First -- and knock on wood on this -- it seems like Eli will be fine. The latest news has him getting a second opinion this week, but it seems as if it's a non-debilitating injury that won't get any worse if he plays on it. So that's good. Any speculation beyond that seems silly, but Giants fans should be feeling a lot better after Monday than they were after Sunday.
Now the other piece of good news: The Giants once again dominated their opponent on Sunday. Yes, the Chiefs are terrible, but it takes a good performance by a good team to make anybody look that bad. As Wesley Snipes, playing Sydney Dean in White Men Can't Jump would say, "It's hard goddamn work for a man to make another man look so bad." If there's any defining characteristic of the recent vintage Giants, it's that they bring their A-Game -- or something close to it -- a very high percentage of the time. Teams like the Cowboys and Chargers might have higher ceilings: If everything is clicking for those teams, yes, they may be better than the Giants. Their problem is that they play like shit so often. The Giants might not have the most spectacular talent, but they take after their coach: They are nothing if not prepared and professional.
What's to like:
Steve Smith: Could it be that Steve Smith is one of the game's best receivers? Don't rule out the possibility. No, he's not the fastest or biggest guy, but he has great hands, great body control, and most importantly, seems to really be mastering his routes in this offense. A good example of this was his second touchdown reception, when he smoothly rounded off his pattern to split the safeties. That's a subtlety that looks easy until you realize that so many guys don't do it. Let's just call Smith the anti-Tim Carter - and that's a huge compliment.
Hakeem Nicks: You have to love the smooth, self-assured way he followed his blocks on his touchdown, as well as the stop-and-go move to get into the endzone. It gives you confidence that Nicks is a good football player whose playmaking instincts surpass his combine measurables. Thomas Lewis he is not.
Eli Manning: Pending the injury news, obviously. Eli once again showed his excellent pocket presence, knack for finding the open man, and command of the offense and game situation. He can't really be blamed for his fumble, and gets only a fraction of the blame for his interception -- it was a sub-par effort by Manningham and it was somewhat unlucky that the ball was tipped straight in the air. Eli was inaccurate at times yesterday, and he will probably continue to be so going forward. But yesterday's game was a blueprint of how a quarterback with questionable accuracy can still be excellent.
The Offensive Line: Excellent pass protection overall. Yes, Eli was sacked twice, but he was only hit an additional two times. The O-line didn't dominate, but they definitively won the battle up front by allowing the running backs to gain 156 yards on 33 carries, an average of 4.7 yards per. It was also good to see McKenzie and Seubert back in with seemingly no ill effects. The one question mark was Diehl, who seemed to have problems with Hali around the edge on the sack and some other plays as well. Diehl occasionally struggles with speed-rushers, so it's not as if this is a new source of concern.
Ahmad Bradshaw: More magic from the best running back on the team. How enjoyable was the Wildcat run on fourth down? How much more confidence did you have in Bradshaw in that spot than Jacobs? At this point, it's really hard to make a case for Jacobs over Bradshaw. Yesterday, Bradshaw averaged 5.3 yards per carry to Jacobs' 4.4, despite Jacobs having a long of 17 yards to Bradshaw's 11. That said, they pair should split carries almost 50/50, the better to keep Jacobs effective and Bradshaw fresh. This week, he will practice with that boot on his ankle again. If the Giants get a big lead, it might be worth sitting him down.
Brandon Jacobs: We'll throw the big man in this column for starting to break out of his early-season slump. It was Jacobs' first non-bad game of the year; hopefully better things are in store.
The Defense: Another dominant effort for a unit that is peaking. No, you don't like the two late touchdowns, but the game was well out of hand at that point.
The Pass Rush: Five sacks and seven hits on Cassel in the pass rush's first dominant game this year -- going into yesterday, they had just three sacks. Osi and Kiwanuka each had a sack and two hits on Cassel.
The Secondary: The story of the season so far, along with Eli and the wide receivers. Perhaps the Giants haven't faced the best quarterbacks, but there's no way those guys are as bad as the Giants have made them look.
Terrell Thomas: Thomas missed some tackles the first two weeks but has been a stalwart since. Particularly encouraging was the play in which he baited Cassel into throwing an out pattern, which he promptly broke on and nearly missed intercepting with a swath of green in front of him. Second year guys aren't supposed to have such mastery of their position. This guy is going to be good, which is welcome news considering Aaron Ross' hamstring is being treated by the New York Mets medical staff.
Michael Boley (with a caveat): It's been a while since the Giants have had a truly dynamic linebacker -- they've been trying ever since Ernie Accorsi took an ill-advised flyer on Lavar Arrington. Perhaps Boley, who made four tackles for losses today, could be that guy. Unfortunately, it will have to come in a few weeks -- news just broke that he sustained a knee injury and will miss time.
Danny Clark: At once the most anonymous Giant and a perfect example of the soundness of the organization. Clark's no star, but he's an inexpensive solution. Plug a Danny Clark in, plug a Kawika Mitchell in, and the machine keeps rolling.
Brian Kehl: Recovered a fumble on the opening kickoff and was alert enough to recover the onside kick that opened the second half. With Boley out, it's up in the air whether Kehl or Chase Blackburn starts at that weakside linebacker spot.
Jeff Feagles: How awesome was it when he coffin-cornered a second straight punt, as predicted by the announcers?
What's not to like:
Lawrence Tynes: Oh, how I wanted to put him in the first column. But alas, he missed his third easy field goal in as many games. Tynes is a headache, but what are the alternatives? He's not that bad, and frankly, don't Giants fans have a strange trust in him in big spots? Also on the bright side, it's not like he's missing his kicks by much. A best case-scenario has him changing his calibration a little and having an excellent year; a worst-case scenario has him continuing to miss chip-shots in the playoffs.
Mario Manningham: Needs to concentrate better. He dropped three catchable balls, and the one he bobbled and then caught might have been a touchdown if he had caught it cleanly. That said, his quickness was on full display yesterday, so his performance at once was disappointing and tantalizing.
Sinorice Moss: His days are probably numbered around here. He didn't catch a couple punts, and looked shaky when the ball was in the air on the ones he did. You hate to discriminate against small guys, but Sinorice looks like a boy among men out there, overwhelmed by the scale and power of the game.
For a while, Giants fans were loathe to part with Sinorice for fear he would catch on somewhere else -- we didn't want to reckon with the thought of giving away a high-second round pick. At this point though, it's seems highly unlikely he'll ever justify his draft status.
Penalties: 8 penalties for 54 yards -- the Giants got a little sloppy at times in this game. That's understandable to most people but not Tom Coughlin. Look at it this way: The Giants penalties this past week -- and the ballbusting from Coughlin the Giants will surely endure -- increases the likelihood of their being sharp this coming week.
Injuries: Eli, Bradshaw, Boss (getting an MRI on his ankle), Boley. Make it stop, if just for a week!