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Fact or Fiction: Best game of the year?


The staff debates Big Blue topics in Fact or Fiction:

The second Cowboys meeting was the best game of the season.

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JOHN SCHMEELK: Fact - I'll interpret "best game" to mean the best win, and without a doubt that would be the second win against Dallas. The Cowboys hadn't lost since Week 1 and were on an 11-game winning streak. They were the best team in the conference. The Giants met them at Metlife Stadium and held one of the most consistent and efficient offenses in football to only seven points. After allowing 86 yards to Ezekiel Elliott in the first half, he gained only 21 in the second thanks to a stout Giants defensive line. It was a statement win for the Giants that their own six-game winning streak was for real, and they would be a true team to be reckoned with moving forward. The most exciting win was the victory against Baltimore on October 16, where two long Odell Beckham Jr. touchdowns were the difference.

DAN SALOMONE: FactAfter having their six-game winning streak snapped in Pittsburgh, all the Giants heard that week was that they couldn't beat a playoff-caliber team. So what did they do? They held the best team in the NFL to seven points, 260 total yards, and 1-for-15 on third downs. The victory bookended the Cowboys' 11-game winning streak, which began after the Giants defeated them in the season opener. The Giants followed it up with 17-6 victory over the Lions, who were leading the NFC North at that point.

LANCE MEDOW: Fiction - The second meeting against the Cowboys at MetLife Stadium in Week 14 featured one of the best performances by the defense in 2016 and completed a season series sweep of Dallas, but I wouldn't classify it as the best game. That label belongs to the Ravens game in Week 6 when the Giants outlasted Baltimore, 27-23. It came down to the Giants breaking up a pass in the end zone to preserve the win and was one of three games in which the Giants overcame a double-digit deficit. Plus, the game only showcased five lead changes. It also featured one of the best individual performances by a Giant in franchise history as Odell Beckham finished with eight receptions for 222 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He had a go-ahead 75-yard touchdown in the third quarter and then followed that up with a 66-yard catch-and-run that ultimately proved to be the game-winning score.

The best play of the season was Landon Collins' pick-six in London.

JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction - Sorry folks, but I am an adamant about "Fiction" on this one. For one, the interception itself was a gift. The ball was tipped in the air and went right to Collins. The run back was impressive, but since the catch itself was so easy and not the product of a great play, I can't call it the best play of the year. To me, that has to be either Beckham's first touchdown against the Ravens on a well-run stop-and-go, or his game-winner against the Cowboys. The latter showed off Beckham's run-after-the-catch ability, and how he is able to turn a simple catch on a crossing route against coverage into a monster play. The former showed off his route-running skills. Both were the difference between a Giants win and loss as well.

DAN SALOMONE: Fact - The only thing more impressive than Landon's return was the work done by the Skycam team that did not miss a frame. But aside from the wow factor by the former high school running back, the season really took off from there – individually, as a defense, and as a team. The All-Pro safety had a true breakout campaign for a defense that allowed a league-low 25 offensive touchdowns.

LANCE MEDOW: Fact -In our recent Cover 3 feature, I chose this as the defining moment of the season, so as far as I'm concerned, it's a clear fact. When Landon Collins picked off Case Keenum in the second quarter and returned the interception 44 yards for a touchdown, it was a huge game-changing play and is arguably the best defensive play by any player in the league in 2016. Collins avoided numerous tackles and bounced off a number of Rams like a pinball before finally finding the end zone. That touchdown tied the game at 10-10 and was key given the offense had struggled to put points on the board until that point. Collins' performance in Week 7 against the Rams was also the turning point of his season, as well as that of the team. Starting with the London game, Collins put together a stretch of four straight games with at least one interception, and after the Giants managed just three takeaways in the first six games combined, they had at least one takeaway in each of the last ten contests. The defense became opportunistic and one of the stingiest units in the NFL.

The most intriguing player for next year is Paul Perkins.

These five players could make a key impact for the Giants in the 2017 season

JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction - Paul Perkins is the answer on offense, for sure. He should be the full-time starter next year, and his ability to make people miss is enticing. His improvement in pass protection should also allow him to be a three-down back if the Giants elect to use him that way. He has the look of a quality starting running back in the league, and for the Giants to have found him on Day 3 of the draft is a credit to the scouting department. My answer here instead is Darian Thompson. I consider him more intriguing because we haven't had a chance to see him play in a series of full regular season games yet. The coaches love him, and he beat out veterans for the job in the spring thanks to his smarts and ability to command the defense. I can't wait to see him play next to Landon Collins for a full season next year.

DAN SALOMONE: Fiction - We got to see all the rookies grow throughout the season with the exception of one: safety Darian Thompson. I'm interested to see him after his promising start was derailed by a foot injury. In line to start opposite Landon Collins, he was limited to just two games. It wouldn't be a Giants offseason if we weren't talking about the safeties, so let's see what the Mountain West's all-time interceptions leader can do.

LANCE MEDOW: Fact -Toward the end of the season, due to injuries to Orleans Darkwa and Shane Vereen, Paul Perkins' workload increased and he certainly showed flashes of what he could potentially do down the road. In each of the last four games when he received double-digit carries, he increased his total rushing yards in each contest capped by a 102-yard performance against the Redskins in Week 17. Perkins also showcased his ability to do damage as a receiver as was demonstrated against the Vikings in Week 4 when he gained 67 yards off a screen pass. and he improved in pass protection. When you factor in what he accomplished in his rookie campaign and potential changes in the backfield next season, Perkins is by far the most intriguing player.

The most intriguing 2017 matchup is vs. Oakland.

JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction - Double intrigue! The Raiders are going to be one of the best teams the Giants play next year, but I'm not sure they are the most intriguing since we have a good feel for what they are. Khalil Mack is a monster pass rusher on defense, while Derek Carr, Amari Cooper and a strong offensive line lead an explosive offense. I'm going with Denver here since they have a new head coach, and we aren't quite sure who their starting quarterback is going to be. They can return to Super Bowl form if their offense can just get a little more consistent with better offensive line and quarterback play, but we aren't sure if that's going to happen. That's why, to me, they are the most intriguing!

DAN SALOMONE: Fiction - It's Dallas. It's always Dallas. And maybe they'll open the season against each other for something new. Meanwhile, the Cowboys will look to become the first repeat champion in the NFC East since the Eagles won four in a row from 2001-04. Of course, the Giants handed the Cowboys two of their three losses in 2016. These two teams brought some power back to the division this season and will look to do the same in 2017.

LANCE MEDOW: Fact -A number of teams on the 2017 schedule still have coaching and starting quarterback question marks, so of the opponents who have some stability in those departments, the Raiders top the list. The Giants are scheduled to visit Oakland next season and given how much progress the Raiders made in 2016 and the young roster likely staying intact, this matchup will present a number of challenges for the Giants. Quarterback Derek Carr was considered an MVP candidate before he was injured in Week 16. Oakland has a number of weapons in the backfield and receiving corps, including Amari Cooper, and defensive end Khalil Mack is one of the most disruptive players in the NFL. Right now, I'd put the Broncos second and if they make a change at quarterback, that could move them to first.

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