’ punt returns better prepare for Dallas’ Chris Jones, who also kicks with his left leg.

Courtesy: Michael Eisen