New York Giants: Perception vs. Reality Following Week 3 Win
It's been a week of positive vibes regarding the Giants following a 36-7 thrashing of the Panthers in Carolina. It seems like months ago when the Giants were 0-1 and trailing 27-13 early in the third quarter of their second game against the Bucs.
With three weeks of the season in the books, it's a good time to realistically evaluate who the defending champs are and where they are going over their last 13 games.
Perception: Andre Brown Is the Real Deal at Running Back
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
Reality: Andre Brown may be the real deal at running back but he still has a lot to prove.
It's always exciting when an unknown player comes out of nowhere to make an impact. There is also no denying that Brown has looked very good since he took over for the injured Ahmad Bradshaw in the first half of the Tampa Bay game. He is a powerful yet deceptively fast runner who demonstrates the patience and experience of a running back with 1,000 career carries, not 35.
We need to take a step back though and assess the emergence of Brown with a little objectivity. He has run the ball 35 times and hauled in six passes in less than two games played. We have no idea if he can handle the rigors of a 16-game season and pull off the always tricky combination of staying healthy and remaining effective through the grind.
Also, his 113 yard rushing effort last Thursday came against a Carolina run defense that is allowing 139.3 yards per game so far this season. He did perform well against the Bucs, who lead the NFL in rushing yards allowed at only 47.3 per game. However, his 71 yard rushing performance in that game has to be taken with a grain of salt.
The Bucs were more than happy to allow the Giants to run in a game they led from the start of the second quarter late into the fourth quarter. They also had not prepared for Brown and were likely caught off guard by his distinctly different running style compared to Bradshaw.
It looks like Bradshaw will be the starter against the Eagles Sunday night so the final verdict with Brown will have to wait. At some point though I'm sure he'll get a longer term look, either with the Giants later this season or another team down the line.
Perception: Despite a 2-1 Record the Giants Pass Defense Is Still Terrible
Grant Halverson/Getty Images
Reality: The Giants pass defense isn't great but it's not as bad as you think.
While they've had some rough moments, especially in the Dallas game, the numbers suggest Big Blue has been respectable defending the pass. They are tied for 22nd in passing yards allowed with 785, tied for 15th with five touchdowns allowed, 17th in completion percentage against (62.2) and tied for second in interceptions with six.
The only area they have been truly terrible is yards-per-pass-attempt. They rank dead last in this category, allowing 9.3 yards, on average, every time a quarterback makes a throw. This suggests that the Giants give up too many big plays, which is true considering how the likes of Kevin Ogletree, Dez Bryant and Vincent Jackson torched them deep in the first two games.
I still think pass coverage is one of the weaknesses on this team, but it hasn't been a disaster and does have the potential to get better. Jayron Hosley gaining more experience is one reason why and Prince Amukamara getting some reps under his belt after missing the first two games and most of last season is another.
Perception: The Giants Schedule over the Final 13 Games Is Brutal
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Reality: The remaining schedule looks a lot easier after what has transpired during the season's first three weeks.
Before the season started it was widely believed that the Giants had the toughest schedule in the NFL. It still looks pretty hard with brutal road games against San Francisco, Baltimore and Atlanta lurking in the coming weeks.
The rest of the schedule though surprisingly appears manageable. Home games against the Packers, Steelers and Saints are very winnable, given the respective starts of those three teams. The Eagles always give the Giants problems but I'm pretty positive Philadelphia is no better than an 8-8 team after watching them sputter to an underwhelming 2-1 start. New York should be good for at least a split in their Brotherly Love twin bill, and a sweep is definitely possible.
They also have two games left against the Redskins who will be lucky to win five games given their atrocious defense and lack of weapons surrounding Robert Griffin III. I know Washington beat the Giants twice last season, but before you start thinking they have their number, remember that New York won the previous six meetings prior to 2011.
A home game against the Browns and road games in Dallas and Cincinnati round out, in no particular order, Big Blue's remaining schedule. While the schedule is still hard enough to prevent the Giants from winning 12 or 13 games, it is definitely conducive to them securing enough victories to capture a playoff spot.
Perception: Eli Manning Can Be at His Best Regardless of Who's Playing with Him
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Reality: In the long run, Eli needs Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz and Martellus Bennett all on the field to be at his best.
A popular theme being circulated after the Carolina blowout is that Manning can make any receiver look good and doesn't need Nicks to light it up in the passing game. While this was true last week and against the Patriots last November, it is flawed thinking long term.
Manning is a great quarterback and likely headed to the Hall of Fame someday but he didn't truly become elite until 2009. This is the same year Nicks entered the league and the Giants started producing multiple quality receivers in the passing game. In 2009, the quartet of Nicks, Steve Smith, Mario Manningham and Kevin Boss helped produce Eli's first of three consecutive top-notch regular seasons (25 interceptions in 2010 notwithstanding).
Nicks has remained a constant, with Cruz effectively taking the place of Smith last year. While Ramses Barden has a lot to prove before he can be considered a worthy replacement for Manningham, Bennett looks like he could be the best tight end the Giants have had since a young Jeremy Shockey.
The point is that Manning has had a ton of talent at his disposal over the last three years and his 2012 supporting cast could be the best yet. Every great quarterback needs talented playmakers to realize their full potential. Eli is no different.