Will the Giants win it all again?
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Al Bello / Getty Images[/caption]
Every year the New York Giants seem to stay under the radar, performing well below their lofty standards, yet sneaking into the playoffs.
They then proceed to give the Football world a lesson on how to win it all.
This year looks like it might be the same old story.
Questionable losses against the struggling Dallas Cowboys and the inconsistent Philadelphia Eagles highlighted the Giants deficiencies early on in the season. While divisional match-ups are always a little more spirited, these loses could have easily been avoided if the Giants played to the best of their ability.
However, they have also showed glimpses of their 2011/12 Super Bowl winning form during wins over Carolina and the in-form 49ers.
All signs point to this season being a déjà-vu of the last, but are these Giants really the best team in the league?
Breaking down the Giants offensive and defensive units and comparing how they stack up against the competition’s best gives us a clearer picture on whether they are primed to win it all once again.
The passing game the Giants posses is special, if not exceptional. Even with injuries to key members such as Hakeem Nicks, this unit just keeps on producing.
Eli Manning is now undoubtedly an elite quarterback. His play in the fourth quarter is second-to-none and he has continually dug this team out of massive holes with game winning drives.
While Manning’s play has been incredible, he has been helped by a young and talented group of receivers. Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks make up one of the leagues most explosive receiving duo’s, maybe only beaten by Atlanta’s Roddy White and Julio Jones (although this is up for debate – maybe on another day) and pose a serious threat to all defences.
Role players such as Domenik Hixon, Ramses Barden, Rueben Randle and new recruit TE Martellus Bennett have all stepped up in at least one game to irritate defences even more.
If you think you can shut down the Giants passing game by blanketing Cruz and Nicks, think again.
The only other team with this much depth and potential play-makers as the Giants is the New England Patriots, who have been causing defensive coordinators stress migraines for the past decade.
The offensive line has also stepped up in recent weeks, providing Eli the time defensive coaches are desperate to prevent him from having. This spells trouble for secondary’s across the league.
The Giants running game is the barometer of the team. When it is on, they are unstoppable. When it isn’t, Eli will probably find a way to win anyway, but it’ll be a lot more exciting for the fans.
The Giants like to play boring Football. Running the ball constantly, until the defence falls asleep and then launching a bomb to Nicks or Cruz over the top. Unfortunately for Coach Coughlin, his running backs have been inconsistent at best and Bradshaw has struggled to stay healthy for long periods of time.
Bradshaw has played himself back into form after an early fumble in Week 5, running for 200 yards against Cleveland and 116 yards against the usually stingy 49ers defence.
Rookie back-up and first round pick David Wilson has played himself into form recently. While getting off to a shaky start with a fumble in Week 1, he looks like a player to watch in the future. He has the speed to add an extra dimension to this unit, which was on display during his 40 yard TD against the Browns and his numerous long kick returns.
Andre Brown has also blossomed this year, adding to the depth of this unit. While Bradshaw was sidelined with injury, Brown stepped up with some hard running, culminating in a 113 yard match against Carolina.
The Giants running attack ranked twelfth in the league after Week 7, meaning it is solid, but certainly not one of the leagues best. While not a world beating rushing attack, the Giants rushing attack is solid enough to play their part in Coach Coughlin’s game plan.
Not many people would argue that the Giants don’t posses the most talented and feared pass rush in the league.
Led by the athletic freak Jason Pierre-Paul who manages to find his way to the quarterback at will, this unit possesses numerous players who threaten the quarterback on every play. JPP is ably backed up by veterans Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and DT Chris Canty, who is returning from injury in Week 7.
Mathias Kiwanuka and Michael Boley also add to the depth of the defence as linebackers who know how to get to the quarterback.
Despite the talent at hand, the Giants combined for only eight sacks over the first five matches and came under immense criticism both internally and externally about their poor performances. Fortunately for Tom Coughlin and the Giants secondary the D-line was able to break out of this slump against a usually solid 49ers offense, managing to bring down the quarterback six times, and continued this form against the up-and-coming Washington offence, causing a number of game-changing fumbles.
The Giants have leaned on their pass rush on the way to their last two Super Bowl victories and will need it firing late in the season if they want to repeat this year.
The Giants run defence has been one of the weakest facets of its game this year and teams had been successfully exploiting it. They managed to turn this around with an great effort against Frank Gore and an experienced San Francisco offence in Week 6.
Previously DeMarco Murray ran for 131 yards in Week 1, LeSean McCoy torched the Giants for 123 yards in Week 4 and Richardson copied McCoy’s blueprint to beat them on the outside one week later.
Jason Pierre-Paul started the resurgence for stopping the run in Week six, continually getting to Frank Gore before he was able to make it to the outside.
The Giants also added veteran linebacker Keith Rivers over the offseason to help their run defence which has been a weak point for the Giants over recent years. Injury has derailed his Giants début season thus far; however he will no doubt add a new direction to this defence when he returns.
The Giants ranked 23rd in stopping the run after Week 7, with opposition teams averaging 126 yards on the ground per week. The Giants will need to tighten this up throughout the rest of the year if they are to assure they make the playoffs.
The secondary is probably the biggest area of concern for the Giants organization. After loosing starter Aaron Ross to Jacksonville over the offseason, the Giants planned to reinstate Terrell Thomas to the starting role after a year out with injury. Unfortunately for them, this plan crumbled when Thomas re-injured himself for the year in preseason.
This secondary unit started the year looking incredibly shaky, starting inexperienced Michael Coe opposite veteran Corey Webster, with rookie Jayron Hosley being given numerous reps.
Prince Amukamara’s return from injury over the past fortnight has made the secondary look less fragile, with Rolle and Amukamara combining to pick off 49ers quarterback Alex Smith three times.
Safety Kenny Phillips was looking sharp until he came down with an injury in Week 5, being ably replaced by Stevie Brown who has popped up with two interceptions at important moments this year.
The Giants secondary is the area opposing teams try to expose the most. Ranking 21st in average passing yards against, this unit has created big holes for Manning to get out of. The Giants will be looking to tighten this area as the year continues, with keeping their players fit and on the field a priority.
Coach Coughlin is a veteran leader and most importantly a noted winner. His players look ready to go to war for him, week-in, week-out. With him at the helm you can never discount the Giants no matter the score.
The Giants might not be the most talented team in the league, but they have the will and the desire to take home the trophy. The roster is built around how the Giants like to play and is therefore successful on most occasions. With an offence which has improved to the point where it is now one of the most dangerous in the league, this team now has the opportunity to become a dynasty.