New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. has quickly turned from one of the league’s brightest young talents — who landed a Madden cover — to the biggest target of the always tough New York media this season.
The struggles of the Giants during their three-game losing streak were seemingly placed solely on Beckham. He was slapped with the ‘diva’ label as his personality quickly turned into a negative, not only by the New York media, but by Giants quarterback Eli Manning as well.
Since he has been the target of negative attention, Beckham has turned around his play in the face of criticism for the first time in his career. Still one of the most talented receivers in the game, Beckham has elevated his play back to the level that earned him stardom in the first place in the midst of a turnaround for the Giants.
Beckham had two massive first half touchdowns to start things off for the Giants in their huge 28-23 win over the Eagles on Sunday. Those two big plays from Beckham helped secure a 21-10 halftime lead for the Giants, and provided much-needed momentum after the bye week in a make or break game against their hated rivals.
.@OBJ_3 in open field?
— NFL (@NFL) November 6, 2016
Beckham also got under the skin of the Eagles defense in the second half, as linebacker Nigel Bradham took a costly 15-yard penalty after the whistle to take a swing at the Giants wideout in a scrum. The presence of Beckham threw the Eagles defense off of their game as one of the best pass defenses in the league had no answer for Manning and the Giants wideouts.
Despite the offensive onslaught from the Giants, the Eagles would stay within striking distance throughout the game in what was an entertaining NFC East clash. Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz had a quality performance on the road in what was his first career game against the Giants where he kept his team within range for a comeback until the final whistle after the quick start from the home team. An Eli Manning interception with the score 28-23 gave the Philadelphia offense more than enough of a chance to mount what would have been a classic comeback from Wentz in his first game in the Giants-Eagles rivalry.
However, it was Manning and Beckham who had the last laugh after the defense held on in a game mostly dominated by the suddenly red-hot Giants offense. The Giants — save for a shaky fourth quarter trying to close the game with their lead — put up one of their best offensive performances of the season against an Eagles defense that has been one of the toughest in the league up until this point. With Beckham back to his status as one of the best wideouts in the business, the Giants proved they can get it done in what was a third straight win for a team many left for dead after their three-game losing streak.
— NFL (@NFL) November 6, 2016
Beckham ended up with a four-catch, 46-yard day, but it was his two big touchdowns that were the difference in a game that brought the Giants’ playoff hopes back to life. After 222 yards against Baltimore in Week 6 and two touchdowns in Week 6 to start the three-game stretch of wins for the Giants, it’s clear Beckham has turned his season around to the point there should no longer be any negativity directed his way in New York.
With the Giants at 5-3, the New York media would be finally silenced for good if Beckham can continue his stellar play on the road to a playoff spot for a Giants team that is now amongst the favorites in the Wild Card race in early November.
Other Early Game Thoughts
* The Minnesota Vikings are now in full-blown crisis mode after a third straight loss has stalled the NFC North leaders in their tracks. This time, a late game meltdown after a comeback from quarterback Sam Bradford could serve as an ominous sign for a Vikings team that has gone from 5-0 to 5-3 in stunning fashion.
After the Vikings had scored a touchdown to take the lead with less than :30 left on the clock, Lions quarterback Matt Stafford would manage to set up Matt Prater with a 58-yard field goal to send the game to overtime. Golden Tate then ripped out the hearts of Vikings fans with a walk-off touchdown on the opening drive of OT to give the Lions a wild comeback win that has turned the NFC North upside down.
Matthew Stafford. Golden Tate.
— NFL (@NFL) November 6, 2016
At 5-3, the Vikings’ lead in the NFC North could be erased with a Green Bay Packers win at home to the Indianapolis Colts in the late afternoon window of games. With an offensive line that can’t protect Sam Bradford and the weight of three straight losses after their undefeated start, the Vikings are on the path for a meltdown in the second half of the season. This team was already defying the odds to win five straight with injuries to Teddy Bridgewater and Adrian Peterson, but bouncing back from blowing their lead in the division could be too much to ask for a depleted Vikings roster.
* The Pittsburgh Steelers made the wrong call to rush back Ben Roethlisberger, who looked extremely limited in the team’s loss to the Baltimore Ravens today. Roethlisberger made several ugly throws, and the Steelers’ offense struggled as a result in a game where head coach Mike Tomlin risked the rest of his quarterback’s season for the chance of a road win over the 3-4 Ravens.
The Steelers offense has struggled in Ben Roethlisberger's return. pic.twitter.com/1tIeGY3awV
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) November 6, 2016
With the opportunity to move to 5-3 and stay in the lead in the AFC North, the decision for Roethlisberger was an understandable one, but with his play clearly limited, it’s hard to not second guess the Steelers’ decision to rush back their starter when he wasn’t healthy enough to be productive. The Steelers will be stuck with a banged up Roethlisberger for the rest of the season, but one more week to heal could have been useful when the hardnosed veteran was clearly still not healthy enough to play at the level needed to win games with his arm.
* The Kansas City Chiefs held on to a win despite injuries to Jeremy Maclin and Alex Smith, mostly thanks to the continued decline of Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles. The former first-round pick struggled once again for the Jags as Bortles has been a bust so far in Year 3 after high expectations.
— Chris Burke (@ChrisBurke_SI) November 6, 2016
With the Chiefs banged up and a chance for a big upset on the road, Bortles instead threw one of the worst interceptions of the season when he threw the ball directly to a linebacker in the red zone. Those types of mistakes have been the theme of Bortles season, and with yet another wasted chance to turn around his third year in the league, it’s hard not to talk about the former UCF quarterback as a player who is on the route to bust status.
* Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott continued to roll as the Dallas Cowboys blew out the Cleveland Browns to move to 7-1 on the season. Tight end Jason Witten also joined the part on offense with his best game of the season as the veteran tight end finished with eight catches and 134 yards in a game where the Cowboys’ offense continued to thrive under their rookie duo.
Dak Prescott has now surpassed Troy Aikman for the most TD pass by a rookie Cowboys QB. pic.twitter.com/Xh5kbG88OO
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) November 6, 2016
The Cowboys have such a good thing going with Prescott right now that head coach Jason Garrett should be careful not to mess with it. Prescott has been able to put up the points in bunches for the Cowboys, and with nine straight wins, it might be a mistake to go with a less-than-100% Tony Romo for the stretch run until this hot streak from the rookie ends. Romo arguably deserves a shot to guide the Cowboys to a Super Bowl after his long history with the franchise, but regarding current talent and results, there is no debate that Prescott is the best option until further notice as the Dallas offense continues to run through the league week after week.