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Fact or Fiction: Xavier McKinney to Pro Bowl?


The crew is presented with four statements and must decide whether they are Fact or Fiction.

Xavier McKinney will make the Pro Bowl.

John Schmeelk: Fact - When it comes to safety play, Pro Bowl voters like to look at interceptions, and right now McKinney's five interceptions is tops among NFC safeties. He is a big name from a big program and was considered the top safety in his draft class, which gives him name recognition. Most importantly, his play as a ball-hawking deep safety, which is the most important trait for a player at his position.

Dan Salomone: Fact – When it comes to the Pro Bowl, a rising tide lifts all boats. So, as long as the defense continue on its upwards trajectory, postseason honors could open up for players. The thing about McKinney, though, is he is not only a boat; he is also a rising tide.

Lance Medow: Fiction – Only three safeties make the Pro Bowl roster. Last season, those three were the Cardinals' Budda Baker and Jamal Adams and Quandre Diggs of the Seahawks. Xavier McKinney has a strong resume with five interceptions, a Pick 6, nine passes defensed and 61 tackles, but you can't overlook the fact that there will be several other players in the NFC, who will receive heavy consideration such as Adams and Diggs, Jordan Fuller of the Rams, Carolina's Jeremy Chinn and Harrison Smith of the Vikings. McKinney will be in the mix but don't be surprised if he falls just short given the names and notoriety of some of the other players.

Matt Citak: Fact –McKinney is making a massive impact on the Big Blue defense. His five interceptions lead the team and is tied for the third-most in the NFL. He has an NFC Defensive Player of the Week award under his belt already, along with several appearances on Pro Football Focus' Team of the Week. He is turning into a ball hawk in the secondary for the Giants, and seems to continue to improve each week he steps out on the field. As long as he continues to perform at this level, McKinney will make the Pro Bowl in just his second NFL season.

Saquon Barkley will have his best rushing game of the season.

John Schmeelk: Fiction - The Dolphins gave up at least 120 rushing yards in each of their first five games of the season. They have held opponents under 105 rushing yards for seven straight weeks. They play smaller linebackers and load the field with defensive backs, but their defensive line is strong. Former first-round pick and defensive tackle Christian Wilkins is a good run stuffer inside, and the Dolphins are not afraid to bring extra players into the box to stop the run and trust their cornerbacks to cover man-to-man. Saquon Barkley might begin to hit his stride but it could be tough sledding against a good Miami rush defense.

Dan Salomone: Fact – There has been talk this week about getting ready to go from playing in 30-degree temperatures to 80s and high humidity during a 1 p.m. kickoff in Miami. For Saquon Barkley, it could be an advantage. The weather will only help his ankle feel better.

Lance Medow: Fiction - The Dolphins have been strong against the run this season as they're allowing 105 yards per game (10th in the NFL). Miami showcases several solid players up front including Emmanuel Ogbah, Christian Wilkins, Andrew Van Ginkel, Elandon Roberts, Jerome Baker and Jaelan Phillips, who are effective in getting to the quarterback and clogging up run lanes. When you take into consideration how often Miami blitzes, this will be a tough test for the Giants offensive line. Saquon Barkley's season-high in rushing yards is 57 against Washington and he hasn't surpassed 40 since he returned from injury. Last week, the Dolphins held the Panthers to 64 rushing yards, including just 35 for Christian McCaffrey on 10 first-half carries.

Matt Citak: Fact – In order for the fourth-year back to have his best game in rushing yards this year, he will need to top 57 yards. Despite the Dolphins playing well against the run this season, Barkley will reach that number this Sunday in Miami. The strength of the Dolphins' run defense is shutting down outside runs. The Giants seem to prefer to run the ball inside, where Miami has seen far less success. Whether or not Daniel Jones plays, Freddie Kitchens will likely want to establish the run early and often, which should bode well for Barkley, who is another week removed from the sprained ankle that cost him four games earlier this season.

Protecting the quarterback from Brian Flores' blitzes is the first priority on Sunday.

John Schmeelk: Fact - The Dolphins blitz 42% of opponent snaps, which is the highest rate in the league. Their blitz rate jumps all the way to 52% on third downs. They also run stunts and twists at the sixth-highest rate in the NFL. In addition to bringing additional rushers and using movement to create pressure, the Dolphins also have talented individual rushers in Emmanuel Ogbah, Christian Wilkins and rookie Jaelan Phillips, who has five sacks in his last four games. Their pressure creates sacks and forces quarterbacks into bad decisions if the offense does not properly diagnose what is happening pre-snap.

Dan Salomone: Fact – This is true any time you play his defense, but it goes double when you need to play your backup in a December game. This is the first, second, and third priority if the Giants want to stop the Dolphins' four-game win streak.

Lance Medow: Fact - Play in the trenches will define Sunday's game against the Dolphins. No one blitzes more than Miami and defensive coordinator Josh Boyer is more than willing to send members of the secondary after the quarterback given that position group is responsible for six of the team's 28 sacks. A total of 11 different players have at least half a sack so that alone showcase the diversity of the defense. In last week's game against the Panthers, the Dolphins recorded five sacks and 11 quarterback hits and in the previous week against the Jets, two sacks and eight QB hits. They even collected four sacks and seven quarterback hits against Lamar Jackson and the Ravens. It makes no difference whether you have a mobile signal caller.

Matt Citak: Fact – Joe Judge, Daniel Jones and several others have spoken about the aggressiveness of the Dolphins this week, and for good reason. Miami is second in the NFL with their 38.4 percent blitz rate on dropbacks, just 0.4 percent behind Tampa Bay for the highest rate in the league. The next closest is Baltimore at 34.8 percent. Providing Mike Glennon with as much time as possible will give the offense the best chance at being able to drive down the field.

The familiarity between the Giants and Dolphins coaching staffs is a big factor this week.

John Schmeelk: Fact - Aside from Bill Belichick and the Patriots, it would be difficult to find another staff more familiar with what Brian Flores is trying to do defensively than Patrick Graham and Joe Judge. Identifying what blitzes are coming from what direction and on what play is essential to beating those blitzes. If they can give the Giants' offensive players some help in identifying those pressures it will help the offense execute at a high level on Sunday.

Dan Salomone: Fact – The crossover stems from Joe Judge and Brian Flores coming up through the ranks together in New England. They know each well and in fact root for each other from the other conference. The fun part of this chess game won't be what they expect from each other; it will be the wrinkles and any trick plays they draw up.

Lance Medow: Fiction - You could argue if both staffs are that familiar with one another, they essentially offset each other. Remember, Joe Judge and Patrick Graham were around Tom Brady for years yet the Bucs still produced 30 points in their Week 11 win over the Giants. It's a nice story line entering the game but it may not carry much weight.

Matt Citak: Fact – The amount of familiarity between these two coaching staffs is crazy, and it starts all the way at the top. Judge and Flores spent seven seasons together in New England, while Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham, Quarterbacks Coach Jerry Schuplinski, and Dolphins Defensive Coordinator Josh Boyer were also on Bill Belichick's coaching staff during that time. In addition to working numerous years together, many of these coaches remain close friends, as they noted earlier this week. Graham and Schuplinski also worked for Flores in Miami in 2019 before coming to the Giants to join Judge's staff.

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