The New York Giants were ridiculed last year for winning the Super Bowl despite the fact they allowed more points than they scored during the regular season. The easy response, of course, was, "Screw you guys, we won the Super Bowl."
Interestingly, after a 26-3 drubbing of the San Francisco 49ers in Week 6, the Giants now have the second-best point differential in the NFL (plus-64). Pretty impressive considering they've lost twice.
Here's a breakdown of where the Giants stand with 10 games standing between them and another NFC East title.
What They Should be Thinking
It's becoming difficult to view the glass this way, but we're always trying to maintain an even keel (Tom Coughlin doesn't give us a choice), and there are still some things we have to work on.
For instance, Michael Boley and Chase Blackburn continue to struggle. They're both rated terribly against the run (according to Pro Football Focus), but continue to get the lion's share of the snaps next to Mathias Kiwanuka. We might have to consider giving Keith Rivers and Jacquian Williams more reps going forward.
And yes, the offensive line has been fantastic lately (more on that in a moment), but right tackle Sean Locklear has given up five hurries in the last two games, which makes him the weakest link on the line. With David Diehl returning to health, that's a position to watch. Are we nit-picking? Yes, but that's what Coughlin-coached teams do.
Let's also keep in mind that we're still 0-2 within the division and down tiebreakers to Philadelphia and Dallas. If we slip up against the very dangerous Washington Redskins this week, it almost erases impressive victories over Cleveland and San Francisco. We can't afford to start 0-3 against NFC East foes, especially with the schedule becoming a lot tougher soon.
What's up, pass rush? Thanks for deciding to show up six weeks late. But better late than never. If Justin Tuck is back, that's a great sign. Plus, we got four of our six sacks against San Francisco from players who aren't part of the three-headed monster, which indicates we might have more depth up front than we thought.
The secondary's making plays now, too. Antrel Rolle had two interceptions in one of his best games as a Giant Sunday, while Corey Webster played a role in getting one takeaway and Prince Amukamara had his first interception since his first series as a rookie.
The offensive line continues to do a 180 from what happened in 2011. Manning was kept clean against a fierce defensive front Sunday, and we've now surrendered a league-low five sacks this season while running for 4.6 yards per carry (sixth in the league). Amazingly, there are very few offensive lines in football that have performed better this season than ours.
Finally, we're deeper and healthier than we've been in years, and we appear to be getting even deeper and healthier each week. Knock on wood.
What I'm Thinking
Stock Rising (offense): Domenik Hixon
It seems as though a new receiver is stepping up every week. Against the 49ers, it was Hixon, who caught four passes for 78 yards on only 22 snaps. With Hakeem Nicks and Ramses Barden still being eased back and the No. 3 wide receiver spot still up for grabs, Hixon has a chance to play a large role going forward.
Stock Rising (defense): Antrel Rolle
Two picks, six tackles and a positive PFF run defense rating against the 49ers. Big game for Rolle, who is at his best when he doesn't have to be out of his element as a cover guy. Rolle's been solid all season, but he's really picking up steam now that his injured knee doesn't appear to be a factor anymore. He's the key reason they've survived the injury to Kenny Phillips.
Stock Dropping (offense): Ramses Barden
Barden hasn't been much of a factor since that breakout performance in Carolina. He struggled against the Eagles and then suffered a concussion, which forced him to miss Week 5. In his return to the lineup last week, he played only three snaps. In the meantime, Hixon and Rueben Randle have stepped up.
Stop Dropping (defense): Chase Blackburn
Despite his two sacks, Blackburn's been the worst defensive starter on the team by a wide margin. He's already missed nine tackles, according to PFF, and has been terrible in coverage. He isn't fit to be a regular starter and should be replaced by Keith Rivers as soon as Rivers is fully healthy.
It bears repeating that the Giants have the toughest schedule in the league. In the past, they've peaked much later than this, so they'll have to find a way to keep stringing wins together with a target on their back.
Considering that they're 0-2 within the division, the next two games against Washington and Dallas are massive. If they pull through 2-0, they'll be cruising.
View last week's progress report here