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Fact or Fiction: Beckham's best season


** writers debate whether or not this is Odell Beckham Jr.'s best season thus far:


1. The 2016 Giants are better than the 2011 team heading into the postseason.

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JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction - This is a tougher question than at first glance. The Giants had the worst running game in football heading into the 2011 playoffs and the 27th-ranked defense. They were very flawed, though both those parts of the team improved significantly in the playoffs. Similarly, this Giants team has had issues running the football and scoring points in general, but the present day defense is just as elite as the Giants passing attack was in 2011. In the end, I will give the edge to the 2011 Giants for a simple reason: Eli Manning's fourth quarter play. I still believe 2011 was the best year of Manning's career, mostly because of his unheard of play in the fourth quarter. Just in fourth quarters that season, Manning threw for 1,715 yards (500 more yards than in any other quarter), completed 66 percent of his passes, and threw 15 touchdowns to just six interceptions. If the Giants needed a score late to win that season, Manning always seemed to get it. We have not seen that so far this season, so I'll give the edge to the 2011 group.

DAN SALOMONE: Fiction - The 2011 team wins the tiebreaker based on the veterans it had on the roaster. The Giants were stocked with players who had won it all in 2007, including Eli Manning, Chris Snee, David Diehl, Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, Dave Tollefson, Ahmad Bradshaw, Brandon Jacobs, Chase Blackburn, and the list goes on and on. That team also had safety Antrel Rolle, who had come up 35 seconds short of winning a title when he was with the Cardinals. This year's playmakers like Landon Collins, Janoris Jenkins, Odell Beckham Jr., Damon Harrison and Olivier Vernon have never been to the postseason at all. But hey, the Mannings, the Tucks, the Snees, and the Diehls of Giants lore had to start somewhere. Let's see what happens.

LANCE MEDOW: Fiction - This is a tough one mainly because the 2011 and 2016 teams are complete opposites. The 2011 squad had an offensive identity as it ranked in the Top 10 in points per game, passing yards per contest and total yards, whereas the defense ranked in the bottom half of the league in numerous categories. That's certainly not the case this season, but at the same time, the offensive production is below where it was in 2011 with the exception of the run game, which ranked 32nd in the league five years ago. The 2011 team played its best football in the last few weeks of the season, winning three of its final four games, including two victories over the Cowboys to win the NFC East.

Each of the team's three facets had a hand in the surge: Jason Pierre-Paul sealed a win over Dallas in Week 14 with a blocked field goal, Victor Cruz came through with a 99-yard touchdown off a short pass in Week 16 against the Jets, and the defense sacked Cowboys' quarterback Tony Romo six times in Week 17 thanks to the return of Osi Umenyiora from an ankle injury, so health-wise the team was in good shape entering the postseason. Factor in a breakout campaign from JPP, a dangerous trio of wide receivers in Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz and Mario Manningham, and the underrated play of tight end Jake Ballard, I'm giving the edge to the 2011 team.

2. This is Odell Beckham Jr.'s best season so far in the NFL.

JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction - Beckham had a better year last year for a few reasons. First, he had fewer drops: eight this year vs. four last year, according to Pro Football Focus. He has left a couple of touchdowns out there on the field this year. He also averaged 1.3 yards more per catch last year, while catching a higher percentage of passes thrown his way. He also had less help last year with Reuben Randle, Preston Parker and Dwayne Harris as his fellow receivers vs. Sterling Shepard and Victor Cruz this season. His impact on both seasons was huge, but last year was better.

DAN SALOMONE: Fact - He's four catches away from 100 for the season and 30 yards behind T.Y Hilton for the 2016 receiving yardage title, two things he has never accomplished. But aside from all the numbers – like also becoming the fastest player to 4,000 receiving yards with a chance to break Randy Moss' record (4,163) for most in a player's first three seasons – he's doing so with more attention from defenses than ever before. Consistency impresses me the most in the NFL, and Beckham continues to prove he's more than The Catch.

LANCE MEDOW: Fiction - You can easily make a case for each of Odell Beckham's first three seasons in the league given his production, but I think his sophomore campaign (2015) was his best to date. Last season, Beckham surpassed all his rookie totals in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns while playing in three additional games compared to 2014. Entering the final game of this season, the only category he'll likely top his 2015 numbers will be receptions. Last season, Beckham posted eight 100-yard receiving games, including a stretch of six straight from early November to mid-December.

He also had at least one touchdown in five of the last six games of the season and at least one catch for 24 yards in each of the last eight contests. That impressive run was highlighted by touchdown catches of 87 yards, 72 yards and 84 yards against the Patriots, Jets and Dolphins, respectively, in the span of four games. He's had plenty of big plays in 2016 but not enough to top the volume and consistency he showcased in 2015.

3. The NFC playoff field is deeper than the AFC.

JOHN SCHMEELK: Fact - If the Packers come out of the NFC North, the NFC will have five legitimate teams that, in my opinion, could make it to the Super Bowl. Even the sixth seed could make some noise in the NFC, whether it is the Redskins or the Lions. The AFC, meanwhile, realistically has only three teams capable of winning it all: the Patriots, Chiefs and Steelers. Injuries to Marcus Mariota and especially Derek Carr have certainly thinned out the teams in the AFC capable of bringing home a Lombardi Trophy. The Raiders had a real chance until Carr broke his leg. With those injuries, the NFC is the far deeper conference.

DAN SALOMONE: Fact - Overall, the AFC was 33-30-1 against the NFC this season. But the four NFC teams that have clinched – the Giants, Cowboys, Seahawks and Falcons -- are 13-3 in inter-conference games, including Dallas going 4-0 against the AFC North and Seattle doing the same against the AFC East.

LANCE MEDOW: Fact - Half of the AFC playoff field is starting a backup quarterback: Oakland (Matt McGloin), Houston (Tom Savage) and Miami (Matt Moore). In comparison, the current NFC playoff field showcases the following quarterbacks: Dak Prescott, Matt Ryan, Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers, Eli Manning and Matthew Stafford. On paper, the path for New England, the current number one seed in the AFC, to get to the Super Bowl is much easier than it is for its counterpart in the NFC, Dallas. Four potential NFC playoff teams rank in the Top 10 in the NFL in points per game, compared to just two in the AFC, including one team that just lost its starting quarterback.

4. The toughest destination for the Giants in the postseason would be Seattle.

JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction - While Seattle has the best home field advantage in the league, this Seahawks team has some serious issues heading into the playoffs. Their offensive line has struggled mightily and their vaunted Legion of Boom secondary isn't the same without Earl Thomas. I wouldn't request to play in Seattle by any means, but I would feel much less confident playing in Atlanta, Green Bay or Dallas, who, in my opinion, are all more complete teams at this point of the year.

DAN SALOMONE: Fact - Since Pete Carroll took over in 2010, the Seahawks are 5-0 at CenturyLink Field in the postseason, including two NFC Championship Games. In the regular season, they are an incredible 43-13 at home, winning by an average score of 26-17. No opponent wants to play there.

LANCE MEDOW: Fact - Since Russell Wilson took over as the Seahawks starting quarterback in 2012, Seattle has outscored the Giants, 61-17, in two meetings, including a 38-17 loss in the Emerald City in 2014. Eli Manning had one touchdown and six interceptions in those two games. CenturyLink Field is, by far, the loudest stadium in the NFL and that, along with an extremely physical defense, isn't an ideal combination for any team, especially the Giants. Atlanta and Green Bay also pose challenges, but Seattle is in a league of its own.

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