DAN SALOMONE: Fact - From OTAs to training camp to preseason, there’s a long, long way between the start of free agency and Week 1. But looking at the signing, you have to say “fact” right now. All 21 of Robinson’s starts have been at middle linebacker, a spot vacated by Jon Beason’s retirement. And, hey, the last free-agent middle linebacker the Giants signed from Washington didn’t turn out so bad…
LANCE MEDOW: Fact - Based on his experience and the current roster there’s a very good chance Keenan Robinson will be the Week 1 starter at middle linebacker. He was brought in to help fill the void left behind by Jon Beason retiring and he’s clearly the frontrunner for that spot. As of right now, the only other linebackers on the roster with experience manning the middle are Mark Herzlich, who has provided depth at that position but is mainly a key special teams contributor and Uani Unga, who has appeared in just 13 games following his first season in the NFL and coincidentally, with Beason sidelined, was the Week 1 starter in 2015. With free agency slowing down, if the Giants add other options at middle linebacker it will likely come through the draft, meaning barring a major shakeup to the roster, Robinson is the lead candidate to be the Week 1 starter.
Antonio Pierce was the best free-agent signing in Giants history.
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction - You won’t find a much bigger fan of Antonio Pierce than me, but you can make the argument he wasn’t even the best free agent acquisition of 2005. Plaxico Burress was a real game changer and is perhaps the biggest reason that the Giants beat the Packer in the 2007 NFC Championship game. Burress dominated Pro Bowler Al Harris from start to finish in that game and always gave Eli Manning a safe place to go with the football. Even though Burress’ career ended badly, without him the Giants never even get to Super Bowl 42. Could the Giants have won it without Antonio Pierce? I’m almost positive they wouldn’t have, but I know without a doubt they never even would have sniffed the game without Burress.
DAN SALOMONE: Fact - You can pull up a bunch of numbers to spin this question a couple ways, but here’s one: 36.8. That’s how many points the record-setting -- and undefeated -- Patriots averaged in 2007. The Giants held them to 14 points in the Super Bowl. Defense was the core of that team. Pierce was not only the heart of it, but he was also the brain.
LANCE MEDOW: Fiction - Antonio Pierce is one of the best free-agents signings in Giants history but I wouldn’t rank it atop the list. As I was looking through the candidates, I was torn between two: Plaxico Burress (2005) and Kerry Collins (1999). Burress would be the easy one to turn to given his stats, ownership of the Philadelphia Eagles during his tenure (they had absolutely no answer for him) and the game-winning catch in Super Bowl 42 but I also wonder what could have been had his Giants’ tenure continued beyond 2008. The latter is why I’m going with Collins, who I think is easily overlooked but when you look at his impact on the franchise there’s a strong argument as to why it’s the best free-agent signing. When the Giants signed Collins in 1999, he started the season as Kent Graham’s back-up but wound up taking over for Graham in Week 11. From that point on, he didn’t relinquish the job and helped provide stability at a position that New York had been searching for an answer since Phil Simms retired in 1993. In four seasons as the starter, Collins helped lead the Giants to a pair of double digit win seasons including a Super Bowl appearance following the 2000 campaign. That’s quite impressive given it’s very rare to find a reliable quarterback on the market because there’s such a high demand for that position and low supply. Plus, given Collins off the field issues, there was a risk in signing the former first round pick. Prior to his arrival, the Giants used Dave Brown, Tommy Maddox, Danny Kanell and Kent Graham under center. That group combined for one playoff appearance in six seasons; Collins doubled that total in just four seasons and helped build the bridge to Eli Manning.
This year’s “Bracket Challenge” will come down to Lawrence Taylor vs. Odell Beckham Jr.
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fact - The only chance LT has of being knocked off is if the fans unite between Eli Manning. I wonder if Eli will struggle vs Phil Simms, however, since he was never actually drafted by the team, but rather the product of a draft day trade of the Giants real draft pick that year, Phillip Rivers. Fans might take that out on Manning. I don’t think either quarterback will manage to take down LT in an eventual Final Four matchup. Punch number 56’s ticket. I wonder who would have won the matchup between Eli Manning and Odell Beckham if they were on the same side of the bracket.
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DAN SALOMONE: Fiction - L.T. is a given. But long before Beckham won the Paul Hornung Award as college football’s most versatile player, Frank Gifford was the most versatile player in professional football. The Hall of Famer remains one of the most dynamic players in the history of the game. He made the Pro Bowl as a defensive back, halfback, and flanker while totaling 9,862 combined yards during his career. He caught 43 touchdowns, rushed for 34 touchdowns, threw 14 touchdowns, recorded two interceptions, and even kicked two field goals.
LANCE MEDOW: Fact - I’m hoping for a match-up between two teammates: Lawrence Taylor and Carl Banks in the finals but given Odell Beckham’s overwhelming highlights in just two seasons, I don’t see anyone ousting him prior to the championship. Banks is Beckham’s only true threat on the right side of the bracket. Lawrence Taylor has some stiffer competition in Phil Simms and Eli Manning on the left side but I think it’s safe to say there’s no offensive line that will be helping the quarterbacks’ cause in that duel.
The NCAA tournament is more exciting than the NFL postseason
JOHN SCHMEELK: Both - This is not a cop out answer, I swear. Individually, a NCAA tournament game is not more exciting than an NFL playoff game. I will take the Divisional Playoff weekend over any other two days in sports. It is that good. The quality play is also superior since you are seeing the 12 best NFL teams as opposed to the best 68 college basketball teams. There’s going to be some bad basketball in there by default. But there’s a problem. In any given season there are 11 NFL playoff games: 4 on wildcard weekend, 4 on divisional weekend, 2 on championship weekend and then the Super Bowl. On day one (I’m not counting the first four) of the NCAA tournament there are 16 games being played, more than are played in an entire NFL postseason. The first four days of the tournament you see 48 basketball games. The sheer volume of games makes special moments almost impossible to avoid. There are no true Cinderella’s in the NFL playoffs. There are in the NCAA tournament. For one game, give me the NFL playoffs and it isn’t close. But as an event, I’ll take the 48 basketball games in 4 days. It is hard to beat.
DAN SALOMONE: Fiction - Quick: name the last five NCAA champions. Now name the last five Super Bowl winners. Better yet, just recall a dramatic moment from last year’s tournament. Now do the same with the NFL postseason. Which was easier? I rest my case.
LANCE MEDOW: Fiction - I love basketball...makes no difference what level of play but nothing beats the NFL postseason. While the NCAA Tournament provides plenty of excitement, given the volume of games and overlap, it’s unlikely the average fan has the time to focus on each contest. Therefore, for the most part, fans rely on the highlights. The NFL postseason may have less games but the schedule makes it easier to focus the buildup to every play in every contest. The latter has more substance.