Monday Morning Update: November 7, 2016

The Islanders might stink, the Giants might not and the welcome death of irrelevant political advertising

  1. Defense comes up big for Blue; rescues win after Eli pick

I was hopeful yet unconvinced after the Giants invested a large sum of money in the defense this year, and the start of the season didn’t fill me with confidence. But the Giants’ defense has become the strongest part of the team’s game as Big Blue comes out of the bye and turns into the second half of the season.

The defense powered the Giants offense as the latter unit sputtered to start the game, giving Eli and his boys a golden opportunity to run out to a 14 point lead to start the game. The secondary was effective, forcing Wentz to make some tough throws and capitalizing when those attempts came up short. The line has looked much better as well, with Jason Pierre-Paul giving the Eagles fits by getting to the quarterback, nearly intercepting passes and blocking field goals.

Even with the big divisional win and a favorable record NFC opponents, the Giants stand staring up at the Cowboys, who may never lose again, and will have to fight for a wildcard in order to make the playoffs. And it could be a tough fight. Yesterday’s win was not without worrying moments, from Janoris Jenkins general terrible decision making to Eli’s

Listen, anyone who read my Eli defense (either one of them) knows my affinity for Eli Manning, but he’s worried me this year. He looks a bit more unsteady in the pocket, and not that fourth quarter interceptions were something that he was previously unfamiliar with, but there seems to have been more than ever this year, or at least more that come at times the Giants cannot abide.

But for now, a win is a win, and the Giants might not stink. Which is a welcome development, considering that…..

2. The Islanders might stink

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On Twitter and in my conversations with fellow Islander fans throughout the summer and into the first few weeks of regular season play, I tried to preach calm and patience.

I’m starting to change my tune.

Simply put, the opening of the year has been a disaster in Brooklyn. The ice and arena has been lampooned and lambasted by home and away alike, the three goalie situation has only gotten more confusing and complicated, the team has blown multiple leads in the final minutes, additions aren’t producing the kind of points the players they replaced used to, and the young players like Ryan Strome have not taken the next step.

Now, Travis Hamonic, arguably the team’s best defensive player, will be sidelined for four to six weeks. Definitely not a good start.

It’s still early, but we’re getting closer and closer to Thanksgiving, and any hockey fan knows all that’s been written about how soon the playoff race solidifies, what with the loser point and all.

Panic season is creeping in….

3. Is baseball back yet?

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Maybe it’s the lackluster at best play from my respective hockey and football clubs of choice, but I already miss the World Series, and baseball in general. But then again, after the postseason we got in 2016, who could blame me?

It’s been a few days since the last out was recorded and God knows that enough words have already been typed on sports blogs about the Cubs win. But it just serves as a reminder of how great the MLB Postseason can be. The drama that hangs in those spaces between hitters, even between individual pitches, is unmatched in sports. Hockey’s playoffs offer a top-notch display, and are just as compelling, but don’t function in the same way.

Hockey’s playoffs provide an excellent display, and are just as compelling, but don’t operate in the same way. The sport moves too fast for the tension to build the way it does between pitches during a rally or in the final outs of a big game.

Only 100 days until pitchers and catchers report…..

4. Max Domi’s apple doesn’t fall far from the tree

I’m far from the first person to point this out, but other than their last name and general facial structure, there aren’t a ton of similarities between Tie Domi and his young-gun sensation Max Domi of the Arizona Coyotes. Max seems to be a sensationally skilled scorer with much more touch than his old man does.

But that doesn’t mean he didn’t get his Dad’s devastating uppercut.

Domi did God’s work this weekend, dropping Ryan Kessler like a bad habit with a single punch to the jaw. As you may remember from the debacle that was team USA at the World Cup of Hockey, I was none too happy with Kessler while he wore the Red, White & Blue, and he’s long been a fly in my ointment.

Regardless of my feelings on the particular player, however, it was quite a display from the junior Domi. And yes, I know there was a line brawl this weekend too, but this was the far superior tussle.

5. 10 straight for the Herons and an NE-10 for the Skyhawks

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I’ve written before about the William Smith Herons soccer team, which includes my sister guarding the goal line. It’s playoff time for soccer teams around the country, and this weekend that included both the Herons in the DIII NESCAC conference playoffs, while my alma mater Stonehill College’s representative women’s soccer team competed in DII’s NE-10’s championship tournament.

In what hopefully is good news for the USWNT after their debacle in Brazil, both of the two women’s soccer teams I support took home conference titles this weekend. For the Herons’ it was their tenth straight, and they’ll have their eyes set on a national title. In Stonehill country, meanwhile, recently named coach of the year Alex Wilson led the Skyhawks to their first conference title in more than 10 years.

They’ll both move on to the National bracket. Up the birds!

6. Sir Lance’s final ride

The NBA’s most famous meme took a real cut to the legs when Lance Stephenson was released by the New Orleans Pelicans this weekend.

It’s quite the fall from grace for Stephenson, who emerged from the short-lived Indiana Pacer-Miami Heat/LebBron James earlier this decade as a polarizing and exciting, if a bit overrated star.

Since, he’s become a court jester and the dreaded locker room distraction. He’s been often injured (as he is now) and is no longer worth his contract, even in the new financial world of the NBA (shouts to Tim for covering this in his last Hot Takes column).

Lance Stephenson was a personality too big and beautiful for this world, and more than likely, this league. It’s too bad, though, and I’ll miss him.

7. As the Jets‘ World turns…

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Even as Eli gives me some reasons to worry about Big Blue, the New York Jets remind me time and time again just how valuable Eli Manning is to the Giants. The QB situation in Jets-land is nothing short of a soap opera, and it’s not going to get any better any time soon.

From Sanchez the butt-fumbler to Geno’s broken jaw to Fitzpatrick’s beard and brains, the Jets have had a fabulous series of follies under center. Now, fresh off signing a last-minute contract, Ryan Fitzpatrick will likely not be the starter next week, replaced by youngster Bryce Petty, after an MCL sprain.

Imagine how powerful that Jes’ passes attack could be with even a replacement-level QB….

8. Cuban takes control

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After spending much of the past year fighting the good fight against Donald Trump on Twitter, Mark Cuban took a page out of Donald’s playbook by revoking credentials for a pair of reporters in the Mavs locker room.

I may be a bit biased in a case like this, but I think this is never a good idea. It instantly slashes the credibility of whoever is trying to limit the press and ultimately backfires (see: White, Dana vs. Helwani, Ariel). It makes the aggressor seem small and insecure. It’s also ultimately wrong to shut out the press, especially in an industry that makes lots of money thanks in part to their coverage in the media.

I’m largely a Mark Cuban fan. But he swung a missed big time here.

9. The sweet sound of silence

Tomorrow is election day. I’m not going to write much about the candidates because I don’t want my keyboard/website/life to burst into flames or be grabbed by any sexual organs.

I do think, however, that we all as Americans can celebrate one thing tomorrow: the death of irrelevant political ads. For the past month-plus, I’ve been tortured by ads from not only candidates on my ballot in South Boston, but for candidates ranging from Rhode Island to New Hampshire and the greater New England area. If you live near a major city, you’ve probably seen the same on major broadcast networks like FOX or CBS, which get a lot of traction during NFL and MLB playoff season.

No matter who becomes President in January, I’ll sleep tomorrow night soundly knowing that next weekend’s football slate won’t be dominated by annoying, distasteful and irrelevant political advertising. (Who am I kidding? This election is going to keep haunting us forever…..)

Have a good week, everybody. For more, follow @MurraySportTalk on Twitter.d

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