by Ryan Meehan
Since I am new to this site, let me give you a little bit of a background on me. My father is from Bayonne, New Jersey and I grew up a die hard New York Giants fan. I live in Western Illinois which is an area filled with Packers and Bears fans, so I am constantly ridiculed for my love of an East Coast team.
Sunday, the Giants lost 34-0 at the hands of the Atlanta Falcons, whom I think we all can agree are not nearly as good as their record states. The Falcons have won a lot of close games and have caught everybody at the time where they were ripe for the picking. I find it almost impossible to believe that they are thirty-four points better than the New York Giants or have been at any time this season. Regardless, that’s what happened in the game so that’s where we’re at.
I just want to take a little bit of space here to share how drastic of a collapse this really is. Yes, Eli threw two picks and did not play particularly well. They didn’t have a single receiver who was over 80 yards (Domenik Hixon) and their running game also struggled. In the week after David Wilson racked up over 300 all purpose yards, their special teams were terrible and they couldn’t so much as leave Georgia without scoring a single field goal.
However, regardless of the day porous day that Eli Manning had or their total lack of motivation on defense there seemed me one statistic that stuck out above all of the others:
On Sunday in a period of mere hours, the New York Giants dropped from being a four seed to a nine seed and almost completely out of ESPN’s NFC playoff picture graphic. I could sit here and blame the poor play of the Browns for their loss in Washington, but we all know that the Redskins are a much better team than Cleveland is. And I could do the same thing regarding Ben Roethlisberger and his less than two time Super Bowl Champion interception in overtime, but the Steelers aren’t as good as the Cowboys are at the moment. Both of those things are really meaningless here, as they would be tossing the blame in the direction of those who aren’t responsible for the problem.
The real problem is the Giants as a team, and let’s face it our view of what the Giants look like is heavily distorted due to the fact that they have won two out of the last 5 Super Bowls. Don’t get me wrong, those were two incredible playoff runs but let me just go over a few points really quick that I have noticed from the inside as a New York Giants fan.
1) The Giants have never really had a very good secondary, even in the two years they won the Super Bowls
This is something that has been a problem for a decade or so. Our D-line is so hearty and our linebacking corps has historically been good so it’s difficult to imagine just how they could completely overlook big free agents year after year. Antrell Rolle has been their biggest secondary signing over the last five years, and although he has had flashes of greatness he has also had flashes of getting burnt like rice cake in a toaster. Pass protection is crucial to the success of a defensive unit, and i would even argue that it’s one of the most underrated and important sets of positions on the field. Think about it: The secondary is almost the last position between the offense and the endzone. It’s your last line of defense, and in most cases it’s the final opportunity to tackle a receiver or running back before they score six points.
As a Giants fan, lately I can inform you that they aren’t exactly experts when it comes to tackling. Teams work them over on third down situations and a lot of the plays that the opposing teams run on them in those situations are short of the first down marker but assume that New York won’t get the runner down on inital contact. It’s approaching insulting, but then again who wouldn’t do it? I sure as hell would…
Now I do realize that Big Blue has looked very good on defense at times this year. The Green Bay game was a real eye opener that when they have everyone on the same page, they are just as good as anybody in the NFL. But consider the game against New Orleans at home two weeks back – they really eased up on the Saints from a pass protection angle, and although they were able to do that since they scored 52 points in that win; it carried into the next week against Atlanta. We did the same thing in the second half of the second Dallas game and it almost cost us getting swept by a team of goons. The secondary sometimes plays as if they are continually up thirty points.
2) Let’s get real, the 49ers should have gone to the big game last year
I can’t help but think that the two miscues that then rookie Kyle Williams made were the only reasons the Giants got the opportunity to face New England in Indianapolis. The Niners had them where they wanted them – not buried, but just far enough out of reach that unless somebody did something really stupid they were sure to win the game. That ended up happening, and the Giants were able to take advantage of it. But then the same guy made a very similar mistake again and the Giants were able to pull out the victory. So basically, they relied on multiple rookie mistakes that ended up sending them to the Super Bowl that year. And with the way the Pats end up playing in that game, they likely would have won it as well. (I’ll address that in point four)
In fact, I’m even willing to go further than that and say that all three teams the Giants beat en route to the playoffs probably should have beat them. Atlanta, Green Bay, and San Francisco had all had fantastic years and collapsed at home within a sixteen day period against a 9-7 team. The Giants did play well and that’s why they ended up winning the whole she-bang, but of all of the teams in NFL history to get help from their opponents I just can’t think of any other team that rivals the 2011-12 Giants when it comes to equal or better seeded squads tossing themselves into a woodchipper. Matt Ryan and Alex Smith I can kind of see it, but Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady? I just can’t wrap my head around either of those.
3) Having won those two Super Bowls doesn’t change the fact that aside from Eli Manning these were both very average Wild Card teams
This is where it gets confusing, because for some reason it has changed the way the media looks at the New York Giants. Maybe it’s because the Jets are doing so poorly right now (and I’ll address that tomorrow) that they can’t possibly bag on both New York teams at once because it’s the biggest market in the NFL. But realistically, it’s probably due to the fact that they have had that recent success. Remember last year’s team was barely 9-7, and there was a ton of regular season discussion about the Giants letting Tom Coughlin go due to poor performance earlier in the season. And in the year where they slayed the dragon that was the undefeated Patriots, they were 10-6 and Coughlin was finding himself in the same situation daily. Neither one of those teams significantly dominated the opposition during the regular season.
Regardless of what anyone might tell you, Eli Manning is a good clutch quarterback. But one very important reason why he is proves my point: He does a lot with very little. Think about what that team looked like before the arrival of Victor Cruz. Think about how Eli had to work around all of those injuries and still maintain that level of success in the most critical of all media markets. Did he really have any other choice? It was bad enough that not as many football purists will ever respect him as much as they do his brother, but to do what he did was pretty incredible. And although football is and will always be a team sport, even the 2005 Seahawks probably thought last year’s Giants making it to Indy was a little out of line.
Now think of those Giants this year – they have had the same types of injuries all across the board, the most significant one being the fact that Hakeem Nicks has not been 100% at any point. Don’t you think that maybe it’s finally starting to get around the league that NYG has more weaknesses than Peter King would have you know? Or that maybe the NFC really is full of eight teams that are better than the Giants right now? Why wouldn’t that be the case? We found out that was the deal with the Saints, so why would it be so hard to believe that the same might be true for a team that dropped five playoff spaces the third to last week of the season?
4) During both of the Super Bowl contests, the New England Patriots were not themselves
Although a couple of the previous points might be disputed, this one I am not backing away from. The Tom Brady that showed up to play in those two games was nothing like the Tom Brady that showed up in the three that he won. In both instances the Patriots had very poor running performances, and although New England isn’t typically known for their ground and pound attack you almost have to have something signficant going on in that department to go all of the way.
This (much like point two) doesn’t address the Giants and their problems directly, I’m simply bringing it up to make people aware that there are many reasons that the team may have a bit of an overrated and overinflated aura that surrounds them. It’s funny, because at this point I couldn’t possibly bring myself to think there was another 8-6 team in the league that’s as vulnerable as Minnesota but now I know better.
Barring some serious miracle, I can’t really see the Giants making the playoffs this year. They still have to play Baltimore and close the season out against the Eagles. Baltimore is always a difficult game for anybody even though they got housed by the Broncos last week, and although Philadelphia is arguably one of the worst teams in the NFL, I could definitely see how the Eagles could play spoiler and ruin the Giants’ New Year.
Unfortunately for them, they are so concerned with who they are playing that it allows them to beat themselves. It very well could be a focus issue, it could be a coaching issue, there are a lot of there factors that we as fans cannot see. But one thing I do know for sure is that they probably aren’t nearly as good as the team that smoked the Packers or the Saints, who of course won the two Super Bowls previous to XVLI. A week to week team can be very weak and can hide behind their jewelry shortly after they acquire it, and that’s exactly what the Giants seem to be doing.