Behind ‘Frenemy’ Lines: Getting to Know the New York Giants (Fans)
Living in New York City is great. I think it’s one of, if not the best city in the world and whatever you like to do, there is something to fit your fancy. :Insert ubiquitous Jay-Z Alicia Keys song here: New York City is known for it’s tall buildings, history, culture, adventure, nightlife as well as it’s sports. New York City can cater to anyone no matter what sport they like (excluding NASCAR) as well as where and how they like to watch it. And although both of its football teams technically reside in New Jersey, the New York Jets and Giants are inextricably tied to the bright lights of Gotham. The news coverage of New York’s favorite teams are diverse and excellent with no shortage of sources to learn about your local team and sport of choice. This week, the local news did a pretty excellent job of profiling and detailing the Green Bay Packers.
Over the past week, I’ve been able to talk with my fellow owners and Packers fans about their feelings of the upcoming Green Bay Packers – New York Giants tilt. For the most part, everyone feels confident that the Green Bay Packers should win, but I would be dishonest if I didn’t mention that conversations either insinuated or flat out led to the events of the 2007 NFC Championship game. But I live in New York City and there is a golden opportunity for me to put my ear to the ground and ask Giants fans how they feel about the game, the Packers and a few other things. Why not take advantage of it?
Shortly before the playoffs started, I did a quick inventory of my sports-watching friends and came to the realization that I had friends that followed most of the teams in the playoff field. Whomever the Packers faced, I could pull one of my friends aside and ask them a few questions about the upcoming game. To be honest, I knew I had a gluttony of friends that were Giants fans and I was hoping to get the Giants in the NFC Championship game so I could ask a few more questions to a few more people. But you can’t control who you play, you can only control how you play them. So with that, let me do a quick introduction of my Giants fan panel.
Rob Cucos is a co-worker of mine at Bloomberg (the company, not the mayor) LP and we pretty much work in the same department. ‘Cucos’ as I like to call him, is a great example of a die-hard local sports guy. He follows the Yankees, Rangers, Knicks and the Giants and he follows them with unwavering support. I’ve known Cucos for a few years and he was my number 1 pick for this Giants interview because he is one of the most knowledgeable people I know on New York sports.
Shane West is a friend that I’ve known since high school (Brooklyn Tech). So many years together sitting in those wooden chairs and climbing so many steps day after day after day. Shane’s also a die-hard local sports guy. Shane loves his New York Knicks and Giants. Shane is one of the nicest people you will ever meet, period. If I remember correctly, Shane was probably one of my only friends who didn’t tease me mercilessly after the Giants defeated the Packers in the NFC Championship game. Suffice it to say he was definitely in the minority.
I met Chris D’Orio when I had the pleasure of studying abroad in Florence in the summer of 2009. Hands down, it was one of the best experiences of my life. The absolute first time I met Chris, I was absolutely sure I was going to hate him. We were at orientation and the only thing I remember was him asking questions about the gyms in Florence. Chris and I shared an apartment with four other classmates and from day one in Florence, we had a blast, tons of adventures and many nights that I probably can’t tell you about on this site! Chris is also a die-hard local sports guy, but he had the good sense to jump on the latest Packers stock sale (he actually got his before I did). I asked him a question about that at the end.
Thad: I’m going to get into particular players and strategies, but let’s not mince words or waste time. The first thing I want to know is who do you think will win this game?
Shane: 35-31 Giants
Chris: 24-17 Giants win
Cucos: Can I be a complete homer? I want 31-28 Giants, but it’s hard for me to predict the upset. I don’t think Coach Gilbride and Coach Fewell put together two good game plans in a row and the Giants will lose 35-24.
Thad: I empathize with you, Cucos. The ‘homer’ in me wants to predict a blowout for the Green Bay Packers like the Week 16 game last year, but I think this game is going to be a lot closer. I know the New York sports media knows how to tweak and play to the fans to get them all fired up for the game, but it’s making me a bit nervous. I still think the Green Bay Packers win this game and I’m surprised to get such curt and—frankly—confident responses from Shane and Chris. I think the Packers will win 30-20 with the Packers pulling away in the fourth quarter.
Thad: The reason why I’m doing this interview with you guys is because I want to give my fellow Packers fans a Giants fan’s view of the game. You guys would know your players best, so tell me, excluding Manning, Cruz, ‘JPP’, Osi, Tuck & Jacobs, who is the key player to lead the Giants to a win and how?
Cucos: I really think Nicks is the bigger name than Cruz. Nicks has seen the double teams which allows Cruz to make plays from the slot and get the single coverage. I hope the Packers focus on Cruz and leave Nicks one on one because he can go off for 150 yards and 2 touchdowns just as easily as Cruz. Remember Woodson being blessed by Nicks earlier this year?
Thad: Ha! Interestingly enough, there was a great article about the Charles Woodson – Hakeem Nicks interaction in Friday’s Wall Street Journal
Shane: Aaron Ross. For reasons I really don’t need to explain. But I will… Webster has been shutting down wide receivers all season long, so Ross has been getting targeted instead. To be honest, he’s looked really awful at times. He’s going to need to come back strong in this game from the concussion he suffered last week.
Chris: I agree with Rob. Nicks to me is more lethal then Cruz but I would say he is an obvious choice. Instead, I’m going to go with the entire secondary of the Giants. They are capable of big plays as long as the defensive line is getting pressure. If the secondary steps up, then the Giants will win.
Thad: I don’t know if the Giants secondary is good because of the line in front of it or if they just have the talent, but the Giants secondary is going to be tough to throw on. This is why my ‘homer’ prediction doesn’t really hold much weight.
Thad: Let’s switch sides. Let’s talk a bit about the offenses. Do you believe that the Giants’ offense can keep up with the Packers’ offense? How many points do you think the Giants need to score to win? How many points do the Giants need to limit the Packers to in order to win?
Chris: The Giants actually have a very explosive offense so I think they can definitely keep up with the Packers. Even if the Giants gave up 4 touchdowns, I think they would be able to match that and still have the ammo to get a go-ahead score. But, I think the Giants are going to need to score at least 3-4 touchdowns to win.
Cucos: I think it depends on Coach Gilbride. The Giants give away too many possessions with dumb play calls. Therefore, he will hold the Giants back from getting their score into the 40′s. We have the horses to play with anyone and if our running game is truly back, we can play a little ball control as well, shorten the game and keep Rodgers on the sideline. The Giants need to keep the Packers offense anywhere in the 20′s as the Giants can get into the 30′s against the Packers unless your defense magically transformed like the Giants’ recently did over the past month.
Shane: Keep up with the Pack O? If you put the 2 offenses up against the same defense, the Packers would score more. That’s just what they do, pile on the points quickly. But, when you bring our newly inspired defense and running game into the mix, The Giants O can definitely keep up.
Thad: You guys are not lacking in confidence. I see that from the Giants players too. That doesn’t scare me a lot, but it does a little.
Thad: We talked a bit about the Giants potential ‘X-Factor’ players, so let’s do the same for the Packers. Excluding Rodgers, Matthews, Woodson and Finley, do any Packers players scare you? Are there any players you want the Giants to contain?
Shane: Yes, his name is ‘Jordy Jennings’.
Thad: Haha! I don’t know who that player is, but if I had to guess, I would say Ted Thompson drafted that humble yet productive player in the second round from a ‘non-powerhouse’ college!
Chris: I think Tramon Williams is the best corner on your team. He actually scares me more than Woodson now.
Cucos: I would say, Jordy Nelson. The guy is spiderman out there.
Thad: I’ve got to interrupt you, Cucos to show an example of what you are talking about. This is an explanation of that fourth quarter Nelson catch that extended the drive for the Packers against the Giants.
Cucos: Yeah, I would want Webster to shadow him over Jennings. I am more worried about him than anyone besides Matthews. Nelson is the guy who can’t get loose because the Giants need to make the Packers work for their points. No 70 yard TDs for Nelson on Sunday, please.
Thad: We had to get to this question at some point. There really is no point not addressing the elephant in the room. 2007 NFC Championship game. I have wiped the game and the events following it from my memory. But where were you? Did you think the Giants were going to win heading into that game?
Chris: I was watching it with a few friends in one of their basements. The Giants had a special feeling around them that year after they snuck in the playoffs. I have the same feeling this year. I believe it’s all about getting hot at the right time.
Thad: I agree with the ‘momentum’ idea in the sense that I believe there is *some* validity to it. Ultimately, ‘momentum’ means little if you don’t play your current game well, but it’s an angle that gets played up a lot in the media frequently. This week was particularly interesting considering that the Packers had off after the Lions game and the Giants laid a beating on the Falcons.
Cucos: I was at the same table, same bar for the entire playoff run in ’07. I’m a little superstitious when it comes to that. To be honest, I felt the same way as I do now. I am fully confident we can go in there and play with Green Bay, but some things have to go our way to advance.
Shane: I was watching at home with my brothers, I believe, on winter break. By then, being the underdog was getting old. We already had 2 road wins. I knew we could win and I thought we would pull it off.
Thad: Before the wild-card matchups last week, I wrote a post listing the teams the Green Bay Packers could play in the Divisional Round and my preference for which team to play. As a ‘pro’ for playing the Giants, I mentioned that the Packers’ staff have out-coached the Giants’ in the matchups since the 2007 championship game. Would you agree with that assessment? Is that something that worries you in this game?
Shane: Hm. I agree in a sense. The Giants, at times over the past couple of seasons have played uninspired football. Although the players are all professionals, it’s up to the coach to inspire his team. For them to come out and look like they aren’t trying looks bad on the coaching. Despite that, they are always in a position to make the playoffs at the end of the season. Packers won a Super Bowl last year. That’s great coaching, hands down.
Cucos: The Giants being out-coached seems to happen too often with our game planning. The coordinators definitely need to adapt their schemes to our personnel which doesn’t happen nearly enough. I think if defensive coordinator Fewell plays more zone coverage than man with press coverage, this game won’t be close as Rodgers will pick the zone coverage apart. He moves much too well to let the Packers receivers get off the line and into their routes freely.
Chris: I disagree with you, Thad. I don’t think they were out coached at all. It all comes down to the players on the field. I think Coach Coughlin is one of the best coaches in the NFL so it’s all about executing the plays. I am not a fan of Kevin Gilbride though. I don’t understand his thought process on a lot of plays but Coach Coughlin stands by him, so I do also!
Thad: You guys harping on Gilbride reminds me of how Packers fans (myself included) harp on our special teams coordinator, Shawn Slocum!
Thad: Thank you guys for setting some time up for me to ask you guys a few questions! I have to admit that I am a bit surprised at the confidence level of you all as fans as well as the players themselves. For the most part, you all can see yourselves winning on Sunday based on your talent. I think we can all agree that this is going to be a very good game! In regards to the Packers, the week off seems to have done the Packers good. A lot of the players were beat up and by giving some players Week 17 off as well as the bye during Wild Card weekend, a bunch of our impact players should be well rested. What important player is injured for the Giants? What’s their current status?
Shane: Terrell Thomas. I think our weakest unit throughout the season has been the secondary. He took a huge leap last season into a star corner and I consider him a game changer. But he’s been on IR since before the season began.
Cucos: Shockingly, the Giants are as healthy as they have been all year. If we had Terrell Thomas (IR), this would be a lot better matchup, but the real question is probably Ross. He looks to be good for this game, but he is coming off a concussion, which you guys know all about with Rodgers. There could be a setback at anytime. If he can’t go and Amukamara has to start, the Giants are in trouble. He is a rookie, missed the first 9 weeks with an injury and has been lost all year.
Chris: Aaron Ross. I am not sure of his status but he is our second corner. If he doesn’t play that means Amukamara will play more which scares me a little bit because he is more of a raw talent. No matter who is playing in the secondary, it really depends on how well the defensive line can pressure Rodgers.
Thad: I’m going to end this by briefly asking Chris about why a die-hard Giants fan would buy Packers stock. When you told me that you did it, I nearly fell off of my chair. What made it even crazier was that you were on the site as soon as it opened and you got your confirmation hours before I did. You were 100 percent dedicated to becoming an owner. Why?
Chris: The reason I bought it is because it is a cool thing to say that you are an owner of an NFL team. No other team does that so to be able to have the opportunity to go to the meetings in Green Bay is kind of cool. If other teams offered stock then I wouldn’t have bought it but it’s fun to say you are an owner of a team with a great history.
Thad: Thanks again guys for taking the time to chat! I hope my fellow fans have gotten a chance to see how some Giants fans in New York City feel. I know it’s going to be an entertaining game, but no hard feelings guys, I really hope the Giants go down hard! GO! PACK! GO!