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NFL morning after: The Giants are terrible

New York Giants quarterback Manning pulls himself off the ground after being tackled against the Carolina Panthers during an NFL football game in Charlotte

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) pulls himself off the ground after being tackled against the Carolina Panthers during an NFL football game in Charlotte, North Carolina September 22, 2013. REUTERS/Chris Keane (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)


I don’t know if the Giants are the worst team in the NFL. They’re probably not. Jacksonville is probably worse. And maybe 0-3 Washington or 0-3 Minnesota or 0-3 Tampa Bay or 0-3 Pittsburgh are just as bad. But there’s no team in football that is a bigger disappointment through three weeks than the Giants, who look downright terrible.

Tom Coughlin is supposedly all about discipline and avoiding mistakes, but you sure wouldn’t know it from watching his team this season. The Giants made every mistake you can make in Sunday’s 38-0 loss to the Panthers: Missed blocks led to Eli Manning getting sacked seven times. Missed coverage assignments gave Cam Newton his best game of the season. The ridiculous turnover problems continued, as Manning threw his league-leading eighth pick of the year, while Louis Murphy fumbled the ball away after a completion from Manning. (Even after Manning had finally been pulled for his own protection, backup Curtis Painter kept the turnover problems alive by throwing an interception on the Giants’ last offensive play.)

The stats in Sunday’s game were every bit as ugly as you’d expect from a 38-0 shellacking. The Panthers out-gained the Giants 402 yards to 150, and Carolina picked up 27 first downs to New York’s 10. But the Giants’ problems go a lot deeper than just one game. They were a mess in Week One, turning the ball over six times in a loss to the Cowboys, and they were even worse in Week Two, getting blown out 41-23 by the Broncos. We’re three weeks into the season, and not only have the Giants not looked good at any point in the season, but they haven’t even looked competent.

A team coached by Tom Coughlin and quarterbacked by Eli Manning shouldn’t be this bad, and there’s still a part of me that thinks maybe they’re not really this bad. There are still 13 games for them to turn it around, right?

Unfortunately, I just don’t see that turnaround coming. There are simply too many problems all over the place. The Giants’ secondary looks terrible, their offensive line looks terrible and their special teams look beyond terrible. The Giants are a mess.

Here are my other thoughts on Week Three in the NFL:

Let’s give credit to the Browns. It was a battle between two teams that entered the game 0-2 and will probably finish in last place in their divisions this season. And yet the Browns’ win over the Vikings may have been the performance that impressed me most on Sunday. I always love it when a team that everyone has written off comes out and fights hard. After Cleveland traded away Trent Richardson, fans and members of the media accused them of giving up on the season, but the Browns put together an excellent effort to pull off an upset in Minnesota. A fake punt picked up 34 yards. A fake field goal went for an 11-yard touchdown. Third-string quarterback Brian Hoyer, Sunday’s surprise starter, played well enough that he may remain the starter even after Brandon Weeden’s thumb heals. Young receiver Josh Gordon had the best game of his career, catching 10 passes for 146 yards and a touchdown. Jordan Cameron, a tight end who’s usually only used sparingly, stepped up with three touchdowns. The Browns are not a good team, but they have a lot of young guys who are playing hard. They’re a long way from giving up on the season.

Vontaze Burfict should be suspended. Burfict smacked Green Bay’s Ryan Taylor in the groin on Sunday, leading Taylor to push Burfict away from him. When Burfict fell to the ground, the officials threw a penalty flag on Taylor, having completely missed the fact that it was Burfict hitting Taylor that led to Taylor’s reaction. The NFL simply can’t let a player not only get away with such a cheap shot, but even benefit from the cheap shot when an opponent gets a penalty for defending himself. Suspending Burfict is the way to show that the NFL simply won’t tolerate some things, and one of those things is hitting another player in the groin.

Joseph Fauria is emerging as a red-zone threat. As an undrafted rookie tight end, Fauria was a long shot just to make the Lions’ roster this season. But the Lions’ coaching staff became intrigued with Fauria because he has one trait that separates him from any defensive back or linebacker who tries to cover him: He’s 6-foot-7. That means Matthew Stafford can throw a high pass into the end zone and trust Fauria to come down with it, and that’s just what Fauria did on Sunday in Washington. Fauria already has two touchdown catches in his first three NFL games, and he’s going to have a lot of opportunities to catch jump balls against shorter defensive backs while playing opposing secondaries that are mostly concerned with stopping Calvin Johnson.

The NFL’s two best teams are missing their left tackles. It’s awfully early to be declaring anyone Super Bowl favorites, but I don’t think I’m saying anything too surprising when I say the Broncos are the favorites in the AFC and the Seahawks are the favorites in the NFC. Unfortunately, Seahawks left tackle Russell Okung will miss at least eight weeks with a toe injury, while Broncos left tackle Ryan Clady will miss the rest of the season with a foot injury. Seattle’s offensive line really looked like it was missing Okung on Sunday against Jacksonville, and I have no doubt that Denver will have some trouble without Clady tonight against an underrated Oakland defense. We often don’t appreciate offensive linemen until they’re gone, but everyone needs to appreciate that Okung and Clady’s injuries were major blows to two Super Bowl contenders.

There’s a bright side, Rams fans. Yes, your team just got destroyed 31-7 by the Cowboys to fall to 1-2. But the good news for the Rams is that they have their own first-round pick next year and also own 0-3 Washington’s first-round pick thanks to the Robert Griffin III trade. St. Louis might be picking twice in the Top 10 of next year’s draft. It may be too early to think about next year’s draft, but if you’re a fan of a bad team it’s hard not to think about it. And Rams fans at least have that reason to feel optimistic. That’s more than Giants fans have.