NFL

Eli Manning to start for Giants against Eagles

By Sports Desk December 07, 2019

Eli Manning will start for the New York Giants against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 14 after Daniel Jones was officially ruled out of the game.

Quarterback Jones - who took over as the Giants' starter in Week 3, leading the team to back-to-back victories in his first two NFL outings - has not practiced all week due to a high ankle sprain.

The rookie suffered the injury in the 31-13 home loss to the Green Bay Packers last Sunday, a result that extended New York's losing streak to eight games.

Manning will now make his 245th start for the franchise in an all-NFC East battle in Philadelphia on Monday.

"He looks good. He's had a good week. He always has a good look in his eye," Giants offensive coordinator Mike Shula said on Friday.

The two-time Super Bowl winner will be aided in his return by the availability of Golden Tate. The wide receiver is set to feature after clearing concussion protocol, but tight end Evan Engram is again out.

They will also be without Jabrill Peppers; the safety has been placed on injured reserve, bringing an end to his campaign, due to a back injury. 

Sean Chandler - signed off the practice squad - takes Peppers' place on the roster, while the fit-again Kareem Martin replaces fellow linebacker Chris Peace, who - like Peppers - is also done for the season.

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    This weekend four will become two in the NFL playoffs and the Super LIV matchup will be decided.

    In the AFC, there will be no New England Patriots in the Super Bowl for the first time in four years. Indeed, the Pats, Denver Broncos, Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers or Indianapolis Colts have represented the AFC in the past 16 Super Bowls, but this year either the Kansas City Chiefs or Tennessee Titans will be in Miami.

    The NFC has been a more open conference and either the San Francisco 49ers or Green Bay Packers - two of the NFL's most storied organisations - will be the sixth different franchise to win that Championship Game in the past six years.

    But which team will go on to lift the Lombardi Trophy at Hard Rock Stadium on February 2? Our writers make their predictions.

     

    Liam Blackburn: The Tennessee Titans

    To prosper in the playoffs you need a stout defense and a strong running game. Tennessee have five turnovers in two playoff wins and have given up a combined 25 points. A tick for that stout defense.

    Then they have Derrick Henry, the NFL's rushing champion, who has in his last three games accrued 588 yards (yes, 588 yards) on the ground. A tick for that strong running game.

    The Titans have had to do it the hard way too and they are battle-hardened because of it. Would any of the other three in the final four have beaten the Patriots and Ravens on the road?

    And Tennessee did not just beat them, they smashed them. The Texans squandered a 24-point lead against the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium last week, but Kansas City's next opponents have shown they do not crumble from such positions.

    In the NFL's 100th season, it would be fitting if the most old-school team left went on to win it all.

    Chris Myson: The Kansas City Chiefs

    Despite the astonishing success of Henry over recent weeks and the Ravens' dominance of the regular season, the passing game remains the key to success in the modern NFL.

    The best passing attack left in the playoffs is that of the Chiefs, who are led by Patrick Mahomes, the best quarterback in the game.

    While Mahomes has not quite hit the heights of his MVP season due to injuries for himself and key receivers, along with some natural regression after his extraordinary numbers in 2018, he remains magnificent.

    Team-mates believe Mahomes' leadership and pre-snap reads have moved to another level in his second year as a starter.

    His performance in heavy snow against the Broncos in Week 15 was a warning to playoff rivals even before his inspirational five-TD showing to see off the Texans in the Wild Card Round, with Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, Mecole Hardman representing a superb group of weapons.

    On the other side of the ball, Aaron Donald is the only defensive tackle who is better than Chris Jones, whose possible injury return would be another huge factor in the Chiefs' favour.

    Christopher Devine: The Green Bay Packers

    The value of an experienced signal caller is at its highest in the biggest games.

    Four of the last five Super Bowls have been won by a team with a vastly experienced quarterback, the Philadelphia Eagles' success with Nick Foles under center the only exception.

    For that reason alone, the presence of the ice-cool Aaron Rodgers - the only QB in action this weekend who knows what it takes to win a Super Bowl - is a reason for confidence in the Packers.

    Rodgers has certainly not had his best season, but his ability to come through in the clutch is arguably unparalleled and he stepped up to the plate with a vintage performance as Green Bay edged out the Seattle Seahawks to reach the NFC Championship game.

    Crucially, this Packers side also has so much more to offer. 

    Rookie head coach Matt LaFleur has transformed his side's offense, making it far less reliant on Rodgers' individual brilliance and getting much more out of star running back Aaron Jones.

    In addition, an impressive defense features Za'Darius Smith - an elite pass rusher who finished the year with 93 pressures, the most in the NFL.

    The Packers will start as underdogs against the Niners, but they have the weapons to get the job done in both California and Miami.

    Nicholas McGee: The San Francisco 49ers

    Being the most complete team in the playoffs doesn't always translate to Super Bowl success but, following the Ravens' exit, that is what the Niners are and they are rounding into peak form at exactly the right time.

    The 49ers are also the most battle-tested team left of the four, having come through a series of heart-stoppers with the New Orleans Saints, Seattle Seahawks and Los Angeles Rams.

    San Francisco can win in a variety of ways, but in their 27-10 Divisional Round throttling of the Minnesota Vikings they got back to the formula that saw them start 8-0, with a dominant run game wearing the opposition down and a suffocating defense tormenting the opposing quarterback.

    Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins was sacked six times and pressured on 17 of his 35 dropbacks, according to analytics site Pro Football Focus, with Minnesota averaging just 3.3 yards per play on offense.

    With Dee Ford returning to an ultra-talented defensive line and linebacker Kwon Alexander and Jaquiski Tartt also back from injury, there is little to suggest this defense will not maintain that level of performance the rest of the way.

    That takes a lot of pressure off Jimmy Garoppolo and the passing game. However, Garoppolo and a pass-catching group featuring George Kittle, Emmanuel Sanders and Deebo Samuel put the team on their back down the stretch in the regular season. If the Niners need to win through the air, they have the talent and the play-caller, head coach Kyle Shanahan, to do so.

    The Niners have won every type of game in 2019 and have thrived in pressure situations throughout the season. That is a recipe for a team to be holding the Lombardi Trophy come February 2.

  • Joe Judge praises 'great teacher' Jason Garrett after New York Giants move Joe Judge praises 'great teacher' Jason Garrett after New York Giants move

    Joe Judge described Jason Garrett as "a great teacher" after the former Dallas Cowboys head coach moved to the New York Giants as Offensive Coordinator.

    Garrett will now have the chance to beat his old team twice a year after moving to their NFC East rivals, who pursued him after his contract with the Cowboys was not renewed.

    The 53-year-old spent nine-and-a-half seasons as Dallas coach, a spell in which he only recorded one losing season and won three division titles, but tasted victory in just two playoff games.

    Giants coach Judge, appointed as the replacement for Pat Shurmur this month, was thrilled to land a man of Garrett's experience.

    "I've known about Jason for a long time, not only through the general public as well-known as he is as head coach of the Cowboys," said Judge, who joined the Giants after serving as the New England Patriots' Special Teams Coordinator.

    "There were guys I worked with that I came across in my career at both Alabama and at the New England Patriots that worked with Jason through their time in Miami with him. 

    "They consistently all reflected on how smart he is, how great a teacher he is and how his perspective of the game was through a different lens than most coaches. And when he sees it, he's able to communicate it and paint that mental image to the players."

    Garrett spent four seasons as the Giants' backup quarterback during his playing days and his appointment offers Judge, a first-time head coach, a valuable sounding board.

    "We had some great conversations when we were able to bring him in here," Judge said of his interview with Garrett, which took place this week. 

    "It was a great opportunity to get to know each other a little better than we had before. It was a great opportunity to sit there and talk ball and share philosophies and views on the game. 

    "It's a great system he brings with great teaching that will allow our players to go out there and play aggressively. And he does a fantastic job of making in-game adjustments."

    The Giants, now led by Daniel Jones at quarterback, have not won a playoff game since their Super Bowl victory at the end of the 2011 season, a triumph which was their second in the space of five years.

  • Kittle feeling 'fabulous' despite ankle issue ahead of NFC Championship Game Kittle feeling 'fabulous' despite ankle issue ahead of NFC Championship Game

    San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle feels "fabulous" heading into the NFC Championship Game despite missing practice on Wednesday.

    Kittle, a star performer for the Niners in their outstanding NFL season, appeared on the injury report and sat out with an ankle problem.

    But the 26-year-old was in high spirits as he returned to the field on Thursday ahead of the title game against the Green Bay Packers.

    Asked for an assessment of his ankle, Kittle told reporters at a news conference: "I feel fabulous, thanks for asking."

    49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan discussed the decision to keep Kittle on the sidelines the previous day, having earlier given no indication of the issue.

    "The soreness did [surprise me] a little bit," Shanahan said. "That's why I didn't bring it up in here before practice [on Wednesday].

    "We knew he had some wear and tear from the game. It was a little sorer than we thought before practice, so that's why we held him out."

    However, Shanahan was confident there would be no further surprises on that front.

    Shanahan replied when asked if he was concerned by Kittle's ankle before Sunday: "No, I'm not."

    Kittle started 14 of San Francisco's 16 regular-season games, missing two weeks with knee and ankle problems in November.

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