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    NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: FRIDAY, JANUARY 6, 2012 - 3:10 P.M.

    HERE NOW THE NEWS

    THE DATA WILL UPDATE THROUGHOUT THE DAY AND SHOW THE UPDATE TIME IN THE HEADER.

    NFC EAST DIVISION CHAMPIONS

    NEWARK STAR LEDGER


    GIANTS-FALCONS GAME PREVIEW: A LOOK AHEAD AT WHAT SHOULD BE A CLOSE PLAYOFF GAME

    "
    Usually, by this point in a regular-season week, we've talked about most of
    the coming game but have left a few dangling keys and matchups.


    This week, we've covered Giants-Falcons from top to bottom.




    So let's just do a quick brush-up on a few things, with some added analysis
    by me where I can provide it, and get to your opinions, predictions and insights
    down below.




    * * * *




    SUNDAY'S GAME: vs. Atlanta Falcons, 1 p.m., Fox




    MATCHUPS TO WATCH




    Offense: I recall watching the Falcons' game against the
    Saints two weeks ago and hearing Jon Gruden say New Orleans wanted to make CB
    Brent Grimes tackle. It was Grimes' first game back since
    having knee surgery a few weeks prior.




    Well, Grimes then sat out this past weekend's game and two practices this
    week. He returned to work today and is listed as questionable, though I'd highly
    doubt he'll sit out on Sunday. So why not make him tackle again? The Giants have
    a couple of guys who are tough to tackle in RBs Brandon Jacobs
    and Ahmad Bradshaw, so that could be a nice way to soften
    Grimes up early. Get those guys to the edge and see how the undersized,
    banged-up guy responds.




    Also, the Giants might be wise to throw some "now" routes (quick throws at
    the line) with WR Hakeem Nicks - if he gets the chance to see
    Grimes. Nicks is a physical guy, so he could be an issue. Plus, there's that
    receiver screen they like to throw to RB D.J. Ware, which could
    be effective. And if WR Victor Cruz is covered by Grimes, well
    his shiftiness could be a problem for that achy knee.




    Long story short, the Falcons are at a disadvantage because Grimes is
    hurting. Let's see if the Giants try to attack that potential weak spot.




    Defense: You have to give the Falcons credit. They went out
    and tried to get their hands on A.J. Green in the draft but couldn't get to him
    before the Bengals did. Sensing the need to add another target for QB Matt Ryan,
    they stayed aggressive and traded up for WR Julio Jones. They
    wanted to create matchup nightmares for opposing defenses who had to deal with
    Jones, WR Roddy White and TE Tony
    Gonzalez
    .




    Now, after a very good rookie season for Jones (54 catches for 959 yards and
    eight touchdowns in 13 games played), they have exactly what they want heading
    into Sunday's game against the Giants.




    Okay, so how do the Giants defend it? Whom does CB Corey
    Webster
    cover? He's been the guy to match
    up against an opposing team's No. 1 receiver
    for much of the year and has
    been very successful at times. Still, the Giants didn't play the matchup game
    against the Cowboys' balanced group of receivers this past weekend. (For most of
    the game, though they seemed to match up Webster on WR Dez Bryant in no-huddle
    situations.) And I don't think they'll do it here, either.

    In doing some research, it sounds like they might have Webster and CB
    Aaron Ross play sides and however the Falcons line up, so be
    it. That's actually a pretty wise approach, I think, because you get to have
    each guy play the side on which he's most comfortable - Ross on the right,
    Webster on the left. And it's not like either guy is a slouch, so there's really
    not a clear No. 1 there. I do think Webster has to do a good job of stopping
    Jones from getting vertical quickly when he lines up against him. If that guy
    gets going into a deep route easily, look out.


    As for Gonzalez, you're going to have to let LBs Michael
    Boley
    and Jacquian Williams cover him and just pray
    they show up ready to play. They have at times, and I thought Boley did a pretty
    decent job against the Pats' Rob Gronkowski earlier this year, so to devote an
    extra man to Gonzalez with White and Jones on the outside would be a mistake, in
    my opinion.




    THE LINE: Giants by 3. Over-under 47.




    THE PREDICTION: I've given only a general feel for things in
    the blog this season instead of exact scores but after my call of 31-13 Giants
    last week (just 1 point off the final), the pressure's on. I'll say 27-24 Giants
    here.




    ONE MORE THING: Falcons LB Curtis Lofton might be one of the
    more under-appreciated defensive players in the league. This guy can hit and
    isn't bad in coverage, either. Keep an eye on No. 50, particularly when the
    Giants try to run the ball right up the gut. I wouldn't mind seeing him and
    Jacobs go 1-on-1 a few times to see who wins that battle."

    FALCON'S INJURY REPORT: LB STEPHEN NICHOLAS DOUBTFUL, CB BRENT GRIMES QUESTIONABLE

    "
    The Atlanta Falcons finished practice yesterday a lot more confident their top
    cornerback will be available tomorrow against the Giants.


    Brent Grimes, who missed the team’s regular-season finale against the Tampa
    Bay Buccaneers, missed practice Wednesday as a precautionary measure due to a
    knee issue but practiced on a limited basis Thursday and yesterday.




    “It’s the playoffs, so I need to be out there helping the team,” Grimes said.
    “My knee feels good, and today was all about getting my timing down in
    practice.”




    The team officially listed him as questionable for tomorrow, but Grimes is
    likely to start.




    The only Falcons player listed as doubtful is linebacker
    Stephen Nicholas, who was off to the side with the training staff yesterday
    working through a toe injury.



    All of the following players are listed as probable and are
    expected to play tomorrow: DE John Abraham (non-injury related), DT Jonathan
    Babineaux (hamstring), RB Mike Cox (finger), WR Harry Douglas (groin), TE Tony
    Gonzalez (non-injury related), DT Peria Jerry (calf), WR Julio Jones (thumb), TE
    Reggie Kelly (back), LB Curtis Lofton (ankle), C Todd McClure (non-injury
    related), WR Kerry Meier (groin), S William Moore (groin), CB Christopher Owens
    (hand), TE Michael Palmer (knee), RB Jason Snelling (knee), RB Michael Turner
    (groin), LB Sean Weatherspoon (head) and WR Roddy White (hip).




    Abraham, Gonzalez and McClure are typically rested early in the practice week
    but have to appear on the report as non-injury-related absences."

    GIANTS' JUSTIN TUCK DOESN'T PRACTICE BUT IT ISN'T A CONCERN

    Excerpt: "
    Justin Tuck didn't practice today due to a shoulder injury he aggravated
    against the Cowboys last week, but Tom Coughlin said he was just sore and it
    isn't a concern. He is listed as probable for Sunday's playoff game against
    Atlanta.


    Tuck has battled injuries all season -- from his neck down to a toe -- but
    turned the corner over the final two weeks of the regular season by fighting
    through the pain mentally, as he put it. Last week against the Cowboys, after
    suffering the shoulder injury, he sacked Tony Romo to force a fumble.




    Tuck wouldn't talk to reporters, who asked him several times about the injury
    and his status. All he offered was a "no comment."




    ***




    TE Jake Ballard went through today's practice without a setback and said he
    expects to go "full speed" against the Falcons. Ballard hasn't played since
    partially tearing his PCL against Washington in Week 15." Read more...

    GIANTS' VICRTOR CRUZ TURNS DOWN DANCING WITH THE STARS OFFER; SAYS MAYVBE IN THE FUTURE

    Excerpt: "It was only a matter of time.


    It began as homage to his Puerto Rican roots. Nine touchdowns and 1,500-plus
    yards later, Victor Cruz, the Giants' breakout receiver, was offered a spot on
    the upcoming season of Dancing With the Stars. But, citing where he's at in his
    football career and the time commitment the show calls for, he turned it down.




    "I just didn't want to do it," Cruz said. "I'm just not at a point where I
    felt like I should be doing that stuff."




    Cruz said the show would air from approximately from March to May and would
    require about 20 hours of practice per week.




    "We're in the postseason, that's like 18 weeks," said Cruz. "I had enough
    practice for now. I'm not trying to go into another three months worth of
    practice.




    Then there were the outfits the performers on the show wear.




    "Yeah, that was definitely one of the reasons," Cruz said." Read more...


    ##

    GIANTS TO FACE FALCONS' NO-HUDDLE OFFENSE THAT DRAWS INFLUENCE FROM SAM WYCHE

    Excerpt: "
    Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey made the best of his time in
    Tampa Bay with the makeshift office jammed at the end of the hallway.


    As a quality control and tight ends coach there in 1994 and ’95, the
    Buccaneers never finished better than fifth in the division and did not have a
    player make the Pro Bowl.




    But it was during those long seasons that he picked up the feel for the
    no-huddle, developed for every situation by then-head coach Sam Wyche — a man
    who loved the offense so much that he named his 28-foot Mako fishing boat after
    it.




    Wyche had popularized the white-knuckle scheme in 1984 as the head coach of
    the Cincinnati Bengals. Through the ’80s, he was penalized by confused
    officials, sworn at by players and protested against for its uncanny ability to
    eliminate what little resting time defenses had. Longtime Buffalo Bills coach
    Marv Levy once threatened to fake a player injury on every play in which it was
    used.




    But by the time Mularkey came on staff, it was an institution. The coach
    soaked up Wyche’s teaching and eventually helped him innovate the no-huddle for
    a more sophisticated era in football.




    It became the devastating solution to a simple question Wyche asked himself
    as a young head coach more than 25 years ago:




    “Jeepers, how stupid is an offense to be in a situation where everybody in
    the stadium knows you’re going to throw the ball and you’re going to let them
    caucus for 20 seconds and bring in their best defenders?” Wyche said in a
    telephone interview yesterday. “That doesn’t make sense.” Read more...

    GIANTS' JACQUIAN WILLIAMS OVERCOMES STRUGGLES TO FIND SUCCESS IN ROOKIE SEASON

    Excerpt: "Jacquian Williams says he has rediscovered his confidence as a player. And it
    was a postgame comment from coach Tom Coughlin, after a tough loss to the Green
    Bay Packers on Dec. 4, that helped him get there.


    The Giants rookie linebacker had
    gambled on a fourth-quarter play, aggressively going after a pass by Packers
    quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Except Williams wound up allowing a 24-yard
    catch-and-run to tight end Jermichael Finley — enough to spark the Packers’
    game-winning drive, rather than sending the game to overtime.




    But afterward, Coughlin supported Williams’ aggressiveness to the media,
    calling him “a young guy trying to make a play.” Williams was later shown
    Coughlin’s remarks — proof he should stay the course.




    “You want to do everything right,” Williams said. “But I started going into
    my own element. I started getting my confidence. That’s the way I play; that’s
    what got me here.”




    Williams, a sixth-round pick who was thrust into a larger role after Jonathan
    Goff tore his ACL before the season began, has had ups
    and downs this season.
    But in the last few weeks, teammates have noticed him
    playing at a higher level: He had a strong game against the Jets, including two
    stops and a fumble recovery, and recorded his first career sack in the season
    finale against the Dallas Cowboys.



    “He’s been lights out,” safety Antrel Rolle said. “He understands the defense
    a whole lot more, which is something that we expect from him. He’s an
    outstanding, outstanding athlete, and he does wonders for this defense.”




    Williams’ speed was an appealing trait to the Giants when they scouted him
    out of South Florida, and it made him a good fit as a nickel linebacker. But
    Williams needed to match the mental side of the game, and a mastery of the
    Giants' defense, with his physical gifts." Read more...

    BRANDON JACOBS, GIANTS THINK RUN GAME IS ON THE UPSWING

    Excerpt: "The recipe for Giants Football, the
    game plan the team emphasizes seemingly each and every day, begins with two
    simple objectives: rush the passer on defense and establish the run on offense.



    It is a formula the Giants used to perfection in 2007 and one the team
    continues to reiterate as they prepare for another playoff appearance against
    the Falcons on Sunday — even if establishing the run was a missing ingredient
    for much of the season.




    The Giants averaged just 89.2 yards per game, last in the NFL — an unexpected
    nosedive after being ranked lower than 11th just once in coach Tom Coughlin’s
    first seven seasons.




    Yet the Giants believe they can move the ball on the ground enough to be
    effective after finishing the season with at least 100 rushing yards in four of
    their last five games.




    The drastic turnaround — the spurt started just two weeks after rushing for
    only 29 yards against the Philadelphia Eagles — has the offense confident going
    against a speedy Atlanta Falcons run defense that yielded just 97 yards per
    game, sixth-fewest in the league.




    “It’s definitely going to be a challenge for us, but I honestly don’t see a
    reason why we can’t (run the ball) just like every week,” running back Brandon
    Jacobs said.




    There have been multiple factors for ground game’s turnaround, from Ahmad
    Bradshaw returning from injury to the shuffling along the offensive line, but
    the Giants believe it just came down to sticking to it and improving all around
    — from the running backs to the offensive line.




    “I wish we had the magic answer, but I think the runners are doing a better
    job of staying inside and hitting the holes the way they should,” offensive
    coordinator Kevin Gilbride said. “I think the linemen are doing a better job and
    it really started with Mitch Petrus and Kevin Boothe and now that David is back,
    it has continued. I don’t know what sparked it but something got it going and we
    made a commitment going into the Green Bay game that we wanted to run the ball a
    little bit more effectively.” Read more...

    POLITI: GIANTS' TOM COUGHLIN, STILL GOING STRONG AT 64, HAS A CHANCE TO LEAVE ON HIS TERMS

    Excerpt: "Tom Coughlin, a man who has spent his entire adult life arriving at places
    five minutes early and insisting that everyone else do the same, looks like
    he’ll finally be late for something.


    Retirement.




    It seems strange to use the “R” word in connection with the Giants coach, because so much of the past
    two seasons has been spent waiting for a pink slip to be slid under his door.
    And don’t use it when you’re talking to him with the playoffs days away, unless
    you want to see that special shade of red that usually only appears on his face
    in the frozen air of Green Bay.




    Still, if the past two weeks ensure that Coughlin will be back next season —
    and they almost certainly have — then a deep run in the playoffs could guarantee
    more than that. Coughlin has a chance to make an exit that’s become rare in
    coaching on any level now.
    He has a chance to leave on his own terms.




    Nobody gets a lifetime appointment in the NFL anymore. If you think Bill
    Belichick would be the exception to this rule, check back if the Patriots ever
    have a couple of 3-13 seasons.




    Coughlin is no different. But if he beats the Falcons on Sunday and leads the
    Giants to the NFC Championship Game or the Super Bowl, the questions about his
    job status will go from “How long will the Giants keep him?” to something else
    entirely: “How long does he want to stay?”




    And, if you ask anyone around him, there are no indications that he wants to
    do anything else than coach this team. It isn’t like his health is going to push
    him into retirement before he’s ready, either. He is, quite possibly, the
    youngest 65-year-old man on the planet.




    “I think he’ll probably die with his boots on,” Ernie Bono, one of his best
    friends, said with a laugh Thursday. “He has coached from the day he got out of
    college and he doesn’t see himself doing anything else.




    “He doesn’t know the phrase ‘burn out.’ I know society says you should retire
    at 65 and start collecting your pension checks, but for him, 65 is 35.”




    Bono has known Coughlin since 1995, when the latter was named head coach in
    Jacksonville, and they work together on the Jay Fund, Coughlin’s charity that
    helps children with leukemia. It’s the charity that Bono believes will be
    Coughlin’s true legacy, and for the families it has helped over the years, it is
    vastly more important than beating the Falcons on Sunday.




    In the first four minutes of a 20-minute phone call, Bono used the word
    “energy” 13 times to describe his friend. He told a story about a mutual friend
    in Jacksonville who was feeling depressed in retirement, and how Coughlin kept
    emphasizing the same point when they spoke.




    “He tells him, ‘Stay active. Stay active. Stay active,’?” said Bono, who is
    also 65. “And within a few days, the guy was back on the golf course, thanking
    him.” Read more...

    GIANTS' OSI UMENYIORA SAYS HE APPRECIATES HIS RETURN TO THE POSTSEASON

    Excerpt: "It’s been two years since the Giants
    were in the postseason, and Osi Umenyiora didn’t even play in that game. The
    last time he made a playoff appearance, he and his linemates were making Tom
    Brady’s day far less than perfect.


    “Oh, I’m reeeeeally cherishing this opportunity,” Umenyiora said yesterday of
    the buildup to Sunday’s NFC Wild Card game against the Atlanta Falcons.
    “Probably more than everybody.”




    That was one long “reeeeeally.” We wonder what he reeeeeally meant by it.




    “Read between the lines, read between the lines,” the Giants’ defensive end
    said with a laugh. “I’m really having a good time. I look around, I come in and
    just smile. I cherish it, man. I cherish it.”




    If you need a translation, you reeeeeally haven’t been paying attention to
    the disgruntled defensive end’s situation the past couple of months.




    Sure, he put the
    public gripes about his contract
    — including a filed affidavit that claimed
    the Giants promised him a new one — and the mini-training-camp holdout behind
    him. Yes, he’s played hard, hasn’t been a disruption, recorded nine sacks in
    nine games and even gave general manager Jerry Reese a big bear hug on his way
    off the field following his two-sack performance in Sunday’s
    victory against the Dallas Cowboys.




    None of the above means he’s decided to suck it up and play out the final
    year of his contract next season. In his mind, he could be playing his last
    game(s) for the team that drafted him in 2003.




    But that story line is for the months to come. The immediate one is how
    Umenyiora appreciates his return to the postseason (he missed all of the 2008
    season with a knee injury) and how his teammates and coaches appreciate his
    return to action.




    “He’s definitely the missing piece for us up front,” defensive coordinator
    Perry Fewell said. “I said throughout the year that our pass rush is our pass
    coverage and they really do a great job for us.”




    The fact Umenyiora was able to get to Tony Romo twice despite missing four
    games with a high-ankle sprain, having his snap count limited and playing left
    end as opposed to his usual spot on the right side is a testament both to his
    well-established chemistry with his teammates and his ability.




    “He’s a world-class athlete,” fellow end Dave Tollefson said.




    Sunday’s performance was similar to his two-sack game against the Arizona
    Cardinals in Week 4 after missing all of the preseason and the first three games
    of the regular season following knee surgery.




    All of that talk one usually hears from injured players about getting their
    timing back and working into “football shape” apparently doesn’t apply to
    Umenyiora." Read more...

    GIANTS' VICTOR CRUZ DRAWS WES WELKER COMPARISONS FROM FALCONS

    Excerpt: "
    Haven't had enough Victor Cruz this week yet? Here's a few extras from Atlanta
    Falcons camp today, where talk was again dominated by the Giants
    wideout and the damage he can do
    .


    Falcons safety Thomas DeCoud was asked to compare Cruz to another player in
    the league.




    "I would say, maybe a bigger Wes Welker?" DeCoud said. "They have the same
    kind of quickness, the ability to make guys miss and to just get open, his
    ability to be a slot receiver and you know, make plays for his quarterback, find
    open areas and make plays with his feet once he gets the ball in his hands."




    So, if you stop Cruz you stop the Giants?




    "I mean, just slowing it down, they have Hakeem Nicks who's also a great
    receiver, so we have to know where he is," DeCoud said. "If we can slow those
    two guys down and play solid against the run I think it will be a good day for
    us." Read more...

    JUSTIN TUCK SAYS GIANTS "WILL GO AS FAR AS OUR QUARTERBACK AND D LINE TAKE US"

    Excerpt: "
    The Giants have 11 sacks in their last
    two games. That comes after they had 11 sacks in the seven games before
    that.


    What gives?




    "One of them is Osi (Umenyiora) is back," defensive end Justin Tuck said
    today after the second practice of the week in preparation for Sunday's playoff
    game against the Falcons. "I think our intensity has been turned up in practice.
    And we’ve been as healthy as we’ve been all year."




    All of that combined is why the Giants' defense is confident heading into the
    postseason and the players believe they can make a run here.




    "We just have to cointinue to get better. We’ve had two good days of practice
    so far," Tuck said. "The biggest thing for us is learning what they want to do
    against us. Watching teams that have similar D-lines and run similar systems as
    we do see what they try to do to slow them down and have ways to combat
    that.




    After a pause, he added: "We can definitely make a lot of noise in this run.
    We’re only going to go as far as our quarterback and D-line take us."




    * * * *




    Umenyiora had a sack on one of the first few plays he had against the
    Cowboys. He came free when Tuck broke his rush to the outside and Umenyiora
    looped inside.




    "It was a designed stunt and something we worked on," Umenyiora said. "We
    knew the guy on the outside was going to chip me so me and him worked the game.
    He went high and I came up under the chip so I was happy it worked out that
    way."




    Despite missing four games, Umenyiora didn't lose any of the chemistry with
    his teammates, apparently.




    "Oh no question. Me and Justin especially," Umenyiora said. "We’ve worked
    together for a long time. A lot of times we don’t even have to look at each
    other but I know exactly what he’s going to do and I know exactly how I’m going
    to play off him because we’ve been in there so long together so it’s a positive
    for sure."




    More coming in the next few hours on Umenyiora, who strongly hinted he's in
    his final game(s) with the Giants." Read more...

    GIANTS' HOT TOPIC: TALK SUPERSTITIONS, GAME DAY RITUALS, AND PLAYOFF PLANS

    "Big Blue is back in the NFL playoffs, hosting a wild-card round game Sunday
    against the Falcons, and we know Giants fans are excited. And, hey, if
    Mathias Kiwanuka is right
    , buckle your seatbelts because it's going to be a
    long playoff run and a great month.



    What we don't know, though, is how you plan on watching Sunday's game. Are
    you going to be hosting a party with friends and family? Going out to a local
    establishment? Heading to the game and tailgating early at MetLife Stadium?
    Superstitious enough to watch alone on the same couch cushion as the past two
    weeks?




    Tell us about those plans for Sunday. Drop down to the comments
    section
    and leave a comment letting us know how you're watching the
    game.




    If you have game-day rituals, we want to know about those, too. How early
    will you be putting your blue clothing on? Will you switch spots in the room if
    the Giants are losing early? Banning a fan of a non-playoff team (cough, Jets;
    cough, Eagles) from stepping foot in the house? Let us know.




    Maybe you have your own Giants-themed basement or man-cave. If so, be sure
    take pictures and upload
    them
    to NJ.com. We want to see your best photos and even videos!




    Fans are liking our
    Giants Facebook page
    in droves. Don't miss out on all the latest news and
    fan-fun from The Star-Ledger and NJ.com straight to your Facebook
    wall."

    GIANTS' MATHIAS KIWANUKA: "THIS IS DEFINITELY A SUPER BOWL TEAM"

    Excerpt: "
    It may have taken until the final two weeks of the season, but the Giants
    finally think they're playing their best football. And as recent history tells
    us -- see the 2010 Packers -- there's no better time to play your best football
    than when entering the playoffs.


    Consequently, confidence is oozing out of East Rutherford -- to the point
    where at least one player believes this team can go from 7-7 and out of the
    postseason to champion in just over a month.


    Giants beat
    reporters Mike Garafolo along with Jorge Castillo breakdown todays events from
    practice and they are joined by Star-Ledger columnist Steve Politi and also
    Star-Ledger Jets beat writer Jenny Vrentas for some in depth analysis of the
    Giants as they prepare for the Falcons on Sunday. (Video by William Perlman/The
    Star-Ledger)
    Watch video






    "This is definitely a Super Bowl team," linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka said. "We
    just have to get it done." Read more...

    GIANTS HOT TOPIC: WHAT ARE THE GIANTS' BIGGEST VULNERABILITIES AND BIGGEST ADVANTAGES?

    Excerpt: "
    Giants fans, what are going to be the keys to this Giants-Falcons divisional
    playoff game? Who will be the players and units to watch on both sides?


    Heading into only the Giants' third home playoff game in over a decade, what
    worries you most about the Falcons? What are the Giants' biggest
    vulnerabilities. And what should the Falcons and their fans be fearing? What are
    the Giants' biggest advantages?




    The Star-Ledger's Jorge Castillo writes today about the
    Falcons' potent passing attack
    , eighth in the NFL, and indeed their weapons
    all over the field on offense - they're the No. 7 scoring team in the league. Is
    the new simplified Giants' coverage scheme up for the task?




    Will the Giants' No. 3 sacking defense in the league be able to get to Matt
    Ryan? The Falcons are sixth in the league in fewest sacks allowed. Will Eli
    Manning be able to get the NFL's No. 5 passing attack going against the
    20th-ranked passing defense? The Falcons are ranked 19th in sacks, 10th in
    INTs." Read more...

    NY DAILY NEWS

    GIANTS' VICTOR CRUZ TURNS DOWN OPPORTUNITY TO APPEAR ON ABC'S "DANCING WITH THE STATS"

    Excerpt: "Yes, Victor Cruz can salsa
    with the best of them in a one-of-a-kind TD dance. No, that doesn't mean he has
    any interest in showing off that salsa on ABC.



    Cruz said Friday that he turned down an offer from ABC's "Dancing with the
    Stars." He said he "kind of knew" the offer was coming, but as soon as his agent
    mentioned the letter from ABC, Cruz knew he'd decline.




    "Probably a no," Cruz said. "Definitely a no. Because I just want to be
    focused on football and focused on what's to come. I'm just not at the point in
    my career where I feel like I need to do that."




    Cruz said ABC would have wanted him "like March through June or May or
    something like that," and the time commitment was just too rigorous for him to
    strongly consider it." Read more...



    THE VOTES ARE IN, JPP NAMES ALL-PRO, JUSTIN TUCK PROBABLY FOR FALCONS' GAME



    Excerpt: "The latest accolade for Jason
    Pierre-Paul
    ? The second-year defensive end was named to the Associated Press
    All-Pro team. JPP received 34 of a possible 50 votes after racking up 16-1/2
    sacks and making 86 tackles this season.




    It's worth noting that Minnesota Vikings DE Jared Allen, who
    finished the year with a ridiculous 22 sacks, received 49 of 50 possible votes.
    That means he's the front-runner for the AP Defensive Player of the Year
    honors.




    Victor Cruz finished
    fourth in WR voting, behind Detroit's
    Calvin Johnson
    , New England's Wes Welker and Arizona's
    Larry Fitzgerald.
    Cruz received nine votes.




    Chris Snee received two
    votes, placing eighth among guards.




    No other Giant received a vote. No, not even Eli Manning, he of the
    nearly 5,000 yards passing and the NFL-record 15 fourth-quarter TD passes.




    HURT LOCKER
    Good news on the Giants' injury front: The only player
    who will not suit up on Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons is rookie LB
    Mark Herzlich
    (ankle)." Read more...


    ##

    TOM COUGHLIN HAS GIANTS BACK IN PLAYOFFS AFTER PLAYERS - IKE ANTREL ROLLE - BUY INTO "THE COUGHLIN WAY"

    "The morning after one of the season’s ugliest losses – a heartless,
    lackluster effort by the Giants against the Washington Redskins at home on Dec.
    18 – Tom Coughlin’s players
    were braced for the worst. Their season was falling apart, a playoff berth
    seemed like a long shot, and their coach’s job was on the line, too.


    They
    were ready for him to scream.

    He had done it before. He was known for it.
    So imagine their surprise when, after their fifth loss in six games, with their
    once-promising season in ruins, with their coach seemingly on the way out, and
    with their crosstown rivals already loudly claiming victory over their city,
    their embattled coach stepped onto the stage in front of them, smiled and said,
    “Get your heads up … Get the frowns off your face.”

    Those words not only
    shocked a Giant team expecting to be ripped apart by its coach, it sparked a
    turnaround that led to two straight wins, the NFC East title and earned Big Blue
    Sunday’s wild-card game against Matt Ryan and
    the Falcons at MetLife Stadium.

    “Quite frankly we deserved to be screamed
    at,” said guard Chris Snee. “I’m
    pretty sure he did that after the game. I’m sure that after watching the tape he
    wanted to do it again. But you also have to be honest and lay it all out in
    front of us, man to man. We had more games to be played.”

    “Since I’ve
    been here apparently Tom has calmed down quite a bit,” added veteran defensive end Dave
    Tollefson
    . “He really has. It’s composure. This game is a stressful game and
    it’s really about staying composed, understanding what you need to fix,
    understanding what you do well and just moving forward.”

    They did that
    and likely saved the 65-year-old coach’s job with two stellar performances
    against the Jets and Cowboys that featured more passion and energy than the
    Giants had shown in their first 14 games.

    It wasn’t all because of
    Coughlin, of course. But he got the credit from his players for doing what he’s
    done so often ignoring the circling vultures, brushing off the pressure, and
    getting his players to focus on their jobs.

    “I think he’s done a great
    job of that,” left tackle David Diehl said. “With
    everything that happened, he had us stay on course. He had everyone
    focused.”

    “To be honest, I don’t think anyone really cared what was being
    said that’s what I’ve always loved about being part of this team,” Snee added.
    “We don’t worry about what people said. We just listen to Coach and the obvious
    fact that we were still in position to win the NFC East by winning the last two
    games.”

    They would need more than just Coughlin’s focus, though, to pull
    the season back from the brink of the “historical” collapse that Justin
    Tuck
    warned about after the Giants finished the first half of the season
    with an encouraging 6-2 record. A big reason for the late-season revival has
    been a return to good health. Tuck, after a season of battling injuries, is
    finally playing like his old self. Even Osi Umenyiora
    returned for the finale after a four-week absence and chipped in with two
    sacks.

    When the Giants play their first playoff game since the 2008
    season, this team that has been battered all year – it had a ridiculous 23
    players either placed on injured reserve or waived with an injury settlement
    since August – will be as close to being in one piece as it’s been all season.
    All 53 players on the roster could be healthy enough to be on the
    field.

    “The last two weeks it seems like we kind of put all that behind
    us,” Tuck said. “We’re healthier one way or the other. We’re healthier either
    mentally or physically. I don’t really know which one it is right now, but the
    playoffs kind of give you a rebirth. The aches and the bruises don’t hurt as
    much.”

    Don’t underestimate the “mental” part of that. During the Giants’
    second-half swoon, there were plenty of opportunities for this season to
    unravel. There were moments where it sure sounded and sometimes looked like
    players in the often-confused secondary were pointing fingers at each other.
    There has been an underlying uneasiness all season with the oft-angry Brandon Jacobs about
    how he is used.

    And then there is Antrel Rolle, the
    mouthy safety who admits he’s hardly a “Coughlin player.” He did a seemingly
    un-Coughlin-like thing, too, after that loss to the Redskins when he criticized
    injured teammates for not practicing during the week – what appeared to be a
    shot at Tuck, the oft-injured team leader. Rolle said it wasn’t.

    But even
    Coughlin has noticed that Tuck and almost everyone else has been out at practice
    every day since.

    Rolle is a great example of how Coughlin perseveres and
    endures, despite all the struggles and the unending speculation. He didn’t waver
    in his principles, beliefs or rules, even as the volatile Rolle chafed under him
    last season. He bit his tongue and waited for Rolle to come around. Eventually
    he did.

    Now, Rolle is much more of a “Coughlin guy.” And though Coughlin
    likely would have preferred that Rolle hadn’t taken his concerns public, he
    admits Rolle’s postgame rant had a positive impact on the team.

    “Oh yeah,
    there was some impact,” Coughlin said. “It just brought it out. It just pointed
    out that we need all hands on deck. Everybody’s got to go with this thing. … I
    asked for more positive peer pressure from the players.”

    That was another
    key part of this turnaround. He wanted his leaders to lead and his players to
    act like men. That’s a big reason why he was willing to risk so much during the
    first half of the first game against the Cowboys on Dec. 11 by benching his best
    running back, Ahmad Bradshaw, for
    violating team rules. Leave the chaos, broken rules and the bad chemistry to the
    Jets. Coughlin wasn’t going to let one irresponsible player spoil the whole
    bunch.

    That’s the Coughlin Way. He wants everybody on board. One team,
    one goal, same rules for everybody. And even when he gets furious at an
    inexcusable performance, he never loses sight of his only objective winning the
    next game.

    And sometimes he knows it’s best to look at the task that lies
    ahead without even glancing back.

    “No one’s going to wait for you,”
    Tollefson said. “He always says that. ‘No one’s waiting.’ You’ve got to stay on
    that even keel because this game is such a game of ups and downs. It’s about
    moving forward and not falling down.”

    When asked this week about that
    pivotal after the Redskins debacle, Coughlin, true to form, was dismissive of
    the question. His only response to being asked why he chose to smile and give a
    pep talk when his battered team was bracing for a verbal storm was short and
    simple:

    “Because I know the team,” Coughlin said. “I know the
    people.”

    And those people, in turn, know their coach.

    “I think he
    has a good feel for this team, a good understanding that when we are up against
    the wall and things seem bad that seems to bring out our best play,” Eli
    Manning
    said. “He knows how to get our best football and how to get us ready
    to play that next week and the players have done a good job responding to
    that.”

    They always have, at least since Coughlin’s survival instinct
    kicked in after his tumultuous 2006 season, when he nearly lost the locker room,
    lost any goodwill he had earned from the media and fans, and almost lost his job
    because of all the chaos. He changed after that, at least a little, and listened
    a little more closely to the pulse of his team.

    The result was the
    Giants’ miraculous Super Bowl XLII championship. Now, four years later, with his
    finger again on the pulse, Coughlin has also somewhat miraculously put them in
    position to make a run again. And all he had to do was keep his team pointed in
    the right direction.

    He knew that was all they would need.

    “If
    guys don’t understand what you have at stake, they’re not going to get it by
    raising your voice at them,” safety Deon Grant added.
    “I have to say that approach definitely worked because it got guys back focused
    and ever since then we’ve been playing good ball.” Read more...

    GIANTS' TOM COUGHLIN FEEL HE SEEs BIG BLUE'S TRUE COLORS ENTERING WILD-CARD WEEKEND VS. FALCONS

    Excerpt: "Tom Coughlin was
    almost giddy on Thursday, by Coughlin standards. The coach cracked jokes, smiled
    broadly. There was very nearly a skip to his limp.



    “I think it grows, the energy, the excitement,” he told reporters. “Tomorrow
    will be an upbeat day.”




    Coughlin was thrilled with practice, with the vibes and the effort from his
    team. The Giants were flying out there at the Timex Performance Center, making
    plays and hitting their marks. But you know what? Nobody knows which Giant team
    shows up on Sunday against the Falcons, not even the Giants. Not after the sort
    of nutty season they’ve had.




    The Giants have been up and down, then down and up. They’ve lost to bad teams
    such as Washington and Carolina, beaten tougher teams such as New England and
    the Jets. They’ve also lost all three games they played against potential NFC
    opponents in the playoffs – Green Bay, New Orleans and San Francisco.




    So while there is reason to be hopeful, there is also the gnawing sense that
    anything can happen to a team that has relied too heavily on Eli
    Manning
    ’s arm and a menacing pass rush. The Giants can practice hitting the
    holes all they want in their practice barracks. If the team that takes the field
    on Sunday is the wobbly one that lost to Washington at home three weeks ago by
    nearly two touchdowns, the Giants won’t have themselves a running game or a
    victory.




    “If you knew that, what you were doing right and wrong the week before a
    game, you could change things,” offensive guard Kevin Boothe
    said. “You can’t tell from practice. We’re professional. We’re out there trying
    every week. You can look back and say we could have done something better. Not
    while you’re doing it.” Read more...



    INSIDE THE MATCHUPS BETWEEN NY GIANTS AND ATLANTA FALCONS

    "Nearly four years ago, the Giants pulled off one of greatest upsets in NFL
    history, beating the Patriots to win the Super Bowl.



    Since then, the Giants have upset only their fans, losing in the first round
    of the playoffs, the following season and then two late-season collapses that
    left them out of the postseason.




    But thanks to a late-season turnaround fueled by rising star Victor
    Cruz
    , the Giants are back in the playoffs, hungry for another title and
    confident they have what it takes to win one.




    First up are the Atlanta Falcons, who come into Sunday's widl-card showdown
    at MetLife Stadium with, as Justin Tuck said, the
    reputation of "dirtbags."




    That comment added a little more fuel to what should be an emotional day for
    Eli manning and the Giants, and the Daily News has it all covered with this
    special pullout section.

    WHEN THE GIANTS HAVE THE BALL
    ...

    ELI MANNING VS.
    DEFENSIVE SCHEME

    Mike Smith is a defensive-minded coach, but hardly
    a defensive innovator. The Falcons play a basic 4-3 with soft zone coverage,
    either a Cover 2 shell (think Bears) or the bend-but-not break approach that was
    so popular five to 10 years ago. It’s built on spacing concepts where every area
    is supposed to be accounted for, but where the weak spots are generally between
    the LBs and DBs.

    Unlike the Giants’ last two opponents, the Falcons don’t
    blitz, either, although Smith will call the occasional zone blitz with DE
    John Abraham
    dropping into coverage.

    All that didn’t hold up well
    against Aaron Rodgers or Drew
    Brees
    this year, and Eli Manning, with a franchise record 4,933 yards, will
    be trying to exploit a pass defense that gave up the third most plays of 40
    yards or more and the fifth most of 20 or more.

    Manning won’t be seeing
    anything he hasn’t before. His main challenge will be to remain patient and work
    underneath and in the middle of the field. A forced throw could lead to an
    undercut pattern or deflection for an interception. Manning’s other concern will
    be getting it into the end zone when the Giants reach the red zone. Atlanta’s
    red-zone defense was second to only the Ravens.
    EDGE:
    Giants

    RUNNING BACKS VS. LINEBACKERS
    Curtis Lofton leads a
    very good group of linebackers that excels against the run. The scheme calls for
    the D-line to eat up blockers whole the linebackers swarm to the ball carrier
    and they do it well. The Falcons finished the season ranked sixth-best against
    the run, allowing 97 yards per game, and have allowed an opposing runner to go
    over 100 yards just three times in the last 19 games.

    While the Giants
    rank running the football, they’ve been getting enough from the hard-running Ahmad Bradshaw and
    Brandon Jacobs to
    keep people honest. Fullback Henry
    Hynoski
    , injured for part of the regular season, is a good straight-ahead
    blocker and has surprised teams as a receiver. But Lofton matches up well
    against power backs because of his physical downhill style. He had a career-high
    167 tackles, with 10 or more in 10 of the 16 games. Like the Cowboys’ Sean Lee,
    he is a playmaker who can turn a game around with an interception.

    Sean Weatherspoon
    rebounded from a difficult rookie season to become a rock, usually making the
    critical stops in short yardage. The Falcons’ safeties also get very involved in
    defending the run.
    EDGE: Falcons

    OFFENSIVE
    LINE vs. DEFENSIVE FRONT

    Unlike the Giants, the Falcons don’t have
    much depth up front, although they do play well against the run. Scouts say the
    Falcons are better at creating pressure than sacks and they will hurry Manning.
    Right DE John Abraham, a grizzled ex-Jet, is their one pass rusher. Abraham came
    on late in the year and finished with 9-1/2 of the Falcons’ 33 sacks. He will
    challenge David Diehl, who was
    moved back to LT in the last month of the season, with his explosive first
    step.

    The Giants allowed just 28 sacks (seventh lowest in the NFC), but a
    lot of that had to do with Manning’s ability to sense pressure and get out of
    it.

    The Giants’ line had to be reshuffled because of LT Will
    Beatty
    ’s detached retina, and seemed to be better blocking for the run when
    Kevin Boothe moved
    from guard to center for the injured David Baas. Boothe’s
    shotgun snaps were a liability and Baas returned to the lineup.

    This
    isn’t the efficient unit that spearheaded the Giants’ traditional running game
    in past seasons, although the run got better later in the year when the Giants
    went to their heavy package with Hynoski at fullback and center Jim
    Cordle
    as a jumbo TE.
    EDGE: Even

    WIDE
    RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS VS. SECONDARY

    The Falcons’ secondary isn’t as
    porous as the Cowboys’, but it can still be taken apart. Even the Bucs’ Josh
    Freeman
    completed 68.9% of his passes against them last week. While Brent
    Grimes
    , the Falcons’ best cover CB, is back after missing four of the last
    five weeks with a knee injury, they may not have the depth at corner to compete
    against the Giants’ three-wide sets.

    Grimes is athletic and has great
    ball skills, but veteran Dunta Robinson has
    fallen below expectations as the corner opposite Grimes, and the two safeties,
    William
    Moore
    and Thomas DeCoud, don’t
    have great range.
    Victor Cruz will be the main focus of the Falcons. In one
    amazing season, the undrafted slot receiver has become one of the premier pass
    catchers in the NFL. He established a franchise record with 1,526 yards, third
    best in the league, and was second with five catches of 50 or more yards. He is
    hard to double and can change direction quickly.

    Except for Cruz, who has
    foiled every defensive strategy, the Giants receivers have had problems escaping
    press coverage, but the Falcons’ corners play off of receivers most of the time.
    That should free up Hakeem Nicks. Mario Manningham
    is a great option on those little hitch routes, where he can use his quick feet
    to beat the first tackle. TEs are always good to attack Cover 2 teams, but Jake
    Ballard
    is a long shot to play
    EDGE:
    Giants

    WHEN THE FALCONS HAVE THE BALL
    ...

    MATT RYAN vs. DEFENSIVE SCHEME
    Matt Ryan’s
    career seems to be paralleling how Eli Manning’s progressed. Ryan ended the year
    with a franchise record 4,177 passing yards, but is still looking for his first
    playoff victory. He doesn’t have a big arm, but he can make all the throws and
    knows Mike Mularkey’s thick
    playbook, letter for letter.

    He gets the ball out fast and loves throwing
    inside the numbers on slants and crossing routes, where the Giants’ Cover 2,
    man-under approach can be exploited. If the running game is working, he is
    superb at play action, where he sees the mismatch pretty quickly.

    Those
    mismatches will abound if the Falcons protect him. Defensive coordinator Perry
    Fewell
    ’s scheme is all about pressure from the front four, so what he lacks
    in individual cover ability, he makes up in numbers.
    One thing to watch is
    how the Giants fare against no-huddle sets. That will force Fewell to pick a
    defense and stay with it because he can’t sub personnel. Fewell could use his
    nickel package with an extra safety on the field, but that would open up the
    Giants to the run, which is where the balance of the Falcons’ offense comes into
    play.

    Ryan is 0-2 in the playoffs, where untimely interceptions under
    pressure have been his downfall, but he comes in hot. Over the last four games,
    he completed 65% of his passes and threw for 10 TDs with no
    INTs.
    EDGE: Falcons

    RUNNING BACKS vs.
    LINEBACKERS

    The Giants LBs face a huge test against RB Michael
    Turner
    and a team whose entire approach is based on a power running game
    that eats up clock and allows Ryan to get one-on-one matchups for his talented
    receivers. Soft against the run for much of the year, they got a break the last
    two weeks when the Jets and Cowboys fell behind and had to throw, but Turner,
    who led the NFC in rushing with 1,340 yards, is the best back they’ve faced
    since LeSean
    McCoy
    .

    It’s going to take a lot to get the Falcons out of their game
    plan. They were second in the league with 33 TD drives of 10 plays or more,
    averaging 3:54 in time of possession per play and eight plays per drive. They
    love running out of the I-formation or with a two-TE set, and they can be
    effective in a spread out of the no-huddle.
    Turner is a handful at 5-10, 247
    pounds, and runs with what some scouts call a “choppy” motion. He has good
    balance and, because the Falcons have kept him fresh, he seems to get better as
    the game goes on. He breaks tackles and turns short runs into big plays, a
    problem the Giants have had earlier this season.
    The Falcons will be eager to
    test former teammate Michael Boley, who
    has good range but isn’t strong at the point of attack. Chase Blackburn has
    played credibly since the Giants re-signed him, but he hasn’t seen a rushing
    attack like this. The key will be to prevent Turner from squaring his shoulders
    and to get him to move laterally, where he can be chased down.

    Offensive
    coordinator Mike Mularkey doesn’t over-use Turner. He does a good job spelling
    him with Jacquizz Rodgers
    and Jason
    Snelling
    .
    EDGE: Falcons.

    OFFENSIVE LINE
    vs. DEFENSIVE FRONT

    Here we have the ballgame in a nutshell, the
    so-called dirtbags trying to prevent sacks from what the Falcons feel is the
    best front four in football. It has certainly looked that way over the last four
    games when the Giants have picked up 15 of their 48 sacks, tied for third-best
    in the NFL.

    The return of Osi Umenyiora and the
    resurgence of Justin Tuck have given the D-line the kind of versatility it had
    under Steve Spagnuolo in
    2007, with Fewell using his rotation to create mismatches. That has allowed him
    not only the threat off the edge with the sensational Jason
    Pierre-Paul
    , but the ability to collapse the middle of the pocket when he
    moves Tuck or Pierre-Paul inside, even standing them up to attack the gaps, or
    using lanky LB Mathias Kiwanuka
    as a blitzer.

    The Falcons play with a nasty edge, hence their reputation,
    with everything based on their ability to control the line of scrimmage. They
    have gotten better at it since a disastrous start to the season. Of their 26
    sacks allowed, 13 came in the first three games, but that was when Sam Baker was
    still at LT and Todd McClure, their
    veteran center, was hurt. In the last four games, Ryan was sacked four
    times.

    The Giants’ heads will have to be on swivels when the Falcons run,
    which is often. The Falcons love to kick out linemen and get them down the field
    to cut-block. DTs Chris Canty and Linval Joseph have
    done a better job lately and were able to squash the Cowboys’ few running
    attempts on Sunday night. They also must be disciplined in their rush lanes not
    to be burned by the quick hitter.
    EDGE:
    Giants

    WIDE RECEIVERS & TIGHT ENDS vs.
    SECONDARY

    The Falcons are different than other explosive offenses in
    that they’re not looking to throw first, but their receiving corps still stacks
    up as one of the most dangerous in the NFL with Roddy White, Julio
    Jones
    and
    “Never argue with an idiot. They will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.” MB Rule # 1


  2. #2

    Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: FRIDAY, JANUARY 6, 2012 - 9:47 A.M.

    Thanks RF! Let's a get a Win.

  3. #3
    All-Pro GameTime's Avatar
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    Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: FRIDAY, JANUARY 6, 2012 - 9:47 A.M.



    thanks Ro....




    getting pumped up big time.....







    ALL IN !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    "Measure Twice......Cut Once"
    You couldn't be more full of **** if you were break dancing in a Port-a-Potty.......Kruunch

  4. #4
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    Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: FRIDAY, JANUARY 6, 2012 - 9:47 A.M.

    [quote user="GameTime"]

    thanks Ro....




    getting pumped up big time.....







    ALL IN !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    [/quote]

    [y]
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  5. #5
    Moderator RoanokeFan's Avatar
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    Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: FRIDAY, JANUARY 6, 2012 - 9:47 A.M.

    [quote user="lttaylor56"]Thanks RF! Let's a get a Win.[/quote]

    [B]
    “Never argue with an idiot. They will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.” MB Rule # 1


  6. #6

    Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: FRIDAY, JANUARY 6, 2012 - 9:47 A.M.



    thanks for the much news Roanoke!!!!!!!







    ALL IN !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  7. #7
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    Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: FRIDAY, JANUARY 6, 2012 - 9:47 A.M.

    [quote user="BigBlue1971"]

    thanks for the much news Roanoke!!!!!!!







    ALL IN !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    [/quote]

    [B]
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  8. #8
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    Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: FRIDAY, JANUARY 6, 2012 - 9:47 A.M.

    [quote user="BigBlue1971"]

    thanks for the much news Roanoke!!!!!!!







    ALL IN !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    [/quote]

    [B]
    “Never argue with an idiot. They will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.” MB Rule # 1


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