New York Giants: Joe Judge putting together case for Coach of the Year

New York Giants, Joe Judge

Awards are secondary to performance, but it’s hard to argue that New York Giants coach Joe Judge doesn’t deserve some kind of award or another if the team can keep up their sudden turnaround in the second half of the season.

The Giants have picked up their fourth straight win, and for the first time in years, it’s December and it legitimately looks like the team could be in the playoffs. Coaching, of course, has been a big part of the reason why they were able to turn things around.

There’s other coaches in contention, but as for the reasons Joe Judge should be in consideration for the Coach of the Year award, there’s more than one compelling argument.

Joe Judge inherited an unstable position (and turned things around anyway)

New York isn’t a great place to be a rookie head coach right now. While there is inherent appeal in turning around a major big market franchise, the actual conditions of the job aren’t the easiest. The Giants have high expectations placed on them by the media and the fans and the team has been rebuilding for far too long in the eyes of many. After the short tenures of Ben McAdoo and Pat Shurmur, there’s little patience for more protracted losing.

The fanbase wants to see someone win now, and that’s what Judge is doing – the team might have a losing record, but their first place spot in the NFC East is more than meeting the expectations of many. After all, the last time the Giants were in contention this deep in the season, they actually made it into the playoffs. And the wins coming right now are meaningful, not just pointless victories against bad teams after the Giants have already been eliminated from contention.

Winning without all the pieces

Many expected the Giants to continue floundering after their bad start because they didn’t have all the pieces. Nate Solder opted out before the start of the season, Saquon Barkley went down for the year with an early injury, and Sterling Shepard hasn’t been entirely healthy this season either. Most recently, Daniel Jones was injured and forced to miss the Seahawks game where the Giants had to start Colt McCoy instead.

Even though losing Barkley early on took a lot of the hope out of the season, and other losses haven’t been easy for the Giants either, Judge has found a way to win regardless. The Seahawks win is especially significant as Seattle was 8-3 going into the game and much better competition than the struggling Eagles or the Bengals without their top draft pick.

Judge has been a leader this season

The previous two coaches that came before Judge haven’t been leaders. One of the main criticisms about Pat Shurmur was that he was a nice football coach rather than a good football coach. When he was fired, Giants fans wished him well because of his personality – but admitted that he wasn’t very good at coaching the team. He was also criticized for not being very accountable, and seemingly giving generic responses to questions about big problems.

Judge, on the other hand, may do some things that rub certain people the wrong way. His handling of the Marc Colombo situation this season certainly did. But his method has proven effective so far. He removed Colombo when Colombo wouldn’t go with the team’s agenda, and when wide receiver Golden Tate had outbursts against the team earlier in the year because of his catches, Judge punished it by making him miss a game.

You can’t be nice all the time and still win many football games, and Judge has been willing to make tougher choices this season in a way that seems to be paying off on the field. After all, we’ve seen the offensive line improve after Judge stepped in to help with coaching it, eventually inserting his own pick as the offensive line coach. Had Judge been a coach that shies away from controversy more, we might not have seen that improvement.

UFC: Angela Hill – Tecia Torres fight is off

COVID-19 has struck once again in the world of MMA. This time it’s a UFC 256 women’s strawweight contest that is the victim. Angela Hill (12-9) took to her Instagram account to announce that her fight with Tecia Torres (11-5) is off.

She posted that she had tested positive for COVID-19 and was not able to fight at UFC 256. This fight was flying under the radar, but was considered to be one of the more anticipated matchups on the prelims next weekend.

Since her loss to Yan Xiaonan back in June of 2019, Angela Hill has shown so much improvement. She won three straight fights in the UFC after that loss before she fought Claudia Gadelha back in May.

That night, the two strawweights fought to a split decision and the judges gave the fight to Gadelha. I personally thought Hill won the fight, but the judges are all that matter and it didn’t go her way.

After that, Hill took on Michelle Waterson back in September. It was an absolute war and in the end, two of the judges gave the fight to Waterson. While I think the judges got that one right, it was a tough one for Hill. Two straight razor close split decision losses in the UFC.

UFC’s Plans

At this point, the UFC is undecided on if they will rebook this matchup. If they do, it’ll be at least a month before Hill and Torres will be able to fight because of the UFC‘s schedule.

Hill wouldn’t be permitted to compete at UFC Vegas 17 which means she won’t be able to fight until January 16th at the earliest. The UFC could look to replace Hill and have Torres fight someone else, however, there’s no word on that yet.

This was a rematch from Hill’s third professional fight. She lost to the Tiny Tornado and was hoping to get this one back. Torres snapped a four-fight losing streak in her last fight and was hoping to string together her second straight UFC victory.

New York Giants stun Seattle Seahawks in huge win: 5 takeaways

New York Giants, Colt McCoy, Wayne Gallman

Just one week ago, fans and analysts alike had written the New York Giants off against the Seattle Seahawks in week 13.

However, nobody expected the Giants to dominate Seattle away, securing a 17-12 victory with backup quarterback Colt McCoy Under Center. McCoy finished the contest with 105 yards and a touchdown, but it was the defense that stepped up and played lights out to stifle one of the best offenses in the NFL.

Five takeaways in the New York Giants’ big win over Seattle:

1.) The running game was stellar

The Seattle Seahawks had the third-best run defense in the NFL regarding yards per game entering Week 13. They only allowed 89.3 yards per contest before the Giants trampled them for 190 yards on the ground, including 135 yards from backup running back Wayne Gallman.

On 16 carries, Gallman averaged 8.4 yards per carry and had a long of 60 yards. In fact, he was a major reason the Giants managed to secure the win, as Seattle couldn’t keep up with his straight-line ability and the dominance from the offensive line in the trenches.

The Giants have now rushed for 140+ yards in four straight games, establishing themselves as one of the best running offenses in the NFL.

2.) Leonard Williams is a MAN

When they needed him most, New York Giants’ interior defender Leonard Williams stepped up to the plate. He finished the contest with three total tackles, 2.5 sacks, two tackles for loss, and five quarterback hits. Going into the contest, he had 6.0 sacks on the season, needing just one more to tie his personal best of seven. Well, he smashed his record and now has 8.5 sacks on a year and a new personal best.

With Williams in a contract year, he possibly played the best game of his life against Seattle. Credit where it is due, good job Dave Gettleman.

3.) Colt McCoy didn’t lose the game for the Giants

In a contest where the New York Giants were supposed to lose without quarterback Daniel Jones, backup Colt McCoy stepped to the plate. While he didn’t have the most mesmerizing performance, he didn’t beat the Giants either.

Often times, backups will throw interceptions and turn the ball over, but McCoy showed solid awareness in the pocket and tucked the ball when defenders came too close. He finished with a 32.3 QBR and 67.4 quarterback rating, but overall, he did just enough to lead the Giants down the field and put 17 points on the board, thanks to a dominant run game.

4.) Patrick Graham is a GOD

Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham displayed pure genius against Seattle. He managed to extract value from rookies like Carter Coughlin, Nicks Lalos, Tae Crowder, Darnay Holmes, and Cam Brown.

Everybody contributed on defense in this win, as Graham managed to scheme pressure on nearly every play against Russell Wilson.

Utilizing a quarterback spy, Wilson was unable to pick up yards on the ground, and the secondary did a phenomenal job holding him to 263 yards and one touchdown. With Seattle’s offense averaging over 30 points per game, the Giants’ defense showed that they deserve to be a top 10 if not top 5 unit in the NFL. Thanks to Graham, the Giants have revitalized a unit that was a complete mess in 2019.

5.) Wayne Gallman needs to start

As stated before, running back, Wayne Gallman had a phenomenal performance, totaling 135 yards on the ground.

While he didn’t record a touchdown after securing scores in five consecutive games, he allowed Alfred Morris to poach two. Nonetheless, Gallman was a massive reason the Giants escaped with a win against Seattle, despite a last-minute push that resulted in an incompletion on 4th-and-18.

Boxing: Floyd Mayweather returning to face Logan Paul

Floyd Mayweather Jr.

One of the greatest boxers of all time is returning to the ring. Well, he’s sort of returning to the boxing ring. Today, Floyd Mayweather Jr announced on his official Instagram page that he would be returning to the ring.

He will be returning for a boxing exhibition against YouTube celebrity Logan Paul. The two men will have their exhibition boxing match on February 20th. The fight has a PPV tiered system based on when you buy the PPV.

For the first one million buyers, the PPV will be $24.99. After that threshold, the PPV will cost fans $39.99 up until December 29th. After the 29th, the boxing PPV will cost fans $59.99 until February 11th. During the final ten days the PPV price goes up to $69.99.

It’s a very interesting model for a PPV and I’ll be curious to see how well this does. Given the way our society and culture is, I would expect a boxing exhibition between Mayweather and Paul to do extremely well on PPV.

This will be the first time that Floyd Mayweather Jr has stepped into the boxing ring since his match with Conor McGregor back in 2017. That night, Mayweather moved to 50-0 with a 10th round TKO over the two-division UFC champion.

Boxing Exhibition: Mayweather Jr – Paul

The Paul brothers have been making people pay attention to boxing all of a sudden. They are definitely bringing new eyes to the sport. Jake Paul, Logan’s younger brother, made headlines when he knocked out Nate Robinson last week.

After the fight was over, Jake Paul said he wanted to knockout Conor McGregor in a boxing ring. Jake Paul is 2-0 currently in his boxing career. Logan Paul on the other hand has one professional boxing match against fellow YouTuber, KSI.

Those two had a match last November that KSI won by split decision. It should be worth noting that Logan Paul will be about twice the size of Floyd Mayweather Jr when the two have their boxing exhibition on February 20th.

This whole thing seems like a little bit of a freak show. However, I guarantee you there will be a lot of eyeballs on this one.

New York Yankees: Gary Sanchez crushes two home runs in as many days in Dominican Winter League

New York Yankees, Gary Sanchez

New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez has gotten hot in the Dominican Winter League. After a three strikeout performance in his debut, Sanchez crushed two home runs in as many games this weekend for the Toros Del Este.

On Saturday, the 28-year-old roped a 3-0 fastball down the left-field line, just barely staying fair and clearing the fence by a mile.

Sanchez also picked up a double on Saturday, beating a funky outfield shift for extra bases.

He’d continue his good luck on Sunday, lining an 0-2 fastball just past the third-baseman for a double.

In the eighth inning, the Kraken struck once again. Sanchez got a hold of a hanger, skying it to left-center field and way gone.

Through three games, Sanchez is 5-for-11 with two home runs, two doubles, and two walks.

After an abysmal stretch of play between 2018 and 2020, Sanchez went to the Dominican Winter League to return to his 2017 form. His power numbers still showed (62 HR in that stretch), but he failed to get on base consistently. His average was above .200 just once over the past three seasons, with his defense struggling at times.

Through three games in the Dominican Republic, Sanchez already looks much improved. He’s yet to catch, but he’s been productive at the plate. Sanchez looks a lot more relaxed, and he’s taking good pitches and not chasing.

Playing in the Bronx is a pressure-packed environment, but so far, things are looking up for Sanchez. If he can take this swing and this mindset back to New York in the spring, Sanchez is due to have a big 2021 season.

New York Knicks: Thibodeau likes Ntilikina’s defensive versatility

New York Knicks, Frank Ntilikina

New York Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau hasn’t settled yet on his starters and rotation, but there’s one guy on the roster who caught his eye.

Frank Ntilikina, the longest-tenured Knick on the roster and the last remnant of the Phil Jackson era, has impressed Thibodeau during the training camp.

“I like Frank. Obviously, we didn’t have a lot of time this summer to spend around each other. But getting to know him now, there are things that he does very, very well,” Thibodeau said on his zoom call with reporters Sunday.

“[He’s got] Good size, he’s versatile defensively, he works hard so I want to see what he can do.”

A portent of things to come?

Ntilikina has been one of the polarizing figures on the Knicks young roster ever since he was taken seventh overall in 2017.

The 22-year old French guard teased what he can do when he dropped a 20-point, 10-assists performance — easily his best game in a Knicks jersey — in a win against the Washington Wizards the day before the league was shut down in March.

Ntilikina isn’t only fighting for a starting spot but also for his next contract.

“The business part is going to take care of itself,” Ntilikina said on his zoom call with reporters Friday. “I’m here to get better every day, to get this team better.’’

Backcourt Battle

The Knicks have brought in a slew of guards via free agency and the draft casting a cloud on Ntilikina’s future with the team. But he’s prepared for the playing time battle.

“It’s part of the game,’’ Ntilikina said. “We have a lot of guards on this team, a lot of competitors, which is going to bring the best out of the team. We’re going to compete hard for minutes and the coach is going to decide what he wants to do. We have trust in him. He knows what he’s doing. He knows his job. So he’s going to put the best players together on the court.’’

Thibodeau has always emphasized that all roster decisions will be based on performance. And it looks like Ntilikina, given his strengths on the defensive end, is expected to carve a niche in Thibodeau’s rotation this season.

“I haven’t settled on starting rotation. I think everything is up for grabs — starting, finishing, rotation. So I think we’ll get those answers as we go,” Thibodeau said.

The 62-year old coach also preached the importance of getting ready to seize the moment when it arrives especially for the end-of-the-bench players.

“If you start off and you’re not in the rotation, I think what I’ve found over the years is that at some point, everyone will get an opportunity to be on the rotation so you just have to be ready. But we’ll make those decisions based on performance and what fits the team the best,” Thibodeau added.

18 million possibilities

Meanwhile, the Knicks still have plenty of cap space, around $18 million, to maneuver and improve their current young roster. Thibodeau hinted that Leon Rose, who attended the Knicks’ first full practice under his watch, isn’t done tinkering with the team’s makeup.

“I think improving the club never ends. So, for me, I have to focus on the players that we have here. I think Leon’s job and the front office’s is every day to look at what opportunities do we have,” Thibodeau said.

“Obviously, we could use the cap space to get a player; we could trade. There’s a lot of things that we can do. I don’t think that never stops. Each and every day, we all have to ask ourselves how we can make the team better. It’s not anyone particular but all those areas — player development, the draft, free agent, and trades. And the good teams in this league focus on those four each and every day, and that’s what are we striving for.”

The fluid situation plus the competition within the team will keep the players on their toes. It’s going to be an interesting first year for Thibodeau and Rose at the helm.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Who should Nick Diaz fight in his UFC return?

This past week, we heard even more confirmation surrounding the potential UFC return of Nick Diaz (26-9, 2 NC). Diaz has been training hard and recently completed a mock training camp to see how he felt.

His manager said last week on his podcast that the likelihood that Diaz competes next year in the UFC is, “99.99%.” So by that measurement, the odds are pretty good that we are going to see Diaz return to the octagon next year.

Right now, the current plan for Diaz is to compete at welterweight. Diaz last competed in the UFC at middleweight when he fought Anderson Silva back in 2015. However, Diaz has spent the majority of his career at 170 pounds.

He became a world champion in Strikeforce in the welterweight division and fought for the UFC welterweight title twice. Before Nate Diaz’s fights with Conor McGregor, Nick Diaz was known as the needle mover in the family.

However, that has since changed with Nate becoming a star. Yet, there’s still a huge following for Nick Diaz and MMA fans are getting excited about his potential UFC return. So, who should Nick Diaz fight when he gets back into the cage?

Who should the UFC pair Nick Diaz with?

Diaz’s managers said that they were hoping to have an opponent nailed down by the first of the year. However, nothing is close to being finalized at the moment. It’s an interesting time for the UFC and their roster.

Last night, Dana White announced that the promotion would be making some serious cuts to their roster. He said some big names could go which could impact who the promotion would offer Nick Diaz upon his return.

For now, we will look at the current UFC roster and forget about the potential cuts. One matchup I really like is the rematch with Robbie Lawler. Lawler was supposed to fight Mike Perry recently, but had to pull out due to injury.

The plan is for Lawler to fight at the beginning of the year. I think a potential matchup between the two men makes a ton of sense. If you want to jump into the top ten, I think another option could be a Demian Maia.

Imagining those two grappling is a lot of fun. However, Maia would be a very good option if the UFC wants to get Diaz a win against a serious opponent right away. Maia isn’t a pushover, but if he can’t land takedowns, Diaz would light him up on the feet.

A win over Lawler or Maia would immediately re-establish Diaz in the welterweight division. I still would love to see the matchup between Diaz and Jorge Masvidal long-term, but I don’t see the UFC doing that without Diaz getting a win first.

Tom Thibodeau takes the good with the bad in Knicks’ first full practice

New York Knicks, Tom Thibodeau

It was a slow-moving first day of practice for the New York Knicks under new coach Tom Thibodeau but the main focus revolved around teaching and improving.

More than half of the Knicks’ training camp roster is new, and so are the whole coaching staff. The effects of the long layoff were evident with players reporting to the training camp at different points of their conditioning.

But this revamped Knicks roster — while still wanting in star power — hopes to turn around the corner.

“I think it’s always you’re excited about getting started. The first day of anything, there were some good, some bad, but it gives you a baseline where you are and hopefully you can concentrate on the improvement. A lot of teaching on the first day, of course, so it’s slow-moving so we got to try to get up to a game-like pace,” Thibodeau said on his zoom call with reporters Sunday.

Thibodeau underscored the importance of the first day of training camp by setting the tone for the season. As always, the 62-year old Thibodeau, who is on his third team as a head coach, holds the first day of the training camp as one of the most important parts of the season.

“That first meeting is a critical meeting,” Thibodeau said. “You’re setting the standards and goals of the organization for the year. I think that’s the most important part of the season. Obviously, it’s a long season with a lot of different challenges we’re being faced with, but the biggest thing is how quickly we adapt to everything. That holds true for every team in the league.”

The Bad

With such a young team (no player above 30s), the Knicks are at a disadvantage to start the season.

“Certainly, there’s a challenge with your younger guys from the standpoint of they’ve missed the Summer League, ball practices. So their adjustment is quite big. So each and every day, I think not only about what we’re doing on the floor, but in terms of film study, individual work that sort of thing would be critical for them,” Thibodeau pointed out.

The Knicks could have used more games to get used to each other and develop chemistry among their holdovers and newcomers.

But it is what it is.

The Good

Thibodeau has a knack for finding ways and maximizing whatever hand he’s dealt with. And he plans to take advantage of the obvious strength that they have.

“One of the strengths of our club, we are young, and we are athletic,” Thibodeau said. “I want to take advantage of that. When you’re younger, hopefully, you can take advantage of your legs and athleticism.”

They will certainly count their youth when they start the truncated season with five games on the road in their first seven.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

New York Jets: Three stars from Sunday’s loss vs. Las Vegas

The New York Jets snatched defeat from the clutches of victory, as a long, late touchdown doomed them to an 0-12 fate.

The masochistic cult of New York Jets tanking efforts enjoyed an early holiday present in the late stages of Sunday’s action.

Derek Carr’s 46-yard touchdown pass with five seconds to go landed safely in the hands of Henry Ruggs, whose go-ahead touchdown gave the Las Vegas Raiders a 31-28 victory over the Jets at MetLife Stadium. Carr and Ruggs’ late-game heroics doomed the Jets to an 0-12 record, though they took another step toward securing the top overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft.

Despite the loss, the Jets tallied a season-best 376 yards of offense and enjoyed a stellar rushing day from Ty Johnson and Josh Adams, who united for 178 yards on the ground after Frank Gore left the game with a concussion.

ESM has a trio of game balls to dispense in valiant, but short, effort…

3rd Star: LB Neville Hewitt

12 tackles, 1 sack

Perhaps it says more about the modern Jets than it does about the veteran linebacker, but Hewitt has been one of the Jets’ most consistent contributors over the past three seasons. He has established himself as a strong depth option, and this has proven to be no exception. Hewitt has taken on a veteran leadership role as injuries continue to eat away at the secondary, and he rose to the occasion with 12 tackles and a sack of Carr. The tanking concept is completely irrelevant to guys like Hewitt, who might be playing for a long-term deal after joining the Jets on three separate single-year contracts.

2nd Star: QB Sam Darnold

14-of-23, 186 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT, 3 carries, 26 yards, 1 TD

As Jets fans clamor for the Endeavor for Trevor (Lawrence), Darnold made it clear on Sunday that he’s not going to relinquish his hold on the team’s franchise quarterback spot without a fight. His turnover problem (three on Sunday) continued to surfac, but he nonetheless came up big in leading the Jets back from a 24-13 fourth quarter deficit. Darnold also found Jamison Crowder for a pair of touchdown passes in the first half. These final hours will be crucial for Darnold to prove that he can still be the man of the future, perhaps under a new coaching staff. After all, the draft doesn’t begin or end with Lawrence or Justin Fields. Penei Sewell would perhaps be a strong blocking option in a high posting.

1st Star: RB Ty Johnson

22 carries, 104 yards, 1 TD

Johnson made New York Jets history on Sunday, earning the first triple-digit rushing yard game since Isaiah Crowell put up 219 against the Denver Broncos in October 2018. Claimed off waivers from Detroit earlier this fall, Johnson came up big when Gore was evaluated for a concussion. His 104 yards were a career-high since joining the league as a sixth-round pick out of Maryland last season, and he scored what probably should’ve been the game-winning touchdown just past the midway mark of the fourth quarter. If Gore is out for the remainder of the year, the development of Johnson and Adams (74 yards) should be an intriguing subplot to keep an eye on.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

What’s next for Mavin Vettori after UFC Vegas 16?

Last night at UFC Vegas 16, Marvin Vettori (16-4-1) took on Jack Hermansson (21-6) in the main event. Vettori was originally scheduled to fight next weekend, but after Kevin Holland fell out of the UFC Vegas 16 main event, Vettori stepped in.

Hermansson entered the cage as the fourth ranked middleweight in the UFC. For Vettori, he was competing in his first main event and it was the first time he was fighting someone when they were ranked inside the top five.

To be honest, I underestimated Marvin Vettori in this one. I figured he would have some moments on the feet, but over the course of five rounds, I figured Hermansson’s grappling and preparation for a five round main event would win out.

However, that is not what happened at UFC Vegas 16. Vettori looked incredibly sharp on the feet last night. He dropped Hermansson in round one and nearly finished the fight. In the second round, he continued to tune Hermansson up on the feet.

While he was doing this, he also did a fantastic job of defending takedowns. I got concerned for Vettori when the fight hit the third round. It seemed that Hermansson was taking over the fight and Vettori was fading.

However, it now appears that Vettori was just trying to take a round off. The fight was a war, but Vettori sealed the deal in the final two rounds of UFC Vegas 16 with piston like straight hands. In the end, Vettori walked away with the decision and the biggest win of his UFC career.

What’s next after UFC Vegas 16?

After the fight was over, Vettori stepped to the microphone for his post-fight interview. It wouldn’t be a Vettori interview if 90% wasn’t censored out. However, he still was able to say what he wanted next in the UFC.

Vettori took the opportunity to call out Paulo Costa (13-1) after UFC Vegas 16. To be honest, going into the fight, I figured Costa would be a good fight for whoever won. With Vettori’s performance and call out, I think it makes even more sense now.

We haven’t seen Costa since his failed attempt to capture the middleweight title at UFC 253. Israel Adesanya completely outclassed the Brazilian that night. Despite that performance, Costa is still one of the best in the world.

Stylistically, it makes for a fantastic matchup. Rankings wise, it will also make for a fantastic matchup. When the rankings come out on Tuesday, I would expect to see Vettori in the top five. A matchup with him and Costa would be pairing two exciting top five fighters against each other.