The New York Giants enter their first postseason since 2008 with an abundance of momentum following a season-closing victory over the Dallas Cowboys in Week 17. Now, the Giants prepare for an exciting matchup at the New Meadowlands with the Atlanta Falcons (10-6) in the NFC Wild Card Round.
The Giants, despite a season full of Jekyll-and-Hyde inconsistencies, are a legitimate contender to win Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis this February.
With so many good teams in the playoffs this season, it won’t be an easy path. Still, the Giants boast some vital qualities that could catapult them to their first Super Bowl since their epic upset of the undefeated New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.
For as long as the New York Giants have been around, they have been a run-first team. While Eli Manning’s resume might not have minded, the Giants desperately needed the run game to be a bigger factor for the offense this season.
Fortunately, the Giants rushing attack has come to life just when New York needs it most. Ahmad Bradshaw, Brandon Jacobs and DJ Ware combined to average 112.8 yards per game for the Giants’ final four games of the season en route to a 3-1 record in those games and an NFC East title as a result.
The resurgence has come just in time for the Giants to utilize their rushing attack to offset the nearly unstoppable passing offense led by Eli Manning and his stellar receiving corps. There’s no secret that this NFL season has boasted a lot of aerial success for most teams, but the run game could be what decides which team will be hoisting the Lombardi Trophy come February.
He’s been here before. It seems every season has drawn a comparison to the Giants’ successful 2007 campaign since winning the Super Bowl in dramatic fashion over the undefeated New England Patriots. But no season may appear more similar in years' past than 2011.
The Giants’ success rests heavily on head coach Tom Coughlin and his ability to keep his team fighting when the season appeared over. He motivated his team, and while a Week 15 loss to the Washington Redskins sparked a panic throughout Giants Nation, Coughlin has his team in the playoffs and ready to win.
There may have been no more dangerous—and shocking—receiving tandem in the NFL than Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks. Before this season, no one knew who Cruz was. Now, the salsa-dancing Jersey native has his name written within the Giants’ franchise record books and helped lift them to their first playoff berth since 2008.
Cruz’s ability to break any play open makes him a must-watch player throughout the Giants run. If his regular season performance is a hint at any forthcoming success, it’s going to be a stellar run for Cruz, who was Eli Manning’s favorite target in big spots this season—especially in the fourth quarter, where he recorded a league-leading six touchdown receptions.
Nicks, meanwhile, stayed consistent with the career he’s built in his three seasons with the New York Giants. When Cruz wasn’t making plays, Nicks was.
Together, Cruz and Nicks amassed 2,728 yards receiving and 16 touchdowns. This receiving duo, along with tight end Jake Ballard and fellow receiver Mario Manningham, will give opposing defenses fits in pass coverage.
If there’s anything to say about New York Giants football, it’s that they always know how to get after the quarterback. This season was no different.
The Giants’ sack totals fizzled in the middle of the season after the team opened up with 24 sacks in the first seven games of the season—an average of 3.5 sacks per game. Between Week 9 and Week 13, the Giants’ sack numbers dropped dramatically, tallying less than 1.5 sacks per game. The Giants went 1-4 during that span and dropped their record to 6-6.
Since that time, however, the Giants pass rush has been revived, coinciding with second-year Pro Bowl stud Jason Pierre-Paul’s two-sack performance in the Giants’ Week 14 victory over the Dallas Cowboys. In the Giants’ final four games, the Giants tallied 15 sacks, including six sacks in their NFC East-clinching win at home against the Cowboys.
Osi Umenyiora’s return to the Giants’ lineup is a positive addition. Despite seven games due to injury, Umenyiora recored nine sacks this season—six of which came in Giants victories.
The Giants are 4-2 this season when they have four or more sacks in a game. With Umenyiora active, the Giants will be bringing the heat on each and every play. That heat should take some pressure of the pass coverage and make their time a little easier with opposing receivers.
Eli Manning is unquestionably the MVP of the New York Giants’ season, literally carrying the team on his shoulders each and every week.
Manning’s career year, with 4,933 passing yards and 29 touchdowns, was full of exciting highlights that helped lift the Giants to their first playoff berth since 2008. Despite unknown talent at the receiver and tight end positions, limited help from the run game and a hampered offensive line, the eight-year veteran proved he was an elite quarterback en route to an MVP-caliber season.
In a postseason where most games could go down to the wire, there isn’t a better quarterback to have than Eli Manning. Manning’s six fourth-quarter comebacks and 15 fourth-quarter touchdowns make him a dangerous threat to an opposing team’s lead regardless of the time left on the clock.
If that’s not enough for you, consider that nearly 34.8 percent of Manning’s passing yards during the regular season—that is, 1,715 yards—came in the fourth quarter. When time is running out, he is just settling in.
Manning’s veteran experience in the playoffs will be a valued asset to the Giants’ run towards another Super Bowl trophy. His cool demeanor and headstrong confidence make the New York Giants a certain Super Bowl contender.